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Breakthrough Moments

Lesson 8 from: Becoming A Music Teacher: The Art of Sharing Your Talent

Mike Johnston

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Lesson Info

8. Breakthrough Moments

Next Lesson: Branding Yourself

Lesson Info

Breakthrough Moments

You know, when we left, the last thing we did was we talked about the techniques of teaching we talked about getting better at those things. Most importantly, we talked about something that very few people do, which is we talked about practicing those techniques and it's ok to get in front of a mirror and practice teaching, practicing delivering information, practicing your expressions, practicing your analogies, your demonstrations of everything on before we get into like the big chunk of what this segment's topic is going which is branding and being able to get people to I want to study with you and to trust you before we get into that I want to talk about breakthroughs that we've had as students together or on your own and breakthroughs you've had as a teacher yourself and so I want to share one with you guys at home and you know, I've taken lessons my whole life I started taking lessons when I was five years old, I think and it didn't go well because I was terrible the drums and I ...

didn't have a teacher that recognized the difference between practicing and not being natural, which is what I was doing I was putting in the effort and I was getting no results it wasn't natural and I wasn't very good at the instrument wasn't meant to play the drums behind me it's fine it's part of it so there's that and then there's just not caring and he got the to confuse and he was upset with me that I didn't care. I didn't practice it and put in the effort and he was incorrect. I did put in the effort did care. I desperately wanted to be better at this instrument. I was not happy being fifth chair in school band, but I tried I wasn't getting any better, and I wish he would have recognized that, and I hope that you guys at home will recognize the difference between a student is struggling, trying but struggling and then something that just doesn't care and doesn't want to do it and isn't practicing because both happen a lot and you need to be able to recognize the difference between the two by actually talking to your student. Don't just look at the drumming and go it doesn't practice look the drum and say dude, how much honestly, how much work did you put it on that if they say five minutes cool? Well, that's, that's representative what you can do right now that's, what, five minutes have worked up. So you need to be able to recognize that in your students and one of the things that happened to me. You know, it was when I was younger of struggling kept going kept going start chipping away got a little better a little better and eventually I kind of graduated my lessons up to the point that I was studying with this, you know, drumming icon of education in pete magnini and he wrote all the main books that we all use his musicians on polyrhythms and I got to study with him at a shop I think it was called drum world in san francisco or drummer world and I had my first lesson with them and he was like men, you seem like you're really into this would you like to study with me privately? And I was like like like I said in the first segment I idolized educators instead of drummers. So instead of the poster of tommy lee in the poster of lars old bridge, I had the posters of guys like jim shaping and p magazine and so I was so excited that he was going to take me on as a student so I started studying with him and this is the first time I really had a private teacher care more about me than themselves that he put my needs first he said, what do you do it? So I'm currently touring in a rock band and he's a cool let's work on some stuff that'll help you as a rock drummer was like that's awesome like no one's ever wanted to help me with what I dio they've always wanted me on wanted to turn me into what they are, but he wanted to help me with my rock drone that was cool, so we started studying together and every time I'd come back from tour I'd have lessons with pete and I'd always showing what I was working I was like, pete, check this out so if you do this, do this and one day he just put his hand on my shoulder and he was like, you should really think about teaching for a living. I was like, what I'm gonna sign rock band like I'm I'm currently in the dream right now and he's like when you play you're decent at the drums you're fine, but when you tell me something, when you explain something, you get so excited your eyes get so big you shouldn't ignore that should pay attention that there was a huge breakthrough moment that my teacher was paying enough attention to me to say, hey, look, I know that you liked on as a teacher, he was off off the you know, he didn't need to do anything I already had my record deal was like, dude, you can tell people that you teach you know that your student has this record deal in his touring with these bands but to him he was like paying attention to me and he was like for the rest of your life I think this would be more beneficial because of your passion because of how much you love explaining things to people and I think that when you're being taught in school whether it be elementary