Drumming For Kids: The 5 Standards
The concept of LTR (Life Through Rhythm) is to work on who we are as people both behind the kit and in everyday life. The rhythm of good habits done repeatedly over time creates massive results! With this approach, let’s think of the drum room as a Dojo. In there it’s not just about the martial arts, but about who you are once you step outside the door and into the world.
The 5 Standards was born from having so many young drummers come through my studio, and realizing they needed these qualities to get the most learning and fun out of drumming. Whether they become musicians, lawyers, or athletes, the 5 Standards arms young drummers with powerful tools for achieving maximum potential in anything they put their mind to. Many kids that want to check out drumming only do it for a short time before exploring the next adventure and that’s ok, because not everyone wants to be a lifelong drummer. But as long as a young drummer feels the call to pick up the sticks, I feel confident in their future knowing they will take the 5 Standards into everything they do, embodying it both behind the kit and in all their future endeavours.
Learning these at a young age creates habits that affect an entire lifetime of success. I have my young students memorize them, say them back to me unexpectedly (‘quick, name the 5 Standards, GO!’), and also to teach them to three people they know, because ‘when you teach, you learn twice’!
We live in the age of dramatic distraction, so this is a challenging one. Turning OFF irrelevant technology while practicing is crucial. When our brain is distraction free we can more easily slip into ‘the zone’ when we’re at our most creative best, known as a FLOW state. This is where your inner genius lives. Don’t let an addiction to distraction kill your best ideas and insights!
When I was a young drummer, I couldn’t wait to play. Sitting behind a drumset with a pair of sticks in my hand it was irresistible… tap tap tap… tap tap tap… next thing I knew I was being severely yelled at by the very annoyed guitarist. ‘I’m trying to TUNE!’ he yelled. This is where I learned about the importance of when NOT to play. Behind the kit, have the ability to just sit there with the sticks in your hands WITHOUT always having to play, and really hear what’s going on around you. Beyond the kit, become someone that listens more than they speak.
3) GIVE YOUR BEST
I always say to my students, mistakes are GOOD. You will always learn something when you fail, and if you’re giving 100% sometimes that mistake can actually sound better than the original idea. In the LTR METHOD we call this ‘Wrong & Strong’, but it’s also about setting a standard early to give our absolute best in everything we do, most of all when we least feel like it. This becomes a priceless habit that grows a reputation of someone that brings their best game to everything they do, no matter what conditions are going on around them. Just give the best of who you are at each step, and release the rest. You will feel the fear on some days, but to bring your best self to these moments is to live with COURAGE.
4) DON’T WASTE TIME
Bruce Lee said, ‘If you love life then don’t waste time, for that is what life is made of.’ We need to be in the habit of not wasting a second of the time we have to practice, and in all we do. Focus is a big part of not wasting time, and this is where we see that the 5 standards are all connected and feed one another. Not wasting time also means staying in the present moment, not getting depressed about the past or feeling anxiety about the future. Every second counts, and that is happening RIGHT NOW.
5) POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Always keep your PMA: Positive Mental Attitude. If you’ve had a bad day, ask, ‘What is the opportunity here?’ Train yourself to see failure as a chance to LEARN. There are so many challenges we face on the drums and in life, and the habit of PMA will get you through. If you’re going to step in the arena to take on learning the drums then you WILL have bad days, but how you choose to see them is the factor that will predict your future. Think of your favorite drummer, and you’ll see it’s the ATTITUDE and intensity they play with that makes them who they are. There will be tough times ahead, so keep your PMA at all times. Drummers like Dom Famularo, Gregg Bissonette, and Billy Cobham embody this virtue, but it’s also figures beyond the drums like Nelson Mandela, Kobe Bryant, or Muhammad Ali that can inspire you to find the positive within any challenge. Who is someone you can find that bravely chooses to live this way through the storms of life?
Setting high standards in everything you do is a powerful habit to start early. How we do the little things sparks a ripple effect into how we do the bigger things, giving us the 1% wins that cascade into everything we face in life. It’s disheartening to me when I go into a school music classroom or see a young drummers practice space, and there are sticks thrown on the floor amongst a mess of disorganized chaos. In a martial arts Dojo, you would never leave your shoes sprawled on the mat, jacket thrown on a chair, or a food wrapper left on the floor. The great masters know that the extra bit of effort directed to how you walk, talk, and how you carry yourself through the inevitable victories and defeats, will empower you on the path of drumming and life. If we can get the little things right, then the bigger things will take care of themselves.
Drumming is fun, but not easy. The fortitude needed to face the hurdles on the road ahead, is like a muscle that gets stronger the more we use it. This is a powerful concept that I remind my young drummers I’m always working on as well! We’re all on a never ending journey together of being students for life. The learning never ends, and that’s the joy that comes from the mystery to ask the question, of how high can YOU climb with what you’ve been given, and who can you help along the way? Who we BECOME on this journey is the most important gift drumming can give us, if we accept this lifelong challenge.