Life Gets In The Way

“Life gets in the way” they say, when all that minutia and micromanagement pulls us away from projects or practice, when we fall short on our promises to get together with this musician, and learn that song, and take care of x or y…

They tell kids to get the practice in when they’re young, before this dreaded “life” creeps in and drags us into the real world, leaving our drum kits to rot, dust covered in the corner of a mortgaged basement.

 [Insert every poor, neglected Craigslist drum kit you’ve ever seen.]

The reality isn’t quite so dismal for everyone, necessarily, but there are certain “responsibilities” – whatever they may be – that divert our attention away from what we think we’d rather be doing. Hours roll by, and we’re stuck with precious few moments to squeak out some paradiddles during a lunch break.

Even for folks who play all the time, the people “living the dream” of a lifestyle built around playing drums, finding time to practice is tough. It may be a life surrounded by music, but that certainly doesn’t stop travel, rehearsal, promotion, or anything else from “getting in the way.” It happens to everyone…

It’s all time – that ongoing pressure to allot hours as needed for whatever pursuit we deem fit in the moment. Once it’s spent, we’ll never get it back…

And so, every last thing we could or should do becomes a matter of priority at every turn. What gets the vote of importance on a given day, in a given hour?

It’s surely important to go to work, to spend time with the kids, to make your spouse happy, to do your schoolwork, to connect with friends, to do the damn dishes… But it’s pretty likely that we aren’t all making the best possible use of the minutes in between all of that other stuff.

I say to hell with it, why don’t we let drums get in the way sometimes?

There are surely moments to spare in there somewhere. Or rather, we can put the instrument in some kind of good standing in the priority list – maybe the dishes can wait until later, maybe you can tap out some new patterns on the steering wheel on the way to work. There IS time if we make it, even if it’s only in shreds. To snag that time, we just have to be conscious of the need to do so.

Every time you hear music, it’s an opportunity to study, even when (and maybe more so) you don’t particularly like it. It’s still a rhythm for your drummer brain to use as a reference, to think about the mechanics of playing what you hear or to contemplate the other patterns and permutations that might work.

If nothing else, plenty of the songs you may inadvertently hear on the radio or playing over a set of someone else’s speakers can also serve as a metronome – a surprise timekeeper for tapping out half conscious rudiments with your fingertips.

When you do hear something you like, study it. Think about all the nuances that are appealing to your ears. Is it a tempo thing? A swing thing? Look at the whole piece as well as the drumming. What makes it stand out?

…You can still be honing your craft without a pair of sticks in your hand.

All of this is still practice in some marginal way. All the effort helps.

Personally, the more I think about it, the more I let it creep in… The more I want to practice, the more ideas I have, and the easier I understand new concepts.

Putting in just a little bit more mental effort seems to have pretty significant returns – and those act as incentives to put even more effort in… To get even more back out.

Plenty of things will get in the way, major and minor, and each hour invested in whatever is going to yield some kind of result. Everything is getting in the way of everything else, and all we can do is choose as wisely as possible.

It might mean choosing to forego that social engagement or getting up a little earlier in the day. It might be getting over some shyness about playing your practice pad in a public place. It may take some extra soundproofing, or placating the neighbors so you can spend some more time at your kit…

Whatever it may be that’s preventing you from spending the time you think you want to, there’s a solution if you’re willing to search for it.

Again, kids and jobs and bills and all of that stuff are going to “get in the way,” and to some degree, they should – but only as much as you let them. We’re making choices to devote our time and energy to all kinds of things in a given day – but if you love this thing that we do, you have to choose it.


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