school whether it be college or be private lessons you're currently studying teaching because you're a student the fact that you're a student allows you to sit there and go and I really like the way she explained that that's really cool has nothing to do with you know like the subject matter it has to do with how did she break that down that's really cool and then you go to the next class of that man this is my favorite subject and this guy always makes me hate my favorite subject okay, well don't do that when you teach try to make sure that never happens. So when I ask you guys have you guys ever had any breakthrough moments either teaching or being taught that really stuck with you and kind of changed how you viewed something? Yes I do have one bringing ah and not going to be nearly is moving in the story well that really gripped my shoulder and then he just punched me in the head you know that an awesome that's hopes so this is more like an observation that I made um in a sort of a different aspect of drumming so been playing the drums for like two years thought I was hot stuff because I, you know, place pretty wicked punk beats and, uh, you're not hard and, uh, I was trying to get in and play in a concert band okay and do like snare work and different stuff like that because I could read music and played trumpet for seventeen years and I like how this is way easier, I don't have to worry about notes just just hit the rhythms and it really went poorly ok, especially when I had to march so because I've never done that before. Sure. Um and I was like, you know what what's going on, it was really terrible at it. Um but then I observed somebody who was a friend of mine at the time who's also in the same group group and he was fantastic and he marched for tons of drum lines. He was on the seahawks drumline he played for the sounders all that stuff um and the utep ah, and he I always tried to pick his brain and he never wanted to teach me anything he just said don't worry about it just just do it on so long story short, I could never get anything out of him by asking him but I observed the way that he played and it wasn't physically how I was playing things that was wrong it was the intensity that he had so um I basically just kind of emulated him I pretended that I was him and so you talked about you know, pretending not pretending working on something you know, in a mirror yeah that's it it kind of is in line with that so I had to really work at how I was approaching planet but not the notes themselves sure ended made a huge difference. No, it does and I think what you know in something like that what happens is you can either district man that was really cool and leave it at that or be like I need to recognize in my student when they're having this problem because you're going to have students that are technically proficient but they just have this have no soul to their drumming you know that I mean that's definitely me so it's just like all right, well, what do you do and think about your past? Anything about all right, here's what you need to do, billy, I don't know what all the kids are named billy but we put it why at the end so billy here's what you do I want you to visualize your favorite drummer in the world close your eyes and just pretend you're him every time you play how would you know? Whoever it is, let's use travis barker. How would travis barker sit down at the drum set? How would he plays high hat? How would he place near, like, visualize that and get that internalizing? And you did that? You know, the guy wouldn't give you any information it's like, well, he more than likely, he couldn't give you the information because it's secret sauce warm, he doesn't know like, look, I don't know why the big mac taste so damn good and it's like, well, I'll tell you right now, because you mix catch up and, you know, so that's, um, some ranch dressing and bam or whatever they mix together eso it's, one of those things where you have to recognize that happening and then we like, I'm gonna pass that off to other people because everyone else will have this exact same problem, you know, or at least some of my students will. So it's awesome that tobin well, I've kind of got two stories here. Ah, positive and a negative, we'll start with the negative. When I was in junior high high school, I really loved math, and I loved going to math class, and I had a lot of fun in math class, and I thought, you know, when I grow up, I want to be a math teacher because this is something I love and I could do, um, and then I had a couple of bad math teachers in a row who just didn't they didn't like their job, they didn't trust me, I was actually better at math than one of them, so she thought I was cheating. Um, and after that, I lost my want to be a math teacher, just a bad instructor knocked that love out of me, right? So that's that happens and that's that's, what we're trying to avoid here is getting people at home to realize, like, look, don't do this is a plan b don't do this because drumming didn't work out for you or being a guitar player didn't work out for you do this because you can't help yourself from explaining things to other people, and when you see somebody struggling with somebody, start itching like I could totally totally tell them how to do that I get told all right, I'm doing it and you go there like hey