I’m with the band: my lesson with a very Chic drummer

Every week, Dominique McMullan tries something different. This week: drum school

Time for my drum solo. Photograph: Ryan J Lane/Getty Images

This week I had a drumming lesson with Ralph Rolle, the lead drummer from Chic. He was in Ireland to promote his line of cookies and play a gig, so I got in touch. Full disclosure: I’m a fan of Chic. I had one of the best afternoons of my life dancing to them in a field a few years ago. When I arrive at the studio to meet him I get the fangirling out of the way early, laughing a touch too loud at his joke.

Ralph is a master drummer, so it feels mildly ridiculous to be taking a lesson with him having never even picked up sticks before.

I sit down at the kit and he gets me to take my shoes off to “ground myself”. We begin with a simple beat. With a stick in one hand, I start tapping as he counts 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Next we add the foot; I tap every alternate beat. It takes a minute but it’s all working quite well.

I picture myself surrounded by dry smoke, completing impressive rolls without so much as sticking out my tongue

Then Ralph asks me to add my other hand. I start banging away and he laughs. Ralph has a huge laugh. My right hand has copied my foot, without my knowledge. It all feels very much like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. It takes serious concentration to convince each hand to do its own independent thing.


Next we attempt a roll. That’s the move when a drummer hits every bit of the drum kit. We do this maybe 20 times, and every time I make a mistake I expel a strange squeal. Ralph remarks that it would make a cool sample (which I think is some kind of musician-type compliment).

When I eventually get the hang of it, it feels wonderful. I picture myself surrounded by dry smoke; completing impressive rolls without so much as sticking out my tongue.

My husband commented recently that every time I finish a "something different" task I ring him and exclaim about how good I am at digger driving/aerial acrobatics/cow milking/mindful eating. He thinks I need to practise humility. But with that in mind, I don’t think Ralph was lying when he said I was one of the best students he ever had. I realise that Ralph is an extremely kind person, and a motivational speaker, but basically, I’m with the band.

Do you have suggestions for what Dominique should try next? Email your ideas to dmcmullan@irishtimes.com