The Beast

Ah, the drums! What a beautiful instrument! It has all sort of shiny parts. The light plays with the chromes of the stands, the alloy of the cymbals, the glossy finish of the shells. The sound can a be a whispering tap or a thunderous roar. The attraction you feel towards it is strong. You know you can make your heart leap with one simple strike on its soft skin. It is the engine of an orchestra, its very heart beat, the pulsating machine that propels the music forward.

Ok, I’ll stop waxing lyrically about the thing. Because, yes, it has all been written before, but also because that kind of cheap poetry tends to forget the first and most important attribute of the drum kit: it is a beast!

When one chose the drums as an instrument, one has to think big.

First off, there is the sheer size of it. My, oh my! Just getting is out of the box can get you to a chiropractor real quick. How many vertebrae crushed to dust because of a bass drum carried with the arms (carry with your legs, people! I won’t say it again).  How many bruised chins, scratched forearms, dented walls, scuffed car paints were due to a drum kit reluctant to move? Drums destroy. It is an art in itself to know how to manipulate it.

Then there is the set up: 5 millions parts and no instruction manual. Fun! Has anyone quit right then and there when confronted with the task of solving for the first time this jigsaw puzzle? The pieces are right there in front of you and not one of them wants to cooperate. Even the pros, sometimes, can get things wrong. Try setting up someone else’s kit once, you’ll know what I’m talking about. After an hour of sweat, you will have built an unplayable monster.

And, just like that, we are back to the size of it. That concern never stops. Do you plan on setting it up in your bedroom? Oh, good! But the bed has to go. That’s right, the square footage a drum kit takes is not the same as a flute. By the way, do you have the right car? Because a Mini won’t do. Drummers, no matter how cool they think they are, drive a Mommy car: station wagon, minivan and the like. If you can manage a little bus, even better! That might secure your place in the band.

Then there is the sound. Oh, the sound! The greatest sound on earth if you ask me. You can unscrew gravity itself with it! If you had a quiet and sleepy dog in your household, he’s about to wake up, no doubt about it. You enjoyed friendly neighbors? No more! How about a sweet and compassionate companion? My friend, you and your mate are about to have a talk! You’ll learn that in order to be a drummer, you first and foremost need to be a negotiator. And have a solid sense of humor.

What a beast! I love the drums maybe even more because of all the quirky stuff I  just listed. It gives it its personality. The way I look at it is that I need to EARN the joy I get out of it. I don’t mind at all. Everytime I come in a room with some pieces of my kit (I can never carry the whole thing at once, I’m already huffing and puffing as it is with just 2 or 3 elements of it), every time I step somewhere preceded by my bass drum like a backward snail, I feel important. The crowd parts in front of me warned by the bystanders, every one is aware that I’m moving furniture.

But there are ways to tame the beast. Many ways. It’ll be the subject of another blog. Oh, and don’t take what I just wrote as a deterrent to playing the drums. I am not complaining about the drums, on the contrary, I am singing about its magnificent glory!