how's it going? I'm not any better than you know you weren't you know you do hold disclaimer like but I know what you're going through and this is how I got through it and so when you have bad teachers it really helps you realize like I'm not doing that you know and like you said, they probably weren't as bad of teachers as they were teaching the wrong subject you know where it was like I'm sure if you put them in their passion let them teach up maybe they were good teachers but because of maybe the school system or whatever I was like martha, you're in math today and it's like how I teach math all right, fine, I don't lose my paycheck and say ok, well you're probably gonna be a very good math teacher, you know, even excited about it. So what was your good story? My good story? I don't remember when it was it was maybe three years ago I don't remember who it was, but I the whole time I've been planned drums, I've had all kinds of problems with grip either my hands cramp up in two or three minutes or the sticks go flying on dh somebody one day said to me, well, just imagine you're holding a baby bird everyone at home that's called the gym shaping technique, so check out the gym shape and baby bird technique and you'll be very happy and it made the world a different by hands down cramp up, I throw sticks, so only fifteen percent of the time related everything we just did in the last segment, that's called an analogy, so use analogies dude can't hold a stick holds a two tight bad problems for the physicality holds it too loose he drops it. So what do you do? You give him a visualization given analogy to say, you know what? Imagine holding a baby bird? How would you hold a baby bird tight enough that you would never, ever drop that bird and loose enough that you would never hurt that bird boom? Now you know how to hold a stick for the rest of your life if you don't have those analogies that I mean the reason why I called out like it's jim chapin technique? Because when jim chapin said that that was one of the first video tapes I ever bought and when he said that I was like, from now on for the rest of my life, that's, how I'm gonna explain holding a drumstick. Now if you have no problems holding a stick, I'm never even gonna tell you that but if you have the problems that tobin had, I'm going to say you know, what do to think of it like this? And now it fixed it so you know that stuff is so important and don't feel bad stealing my analogies because more than likely my analogies came from somebody else if you can just change the word the swing analogy I used earlier when that was told to me I was like probably twelve years old in some he said imagine an egg rolling down the hill all right? I'm going to switch it to a football like what does it matter? It's like an egg shaped thing rolling down the hill? And then you have your own analogy so use analogies there so important to things and this guy could had carpal tunnel without that analogy so not only are we helping technique or saving lives what's up I don't really have a big story may be, you know, like several years ago I was able to convince the former drummer off spyro gyra ok, but you know, I wanna be to come to my house and they gave me like a two hour session like drum solos in my house and tried to sit down and play in front of you know, I didn't know it at that time and I was depressed after basically for two weeks I said, you know, I'm going to quit it's over this's so simple what he does, and I couldn't do anything, and I was gonna forget I used to play dance, like for almost twenty five to thirty years at that point, I played professional every night, and then I discovered you. I started looking at your lessons, and I started to see there the light and then of the tunnel it's, not a train, not you invented a camp, which was a train that's a sherman tank arrived and it's a nice thing is that, you know, if you have a passion and you follow that and you don't look at it a cz you explain it always on a drumstick write that, hey, you are here, the other person is there and don't try to make it as an ego issue on did something that ok, I'm never going to get get this to be this person, then you can proceed and you connection alone, and I have tio basically accept the fact that I don't know basic things, but I get to your can and do certain things in the very beginning, I remember your very first campaign when I didn't gel very well because it took two or three days to break down what you had perceived was your drumming level and what I was saying, look, I don't know you, I'm not a fan or a foe, I'm not I'm just telling you what I'm seeing, and then once you finally got over that hump, then that's when the product progress just rocketed because it was like, all right, fine, I can't do this that's cool, I don't I don't care that you can, I will not matter, you man, like all you, all I'm saying is this is this is incorrect, we're going to fix this and it's going to be awesome and you had to know going in or at least after a week of spending time with me that it's like, I'm only judging you against you, so that's it, I'm not judging you against what I wish you could do or what it's just I can see what you can do and what you can't so let's move forward, you know? And and you know, you and I have had a great friendship since then since the first year, the first