Thinking of leaving my teacher

I started 'seriously' drumming in my 30's - I tried picking it up in my late 20's but after buying a snare, taking it home to my apartment, and hitting it once I knew it was going to be difficult to find time/places to practice. But later things worked out so I had a place to play acoustics occasionally, and I had an e-kit at home to work on as well.

Now I've been taking lessons for 2 years. Each week I get my new exercises, work on them, go back and show my progress, and on and on. For about a year I was head-down into it working diligently on each new exercise, trying to master each new pattern and solo.

But that enthusiasm wore down because it's all I ever seemed to do: finish the last assignment, get the next one, and so on. It seems to me that my teacher has no plan, and he doesn't push me to form my own plan.

And I feel like my actual playing is awful. My technique is okay and if you give me an exercise I can get it pretty quickly. My timing is decent. But my sound is horrible. I still don't know anything about transitioning between the various drums, like going from backbeat to fill and back with any consistency in sound or technical proficiency. I have no fill vocabulary. My crash smacks are weak and inconsistent. I don't have any levels to my playing. My peak tempo is incredibly slow. I have very little stamina.

Some of this can be attributed to sharing a drumset, and a pretty crappy one at that (plus trying to pretend that e-drums are 'real drums' when I'm at home, and the difficulty of drumming on anything in an apartment). But most of it I feel is just lacking direction.

When I went to my teacher I explained that my primary interest was jazz. I've done tons of syncopation (the book and the general idea), worked over samples of trading fours and solos, played along to some songs. But my teacher has never made me use any of it musically. He doesn't trade fours with me in lessons, or ask me to try to improvise. So although I can do say bass-snare-snare triplets and other patterns over the swing pattern, when I'm playing along and try to 'swing' I'm just stuck. I don't know what to play, and I have no idea of musicality.

The jazz thing is a good example of what I see to be the problem - the teacher showed me the ride pattern and I've been playing that thing for two years now, spang-a-lang, spang-a-lang. Yet he _never_ showed me how to play the 'a' with my fingers. I was robotically moving my wrist up and down the whole time until I happened to watch a video online and see another way of doing it.

It's just frustrating. I've started to feel like the teacher just sees me as a weekly paycheck. And he's not a bad guy, and I'm trying to be reasonable and understand that I'm starting late, two years is a drop in the ocean, all that stuff. But really - I just feel like I'm not making any progress in this relationship, and it might be better just to end it.

Generally I'm a pretty self-motivated guy. If there's something I want to know how to do I sit down and learn it. I think if I were to set my own goals - like learning how to play style X, or song Y - and I were to generate my own practice routines from these goals blended with some technical goals, I'd have a more fun time playing. As it is, I feel like I'm using all my time just to keep up with the 'lessons' I get, and I never get time to just play, or experiment - and at peak I was practicing for like 16-20 hours a week (not counting time just on the pad).

Kind of a long rant but I'd appreciate some thoughts.


Senior Member
I'm just wondering after reading all that if you've talked about any of this with your teacher? honesty is the key. If you say that you feel he is not doing enough and you dont feel as though your progressing he's gonna want to change to be a better teacher(and if he does'nt he's gonna lose a student). You sound like you need to take the next step and get a bassist or guitarists that you could jam with.But really if he is missing techniques that you should be using while teaching you something he needs to have a teacher himself.


Silver Member
I d say tell him how you feel, but I think you know what you need to do. A change can make all the difference. It cant hurt, right? If it turns out for the better, then great. If you continue to feel frustrated, it will only affect your motivation and continue to go on for as long as you let it. I d say do it.


Platinum Member
It sounds as if you might be trying to study jazz with a teacher whose forte is another style. It may have worked for the first few years to get the basics, but it might be time to seek out a teacher whose specialty is jazz. I have studied with different teachers to learn specific styles. I would not want to study jazz with Kim Plainfield or funk with Jim Chapin. But studying funk with Kim and hand technique/jazz independence with Chapin makes total sense. Search out some jazz drummers/teachers in your area. If there are none, you may need to drive to the nearest big city.



Pioneer Member
It sounds like all you know is technique, and hardly any dynamics. Have you ever played in a band setting with other people? Or maybe just jammed with another person?

If the answer is "no", then maybe you should take a break from the lessons and take some lessons in dynamics. Find some people to jam with and learn to improvise and communicate.

Your story reminds me of an old friend of mine that I used to jam with. He was in drum line in high school, religiously followed DCI and all that, and had amazing chops. He ended up being the drummer in my first band. He had ridiculously good chops, but his playing completely lacked musicality. He had no "feel" at all. It was because all he knew was how to play rudiments along to a metronome.

It sounds like that may be where you're headed. Lessons are great, but you need to also get in some time actually playing music. That's where you develop feel and dynamics.


Gold Member
As was mentioned, you have to talk to the teacher, see what he says, and then decide what to do.

