Feature image: Ruth’s drumming heroine, Julie Edwards

At 28 years old, I’ve decided to learn to play the drums. I do not come from a musical family. None of my immediate family have ever played an instrument – I only dabbled.

The decision to start playing wasn’t completely out of the blue – I live with an omni-musical person. My boyfriend can play an envy-inducing amount of instruments; piano, sax, bass, guitar, he sings, he produces, he even plays the drums a bit. It was almost inevitable that his passion would rub off on me. Some of my fondest memories of us together are singing loudly on road trips, all the while drumming on any surface nearby.

So, I ask him if he knows a drummer, turns out he knows one of the best in Liverpool; Dave Kelly.

Dave Kelly; The Brian Cox of music tuition.

Dave is based out of The Baltic Social in Liverpool. For those of you not familiar with this space, it’s at the heart of the independent scene in Liverpool; The Baltic Triangle. Cafes, collaborative workspaces, studios and pubs are all nestled together in a hippy trifecta. Ultimately, it’s the result of a bunch of people my age posing the question; where do I want to work? and building it. Dave’s studio is at the heart of it.

Dave’s passion for drumming is clear. He sees the drums as more than an instrument – it’s a way of life. The drums teach you good posture. To listen. Discipline. Dave is also one of the only people to have given a positive response to; “Aerosmith are one of my favourite bands.” Turns out he saw them recently.

When he talks about drumming, he’s got the same glittering look in his eye as TV personality and sometimes scientist Brian Cox. Everything seems possible in his company. You can start a band. You are in time. The universe is expanding. The whole experience is incredible.

Why do you want to play the drums?

At the beginning of the lesson Dave poses a completely reasonable question; why do you want to play the drums? I didn’t have an eloquent answer ready. But on reflection, the drums are in good company. Keith Moon from The Who. Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters. Julie Edwards from Deap Vally. Viola Smith (the first recognised professional female drummer).

When I think about it, I don’t know why the idea hadn’t occurred to me before. You’re being noisy, without being the centre of attention. You’re the heartbeat of the band. You get to wear a lot of sleeveless shirts. It’s a physical and mental workout. The whole thing is a riot.

Single and double stroke roll

In our first lesson, Dave teaches me two rudiments; a single stroke roll and a double stroke roll. It turns out, I have some rhythm. Dave is encouraging and patient. A single hit of the drum evokes a “Brilliant!” from him. And I do feel brilliant, just for making noise on a drum. I day dream band names.

For someone as opinionated as myself, I was surprised to find I was scared to make a loud sound. Everytime I hit the drum my face would make an apologetic grimace. It was like I was apologising for hitting the drum skin. Drumming enabled me to surprise myself; in the first instance, I’m not as brave as I think I am.  

Adult learning is badass

Learning an instrument as an adult is completely different to my experiences as a kid. First of all, I’m paying so I’m invested both financially and emotionally, and it’s an hour a week where i’m totally dedicated to learning something new. It’s nothing to do with writing, like so many of my other hobbies are. It is what it is and it is what I put in. It’s my new paramour.

“It is what it is and it is what I put in.”

More to come!

Stay tuned for more drumming updates in my Royal Diaries, and the inevitable video where I embarrass myself with my first full performance. If this has stirred something in you,  I can’t recommend Dave enough. He’s also looking to take on more students at his Baltic Social space. Pick up that phone, send that email – he’s worth every penny. You can catch him on davidkellydrums@gmail.com

In the meantime, check him out BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge with Dan Croll –