How Bob Ross Influences My Drumming and Teaching

In Drum Tips, Drums by Philip EllisLeave a Comment

I’m a drummer and a teacher who loves to “yell” nicely at my students. 

At the start of each lesson, I try to get to know my students better by asking them random questions about themselves, their week, and much of the time the focus ends up being on the topic of food (I enjoy talking and hearing about desserts).

While in the studio one night I found myself having a spirited discussion with one of my students about the painter Bob Ross.

I was genuinely surprised to learn this 15-year-old student was aware of Bob Ross’s show “The Joy of Painting” as it played regularly on TV when I was a teenager back in the 80’s – twenty-five years before this young man was even born.

The first thing my student enthusiastically blurted out was “happy accidents!”

His comment inspired a way-too-long comparison of painting on canvas with creating rhythms. We talked about how creativity often happens by accident, and it’s up to us as musicians to recognize the potential usefulness of a “drumming mistake”. We also talked about intentionally and tastefully implementing these newly found nuggets while participating in future musical adventures.

I can vividly recall being a teen observing as Bob Ross unintentionally dripped a blob of paint onto his canvas, only to turn it into an interesting rock, another distinct tree, or some other beautiful form of nature. And best of all he made it all appear so effortless!

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” – Bob Ross

I’ll sometimes have parents ask about the drumming potential of their child(ren).

In my experience, there seems to be two general categories of students: those who begin playing already possessing an easiness with their understanding and application of drumming concepts (this was not me when I started), and those who seek to gain an understanding of drumming through persistence and tenacity (I definitely fell into this latter category).

Both types of ability can produce rhythmic talent. Wherever one may land on the spectrum, the most important ingredients that you need when learning to play the drums include being dedicated to practicing; having a willingness to persevere when it gets difficult, and to have the age-old concept of “grit” that shows up as determination.

Our talents are something that needs constant renewal and continual blossoming. It’s only when we stop doing/learning that our talent becomes stagnant.

“Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you are willing to practice, you can do.” – Bob Ross

On occasion, a student will ask if I have a favorite drum. I usually answer how there are many “favorites,” each one for a different reason. One may have the attack I like, another might produce a tone that makes me smile inside while playing.

I’ve often expressed how I feel much more relaxed in front of a group of people while sitting behind my drums. There’s something comforting about the familiarity of drums and cymbals around me.

And in a way, these percussion instruments become my friends. Though does one really ever beat on their friends?

“There’s nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend.” – Bob Ross

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway)…drummers are a little eccentric.

The configurations and ways we set up our drum kits are as different and unique as each of us who plays the drums. We can flail around in strange and unusual ways while playing. Our bodies, minds, and hearts are in sync as we effectively produce a flow-full foundation – and contort our faces to the point where people watching us seriously wonder if we’re OK.

“I guess I’m a little weird.” – Bob Ross

It’s amazing to witness students becoming confident in their playing. To the point where they’re capable of expressing themselves through their drumming.

The intense smiles on their faces and the happiness following a great performance are rewarding. These are some of the delightful things I get to experience as a teacher. It’s gratifying for both the student and myself as well.

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting.” – Bob Ross

During lessons, I will sometimes ask my students to just go CRAZY on the drums!

And the best part is I get to join in on all the fun.

I believe this is a place where wonderful exploration can happen while learning the drums. When we just let ourselves go “out there” and experience something not planned – and build on it – our confidence grows and creativity can flourish.

These “crazy” moments allow us to tap into a part of ourselves (and our drumming) we might not otherwise come to know.

“Let’s go crazy.” – Bob Ross

The act of drumming and painting have many things in common.

It wasn’t until that conversation with my student that I made this distinct connection (thanks, Evan).

Happy drumming,

“Mr. Ed”

Producing Artistic Director, Executive Director Rhythm Workshops

Master Drum Coach/Owner Round Rock Drums

Visit our website: https://www.roundrockdrums.com

Must watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAnCfooKBzg

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