One of the best feelings in the world is being able to play what you want to play in the way you want to play it. This feeling of facility, able-ness and power to do exactly what you want is incredible. Mastery takes a while, but every step closer gives you a taste of that feeling. This is what drives a lot of frustration. Frustration is, of course, what you feel when something blocks your way. When you want to play something but can’t, it’s frustrating.
While getting frustrated is unpleasant, it can actually be a good sign. The only reason you’d feel frustration is that you see where you want to go. Ira Glass explains it very well with this quote:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
It is your good taste that is causing your frustration. Good to know! Still, frustration is unpleasant and always slows down your progress. Solving the “getting frustrated while learning” thing is one of the keys to being successful… at drumming or anything else you want to be good at.
One of the strategies to get around that is to realize that you aren’t creating a final product in the practice room … you’re learning. I often compliment student’s mistakes for this reason: I’ll tell a student “Excellent!” when that make a mistake sometimes if the mistake reflect effective learning. If the mistake is a part of the learning process then it is, indeed, excellent. There are no short cuts in the practice room (although there are many detours and wrong ways that can lead you astray).
You don’t want to lower your expectations – just realize what it is really going to take to get there. Your good taste is guiding you already – showing you the way to make great music. Ignoring that is the surest way to destroy your creativity, self-esteem and enjoyment of playing the drums. Making great music takes a lot of knowledge and skill, however, and those take work and time. Understanding this is key to circumventing frustration and getting on track for faster learning.
Another great tool to deal with frustration is to manage your what you are thinking about and how, but that is a big topic for another post. It is fundamental to Anatomy of Drumming and how I teach.