beginner

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!

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Practising Slowly

This short post is aimed at the beginner student.

Many times in my teaching studio, I come across alot of beginner students who tend to rush through their exercises to get to what they want quickly. They end up not sounding good at all because:

1) the physical control is not there
2) the co-ordination is not smooth
3) the timing is uneven
4) the inherent rhythmic nuances of whatever they are playing are often ignored as they rush through things in their practice.

It is important to understand that we had to learn how to walk first before we could run, jump, and dance, e.t.c. Taking our first baby steps were not easy, and we stumbled on the floor many times before our legs strengthened and could hold our weight whilst performing the action of walking. Over time, the legs were also better able to co-ordinate through SLOW and REPETITIVE practice.

Practising something slowly and repeating it over and over again will definitely come across as “uncool” in this day and age. We live in a world where we can order food and get it in less than 5 minutes over a counter, or we can lose weight in under 2 weeks if we follow a certain diet program or take certain pills. This type of thinking however does not translate to learning musical instruments or any other art form.

SLOW and REPETITIVE practice, done right (you should ask your teacher to help you with it if need be), brings a zen-like focus and clarity to what you are working on, and is often very therapeutic. Yes, therapeutic. It helps you to relax and remain calm under moments of pressure and frustration, which are what you will often experience when you are trying to master something. Calmness and composure are very much needed to play the drumkit. How else can you play something as complex as this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCOP7dPlDtw if you are not truly relaxed?

With SLOW and REPETITIVE practice, comes CONTROL. With CONTROL, comes speed. In other words, speed is a by-product of having practised something over and over again slowly…Counter-intuitive, yes?

SLOW and REPETITIVE practice at the beginning is like trying to eat a non-favourite vegetable or fruit (mine happens to be Bittergourd), in all honesty. Do it in small amounts with high frequency however and you will definitely begin to enjoy the process. You would want to do more. JUST GIVE IT A TRY AND SEE YOUR PROGRESS BY A MONTH’S END. There will certainly be a difference. A POSITIVE difference.

A Statement To Experts..

A Statement To Experts..

This is a simple statement that I’m in no position to find fault with, and especially in music, I still feel like a beginner, in both skill, and more so, in my curiosity to find out more about the mechanics of making music.

I ask myself from time to time the question that if I ever leave the music scene, will I lose the passion to discover music I’ve never heard before and trace the roots of those musics? I’m 30 now and despite the highs and lows I’ve experienced being in the music scene for almost 6 years now, I still feel like the 10 year old kid who got excited listening to the entire discographies (up to that point) of some of the greatest bands in the world such as Grand Funk, The Beatles, and Tower of Power. I still feel like that 10 year old kid who was curious to learn more about music from different parts of the world. Is this a clear indication that if I still have this fervour for music now, I will certainly be in it for the long haul?

There’s this thing called the 3 to 5 year rule in assessing the longevity of a career or a relationship. If you stick with something/someone for that long, it’s bound to work. In reality, it can’t be ascertained, so I’ll just leave it as that. I’ll enjoy doing music as a career for as long as it lasts and be prepared for the day to activate plans B, C, D and so on, if necessary.

No matter which stage I’m at in my career, I’d like to be that diligent, hardworking, ever-seeking apprentice. When I lose that, I lose my reason to carry on as a musician.

Frequently Asked Questions Before A Student’s First Lesson With Me

Hi folks, I’ve compiled a list of questions that I get alot from first-time students:

Q1: What should I bring to my trial lesson?

A pair of drumsticks if you already own one. If not I’ll lend you a pair.

Q2: How long is the trial lesson and what do we get to cover?

The trial lesson is a minimum of 45 minutes in duration. The aim of the trial lesson is for you to check out my teaching approach to see whether it fits you and for me to assess your learning abilities as well as psycho-motor co-ordination. The trial lesson will also be an opportunity to enquire in person any concerns you have.

Q3: What do I bring to my first lesson after I have signed up with you at the trial lesson?

Bring along these things:

1) Drumsticks – 5A sized drumsticks is great for beginner drummers. Reputable brands include Vic Firth, Vater, and Pro Mark, which are all carried by Music Theme on the basement level of Excelsior Shopping Centre, No.5 Coleman Street (City Hall area).

2) Fee for the first month which will be quoted to you at your trial lesson

3) Fee for the course books, Alfred Drum Method and The Total Rock Drummer (S$50 in total)

4) A notebook or music manuscript book to document your weekly practice assignments. Bring this along to every lesson thereafter.

An A4 sized file will eventually be very handy for storing all supplementary printed materials given to you.

Q4. I don’t have a drumset yet. How do I go about practising my weekly assignments?

