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DokBlog Ep. 2 - *the militant turns startled*

One reason I’ve always chosen to stay behind the scenes is because I have a very deep understanding of how language is subjectively perceived by the receiver. As I mentioned in my first entry, I’ve always preferred in-person dialogue which can provide the space for body language, tone, and words combined into your unique combination of communication. I should have known that I could never satisfy every reader, and that someone is bound to take something I say a certain way, regardless of intention. I should remember that many people who read these won’t know me the way my truest comrades and family do, and can therefore read something I say devoid of the personality, vibe or context that I as a unique individual bring to a dialogue I have.

I was reached out to by a comrade of mine, and this person told me how they were sent my blog by a couple people, and after reading it, felt I had come off a little arrogant. And quite naturally for me, I got offended that they got offended…I felt that I had put so much effort into disclaiming my words in the first couple paragraphs, including myself into the critical fold, even poking fun at my own gimmicky attempts at videos (drawing a face on my fingers and doing a dance pattern on the pads), that people would understand I am including myself in the same critiques I put on to others in my ‘hot take’ and that I am not some “end-all-be-all” of finger drumming, even if I opine a level of confidence in my work. I am simply one of many on a journey. Understanding that art is a subjective expression, and that if something sounds good, it sounds good, doesn’t take away objective capabilities and skill. And I would say I come from the general opinion that technical ability and theory, while not necessary for expression, will always add, and never subtract, from your ability to express how you are feeling through your music and performance. A dancer who never stretches or practices can of course dance, dance well, and express themself. However, stretching, practicing routines and learning new moves will always add and improve that person's ability to express and communicate through dance.

Every student should be doing research into their potential teacher. I got 10 fingers and every one of them is taken by a finger drummer I think is a fantastic teacher in their own right. If you as the student wish to learn a certain style of finger drumming, or after watching your favorite beatmaker wanting to learn to play like them, regardless of skill level, then that’s fine. That’s on you (the student) to be diligent in finding a teacher that you feel has the knowledge and communicative ability to teach you the techniques, and who will grow with you for as long as you are willing to study under them. Simultaneously, I will always challenge every finger drummer to get better, whether they are a current teacher or not, including myself. I haven’t deleted a finger drumming video since I started in 2016, and if you choose, you can go back and see what I was making. In my own humble opinion, my current techniques in 2023 are superior to the ones I used in 2016. I had a different pad layout that I have tuned over the years, and continue to think of and develop new ideas for adding elements or creating more complex routines. However, I was teaching finger drumming to people who approached me to learn from me well before I had my current setup. Should I have waited until I developed my current techniques to begin teaching people? Or did it even matter to the student who saw what I was doing back then and still said, “this is who I’d like to learn from”? So, as much as I will always say that all people who are currently teaching can improve, that isn’t to say that you don’t deserve to teach and spread your knowledge when a student is asking to learn from you. They chose you to be the teacher, and it’s you as the artist that is motivating them to get involved to begin with, and I love that.

Finally, a brief story that fueled these thoughts. I have had students in the past who’ve approached me after taking lessons from other finger drummers. When discussing the philosophy and form of using thumbs, it became an issue of undoing the training they had done with that previous teacher. The topic involved using the pointer and middle fingers to play your hi-hats, when in my technique I use the thumb and pointer finger to play the hi-hats. I believe it to be a more ergonomic position for your hand to stay consistently above all the pads and results in less shifting your hand up to hit pads 11-16 where samples will generally reside, and simultaneously makes it easier to time out certain hits since most samples will land on your rhythm hand. After learning to use their thumbs, this student expressed to me the sentiment I shared earlier. That having invested both time and money into techniques that they had to unlearn was a little demoralizing, and wish they had either found me earlier or that someone would have pointed them in this direction. I hope this adds a level of clarity and context.

In closing this month. I hope we can all think and philosophize together about how far we as individuals are willing to push to improve ourselves, whether for our own personal satisfaction, or for those around us now and those who will be watching us 5, 10, 15 years and beyond. And I hope this helps clear any miscommunication or feeling about any particular phrasing or metaphor I used previously…stay positive, stay humble, and most importantly, stay nerdy out there.

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