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This Guy Spent the Last 500 Days Teaching the Internet How to Play Drums

To see more drumming lessons from Tristan, check out @tristankelley on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

It began as a little exercise — a daily goal that might spring Tristan Kelley (@tristankelley), a graphic designer and drummer from Denver, out of a musical rut. Now, over 500 days later, Tristan’s pet project, #BeatADay, has turned him into a creative force and one of the Internet’s best music teachers.

His account has become a hub of musical conversation, thanks to the daily video lessons he posts, which show both his playing and the musical notes he’s thumping. “A lot of drummers have not read or are even scared of reading music,” he says. “So my thing was, what can I do to help people who are scared by that, to at least see visually what they’re doing?”

Tristan had been playing drums since middle school when he passed his marching band audition with flying colors. But he had become his own harshest critic over the years, leading to the sort of caution that had stripped all the fun and spontaneity out of what should be the most raucous and energizing instrument to play.

“I’m a pretty big perfectionist, and over the years I’ve had countless songs and projects that I haven’t finished; I’d work on them and work on them and get burnt out,” he says. “Once you label something as finished, then it’s open to critique and scrutiny. If I don’t say it’s finished, then no one can critique it. So, [at that point] I said that I have to make something every day; I want to work on it and make it good, but if I do it every day, I won’t have time to obsess and go down that rabbit hole.”

Tristan spent a full year writing and posting a new drum beat, and when he hit 365 days in a row, he posted a new beat every hour, as if to punctuate his newfound prolific output. Instead of just celebrating an impressive accomplishment, Tristan decided to share his knowledge by adding the musical notes that he plays in each beat. He comes up with about five different beats per hour in his home studio, and then spends time cutting and editing the clips.

“It’s been great practice for me in musical creativity,” he says. “So much of music, especially if you’re playing with someone new or recording a song, is ‘How fast can you come up with something that’s cool and unique?’”

—Instagram @music