What I Forgot I Knew


There are so many activities that we bounce back and forth between while growing up. We develop skills and move on to each new thing in our quest to find ourselves. What’s cool about it all is rediscovering skills and figuring out how they can be beneficial to your current season in life or even just plain out fun.

I’ve been involved with music since I was kid, and while I definitely had some mentors and great examples along the way, the resources started to expand as I got older. I started learning how to read music when I was about five or six years old. My first exposure to sheet music was on the recorder [small instrument that resembles a mix between a flute and clarinet], and then the cello. By the time I graduated high school, I can say that I was very comfortable with reading music. But like life tends to teach us, there was so much more to learn.

Entering the jazz program at Florida State University, my experience with sheet music got a major upgrade. I’ve said this many times and I will continue to do so; Leon Anderson [Director of FSU’s Jazz Program and Jazz Drumset Professor] changed my life! He challenged me every day and introduced me to transcribing. Come to find out, I had been doing this since I was a kid. The approach was just different. Like most musicians who grow up in the church environment, I learned by ear. YouTube was my teacher and I would watch videos and learn what I saw, or listen to music and play what I heard. [I am not excluding others from other environments, I’m just speaking on the commonness of this scenario.]

With Leon, these same techniques were used, but with the added task of writing down what I was hearing. Tedious is an understatement lol. My first transcriptions took about 2-3 weeks. When I finally brought it in for my lesson, I believe I only played it down once or twice. The next thing Leon asked me to do was to sing the trumpet solo. I looked confused for a second, but then realized that I knew the entire thing. I knew the bass line, the piano comping parts and the solo. The entire song had opened up to me. From that moment, I was hooked to transcribing. I can honestly say that it was a major impact on how I interpret music.

Now out in the world as a professional, I’ve logged a considerable amount of hours of transcription work. While it was just something to do for a grade in college, some conversations with my wife helped me to realize how valuable it is to be able to open another drummer’s eyes and ears in the same way that Leon did for me.