Playing the Drums Brings Moments of Ecstacy

levon helm plays drums
Levon Helm of the Band knew all about drumming ecstacy.

There is an exhilaration unlike anything else when you’ve just played music with a band–and done it well.  I had a moment of triumph last night at my old friend Joe’s house when I took to the full drum set and played two tunes with a spark and precision I can’t ever remember achieving.  There’s a little head shake, a moment, when you know you’re doing it just right.  When lead guitarist George Guttler came over at the close of the fast blues number and looked at me, then was when I knew. I was on a roll.

Playing music is something I’ve come upon late in life. For decades, most of my friends would always be gathering with their guitars  to play and write music. It was what they did, and for so many of those  years I was just a watcher…I would come up and watch but not pick up an instrument, nor sing. But about eight years ago I found a drum set at a tag sale and set my mind to becoming one of the players.

I have a long way to go….I don’t practice enough and I still can’t master the right timing for the kick drum on every third note. I keep combining my beat with my kick.  But one of the things anyone who plays music will tell you is that practice is fundamental.  And that the more I play, the better I will get.  About three months ago, I heard about a jazz pianist, a neighbor of mine, who plays each Monday night. They needed a drummer and I needed practice. So just about every week, I’ve been drumming with Jay and John, playing exclusively jazz tunes, nothing new, nothing rocking.  Strictly brushes.

Playing again and again gave me the courage to try and poke my head into what Joe likes to call “swifter currents.”  So a few weeks ago, after politely requesting admission via  email, I came up to the Wednesday night music jam, and tried my hand at percussion.  I wasn’t ready for the full kit yet, besides, I didn’t want to take host Joe out of his throne. So I played various  percussion instruments and grooved along with the beat. These guys are pretty good, so it was indeed swift current.  Old Band songs, and complex numbers by Steely Dan, Delta Blues, they play them all and I was happy to be there.

Last night I got to play a few songs on the big kit, and rocked it as hard as I could.  My reward came when my drum teacher Joe gave me  a high five, saying it was a breakthrough. When he was leaving, George the guitarist passed by and said quietly, ” good chops.”   Yes!!  Nothing I can think of could have been sweeter.