There are all kinds of students. Sometimes you get the novice, sometimes you get the pro. You never know what’s in the box of chocolate. But, the ones that are truly fascinating (the students, not the chocolates), are the ones who claim to have no rhythm.
What is a drum teacher to do with someone who says: “Look, I have no rhythm! There has been a curse on my family made way back by the witches of Norland, and, since then, we haven’t been able to tap our feet with any music.”
I am always fascinated by a challenge. I wouldn’t be a musician otherwise.
So, I try to address this particular situation.
Usually, I start with clapping. I tell them to clap with me. I always begin with something at medium tempo. I watch how they approach it. That’s the important part. Are they tensed? Worried? Distracted? Bored? Are their hands getting into position? Are their body arching towards me? Or away from me? Where are they looking? Etc… All of these elements will tell me a story. The story of how this person conceives rhythms.
If they cannot follow my clapping. I tell them to do the bear dance with me. Just swing gently lifting your feet. One foot at a time. Boom-boom-boom-boom! Go ahead, I tell them, come on! Try it! Doesn’t matter which foot first. Just get on your feet and start moving that body. I tell them to pick a tempo, any tempo they want. One foot, the other, repeat, and here we go. I bear-dance with them, I tell them to follow me. I let them get into it for a little while. We stomp our feet together. It’s a lot of fun. And maybe I’ll speed up just a little. I want to see if they’re listening to me. If not, I clap my hands at the same time as we stomp our feet. I ask them to clap too. And I go with them, I sync with them. What a thrill when we are exactly together!
You know, the extraordinary thing is that they always end up getting the rhythm. Always! So far, I haven’t had anybody who can’t do the bear dance. Isn’t it great? I love that good old bear!