What you can learn from my terrible drum teacher

Animal drumming

Once upon a time I learned to play drums. To do so I went to drum lessons and I had a number of teachers over the years. One in particular was an incredible drummer, but he was a terrible teacher. He made one fundamental mistake – He didn’t care what his customer wanted. Yep, me the student. I also happened to be a customer.

As most of us know there isn’t a best way of learning. There are preferred methods of learning by students based on a whole bunch of things. My drum teacher had it in his head that in order to learn drums it was all about learning from the sheet music (Ok real musicians you can laugh now about drum ‘music’). When I was learning a difficult rhythm he would never play it for me first so I could hear how it sounds. He’d always make me find the sound through reading it. A pretty crazy idea given music is about hearing. He also went on to say that reading music was important if I ever wanted to join a big band, orchestra and the like. Heck, I just wanted to jam with my mates in our garage band. He didn’t care if I had a better chance of learning through my ears or arms instead of my eyes. He didn’t care if I never wanted to read music at all. He was the authority, and he never asked what I wanted. Eventually I just quit and taught myself by listening to the radio.

You might be wandering why I never spoke up? Well I was a 12 year old boy, and you may remember how it feels when someone else is in charge, even when you are paying them. So here’s a few things we can remember, given we’re all teachers, and most of us teach someone every day:

  • The student is also a customer
  • The best teaching method is the one the student does best with
  • It’s hard to know what people want if we never ask
  • With authority must come humility and empathy

In times of great change our teaching ability matters more than most things. Especially given we all feel 12 years old about once a week.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.