On The Beat With Joe English of Secrets: Self-Taught Versus Taking Lessons

Joe English of Secrets

Joe English of Secrets; photo by Jeremy Silveira

Hey, Modern Drummer readers! I’m Joe, the guy behind the kit for Secrets. With Secrets, I’ve been lucky enough to tour the world and record two albums I’m proud of (we just finished a third), all while surrounded by three of my best friends. But those things didn’t just happen overnight.

Rewind about fifteen years. I started hitting drums for the first time when I was about ten-years-old. Then, in middle school, I tried out for percussion in the school band and got turned down because I didn’t have any lessons or experience. But I didn’t let that stop me. I started to take lessons, but after two months, I just couldn’t afford them anymore. That’s when I realized I was going to have to teach myself.

I’ve met a lot of drummers along the way—some took lessons and joined drum line, and some picked up a pair of sticks and just went for it. No matter the path, they found their way to success.

So, what’s the difference between taking lessons and being self-taught? If you are taking the self-taught drummer route I will say that it takes a lot of patience. You don’t have someone walking you through rudiments or proper technique. You will find yourself playing where you feel most comfortable. It is a much slower process to grow; it is basically a trial and error method, which was how I learned best and some people prefer that. The biggest reward for me in being self-taught was that I was free to play drums in a non-traditional manner and wasn’t restricted by what was technically “right” or “wrong.” Advertisement

Taking lessons would have, of course, been my first choice if I had the resources and could afford it. I believe the key to being a great drummer, or even a great musician, is a strong foundation. By taking lessons you are increasing the amount of options you will have when it comes to playing (why paint with ten colors when you can paint with a hundred?), and you will grow and learn much faster.

Patience will be required whether you take lessons or are self-taught. If not having money for lessons is discouraging anyone, don’t be afraid to learn on your own. Both roads can lead to being successful, as long as you have the desire and discipline.

Thanks for reading!

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Photo by Jeremy Silveira