couple days was rough, and it always is when somebody has had just this vision of, like, I think I got it, and then you have those moments like where drummer comes, your house is like, I don't really play much you're like, oh my god, I do play a lot and I can't do any of that it's like all right, but that's that's the ego thing where it's like, do you need to do that? You know? So what? I remember when I first met you, was it three years ago or four years for years? So when I first met you immediately, I was thinking, what do you do with your drumming? You know, that's what I want to know, like if you said I really want to be in a hard core fusion band of I don't mean hardcore the style that really deep and then say, ok, then we've got a lot of work to do in chops and licks and an improvisation, but you were like saying, like, I mean, a gigging band that we play cover since I go well, then we're going to focus on time feel applicability fills africa, bill grooves, and you're pretty much right there. So it's it's, nothing to be depressed about this is great, you know, when we've done nothing but move forward since then, so you need to accept your position. I think in whatever you want as a driver and that's easier to do if you have drum friends, you know, when you don't have drum friends and it's just you you are the king of the castle you're the worst storm one of the best from here all of them and you know when you grow up like in a drum scene which I've tried to create through on online community you have reference points where it's like wow like if I was going to hire I always think like if I was going to hire somebody like I learned your guys is drumming and I think all right if I was going to hire some of the to do to cover this wedding gig for me, I would hire last because I know you I know that you're all about being on time they always show up with professional gear you get the job done, everything is good if I need something that's going to play burning punk tubes all night long I know jack stamina so it's like I'm gonna hire jack you know and then based off of nicole's passed it's like and because I haven't seen you guys play too much but you know, it's like I know what she would it's like I'm doing a church gig but she's playing the youth service and say ok, well then I want some of this fun, hip and youthful looking and can play the drum set and it's a huge bonus that she's female because there might be a lot of girls in the crowd that don't I never thought that that was an option for them. And they're like, dude, she's ripping on the drums. Yeah, it takes four limbs you have, you know, definitely proved it doesn't take four limbs. It just takes hard hearted desire and she's got it. So it's rock, uh, I had a defining moment, but it was playing hockey as a young man s and, uh um, I was playing in the house league my first season, and then, you know, you try out for the rep teams, and so I was trying out for the b team and, uh, um, one of the assistant coaches, for some reason, just took a liking to me. I guess the thing that was key is he believed in me, right? And so, you know, we'd skate the laps around the rink, and he was just there was something about when he was encouraging me that made me skate faster, and and I think it was his. I think it was his input to the head coach that probably got me on the team. I don't know that for sure, but I did make that team. And, uh so you know, that lead tio a long and successful hockey career making the eighteen's and going to national tournaments and things growing up and it was at that moment when I really wasn't sure it was going to be a good hockey player or not and because he believed in me and I still remember to this moment that very one of the practices where he looked at me in the eye and he was encouraging me to skate faster and it really changed my life so I believe in your well that was that was that was a long time ago was probably, you know, nineteen, seventy six so it's a it's a it's nineteen seventy six er and we're talking about a right now like we're currently talking about it like how how does anyone at home or anyone here not think that you're going to have an impact on the person you're teaching like I had no idea I was just doing his job it wasn't thinking like I hope that you know someday in the future there's these things called live broadcasts and and he's sitting underneath cem really cool lighting and and you know and he's telling my story he's not thinking that is just thinking like, dude, you got this kid you got this and we have that opportunity to do that as educators and you just don't know which one you're going to like touch and you never get to choose that moment, so I just think it like when I think of that I'm thinking about like that what if there's some kid like ten years and I was like I was taking lessons with this guy mike and he believed in me and it's like come on how is there anything better than that in the world so that's awesome to hero ah the only one of the first one that came to mind as within the last ten years up to that point had been a self todd drummer kind of use that as a badge of honor for some odd reason and I got into a band and within the first couple weeks of playing we were sound checking and he comes over the sound guy comes over the intercom for everybody to hear he's like girl drummer I need