The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey after Harold was offered a job there by a former business associate. Carpenter entered Downey High School in 1964 at age 14 and was a year younger than her classmates. She joined the school band, initially to avoid gym classes. Bruce Gifford, the conductor (who had previously taught her older brother), gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked, and after admiring the performance of her friend and classmate, drummer Frankie Chavez (who had been playing from an early age and idolized jazz drummer Buddy Rich), she asked if she could play those instead. Carpenter wanted a Ludwig drum set because it was used by her favorite drummers, Joe Morello and Ringo Starr. Chavez persuaded her family to buy her a $300 (the equivalent of $2,400 in 2018) Ludwig kit, and he began to teach her how to play. Her enthusiasm for drumming led to teaching herself how to play complicated lines, and studying the difference between traditional and matched grip. Within a year, she could play in complex time signatures, such as the 54 in Dave Brubeck's "Take Five".