Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Snare drum, gleaming
Snare drum, gleaming in the sunshine

With the move from Ironman training to mere marathon training, G finds that he has time on his hands these days to rediscover old hobbies.  Given how intolerant I am of his love of music which consists entirely of repetitive beats and no melody, it is perhaps a little surprising that I love listening to his drumming so much.  But I do.  As long as I have know him, he has been drumming.  He was a shocking 45 minutes late for our second date, but when he eventually showed up he had drum sticks poking out of his coat pocket and was full of enthusiasm for a new technique he'd just learned at his drum lesson - he was so engaging and interesting on the subject of drum beats that I forgave his (happily uncharacteristic) tardiness and we went on to have a third date.

I think proper hobbies are the ones that you can't help but doing, and the ones which you return to again and again during your life.   G first had drum lessons as a teenager, and when we first moved in together, in our early twenties, the drum kit came too and he played regularly. 

Drum kit moves house, 1998
Moving the drums into our new flat in 1998

When the children were little there wasn't much spare time for drumming; we let them loose on the bongos, while the rest of the kit was packed away.

Baby Livvy drumming
O, aged 2, with bongos

Baby Cam drumming
C, aged about 10 months, with bongos

But the love of drumming is always there for G, and can be slotted into family life surprisingly easily these days.  You don't need a full drum kit permanently set up in a spare (soundproofed) room to play the drums.  You can even enjoy your hobby of drumming whilst living in a terraced house in the middle of London - and we've even managed to stay friendly with the neighbours.  Like all good hobbies, there are plenty of opportunities to purchase drumming gadgets, and there is a wide array of gadgets to make drums quieter and less invasive.

There are practise pads to hit instead of drums - I find these particularly lovely to listen to, as they give off a gentle tippety-tap sound.

Practice pad

Dampening gel

Snare drum
Snare drumming in the sunshine

There's also some beautiful blue gel which can be stuck onto the drum skin to lessen the resonance and calm things down a little.

G just has his snare drum out these days - but you can learn and perfect almost all the basic drum techniques you will ever need with just a snare drum, a couple of sticks and some quality practise time.  G has some wonderful snare technique books, from the 1930s to the 1950s, which he is working through. 

Drumming geekery Part IV
Progressive Syncopation - first published 1958

Drumming geekery Part II
Stick Control - first published 1935

Drumming geekery Part III
Advanced Techniques - first published 1948

I find the names of the different drum patterns he practises enchanting, and delightfully onomatopeic: paradiddles, flams, ratamacues, rolls (and then there are flamadiddles, rolls into ratamacues and all sorts of other tongue-twisting combinations).

It is the soundtrack of our weekends these days, and I find it very soothing to hear the syncopated taps and rattles coming from our bedroom or the sitting room as I potter around the house keeping busy in my own way - cooking or reading or knitting.



  1. My eldest is a drummer boy ... and I couldn't agree with you more :D We had to hire the village hall for him to practise in for a while back there, when elderly neighbours complained about the noise - he was in a band, the now defunct Fairacre Poodles, and sometimes had to practise on his full kit - but he has all the noise reducing paraphernalia these days and more importantly his own place! I just have my much loved, if rarely played these days, bongos ... you've inspired me to look them out :D

  2. Believe it or not I used to play the snare drum in the Girls Brigade marching band!! I loved it & could probably still tap out the piece we used to play now!! :o)

  3. I should never, ever be let near a drum kit. My rhythm is OK, but I would hit all the wrong ones in the wrong order and probably trip over on the way out from behind it.

  4. I'm not a huge percussion fan but went to see Steve Reich's 'Drumming' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall a few years ago and was overwhelmed by how amazing it was. If you ever get a chance to take G to see it, do so.


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