you to never do those ghost notes in this building ever again because they're just they're just sloppy they're messy I don't like him stop doing that and I honestly up until that point I've been a I don't know if I could call like a monkey drummer but I can I'm one of those that I hear song I can play it without the field maybe but I can I can figure out all the bits and pieces and put it together sure and when he said ghost notes I I honestly couldn't tell anyone exactly what he meant but it drove me to for the first time to start studying it was the hardest way I think that I had tio experienced, like a lesson from someone to get such critical acclaim the first very time that I got it, but kind of like this saying that you can't play fast until your beer here fast on the same thing, I couldn't play ghost notes well, until I could for the first time hear them and studying well, and I think I mean that that experience, I think we've all kind of had that with sound guy guy at some point where it's just like drummer that whole thing you're doing don't do that like, oh, thanks, bro, and you have a choice at that moment. Either you flip the switch and say you're wrong, and you've no idea that time because I rule or you say, like, why would he say that? And then you internalize it and you fix it what you did, which is awesome, you know? So and in a private lesson situation, you have to make those judgment calls based off the person, and you have to study the person, and I don't know how you're going to take my criticism for the first three or four days, so I drum camps can be hard. I think for anybody that's been the one my drum camps we have. You know, it goes from sunday until saturday and we called tuesday suicide watch day because everyone wants to fly home and kill themselves, and and I'm the positive guy, I'm the guy that's like you've got this van and then it's like and they're like failing and I'm like, well, you don't got it, but who cares? We're something fun and so it's like, well, just imagine if it was if it was that, you know, sound guy or he's just like that's horrible, I don't even know why you're alive like, oh, maybe doesn't need to be that harsh, you know? And so you wantto you want to take those things and internalize them and then think how that you can portray them on to somebody else and think, you know what? It's just not the positive is not sinking through I'm going to see what happens if I really just go straight honest, you know and say, look, this sounds terrible, you know? We need to fix this so what's up buddy got a great one shared by team oh, online who says that a positive experiences a teacher I've always been reluctant to teach because I don't consider myself good enough, but through bands, I've gained some reputation, so I had a friend asking for hand technique lessons I told him I wasn't a real teacher, he said his hand technique was so bad that he would have to stop playing soon he was always in pain told her to meet me at my rehearsal room, and I showed him the things I'd learned on that I was doing checked on him some weeks later, and he said everything had changed, no pain, just pure joy. They kept him smiling. For weeks, I had learned all of that two, maybe three lessons myself, and it totally changed my hand technique. Great teachers can make a huge difference in a short amount of time and that joy can spread like wildfire. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. It did is that on a poster somewhere that that needs to be a poster of you just standing like a boss team owned in that whole thing? So what I love about that is the fact that you gave the nice disclaimer like, look, man, I'm not a teacher and then it's like, yeah, but you changed his life. I think you're a teacher, I think that qualifies you and you know, at some point we need to talk about what really validates you as a teacher. How did you know like I don't mean like what we talked about in the first time in like how do you know you're ready to teach I mean really comfortably feeling in your heart and your soul not to be a hippie but like like dude are you really going to car you call yourself a teacher because to me that's a really seriously when somebody says I'm a drum teacher it's like ok then I have I have just put you in a whole different level of experts expect lee expectations for myself I'm thinking ok so you know all the basics you know, all this stuff and it would be ok to say you know what? Honestly I really don't know any of that stuff I'm just really good at showing people how to play songs it's like oh cool so you have a specific niche no worries you know, but I think it you know at some point like well I'm teaching maybe I should learn my rudiments maybe I should learn how to pass off this information maybe I should learn my history like when people bring up stuff like home and I love what you're doing it's got it's got that like philly joe jones feeling you like I don't know who that is, you know and that's like oh, maybe he should, you know we're like, oh man let's get that whole chick webb thing going like the who web like you need to learn what that stuff is it's very important so the reason why I have these guys cheryl, these stories with you it's not just so you could hear stories what I'm hoping is that every one of you at home during those stories there had to be at least