Lucas Ventura


Lucas Ventura - professional session drummer and drum instructor. Drum lessons in the Boise Idaho region.

The Struggle Is Real



One of the hardest things to balance as a teacher of young beginner students is bringing the inspiration and enthusiasm of the instrument to the student, but keeping them on task to practice the things that actually make you a competent player.

The truth is, some people just don't want to do the work, and that's okay. I've had students that, once they realized that drums are hard to be good at decided that they just didn't want to do it. It's not as easy as it looks in the music video. But the reason professionals make it look easy is because they put the practice in.

But the grand majority of students I find just need a teacher to help them find the fun and the beauty in practicing. A practice pad with a metronome beeping in your ear is the rhythmic equivalent to eating your vegetables. You've gotta do it if you want to be a well-rounded player but it's rarely the most savory part of the process. I think the key lies in the perspective we help our students cultivate, and the way we show them how to use the tools.

Stick Control is one of the first books my students lay their eyes on. In a sense, the first page contains pretty much 90% of the patterns you will ever use as a drummer. This is typically the first challenge point I meet with my beginner students in getting or keeping them motivated to practice. So one of the tricks I've learned is really simple. I take the paradiddles (exercises 5-8) and show them how you can turn them into drumbeats. Maybe I show them the STP song Vasoline (which is pretty much a giant paradiddle between the kick and snare). The moment they see that, all of a sudden the bland exercise turns into something that gives them an incentive to learn. The key point here is that there's always gotta be a carrot on the stick. We can't throw exercises at most students without some kind of tangible goal in reach. Especially students with attention deficits- they are the ones that will lose their patience the most quickly (I know because I was diagnosed ADHD at seven and still have to actively maintain self discipline to stay on task with everything in life).

I think one of the unique challenges for beginning drummers also is that it's hard to really play 'songs' initially. We have to develop time before we can play to a song in headphones, and easy songs for beginners often lose their meaning when being played without a melodic guide. My teacher started me on playing complex and interesting beats as soon as he could, because in reality, this is essentially the practical course to take a student. This works for some students for awhile, and I can often develop a student along this trajectory until they have enough time and facility to learn an entire song. But for students that lack that patience and focus, I find that I often have to give them 'bite sized' clips of songs. There are so many songs that can be torn down into a 2- or 4-measure pattern that is easy to play in an endless loop, and sure they're not playing the whole song, but if there's an easy melody to hum or lyric to sing (think "We will we will rock you"), it really helps give some purpose and fun to something that can otherwise seem to be an endless string of dull eighth or sixteenth note kick/snare/hat patterns.

Anyway, just thinking while blogging, here. I could go on, I have a challenging student this evening that it's about time to prepare for. He's six years old, doesn't want to eat his vegetables, and my job is to help him find an appreciation for their flavor. It's a trick, and sometimes it can be frustrating, but I find that if I refuse to allow myself to blame the student and put myself to task, I have no choice but to find a way to encourage and motivate my student to do the thing that I know will serve them the best.