Drum Lessons

When Do I Stop Lessons?

This post is aimed at clarifying (hopefully) this often asked question by students who have been learning the drums for some time, who seem to be going nowhere, and are contemplating of quitting lessons, but are not sure if they should do so?

Note: Although this post is aimed at the drumset student, it is also applicable to any other music student.

I have thought for some time about what I would do if I were in the shoes of such a student, and I came up with a list of questions I could ask myself, in order to derive at a conclusion, and hence a decision to either continue or cease lessons. I then explain some possible reasons. Please note that this list is not necessarily a complete one, but I hope it serves as a springboard for the other relevant questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Am I able to continue committing time for lessons?

Sometimes, a temporary or indefinite break from lessons may be needed. If so, let your teacher or the school you take lessons at know. Be sure to check the lesson termination policy with your school, or if you are a private student, directly with your teacher. This, in fact, should have been communicated to you before you embarked on lessons.

2. Am I struggling to find time to practise?

Oftentimes, our other commitments at work, school, and even our social and family lives pile on, and we have lesser and lesser time to practice. If this were to happen to me, it is only reasonable for me to stop lessons for awhile, so that I can hopefully free up some time to catch up with practising the material I worked on in past lessons. Of course, it is still your prerogative as a student. If you do not mind continuing lessons because you may enjoy the therapeutic benefit that comes with them, continue by all means. Who is to say you are wrong?

3. I have been taking lessons for awhile now, but I am still not sure if the drums are still for me as a musical instrument?

This could be due to a number of factors including, but not limited to, the following:

A. I am struggling with co-ordinating my limbs to play the instrument.

Yes, for some students, psycho-motor co-ordination on the instrument, can pose a big challenge. But as I have mentioned in my FAQ a couple of years back, this is precisely why you take drum lessons. I say it is important to have a teacher who is willing to go at YOUR pace, and break things down intelligently so you can manage it. Please speak to your teacher and ask him/her for help in this area if need be.

I may even be so bold to suggest that if your budget and time allows for it, do take some dance lessons – hip hop, swing, latin e.t.c. – and learn to loosen up your body in order to GROOVE…You may want to do dance lessons first, then take drum lessons later.

B.  The lessons are not very motivational or inspiring…

Ah….this one goes a number of ways. Either the problem lies with the teacher – who might be boring or unmotivated to teach – or the rapport between yourself and your teacher is not happening. Like in a counselling session, where if the relationship between the counsellor and the client fosters conditions for positive changes with the latter, so too does it apply to a teacher/student relationship.

It could also very well be that you are just not feeling a connection with the drumset, and that is fine. There is a likelihood that you may connect better with a stringed instrument or a brass instrument, or a woodwind instrument. At least, you gave the drums a shot, and you are the richer for it for having gone through the experience.

C. The lessons are ok, but I just do not like to practice on my own at home.

I had students like this many times. All teachers can relate to this. Some students may have the false impression from other sources that you can learn AND master a drumming technique or concept within the lesson itself. There is no need to follow it up with individual practice to further refine the technique or concept. This is obviously not true. If one aspires to play at the level of the Pros that he/she looks up to, then individual practice time is a non-negotiable element in the game of progress.

Some students just take drum lessons to take their mind off possible stressors in their lives. Hence, they see lessons as a form of therapy. As a teacher for many years, I have gotten better at asking the right questions to the student at the trial lesson, to clarify WHY he/she decided to give learning the drums a try. A competent teacher should be able to help draw out the answer from within yourself as to your motivation to learn drums in the first place. Then, it is up to you and your teacher to see if you can both come to a mutual agreement to either continue with the lessons or not.

Again, I emphasize, speak to someone about any concerns you have as soon as it affects you – your teacher (naturally), your parents, a friend (preferably someone who has the same background in the instrument you are learning), or even a counsellor. Doing so will help you clarify your thoughts and hence make an informed decision. Insight into why the lessons are not going the way you would like them to is very important to gain.

Sometimes, it could be a personal insecurity or fear that is hindering your progress with your learning. Perhaps you have a fear of making mistakes and being judged for it. You fear being scrutinized for every note you play on the instrument. You may feel that if you do not learn things as quickly as you would like to – perhaps you are comparing yourself to similar others you know – you are inferior to others. In such cases, do seek professional counselling as teacher or even the music school, may not be professionally equipped to help handle these deeper psychological issues.

With all this said, I assert that full insight into why you have arrived at a point where you are doubting your abilities to learn the drums and contemplating on quitting lessons will help you make a much more informed decision.

I hope this post sheds some much needed light on an issue that I find is not addressed enough in the music education field, but one that is every bit crucial.

 

 

A Masterclass Lesson With John JR Robinson

https://www.zoom-na.com/news/john-jr-robinson-zoomed

If you don’t know who he is, you’re missing out alot. Wiki on him and look at his credits, then listen to those recordings, and you immediately understand why he’s one of the most sought-after session drummers in the world for the last 40 years.