However, a lot of what you talked about not learning is stuff that I never learned from my teachers, either. Musicality, self-expression, dynamics within a song (yes, a teacher should teach you how to play at different levels), how to listen to the music around you, and even developing your own growth plan to find your own sound/feel...all of that is stuff that a teacher can help you with, but I view as personal responsability.

The way I see it (and I teach), teachers are supposed to provide you with a tool box. They give you exercises to work on technique, rudiments, strokes, etc. It's up to you to apply these tools, in your own way, to the music. You can ask the teacher for ideas how to do it, but if you're not, he'll just assume you've got it figured out.

And regardless of if you agree with that or not, there's no denying that a few things you mentioned..."enthusiasm, push for your own plan, crash volume, peak speed, and stamina" are not things that you get from your teacher. A teacher can help you with that stuff, but it has to come from you, and from practicing. If you don't practice, then you won't get that stuff. If you do practice, you will get it, beacuse most of that stuff is simple muscle's like weight lifting. You could take a half hour lesson each week with Buddy Rich himself (if he were alive), and if you didn't go home and work on stuff, practice for hours, and develop your chops, then you would still be slower and have less stamina than you wanted

From what you said, it seems that the biggest mistake your teacher has made is not teaching you what to do with the exercises he gives you. Take them, and play them at different dynamic levels. Play them over the kit...suddenly, your "exercises" become your "fill vocabulary" that you don't have. Play them at different tempos...slow to fast, then back down, so that you get to work on your top speed and on staying in time. Combine passages from them that you like, and move them around the kit...suddenly you have your first drum solo. An exercise on paper, playing just a snare part, can look boring, but if you apply it in all these different ways, it will open up a huge world of possibilities to you.
Thanks for the replies. I have tried talking over some of this stuff with my teacher, but I don't feel like my concerns really got through.

I do understand that a lot of my development will come from just playing, and I've always spent some time playing. But I expected that the teacher would do more to link the exercises to playing. It's like if I took driving lessons and spent weeks pressing and releasing the brakes while in park. Sure I know how to apply the brakes in that situation, but I don't know how to _use_ them in a real situation.

The best thing for now might be to take a break from instruction. I have a good warm-up routine, I have a big collection of technique books and some methods for using them ... I have ample things to study for technique. But I'm going to focus more on playing, on musicality and dynamic levels and all that stuff. I'd appreciate any recommendations for good resources for this.

So far I'm having a blast doing my own 'lesson plans'. Last night I spent a couple hours working on "Drum Set Warm Ups" and some samples from the book "Classic Rock Drummers". Working on and then nailing a Copeland riff - at speed no less! - was the most fun I've had on the drums for a while.


Silver Member
- was the most fun I've had on the drums for a while.
Isnt this what its all about? If you cant find someone to jam with like said by Burn TH and Mr C. At least just play along to your favorite music for the time being.As for me, at this point in time, I have the most fun just forgetting about life, sinking into the tune and doing what I love to do... PLAY! Wait til you have an audience, you ll be glad you made the change now instead of "later". Dont waste your time with this guy.


Senior Member

Sounds lile you teacher is not showing you how to apply your chops.

It's one thing showing somebody all kinds of rolls etc.

But it doesn't do you any good if your still do not understanding how to apply your techniques, which means how to play a song and support a song.

Make your teacher when showing you a beat or fill, use music and songs as an example so you understand how to apply your skills. If he is unwilling find another teacher.

I think I am the exact opposite kind of drummer. I just recently began drumming again after a 10 year layoff. Before that i was medeocre at best. My chops fills are not flashy, but I can support a tune and I play with a decent amout of feel and groove.

Jazz is something down the road I would really want to get into, but for now I am content playing in a classic rockish kind of band with a few blues songs, and a reggae and funk tune throw in. That's enough for me to chew on till I get a little better and diverse enough to keep my interest.

Sounds like you just need to find a way to play more too, don't we all!

Good luck!


for me growin up playing i was very teacher specific.
this maent with my personality i scorned and burned many teachers words and wisdoms and that was ignorant
however wen discussed with recent professionals opinion seems set for anyone who knows my former teachers that there as somethin quantifiably wrong with them
as much as paitence is key - and it is - and relaxing and having fun with it rahter than feedin hateful realtionships - it is importnat to remember what difference a teacher makes. i believe theres certain ways u do not progres without ever havin a teacher. even the berst selftaught drummers think that theres at least one thing they could learn from a teacher even if its reassurance realted or just a differnet players perspective>neeccssary at timse.
it is worth remembering though that like people you mix with can hold you back in someway, so it can with a teacher. as however ur setup is, there i some degree of personal relationship going on there just cuz we're people, irght? and that obviously can lead to conflict. for every good thing i learned from the teachers i experienced, i also encountered plenty of honest-but-not-useful teachers who would by their own admissions say 'i cant do this as well as you' or 'my playing will not benefit your style/its somethin i disagree wit' and then the other kind thatclaim to be able to teach you whatever you want to learn but wont for some weird ass reason. like when i first asked my teacher about blastbeats (not in those words) he showed me what 5 yeasr later i learned to be the finger/french grip/etc...when i asked him to teach me it he didnt say 'your not ready' or somethin maybe i should listen to - simply ''that technique is for playing anti-music'' (this to him meant any kind of metal). the same with double bass - he wouldnt show me squat - and yet he could actually do it quite well. he held me back.