You can practise in the following ways without a drumset at first:

1) Make a makeshift drumset using everyday home items: Old books, pots, pans, tins, pillows, e.t.c

2) Invest in either a single practice pad or a multi practice-pad setup

3) You can book a jamming studio to practice.

Q5: I cannot afford to have an acoustic drumset at home due to noise. What alternative is available for me?

Either of the two: Electronic Drumset with headphone output or Multi-Practice-Pad set up. For electronic drumsets you can start out with the entry level model offered by either Yamaha, Roland, or  Alesis. Contact me if you need to know which shops to get them from or log onto to the forums section of soft.com.sg for good second hand deals under the “Drums Buy/Sell” category.

Q6: Am I required to sit for a drumset exam after each level of learning?

No. It is entirely up to the student to take drumset exams or not and if you should decide to, I offer guidance in Trinity, Rockschool, and Rock and Pop drumset exam syllabi. More information on this can be given to you at your lessons upon request. Please take note that I only prepare students for the exam and am not involved in registering the students for the exams. The students will have to register as private candidates at the relevant exam centre.

Q7: Do I need to be a fast learner in order to play drums well?

Not at all. Pace of learning has nothing to do with playing the drums well. Regardless of your learning pace, you need commitment, dedication, perseverance, and a lot of patience to develop your drumming skills to a level where you can comfortably play with other musicians.

Q8: Do I need to have prior musical experience to start taking up drums?

Not at all. I can take students from ground zero.

Q9: I’m afraid I may not have a good sense of rhythm in order to take drum lessons.

Well, that’s why you take drum lessons! To help you improve your sense of rhythm! My drum lessons although pre-structured can be customised to fit the needs of the individual student, so you have nothing to worry about!

Q.10: Do you teach kids?

Yes I do. From age 6 onwards. Bring your kid down for a trial lesson!

Q. 11: Why should learn with a private instructor when I can learn online?

Firstly, it is definitely possible to learn anything, and I mean anything, you want to learn about drumming online. But ask yourself, who is going to guide you when you inadvertently form bad habits as you learn independently especially at the beginning stages?

Secondly, drumming is a very physical activity. You need to get together with a teacher who has solid technique to help you achieve the same so that you play the drums without hurting yourself. This applies to any other instrument that you choose to take up. Technique is one of my fortes and I have helped lots of students improve their technique. I can give you great insight into how you can adapt standard drumming techniques to your physical type so that you can play the drums in a totally NATURAL way.

Thirdly, online videos and even “live” lessons cannot give you that personal touch to the lessons that make your learning experience more enriching. By personal, I mean in-person and IMMEDIATE feedback on your progress, as well as in-person advice. The human interaction element in any learning environment is not to be understated, Making music, especially great music, is a communal activity, which means there is interaction, and it is always in-person, not through a computer.

Drumset Lessons Provided By Jason!

Hey folks!

Update: 13th June 2018

Since I began my professional journey as a drumset educator in 2007, I constantly reviewed my approach to teaching the instrument and how this approach was relevant to the student’s world and the world of music that he/she will get into. The music industry as a global whole has changed drastically in the last 15 years. Music these days is made with not just acoustic instruments but a whole plethora of electronics. The drummer of today and beyond has to master the integration of analogue and digital technologies including how we make music with others, how we record our instruments, how we promote ourselves as artists, and so on…

It is with the above in mind that I had to revamp what I include in my lessons and leave out. Ultimately, I work with the student on where he/she wants to go with drumming, and I gradually establish the idea in the early learning stages that the student is in control of the direction of the learning journey that he/she wishes to pursue. When I reflected on how I developed as a musician, it was exactly the same process. It makes no sense to me therefore to deny my students that process.

With that said, drumming fundamentals such as good technique; a deep knowledge, awareness, and sense of time and feel; achieving a good sound out of the drumset; fluid movement and smooth co-ordination; a good grounding in the essential drumming rudiments (i.e. single stroke, double stroke, paradiddles, flams..the ABC of drumming); and a good grounding in rhythmic theory, are non-negotiable. I may not introduce the rudiments right away at Lesson 1, but I will get to them as we go along. You have to be ready for it and be in the right mindset to receive these skills. You are actually going to play a rudiment right away before I tell you anything about rudiments – single strokes. Trust me, you will be a much better drummer for having learnt them.

The following outline of what my drum lessons will cover is only a template for learning organization and progression, but can always be customized to better fit the student’s needs. The student’s concerns and challenges will always be top-priority to me in the learning environment. Please take your time to read through and I will be happy to attend to further enquiries at the trial lesson:

I. BEGINNER STAGE  (minimum 6 months):

1) Sight-read up to 16th note rhythms and play in the following meters: 4/4, 2/4, 3/4 using a top-rated Snare Drum Method titled “Alfred’s Drum Method”

2) Play basic rock beats and fills in 8th notes and 16ths notes. Relevants parts of the book “Total Rock Drummer” by Mike Michalkow will be used.

