Mark Danger Powers

drummer • educator • author

I’m Not A Drum Teacher

This may come as somewhat of a shock. I have little desire (nor intent, for that matter) to teach anyone how to play drums. It’s true. What I really do want (and constantly strive) to teach my students is how they can teach themselves. How they can eventually grab ahold of a drum magazine, or piece of sheet music, and figure things out on their own- with no help from me. In addition, how they can grab ahold of their lives and determine the correct steps to take there, as well.

What? A drummer instructor doling out life coach advice? Well, I’m usually able to sneak it in without anyone noticing . . .

Like martial arts and other similar activities, studying an instrument produces a somewhat measurable outcome: you gain the ability to make music. But much, much more important are the other skills that are also developed through those studies, be they musical or athletic. Those benefits include (but are certainly not limited to) more mental focus, greater awareness and control of one’s body, increased creativity, better problem solving, self-discipline, self-expression and the security to overcome fear and take risks.

In individual and group lessons, we break musical passages into smaller, more manageable sections, isolate problem spots, and SLOWLY repeat them over-and-over again perfectly, until muscle-memory eventually sets in and our mind and body “memorize” them, virtually forever. My number one reason for guiding students through this process week-in and week-out is NOT to teach them some new, cool drum grooves. My reason is that I know that, by drilling that process into them (break apart, isolate, slow down, repetition, repetition), the process itself will eventually begin to infiltrate and influence other areas of his/her life. And that’s where the real value lies. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from becoming masters of that?

I believe that these benefits are some of the “other faces” of music, and really any serious endeavor. There’s the “oh, that sounds so nice” solely-aesthetic manifestation of putting in countless hours of practice and dedication. Then there are the things (such as the skills mentioned above) that can have an impact on nearly every other area of your life. THAT’S what I want to be passing on to the students that come through my studio.

8 Comments

  1. Good stuff Mark! I can apply this to photography as well. I can learn all the technical aspects of taking a photo but without my own passion, creativity and self put into it I won’t have nearly the same results. These are the things that take time and experience to develop. I tend to think that this might be something that many of us lose sight of in today’s world that emphasizes instant gratification.

    • Thanks, Matt! Very cool that you see parallels in your line of work, as well. I definitely believe that the ideas are universal.

  2. Another great post filled w/ wonderful metaphors. Thanks Mark.

    • I appreciate you reading & taking the time to comment, Steve!

  3. I could care less about the drumming that you taught Mitchell.
    We saw you as a great mentor for life.
    You have “it” and we found every moment of time spent together, invaluable.

    So whatever you’re doing consciously to make this work, it works.

    We miss you.

    • Gretchen- you’re the best! Friendship with you and the family has been valuable to me, as well. You’ve always been so supportive of me, which begets continuous motivation. Thanks a million!

  4. Mark,
    You echo what I tell all my students at their first lesson. “I can turn no one into a guitarist in 1/2 hour (or hour or even 5 hours) a week. My purpose is rather to provide you with the knowledge, tools and guidance so that you can turn yourself into the guitarist you desire to be.” Thanks for the confirmation.

    • Doc . . . you da man! I’ll be stealing that to use with my percussion students, for sure! Thank you!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *