Written by JoJo
Looking back it seems obvious that drumming was going to be such a good fit for me. At school I was that kid who was always playing with his hands, tapping on a desk, or a wall, or a lunchbox, or anything really. I didn’t enjoy school for the most part; I survived it. Each day started and ended with a 45 minute minibus journey. I would spend that time lost inside my headphones. Retransmitting the beat of the music by tapping on my legs. Tensing my muscles or flexing my toes. Except I wasn’t really lost. I needed this time to prepare for the next part of my day, it was essential to my survival.
The first job I took after graduating from university was even further away from home. This meant I had even longer each day to listen to my music and recharge myself. And unlike school I could listen to my music while I worked. I am a Software Developer. I know, I know, I’m not helping the stereotype of autistic males here. I never knew for sure what I wanted to do for a vocation but I figured that if I pursued the things I liked I would end up doing something I enjoyed and it turns out that coding is a lot of computers, problem solving, maths, patterns, rules and structure. This might not sound like a good time to you, but I still can’t believe I get paid to desk mosh all day. Yes, you read that right, desk mosh. I type the code in in time with the music, hitting certain keys harder to accent the snare/toms and playing the bass line by tapping my feet under the desk. (Aside: the guy I sit next to is totally okay with this unless I’m playing something heavy with double kicks and stomping away under my desk. Sorry, Steve!)
I had always wanted to learn to play drums but it was new and it was change and uncertain and big and scary. I had never managed to overcome my fear of those things. I am very fortunate that when a training course I was attending finished and a slot opened in my schedule, a good friend helped push me to arrange lessons. I went to my first lesson with no musical training. I didn’t know what the bits of the kit were called, I didn’t even have sticks. I came out an hour later fully in the knowledge that this was something I absolutely had to be doing. By the end of the day I had ordered sticks, a textbook and a practice pad. By the end of the week I had ordered a kit.
I have been playing for a few years now and it has become an essential part of my development and well being. Adult life is tough. Just like with those minibus journeys to school, I need that time on my drum kit to escape into the music and repair myself. If you stop and think about it, drumming is a bunch of stuff that a lot of autistic people enjoy. It’s maths and patterns and rules and sensory feedback and organised noise (which is what music is). A lot of people fall away from learning to play a musical instrument because of the commitment to practice. With drumming you have to practice rudiments. That means a lot of hours sat in front of a practice pad playing basic patterns. This might not sounds like a good time to you, but it’s what my body does anyway, on a desk, or a wall, or a lunchbox, or anything really. Adult life brings bigger problems and drumming gives me more capacity to cope with them.