Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Turn Signal Test

There’s a wonderful book about drumming called Life in Double Time: Confessions of an American Drummer, by Mike Lankford.  I read it years ago and don’t own it, so my memory is hazy, but I recall it really resonating with me in terms of how he learned to play, his experiences playing drums in bands, and his overall drumming philosophy.  One thing I haven’t forgotten is the Turn Signal Test, which I think about every time I’m in the car.  I found the relevant passage on google books:

There's a simple test one can apply to ex-drummers to see if any residual rhythm remains in their system. I call this the "Turn Signal Test." Watch any ex-drummer while he waits at a traffic light in a quiet car, his turn signal clicking away like a metronome. If he is alive to his calling, that steady click...click...click...will begin filling up for him and getting complicated. A person can play any rhythm imaginable between the clicks of a turn signal. His fingers will fall in with the pulse and he will begin to keep time and cut time and rearrange time and jazz up that turn signal until it sounds like a Brazilian orchestra. There is so much potential rhythm in a turn signal you can exhaust yourself finding it, or be called awake by the driver behind you. (p. 252)
The only time I’ve been an ex-drummer was when I stopped playing in college (and even then, I sat in with some guys one time...I sucked, but that’s another story), but I invariably find myself playing along every time I’m turning at an intersection and there’s no music playing in the car. And I always think of this passage. I need to read that book again.


  1. Absolutely! Nice to know the condition has been identified. I assume there is no known cure. Congrats on the terrific blog! Looking forward to having the inexplicable explained.

  2. Ha! Correct, there is no known cure. As for the inexplicable, I'm afraid it's going to remain inexplicable. I have enough trouble with the explicable. Thanks for the comment!