Senior Member
Dude, I really believe that a person really learns how to play the drums by listening, watching and then emulating. I look to lessons to refine my playing and to gain a better understanding. But I wouldn't rely on you're teacher to put something into you're mojo. Go buy a few videos and soak them up. For example, say, the best guys that are carpenters are the ones who grew up on the job soaking it up. The ones that say went to a technical school for four years and rely their confidence more solely on their schooling are going to be a little more awkward than you're soaker.
I think being thrown right into the pit is the best way to improve your skills. I would try to find someone to jam with. I know that can be a tough thing to do, as I have problems with that as well seeing as how in the military by the time I meet someone with similar interests, it's time for one of us to move. Check out your local music shops, most have a cork board for people to post up wanted adds for musicians.


Platinum Member
My first teacher had me work on jazz comping using the Syncopation for eight hours a day for a week. That was intense, but it fired up a love for jazz and I learned a whole bunch about timekeeping, accuracy, coordination and motivation to practice. My second teacher had me working on (formal) hand technique (including the four basic strokes), various styles, drum set exercises, snare drum solos and different Cuban percussions. He had an all-encompassing lesson plan with no particular emphasis on anything, but it prepared me well for my future studies. Along with the teachers' assignments I kept working on my own exercises (mainly Stick Control and New Breed).

My present teacher (three years and counting...) showed me the Moeller stroke and the open/close stroke on my first lesson, and after getting the hang of them it's been pretty much all about learning solos on the snare, on the drums and on the timbales. Sometimes he'd have me work on an exercise, sometimes he'd have me working on a (complex) groove or a lick he'd transcribed, sometimes he'd have me practicing polyrhythmic and polymetric ideas and sometimes he'd revise my technique, but all of these "side steps" were somehow related to the solos.

That's the beauty of it. Drum solos are packed with vocabulary and challenges to your technique, accuracy, concentration, timing, dynamics, fluidity and sound. If you have flaws in your playing, practicing solos will reveal them and eventually fix them. After you've mastered one solo, save it for later and start working on another one. Revisit the old solos periodically just to remind yourself of what you can do and see whether there are still some things that need polishing. Sooner or later you'll figure out that the solos use a lot of the same (derived) vocabulary, and learning one solo will make ten other solos easier to learn. You'll also learn to develop the best exercises to overcome any technical issue you might encounter. You'll become your own teacher, because you know what you can't do and you know how to deal with it. Your own plan becomes a supplement to your teacher's plan, and the lessons will actually start giving you a double benefit. Even though I'm getting a lot of solos to learn, I still keep a routine of technical exercises to polish my performance and execution, and to make learning things easier.

Now, if your present teacher isn't inclined to transcribe solos or help you learn them, it's best that you move on. The love for transcription is a good indicator of a master musician.


Silver Member
Thanks for the replies. I have tried talking over some of this stuff with my teacher, but I don't feel like my concerns really got through.
Some teachers just suck. My first and only drum teacher sure did. He had me play out of Basic Drumming and Stick Control and just watched me. No advice on wrist technique (which took me years to fix) or anything else. Just "work out of the book".

I haven't looked for another teacher yet. I would like to take jazz drum lessons with more of a coach than a teacher. I don't need to be told what to play. I want feedback on feel and other subtle stuff that you cannot get from a book or DVD.


Platinum Member
I wrote a post almost *exactly* like this about a year ago...I'm also about 2 yrs. in. I would say it's partly you and partly your teacher. Mine was exactly the same...week after week, month after month...I was learning grooves and snare solos but not really going anywhere outside of those boundaries. I now know that this is just how this guy teaches and was taught...and he's a great drummer...but I wasn't really learning the things I *wanted* to learn. I was progressing faster than my lessons could satisfy, mostly because I was spending 2-3 hrs. practicing every night.

So, I took my skills and applied them to what I wanted to do...and am learning much on my own these days. I develop my own patterns, exercises, etc. and push myself to learn something new when I feel like I'm ready to.

Now, I should have been getting exactly the type of lessons I wanted, that was part of it. The other thing I realized is; it's up to you to develop your own style, "licks", solos, and's not entirely up to your teacher to show you how to be the drummer you want to be. There are things you need to discover on your own that your teacher can't show you - mostly it has to do with how you express yourself on the drums.

Also - spend as much time as possible playing with *other* musicians. Get a band started if you haven't. Try to play with people above your skill level, if you can.

Good luck!