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How Long Until I’m Good?

Last week I talked about one of the most common questions I’m asked as a drum instructor, “How long does he/she (or, do I) need to take lessons?” Today, I wanted to tackle another similar question I often get. Like the first, this one also relates to many endeavors in life outside of music lessons.

“How long until I’m good?”

I’ve always thought of that as a very odd inquiry, and one that really puts me on the spot. Over the years, I’ve come up with all sorts of BS, off-the-cuff replies tailored to appease the student or parent standing in front of me. But after teaching 50-65 students per week for 13+ years, I’ve come to realize that there is truly no way that I can answer it other than responding with three more questions that only the student can answer.

#1) What is your definition of “good”?

How good do you want/intend to become? Simply good enough to just drop a stick on a drum and make a sound? Done . . . lesson over . . . please pay at the door . . . thank you very much . . . and see you next week! Good enough to impress the girls at the school talent show? Good enough to play along with your favorite AC/DC song on your drumset in the basement? Be in a band? Get called for local gigs? Be a rockstar? To each his own– these are all acceptable goals. But be aware that there are enormous differences between each of the above. What is your goal?

#2) How much effort are you planning, able and willing to put forth?

I don’t care how cool you think being a rockstar would be. And I don’t care how much you say that that’s what you want to do with your life. What I do care about is whether or not you’re willing to work hard enough to make it happen. If not, I can’t help you all that much.

In his fantastic book, The Cycle of Self Empowerment, Dom Famularo offers the following equation: Desire + Commitment = Reward

The three form a chain that will not exist if any of the links is broken. You can’t have one without the others. As with anything in life, no matter how much you desire to reach that reward, it’s absolutely impossible without a commitment to the time and work necessary to get there. Commitment is the connecting link.

I often draw the above graphic on my snare drum head with a Sharpie as a reminder that, until I’ve attained the goals I have in mind, there’s no way I can stop working my tail off.

#3) Why stop at “good”?

If music (or whatever else you happen to be learning) is simply a fun hobby or escape from your regular job, then perhaps “good” is good enough. If that’s not the case- if instead, it’s something you’re really seriously about pursuing- then I venture to say that it isn’t.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” – author unknown

If you are going to invest all of that time and money into lessons and gear, why not plan to do it well. Better than good, be great. As Gary Vaynerchuk would say, “crush it!” With a little dedication and focus, you might find yourself doing things you never before thought possible. It’s an amazingly liberating feeling to suddenly discover that you have the power to reach new personal heights and goals. When that happens, I guarantee that that feeling and power will start to spill over into other areas of your life. And then look out . . . what can’t you do?

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9 Comments
  1. Living, breathing, reading, posting to my Facebook, and I’ll even buy you a coffee when ya get home!

  2. It’s sometimes hard to know what good enough is. Since I started taking lessons, I’m good enough to play to a lot of my favorite music. That’s good enough for my enjoyment and relaxation (one of my original goals). Am I good enough to perform with a jam session? Good question and a question of confidence. I want to continue to get better but are my practices good enough? I’ll keep you posted. Thanks again for the thought provoking topics.

    • Hey, Jeff! I like that you said original goals, because they certainly can change over time. Reaching a new level in your playing (or other endeavor) can definitely excite us and lead us to set new goals. When that’s the case, that definition of “good” is often revised, as well.

  3. “Good” is a bad goal, because it’s subjective. I like how you made them define how “good” they want to be. It makes a difference.

    • For sure . . . without some defined goal, there’s no target to shoot for. That makes it more difficult, and less likely, for one to choose [and take] the appropriate steps to improve and grow. Thanks, Joel!

  4. Desire + Commitment = Reward..Love that quote… Anyways…I agree with the above posts…the word “good” is too vague and very hard to interpret sense everyone has there own interpretations of the word…As for goals I prefer to set small ones with one major one in mind..Which is to be a well rounded percussionist.. As for lessons I don’t think there is a right or wrong amount for the amount you take..A good teacher can point out things that even the best percussionist missed.

    • Great to see you on here, Stephan!

      You’re right on when you say that a good teacher can catch things that you might have overlooked. That’s one reason that I try to take lessons whenever possible, and from various instructors. Each one observes my playing through their lens, sees different aspects that I might improve, and offers a fresh perspective for me to consider. I am able to benefit from the combined views and experience of all of them, merging them with my own to create continual change and growth.

      Thanks for the comment, man!

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Email: powersdrums[at]gmail[dot]com