A Drummer’s Lament

Oct. 24, 2010, 11:36 p.m.

When I was in fifth grade, my parents decided to get me a drum set. As they asked around, everyone warned against it. “Too loud!” people said. My parents decided to rough it out anyways, and I had the best Christmas ever. The drums lived in our basement, where I took lessons and eventually upped the decibels when I put together a rock band. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house with ample practice space, far enough from the neighbors’ ears to avoid complaints, and with a family supportive enough to put up with significant background noise. Not all drummers are so fortunate, and the Stanford family is not nearly as supportive as my own.

It’s a paradox. Sold-out concert festivals and peoples’ iPods are packed with music that includes drums. While at the same time, nobody likes their daily life interrupted by the volume level inherent with a practicing drummer. The music department on campus provides one practice room in the basement of Dinkelspiel with a drum set—a room with such poor sound insulation that lectures in the rehearsal hall are forced to hear the beat. It just costs too much money to build rooms with walls thick enough to hide the bass drum thump from passers-by, be it in Dink or anywhere.

To be fair, many drummers in the world are pretty bad. You know the type—someone who doesn’t have the best rhythm, enjoys making as much noise as possible, and thinks it will make him look cooler. Not to disparage the fun they have, but when their quality of performance pisses off the locals, it hurts the rest of us. The music department has even complained of people stealing parts from the lone drum set they make available to Joe Drummer. What the hell, guys?

Even for the better drummers though, Stanford just doesn’t put out. Lessons for several instruments are offered (including guzheng and renaissance wind instruments) but not for drum set. And if you want to drum in a group, you have to either join a jazz combo or butter up the residents of the small handful of dorms with a room devoted to band practices. Not to mention fact that you have to get your drums to campus and store them somewhere.

But that’s the life of a drummer. We have the most equipment and the loudest instrument. As I look ahead past graduation, my housing plans have to factor in this musical hobby—apartments won’t work unless there’s rehearsal space nearby. Because the troubles for drummers at Stanford are not unique; they’ll continue until we earn enough money to buy ourselves a friendly environment. Air drumming just won’t cut it.

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