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Ben Barnett’s Blog

The blog of London website maker Ben Barnett

Taking the scenic route

12 Oct 2012

When I was 12, I took up the drums. Like any instrument, or indeed any new skill, there's an endless amount of seemingly boring stuff to muddle through after the initial excitement has waned. I'm talking about the vocab of learning a language, the admin of starting a business, the theory of a driving test. In the case of the drums, amongst them were the rudiments. "You've got to learn your diddles, paradiddles, drags and flams to be a good drummer," I'm told. Apart from being fun to say, these are repetitive exercises designed to improve technique. Perhaps typically of my often short-sighted ways, I saw no immediate benefit to learning them... "yeah right, as if the Metallica drummer does this rubbish."

I took this attitude, put the headphones on and just played along to the music I wanted... the fun stuff. That's why I took up drums in the first place. This was an ongoing theme until I discovered that the more experience I had, the more I could appreciate what other drummers were doing. I remember vividly how blown away I was by the speed and fluidity of these guys, something I hadn't really noticed or respected before, and wanted to spend every shred of time I had learning to imitate. A few awe-inspired discussions after an impressive gig revealed their secret.

Taking a slightly more indirect route to my original goal, 'just playing along to music,' made it all the more achievable. Pushing myself to learn these unnecessary things only made the necessary things easier, smoother and more natural. It became addictive; the more I did the boring stuff, the more liberated playing for fun became. The flipside is that the more I understood, the more crushing revelations of how much more there was to learn showed their ugly heads. All the more to get going with, then.

Of course, hindsight makes all this seem hideously obvious now.

Back to today, in the world of the web and this experience is more relevant than ever. I write this now because Twitter's recent changes to their API policy has resulted in three months of evening side project work being flushed down the toilet. As frustrating as this was, I tried a new approach to the way I tackled this project and just like it was with the drums, learning these new techniques only deepened my understanding of the ones I already knew. I'll call that progress, and I'll take it.

(Thank you, Twitter.)

Cf: paradiddles are important.