Most professional musicians have given music lessons. We want our students to practice more, try harder, play for fun, all those things and more. A frustrating thing for me has been students with bad instruments. You know, the piano that sits in the garage, stringed instruments that have never had the bridge or nut adjusted, the wind instrument with leaky pads, brass instruments with the wrong mouthpieces, warped bows; I’ve seen it all. I said so many times “You need a better instrument, your playing will improve.” Sometimes, the student got a better one, sometimes not.
I haven’t been a beginning instrument player since I was 8. My parents made sure I had a decent piano, flute, and guitar. The difference between playing a horrible instrument and a good one was something I had never experienced—until now. I recently started taking tabla lessons. The tablas I used were a set I bought in Bangalore because they were pretty. I didn’t intend to play them, just use them to decorate my studio. They are terrible. After the first lesson, Satish, my teacher, told me not to drag my tablas over to his place; he has a tabla school, and plenty of drums.
I practiced and practiced. I couldn’t make the right sounds. I was frustrated! When I went for my second lesson, and played his drums, I immediately made the right sounds! My inner music teacher said “You need better drums.” The statement I tossed of so often over the years became real!
Satish ordered me a new set from his supplier in Pune; I got them the evening of my 8th lesson. Oh JOY! They are wonderful, marvelous, yummy-drummy tablas. I love them. A better instrument helps you play better! It works! I can play better! I could play better right away! I loved to play before and I LOVE it now even more!!! Here’s a video of me with the old and new drums.
My husband, Tom took these videos. “I thought you were going to play!” he said. “Nobody wants to listen to a beginner”, was my reply. “Yes, they do.”
Sigh. A long way to go. Here’s a link to Zakir Hussain playing the same composition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtRPB8xHP8M