This masterclass (click on link above) gives an insight into the main ingredients that John identified and developed over the years to become one of the great musicians.

Enjoy.

Wise Words From Stewart Copeland

This instalment of “Wise Words” features an excellent quote from the game-changing Stewart Copeland, who once drummed for a mega Rock band, The Police, and is one of my all-time heroes.

Here he talks about the mechanics of playing successfully: Playing the music and not worrying about your technique or the mechanics of your instrument.

You once talked about “playing outside your instrument.” When did you come up with this idea, and can you speak about what it means to you?

“It came to me when I was playing polo – you ‘play outside your horse.’ If you’re thinking about your horse and your equestrian skills, and things like proper riding and hitting the ball, let alone playing the game and putting your horse in the right place on the field…

“See, you shouldn’t even be thinking about the horse. You have to be outside the horse. Your body and horse are one. You shouldn’t be thinking about riding. You have to think, ‘Here’s the ball. I need to get it there. I need to stop that guy from getting to the ball. Uh-oh, there’s a pass and that’s where I gotta be.’ When you do that, you’re thinking outside your horse. You’re playing the game.

“Put this to music: The mechanics of playing an instrument should be furthest from your mind. You’ve got to think outside your instrument, play outside your instrument. You’ve got to think about the music: ‘What is the music? Where are the other players are? What’s going on? Where’s the groove?’ – things like that. What drum you’re hitting, what your technique is – that should be completely subliminal.”

Complete interview at: http://www.musicradar.com/news/drums/stewart-copeland-on-the-police-drum-solos-rush-double-bass-pedals-and-more-546175

Gabriel Liew, another great student achieves distinction in Grade 7 Trinity/Guildhall Drumset exam

Every once in a while, a student comes along who is really hungry to improve in his/her craft and become a better musician. He or she sees Music as a career and not merely a hobby. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with viewing Music as a hobby, but Music is so much more…It’s life…

Gabriel is one such student. He listens, he practices his butt off, and he applies what he learns effectively.

So, a big congratulations to you, Gabriel. You deserve this fantastic result.

Gabriel is currently studying for a diploma in music and audio technology at the Singapore Polytechnic. He also has his own youtube channel and soundcloud page:

youtube.com/user/Gab12357

soundcloud.com/gabriel-liew.

Image of Gabriel’s exam transcript shown here with his kind permission.

 

 

TED Talk: Learning a Musical Instrument and Brain Development

http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-playing-an-instrument-benefits-your-brain-anita-collins

Old stuff but timeless information on how learning to play a musical instrument positively affects your brain.

I’ve certainly learnt so much more about myself playing the drums and that has helped me build a rather successful career overall. With the ups and downs that come along with the music business, I developed tenacity, focus, sharper intellect, better problem-solving skills, and above all versatility through my intensive study of various musical genres and their drumming styles.

Learn a musical instrument today! Take the time to find out which of these instruments resonates with you. You don’t have to aspire to be a pro, although that would be awesome.

If drums is your thing and you’ve never ever sat behind a set of drums, time to take a trial lesson. Call me at 98291901 or email me at treshombres6@gmail.com for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Fill-In Or Not To Fill-In??

I wanted to write this short post to address the above question that plagues the minds of many beginner drummers.

The only advice I’ll offer is this:

STEAL ideas from other drummers. Yes. STEAL. Then, over time and experience, make those ideas your own.

I am assuming you already understand the function of the fill-in and its musical purpose. Fill-Ins have to be CLEAR, IN TIME, CONFIDENT, and APPROPRIATE to the music you are playing.

Your teacher can only show you the mechanics of how to execute a fill-in. In lessons introducing fill-ins you’d go through 4 bar, 8 bar, and 16-bar exercises for this, meaning that you fill-in on the last bar of each sequence whilst you play time for the rest of the preceding bars. To play fill-ins with taste and musical purpose however is something you need to develop largely on your own over time.

The only ways to develop confidence and tastefulness in your fill-ins are by:

1) Listening to tons and tons of records and getting ideas from the drummers who played on those records. This way, you’ll gain rhythmic vocabulary, phrasing, as well as learn how different drummers approach fill-ins by way of where they put their fill-ins within the song.

As you analyse the above things, ask yourself why did these drummers phrase and put the fill-ins in places where they did. Discuss these with your teacher and your drummer friends as well. I do alot of these type of discussions with my students, and these are some of the most fun parts of teaching for me.

2) Experimenting with those fill-in ideas on the drumkit once you’ve got them transcribed (either by writing it down or by ear)

3) Over time and experience, finding variations on those fill-in ideas to make these your own ideas.

There is no other way about these above 3 steps.  Use this guideline for the rest of your entire playing career and you will reap amazing results.

If you feel you need a couple of lessons to help you get started on fill-ins, you can contact me at 98291901 or email: jason@pulseofmusic.com for more information.

Cheers and Keep Drumming!

