I recently received a promotion at my day job, so I decided to treat myself to a new set of drums. My old kit had big, deep power toms with a 24” bass drum, and they had started to look outdated. The local music store took the set, plus a bunch of cash, for a brand-new set of high-end drums. I was thrilled at first, but then I started to wish I hadn’t sold my old kit. I even went back to the store to buy it back, but it had been sold. I now find myself disinterested in my new high-end kit. What’s going on here?
You have a combination of seller’s and buyer’s remorse. Both are an emotional reaction to the choice you made, and both involve a strong sense of regret about your decision. You had grown attached to your old kit, and perhaps you feel a little guilty about spending a significant sum of money on your new drums.
You’re also going through a grief process. Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, and you’ve just said “adios” to your old kit. On conscious and unconscious levels your old kit is associated with good times and fun experiences making music. However, we’re all prone to engage in revisionist history, remembering events in our mind more fondly than they necessarily deserve. As you move through your grief process, in addition to sadness you might feel some disbelief in your decision and anger regarding your choice. You went back to the music store in an attempt to buy back your kit, but that failed. Short of trying to track down the new owner, which I wouldn’t suggest, eventually you will move into a mode of acceptance.
All Things Must Pass
Eventually everything will pass away. Your old drums are gone for good. But there are lines in the George Harrison tune “All Things Must Pass” that are bright and hopeful: “Daylight is good at arriving at the right time. It’s not always going to be this gray.”
In Buddhism, a mandala—usually a circle enclosing a square, with a deity on each side—is a symbol of the universe. When Buddhists want to meditate on the concept of impermanence, the monks spend days or weeks creating an intricately patterned mandala made of colored sand. The monks carefully and gently blow the sand, often using small straws, into a formation. When this beautiful piece is complete, the monks unceremoniously sweep the sand into a pile and sprinkle it into a body of running water. To witness this is to experience a graphic display of the impermanence of life.
As drummers, we break heads, cymbals, and possibly even kick drum pedals. These are all examples of the impermanence of things in our lives. We get into trouble when we form unhealthy attachments to people, places, and things. The more attached we become, the harder it is to let go when something or someone passes away. The key is to let go and move on.
Your Creative Voice
As a drummer, your creative voice is your drums. You speak through your drumming. I’ve seen videos of street kids in third-world countries playing “drums” made from junk. Two bicycle sprockets serve as a hi-hat. Twigs become drumsticks. Tin cans serve as the snare and toms. Other cast-off items are jerry-rigged to form a bass drum, pedals, and cymbals. These kids play with pure spirit and from deep within their heart and soul. They don’t care if they’re not making rhythms with “real” instruments, and they’re not attached to what they’re playing. If a tin-can tom becomes battered beyond repair, they just replace it with another. And the best part of this whole scenario is that their music sounds awesome!
The Eye Is Drawn to Beauty
Advertisements for drums, cars, houses, expensive clothes, and so on will always feature the item in the best lighting possible and from the best angles. This is because we have an inherent propensity to be drawn to visual beauty. Think of the hours people spend in art museums and the thousands of dollars invested in cosmetic surgery. But beauty fades over time. We tire of our possessions and long for something new, shiny, and bright—something different.
To continue working your way through accepting the loss of your old drums and embracing your new kit, I suggest that you push yourself to find time to spend with the new set. Polish the chrome on the rims and lugs. Apply a protective finish to the shells. Experiment with different tunings. Get to know them! Enjoy the beauty of your new drumset without becoming too attached. Keep in mind that it’s the vehicle through which you express your own unique creative voice. But also remember that someday the drums may no longer hold the appeal they once had, and you’ll likely want to replace them with another kit. They too will pass away.
Bernie Schallehn has been a drummer and percussionist for over forty-five years. He holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and, while in private practice, held the credentials of a certified clinical mental health counselor and a certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor.