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Dear Little Bobby,
I want to learn how to play the drums. I am almost 30 and, aside from a couple of piano lessons as a child, I have never really played an instrument before. My roommate has a kit that I have sometimes to played on, but I don’t actually know how to play. Any thoughts?
—Wants to Bang on a Drum
Dear Wants To Bang On A Drum,
Practice a lot and make it fun. If it seems like work, you are screwed. If you practice for hours on end without having fun, then what is the point?
When I was 15, I began playing guitar. I took weekly lessons for about six months. During those lessons I only had fun when I was learning how to play a song—the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” or Metallica’s “One.” I ended up learning just the beginning of a lot of songs. The rest of the time I was being told to play scales and tune my guitar and then tune it again, then tune it again… this usually went on for half of the half-hour lessons.
After about six months, I quit taking lessons. For the next 10 years I was a struggling, wannabe guitar player who never really learned how to tune his guitar. I could do it, but not easily, which was VERY frustrating and often I would just give up, detune and play random notes on my detuned guitar. This went on for 10 years. Until…
One day I tried out for a local Albuquerque band, Unit 7 Drain, as a keyboard player, despite not being a keyboard player. I was (mostly) successful at this new instrument because the music was fun, because practicing once or twice a week with the band was fun and because playing the weekly shows was fun. So I practiced on my own. And I kept practicing on my own.
This time, I decided to avoid the problem of hating to practice by surrounding myself with fun people, by learning dozens and dozens of songs by my favorite band, The Beach Boys, on the piano, and by then using that knowledge to write fun songs with my band.
You can do the same thing, even if you are not in a band. You can still learn, but you have to want that. If you truly WANT to play drums, take a few lessons. Ask any drummers you know for a informal lesson, offer them $20 or $30, or ask at the local music stores. Even if you only take a few lessons, this will help you learn what you want to do and what you do not want to do.
If you want to learn how to play the drums, you must play. You will improve. You will get better. Time flies when you are enjoying it, yet a 30-minute practice can feel like forever if you hate it. Stick with it and I promise you that in a year (or probably sooner), you will truly FEEL like a drummer, and playing the drums is all about feeling.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“When I get older they think I’m a fool
The teacher told me I should stay after school
She caught me pounding on the desk with my hands
But my licks was so hot, I made the teacher wanna dance”
—Todd Rundgren, “Bang the Drum All Day,” 1983
Dear Little Bobby,
This country’s low voter turn out rates should be a national embarrassment. How can we get more people motivated to vote in local elections as well as in national elections?
—Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha
Dear Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha,
Yes, the low percentage of people that vote SHOULD be a national embarrassment. Because of this apathy—because so many people would rather stare at the phone in their hand—because so many people would rather watch the latest episode of Celebrities Eating Bugs—we have Donald Trump as the leader of the Republican Party and that IS a national embarrassment. He promotes nothing but fear, the coward.
Our recent national, presidential-year elections have had voter turnout rates around 50%. 150 years ago that rate was close to 80%. We seem to care less and less as the decades go by.
On the local level those voter turnout levels are even more depressing. Our last local election here in Albuquerque had the lowest voter turnout I have ever heard of in the United States. ONLY 8% of registered voters actually voted. Pathetic. Of course, most of our elected officials are not only okay with such low voter turnout, they prefer it that way.
I was not allowed to vote in our municipal election last fall because of restrictive voter ID laws. I jogged to the polling place, about a mile from my house and of course I did not have my driver’s license with me. The result was that I could not vote against the people on the city council who passed these insane laws. Which is exactly the outcome that they intended. The Constitution of the United States makes no provisions for these bullshit voter ID laws.
You and I can do this. We can push voter registration, online in social media and in person with our family and friends. We can raise our kids to understand how the powerful are trying to keep that power away from the rest of us. We can lean on our nephews and nieces to register and to vote for progressive policies. We can promote the candidates that we support. We can vote for people like Bernie Sanders. (There are not many like him, but the times they are a-changin’.) We can push back against the Republican Party, by calling them out as the racist, sexist, homophobic bigots that they are. And we can push back against the Democratic Party, by telling them that the lesser of two evils needs to go, too!
Get political. Get active. If we snooze, we all are going to lose, big time. We are already losing, severely, by having our right to vote infringed upon, by allowing corporations to control our media and government, by allowing these entities to destroy our environment and by not even looking up from our phones when they do so.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Get on your feet, and out on the street
Singing power to the people, right on”
—John Lennon, “Power To The People,” 1971