“Those who can not do, teach.”
This quote bothers me so much. I know a lot of people say it as a joke, but I do feel that some people feel there is truth behind it.
Let me start by first explaining my thoughts on music, and music teachers. There are three different areas that musicians and music teachers come from. The first is the technical musician and teacher.
The technical teacher can be a really great way to start lessons. This teacher teaches you the importance of the “technical” aspects of music. This could include finger position or posture in piano, rudiments and developing stick technique with drums, or how to properly hold and play a guitar. These things are all INCREDIBLY important, but there is something that is missing with this. When this person plays with a band, there’s a lack of knowing what a song really needs , or maybe missing the right feel, or there may be no dynamics. I know most of my students don’t want to pursue music professionally, but many of them do want to play music with their friends or with a band. Just having a teacher or being a musician who only focuses on technique will not help you in succeeding to meet your goals. On the opposite end, there is the person who plays only using feel.
A person who teaches solely off of feel can be a really great teacher after you have studied with someone who teaches you the basic techniques. This person will really teach you where the pocket is, or how to create a good dynamic and form to a song, or help to understand what a song needs and when it needs it. I will be the first to admit, for the longest time I was a person who played only using feel. I spent most of my time turning on the radio and learning songs in my basement. I would try to replicate the sounds I heard on recordings and play along. I still really value that time in my life. The last session I did, the producer told me that my feel was some of the best he’s gotten to work with. That’s a huge compliment to me, and I believe is a testament to the time I spent playing with recordings in my basement. What I was lacking, is that time learning the more technical side of the drum set. I still kick myself for not spending more time on this in my days in junior high and high school. My high school band teacher even told me I lacked the focus of the technical aspect, but I ignored him. It wasn’t until college that I spent more time learning the technical skills. Combining the technical skills with creating a great feel is the teacher every student should want, and what every musician should want to be.
If you can shop at a store and get everything all in one place, for the same price, isn’t that what you would want to do? A teacher who understands the technical side of the drum set, as well as how to play with a band is the most valuable teacher you can find. I think this starts with finding a teacher who is actively playing in the music community, and spends time teaching because they love it. You’ll not only get to learn from their personal and professional experience, you will get to watch them perform. I am constantly encouraging my students to come out to watch me play with a band. I want them to ask questions to understand why I may have approached something the way I did. This is a valuable learning experience not only for the student, but for me. With a student asking me questions in a live setting, I can learn from them why I approached something the way I did, or even why I shouldn’t approach it that way the next time.
I am still learning how to be that teacher that can not only be a great technical teacher, but a musical teacher as well. I have people in my life who have taught me and encouraged me to be that musician in the middle. I feel like many teachers and musicians are on either ends. The ones who stand out, are the ones in the middle.
I will leave you with this last quote from School of Rock for little laughter.
“Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.”