one way like that totally happen to me because it happened all of us every story they had I've had those same experiences or I've been the one responsible for those experiences it's not like I've never snapped on a student and kind of done what was done to nicole where I was just like dude, you're hurting my ears well if you do that with the wrong person, you might crush them and you might you know, all of a sudden caused tobin and not want to study math because it was like that was way too harsh some people can handle like what do you mean like we're in a closet? Why are you playing like we're in a stadium that's so loud and they're like ok, let me fix it but some people just need something where you just go like hey here's, how it works but he always start quieter than you think you need to play and if somebody asks you for more of you and they do this hey, can I have a little bit more that's a compliment that feels good, like how you can have more if they do this it's always an insult it always hurts your feelings to be playing something they go can you just that means can I have way less of you? And if I had a volume knob, I turned you down that hurts your feelings so always start quiet and that's like I'm showing you two ways to explain dynamics the whole put your fingers in your ears and say, like, did you're hurting my ears? That's a really rare situation I need to do that I'd much rather do something and just say, look, here's, the positive and negative aspects to dynamics, you know? So you want to have those ways to do it so that you don't crush somebody or, you know, lie to somebody, just say, I know it sounds fine doesn't sound fine, but we can fix it, so when I get to another question and we'll move into the branding world, I think we're going to keep going, you know, actually, I think I think this is great, so it's just really, like, I think it's an interesting idea you touched on a little bit the difference between teaching and being a teacher because it's it's a little bit of your language that really does influence how you think about that, like you know, when you transition from saying I played drums to I am a drummer there's this identification that is this comfort level it's this confidence in it really does it change is not only the way that other people that you see yourself, but the way other people see you as well, and I think that's an important like leading to talking about branding, where when you're talking about like, I'm not a real teacher, you know, but you are so when you, when you're able to self identify that way, it hasn't impact. I think when you decide what you would put on your cell phone answering machine that's, when you know what you do, you know, am I mike johnston? You know, for a long time in my life, I was on my cell phone incident sing it was what's up, you've reached mike from simon says that was my identification was my band, you know, for some of you guys and maybe your company, I'm you know, global from I'm jack love I'm in the army, and you know it, whatever it is, you know, there's an identification, and then when you say, hey, what's up, you freeze to mike. Mike johnson. If you're interested in drum lessons, getting a call it's like they put that on my cell phone because that's, the only thing you could be calling me for other than you being one of my friends is that you're calling for drum lessons. And I'm identifying myself. Is that or, you know, from coal, if you say, like, hey, everybody, this is nicole. If you need to get a hold of me to do a gig or to schedule a tour, please let me know. Otherwise I'll get back to you, since I can't it's like she's, clearly a touring drummer, she just said it on the answer machine. So I think that's a huge point by identifying yourself like, well, do you mess around with teaching or you a naxalite drum educator like an instructor? And when you say that, then that that carries some weight to it, you better be ableto back that up. So, that's, why it's important for trump teachers to practice and get better their stuff?

Ratings and Reviews

fbuser b4d93b5f

Mike is such a great educator. He is well versed in all aspects of teaching and also branding and making a living with it. He is a passionate and truly dedicated teacher. I also really liked that he made it clear that teaching is not a plan b for him but his true calling and it can be such a rewarding experience. I got a lot out of this session and I truly recommend it to anyone who is interesting in taking this path.

a Creativelive Student

Mike, thank you for your wonderful teaching. I have been a performer and vocal educator for over 20 years and I've learn so much today to add to my own personal instruction. These teachings are so transferrable and your passion is simply awesome. I see you and I see a reflection of myself. I'm going to study you some more by purchasing this session. It's been awesome to watch. Thanks for the inspiration!


This is the most brilliant class. There are so many great points in here, it is an information overload; but explained it such a simple way. I watch one of these videos almost every week, just to top up on what I should be giving my students - it serves as a good reminder and an even better teaching aid. Mike; time and time again, he releases great media that everyone must see. I can't speak highly enough of this.

Student Work