A couple of weeks ago, I read a very interesting thread on a Facebook drumming group (Drummer’s Database Community, April 24, 2015). Seems a young drummer named Adrian had referred to a ride cymbal as a “dink” cymbal, after which a guy apparently decided to rip him a new asshole about that and how little he knew.

Adrian left the group, obviously upset and feeling bullied within a group he should have felt the exact opposite of. True to the blood that runs through most of us as drummers, people started coming to his defense left and right. They started posting pictures of their “dink” cymbals, and they engaged in discussion about various brands and sizes of dinks, the merits and dislikes, the whole dink enchilada.

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It was a thing of beauty to see. And it kept going for several days, which you can search and read (find April 24, 2015 and go from there). The brotherhood of drumming rallied around a young beginner who may never know how many people came to his support, because by this time he was long gone. The camaraderie you feel in a real drum store was reflected in the posts, with full-blown cyber support hitting on all eight cylinders.

But it also reminded me that the subject of bullying is not something we as a group are isolated from. I have to admit, guys in my generation can’t easily relate to the bullying issues one reads about a great deal today on the Internet, but this certainly painted a quick picture. Those of you in your teens and 20s reading this perhaps relate more immediately and have likely seen these things happen to some of your friends and peers.

The power of words can’t be understated, especially when so many millions of people have access to putting them out there. And when it hits, you feel it. In today’s blog, I’d like to share a little story with you about it that pelted me two years ago…

I had just published my Elements books, and I was so excited I couldn’t see straight. It literally took 30 years from start to finish, a very lonely and isolated process in my head that came and went. It took everything I had in terms of strength, focus, and financial investment. And of course, the mental gyrations that Tourette Syndrome served up on a daily basis never made things any easier.

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But I found a software tool called Finale that helped me make it all happen, and when I met the Finale guys at NAMM 2013, I couldn’t stop raving about their product. I was 100% sincere and not looking for anything free. I just wanted to thank them.

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They wrote a blog about me on their website, which was quite an honor, and in it I said I could not have completed my books without their product.

Shortly after, I discovered that a musician, a Ph.D candidate, had read this and was commenting rather snidely about it on a site about Lilypond. It’s an open architecture music software site that I’m sure has merit. But in his series of posts, the Ph.D candidate really started taking me to task for not using what in his opinion was a better system, pointing out left and right how I could have done things so much more efficiently… but he didn’t stop there.

He became increasingly boastful about how he was going release Lilypond code to write basically the contents of much of my books… for free… for anyone to use.

How do you think that went over in my world?

As he continued to grow more full of himself, other Lilypond readers began noting that he was starting to draw increasingly erroneous conclusions from my words. They did offer valid critique and comments about my work, but they also actually started coming to my defense. They saw his inflated self-grandizing for exactly what it was. Hardly actions becoming a Ph.D candidate.

I, on the other hand, was actually very concerned. I envisioned code being sent all over the world, people cranking out versions of my work, costing me what little money I do make off sales. I was being insulted and talked down by a complete stranger, all because I enthusiastically wanted to thank Finale for making a product that made my lifetime dreams come true.

And then this Ph.D candidate pretty much crapped all over them.

I was about two months away from going to England to present my books at a highly respected academic conference, one where leading researchers in the field of rhythm perception meet every two years to share their findings. It was an incredible honor to be able to go, and I had to decide how to react to this Ph.D snob.

I debated engaging him publicly on the Lilypond message board (he never did contact me directly, by the way, and I’m very findable). The hardcore biker in me wanted to shred him in print. The airplane flight instructor in me kept things at a higher road level, but I was even ready to contact his music school and Ph.D advisor concerning the possible ethical issues concerning his actions.

I gave it a lot of thought, and in the end, I decided to remain silent and let it all die down, which it did. Meanwhile, more and more people on the Lilypond site began taking him to task for putting words in my mouth and misinterpreting my message.

It was a thing of beauty.

As for the rhythm conference? I never even finished community college, but I had serious Ph.D’s, leaders in the field of rhythm research and perception from all over the world, gathering around my 3’x4’ poster on a stand, asking me a lot of questions and repeatedly acknowledging that they’d never seen anything like it and the information it conveyed.

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So, to Adrian, the young drummer out there who coined the word “dink” as he sought to communicate his sincere and eager interest about drumming, I hope you get word of the support you were offered after you left. To the FB drummers who offered Adrian that support, you fucking rule. To the members of the Lilypond community who offered me support, I really appreciate it and will not pass judgment on your software based on one person’s skewed posts.

And to my drumming family members, remember that we are in many ways models for our younger drummers, in both age and spirit (for those starting drumming late in life). I believe we should offer support and enthusiasm, genuine and helpful critique, or say nothing if we’ve nothing nice to say. Whether you’re 12 and just picking up sticks, or you’re 54 and bearing your soul to the drumming world with a life’s publishing work, it’s kinda scary out there sometimes.

But as long as you’re down with the dink, you’ll show the world that you have the right stuff. If you’re not, you’ll show who and what you are either way.

And if you do it over the Internet, it’ll be for a very long time…

#cuzwordsmatter