Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Apropos of no particular part of this post,
these are remarkably similar to many drum
teachers I've encountered.
A short beef about the nature of teaching. Maybe I should've included this in my recent post, “I complain about things said online.” There's a special attitude among some teachers, some students,  and a considerable number of people on the internet, that your job as a teacher is to teach the client “what they want” or “the way they want.” The customer is always right, they're the one signing the check, blah blah, insert another platitude...

Problem: You're supposed to be the expert. Part of your actual job is to educate the client on how things are done, and on the reasons for doing things the way they're done. Often this comes up in regard to reading, or “theory”— whatever they think that is, they don't want it. Usually it means reading. The student can't read, has never had much success with it, and wants you to teach him without doing any reading. Can't we come up with a way of doing that? It seems doable!

Maybe it is doable in the sense that you can definitely eat up a lot of lesson time walking someone through whatever basic patterns you can get through in 30-60 minutes. It's poor practice, and they're not going to learn anything much, but they'll pay you to do it for a few weeks or months— however long it takes them to get bored with their lack of real progress— so you do it.

This is not good. In doing this you are a hack. It's the definition of hack work.

Actually Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines hackwork as “literary, artistic, or professional work done on order usually according to formula and in conformity with commercial standards.” I would expand that to include “doing anything at all for money”, regardless of professional standards and best practices. Or doing whatever stupid thing the client thinks he wants, or lazily doing whatever you can get away with because the client doesn't know any better. Perhaps a level below hack are teachers who deliberately teach this way with the goal of making the student permanently dependent on the teacher. That appears to be business model of several online “lessons” sites.

The ethical thing to do: Maintain your standards. Take a minute and educate the student on how things are done, and why the thing they are asking you to do is not done.


  1. Amen! It's epidemic in the guitar teaching world as well.

  2. Yes! My first encounter with that was a guy in Eugene, OR, who used to just teach kids how to play songs by rote. Dude was active for years down there.

  3. Anonymous5:16 AM

    Good post Todd. I've had teachers in the past who used to teach in a way you described - with a way to make the student dependent, although unsure if this was deliberate or not.
    Things that might be fairly basic/foundational to an Afro-Cuban percussionist or a drumline player (like bell patterns and how to hold the sticks) are presented as being advanced and therefore held back from beginners.