Velocity and How To Use It To Your Advantage In Your Drumming Technique

Dear Drummers,

This short post is aimed at those of you who are feel you are working too hard at the drumset to execute the ideas you want to express musically. Oftentimes, it is due to a lack of understanding of how fast or how slow we are throwing the sticks down to the drum or how fast or slow the pedal is striking the bass drum.

I wish to break down in this post the concept of Velocity as applied to drumming technique:

Velocity is generally defined as “the speed of an moving object in a given direction”.

Velocity has a direct influence on 1) the type of sound you produce on the drums, and 2) the degree of tension and relaxation in your technique.

i. Velocity Affecting Sound Produced On Drums:

When a stick is thrown slowly on the drum surface to produce a sound, the sound quality of that sound is thin. You hear more of the batter head of the drum along with the vibration of the snare wires against the resonant head (bottom side) of the drum, and less of the sonic qualities of the drum’s shell, the resonance of the metal parts, and the stick.This works well if you are playing rhythms that are less dense, but needs to be played with less fuller sounding tones, at slower speeds, and also at quieter volumes.

Throwng a stick down to the drum at a faster speed however will produce a fuller sound where you also hear an increase in volume. There is greater tonal detail of the drum which includes more resonance from the drum shell, the metal parts, and the stick itself (assuming you don’t grip the stick tightly). This works well obviously for louder volumes but also for quieter rhythmic passages which may require speed and greater dexterity.

As you can see here these differences in sonic qualities can be effected at ANY volume. Thus, for that matter, stick height and velocity are totally two different concepts but when combined together, you will not have to play in inefficient ways such as:

1) Lifting the sticks too high off the drums for volume and power

2) Whacking the drum harder to produce fuller sounds.

II. Velocity Affecting Technique

“Newton’s Third Law Of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

The above law of physics is the governing principle to this concept of velocity affecting technique.

We all know that good technique involves the rebound of the stick or the bass drum beater so that you do not have to do the extra work of picking the stick or the bass drum  pedal beater back up before making the next stroke. The question is how much rebound from either are you getting as leverage for the effort you put in?

Leverage is defined as “the mechanical advantage or power gained by using a lever.” “Lever”, in the case of drumming technique, is the use of the different joints in your hand  (wrists, fingers, elbow, and shoulders) and your feet  (ankle, knee, and hip).

It is very important to understand that a higher degree of relaxation at any volume and at any tempo when using either of these joints in your hands and feet will result in a greater amount rebound from the stick or the bass drum pedal beater, which will thus provide leverage for the effort you put in. Again, if you do it correctly, the effort you put in is not as much as you would think. Ideally, you would want a 50/50 balance between the effort you put in and the leverage you get from the rebound. 

How does this work?

If you throw the stick down slowly, the stick will not have enough rebound to bounce back up quickly. This means you will still have to pick the stick back up. Throwing the stick down faster instead with a relaxed grip allows the stick “breathing space” within your hand to rebound quickly. This allows you to play more efficiently and with less effort at any volume or tempo. The above principles also apply to bass drum technique.

In conclusion, depending on the sound you want to achieve, the density of your rhythms, and the speed and volume at which you play those rhythms, varying the degree of velocity will add flexibility to your existing technique that will eliminate doing everything from just one method, which can physically hurt you. 

Please bear in mind that you cannot have just one way of doing everything you want to do on the drums if you want efficiency and relaxation.

If you’re in Singapore and would like to take a lesson with me on this, I can be reached at: 98291901 or treshombres6@gmail.com.

Please also check out these great instructional books and DVDs on the subject of drumming technique. I use these resources in my lessons and in my own development. I have better technique today than I did 5 years ago and I will have even better technique 5 years from now if I continue to refine the concepts learnt from within these resources:

1) Playing With Sticks (DVD) – Jeff Queen (Hudson Music)

– There’s a segment where he explains the concept of “Velocity” in a very clear, common-sense, way. Although catered mainly to marching ensemble drummers , everything discussed in this DVD can be adapted to drumset playing as well.

2) The Next Level (Book) – Jeff Queen (Hudson Music)

– There’s a chapter devoted to “Velocity” along with other very comprehensive technical topics that can be employed by any drummer. 

3) A Natural Approach To Technique (DVD) – Joe Morello (Hot Licks Productions)

The late, great Joe Morello was one of those drummers who had the greatest technique in the world. In this DVD, he breaks down all the technical concepts with simple language, lots of wisdom, and dashes of humour.

4) Great Hands For A Lifetime (DVD) – Tommy Igoe (Hudson Music)

I use “The Lifetime Warmup” routine included in this DVD package in my daily practice. Very inspiring and challenging!!

5) Bass Drum And Hi-Hat Technique (DVD) – Michael Packer (Hal Leonard)

This instructional method helped me improve my feet on the bass drum and hi-hat pedals. 

Many of my students benefited from working on these methods in their lessons with me and in their private studies too!

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it will at least provide food for thought when you assess your technique.