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Danny Cox

Drummer, Drumset Tutor,

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How can one achieve their full potential in the face of strict limitations?

Hello TED users,

My question comes from a personal angle, but I'm sure there are many others faced with similar problems.

I make a living as a drummer. I also teach my instrument. I have played for 15 years now, but for half of this time (since I left home) I have had nowhere to practise my craft. Of course this practise is incredibly noisy, which is the root of the problem, but why I am unable to do it is not my question- rather I am seeking opinions on how I might still achieve my full potential in spite of my limitations.

I am often misunderstood on this matter. I generally receive two responses when I reach out. The first is 'book some studio time.' Unfortunately, this is prohibitively costly in terms of both time and money, with it taking an hour to set up and an hour to pack down a drum kit and studio time costing anywhere between £5-20 per hour. Considering that to truly master a craft one needs endless hours, this is no long-term solution. The second response I receive is 'use digital drums'. Digital drums, while certainly less noisy, are not my instrument. Anyone who has played them will understand that they are a far cry from the real thing and so this suggestion is somewhat like asking a writer to produce a novel using only words beginning with letters A-M.

Of course two solutions that few people mention due to their obviousness are 'move to the country' and 'soundproof a room'. Both of these options are again prohibitively expensive and with musicians not exactly on the highest pay-grade both of these things are sadly far-off.

As a result of these circumstances I feel my whole life is off-center. I deeply crave self-improvement in my chosen field but every day I feel like an artist with no canvas.

I am unsure if anything can be done to improve my personal situation, but I know that TED attracts intelligent minds and perhaps by discussing this issue in a broader context some revelation may be stumbled upon.

Thank you.


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  • Oct 17 2012: Go somewhere where you can drum.
    And drum.
    Keep on drumming.
    No matter what.
    If you're any good by now, while you drum, you are probably capable of thinking of other things while you drum.
    Thus, this sort of state or condition is or becomes, a state of meditation or meditating.
    While you are perfecting and enlarging your technique, answers to what else you can or need to do (like $$ for survival), will come to you. Meditation isn't what you do. It is something that happens. Just like a new beat runs through while you drum, gets your attention (hey! I liked that!!), and you follow it for a while and develop it.

    Drumming is the first thing you have to solve and you can only solve it by drumming. Keep it simple. Example:
    There are two walls. Both clear and white. On the left, a thought, your thought. Drum!
    On the right wall more thoughts: How are you gonna survive? What are you gonna do? What if this never works? You have to know all the answers before you take such a step!! You need this amount of money! Where is it gonna come from? And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, until they are all written over one another so that it is almost impossible to clearly see them or read them and make any sense.
    You look at the left wall. Very clearly it says, "drum!"
    The answers will come!

    I don't know what you believe in but I firmly believe most people don't really know what they believe in. Worse, most don't really trust what they believe in.

    There is always that moment or place of decision to trust or not trust. Go for it or not.
    Where I live there is guy who drums on empty buckets that he finds and collects. He cannot afford drums, yet he is good and getting better. If I can, I will buy him some drums.

    You never know where the money is gonna come from, how it will look, when it will arrive but since you don't have it, right?? then it has to come from someone, somewhere, or somehow else. That's the truth of it. Do you believe in good?

    Don't be beat up. Be up beat!
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      Oct 17 2012: Very inspiring words! I like what you're saying here and it makes a lot of sense... But is kind of romantic when applied long-term. I've done all this- I've hired the studio in town for a week and just not thought about where the money is going to come from. What did I have at the end of the week? No money! Perhaps it sounds to someone like you that I am putting up my own barriers but believe me, they are not my own and I have looked for ways through, over, under and around and that has led me here, to seek the opinions of others. Your input is greatly appreciated.

      My grandmother allowed me to practise in her garage at one point. She lived on a main road and the garage was detached. I played only between the hours of 10am and 5pm. Only a week into my use of this space environmental health showed up and threatened to put a noise abatement order on my grandmother's property with a £5,000 fine if I continued. The complaint came to them from a neighbour 15 doors down the road.

      Believe me, I do what I can. I use the digital drums in my teaching space, I spend countless hours on my practise pad and of course this helps me improve. I am good at what I do, certainly good enough to make a living, but 'making a living' was not my childhood dream. 'Being the best drummer in the world' was my childhood dream and already I'm seven-and-a-half years behind on the necessary practise!
      • Oct 18 2012: Hi Danny.
        Sadly I have to admit or agree that we/you/I put up our own barriers.
        I can admit that now to myself. Not saying you are doing that but we all have what are known or called "deep-seated convictions". Beliefs based on whatever, and held so deeply inside ourselves that they are deep-seated and have become (whether we like it or not), the caissons of our belief foundation.

        They are convictions and in the word conviction is the word "convict", thus we are prisoners to our own beliefs. Happens to many. The most difficult aspect of them is being able to find, see and admit them to our own self.
        That really takes a lot of honesty and digging to get to the truth. Only each person can do this for themselves if they decide to.
        When I mentioned that I don't know what you believe in (and I'm not referring or hinting at anything at all), that belief system can make a way where there is no way.

        good luck

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