3) Fundamental Stick Control: Rebound (or Free Stroke), Controlled Strokes (for playing accents and non-accents), Controlling stick heights for different volumes (dynamics), Wrist and Finger Control. The Alfred’s Drum Method and other supplementary exercises will be used.

4) Embark on a journey to developing great time-keeping using the metronome, drum machine, or electronic music loops

5) Introduction to the basic rudiments of drumming: Single Stroke Roll, Double Stroke Roll, and Single Paradidle using the Beginner level warm-up routine for the hands from “The Lifetime Warmup” system by Sonny Igoe and Tommy Igoe along with supplementary exercises, leading to the exploration of their applications on the drumset.

6) Bass Drum Control using the “Heel-Down” technique. Printed exercises will be given to the students.

7) How to achieve smooth co-ordinaton between all 4 limbs using fun and challenging exercises

8) Learn how to read and perform professional drum charts using the excellent award-winning “Groove Essentials” play-along package by Tommy Igoe, and fully notated drumset pieces from actual songs and exam pieces.

9) Develop listening skills necessary for building one’s musicianship.

II INTERMEDIATE STAGE (minimum 8 months)

Besides being technically ready to expand on what they’ve mastered in the Beginner stage, students in the Intermediate stage should also be ready to begin the life-long process of finding their individual niches as drummers. In this stage, they will:

1) Learn and master Triplet rhythms, and meters such as 6/8, 12/8, 2/2. as well as the ability to execute 32nd note rhythmic ideas. The Alfred’s Drum Method, The Total Rock Drummer, other supplementary exercises, and lots of musical examples for referencing and playing-along to will be used. .

2) Expand on their fundamental stick control to achieve more finesse, more speed,and more power, with the emphasis again on efficiency of execution and tension-free hands.

3) Be exposed to a wide variety of technically challenging musical styles from R&B, Funk, Jazz, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, to other types of “World” music, using the “Groove Essentials” system by Tommy Igoe along with supplementary material such as actual songs and exam pieces.

4) Expansion on the rudiments covering Flams, Drags, and the Press Roll using the Intermediate Level of “The Lifetime Warmup” system and supplementary exercises, leading to the exploration of their applications on the drumset.

5) Bass Drum control using the “Heel-Up” technique. The highly effective instructional system titled, “Bass Drum and Hi-Hat Technique” by Michael Packer  and Jojo Mayer’s Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer II will be used for studying different variations of this technique.

6) Co-ordination exercises whenever necessary to help them meet the technical demands of the above-listed styles of music covered

7) Rhythmic phrasing incorporating Odd Note Groupings and their applications on the drumset

8) Introduction to Polyrhythms: 3 over 2, and 4 over 3, as well as their applications on the drumset.

III. ADVANCED STAGE (minimum 6 months)

Advanced Learners will embark on some new concepts and also get the chance to embark on a more in-depth study of drumming styles listed below:

1) Introduction to Odd Meters using exercises from The Total Rock Drummer, Groove Essentials, and actual songs.

2) Expansion on Polyrhythms

3) Coverage of the Advanced Level of “The Lifetime Warmup” routine

4) Optional: Basic Double Bass Drumming as applied to Rock, Heavy Metal, and Fusion.

5) Linear Drumming as applied in Funk and Fusion. The book, “Future Sounds”, by legendary drummer and drumset educator, David Garibaldi will be used.

6) Soloing with Foot-Ostinato patterns

7) In-depth study module for Jazz, Funk, World Rhythms, Rudimental Snare Drum. A set of method books will be prescribed for the student’s choice of study. I will advise the student where to get the books

NOTE: Throughout a student’s learning journey with me, I will incorporate the element of improvisation. The aim is to allow him/her to build his/her own ideas of whatever drumming concept imparted during the lessons. This is an excellent tool of empowerment.

On Sight-Reading:

From time to time I receive requests from students who do not wish to learn sight-reading and only want to learn by ear. I can accommodate such requests and can tailor the lessons to teach the fundamentals through show and tell. However, from experience, many of these students eventually realize the benefits of sight-reading once they start advancing in their playing and gain exposure performing with other musicians.

OTHER SERVICES:

Preparation for Trinity/Guildhall and Rockschool Drumset Exams. All Grades welcome. More information on this can be provided during the trial lesson.

I may hold from time to time focused workshops on specific drumming concepts or sight-reading and it will be catered to specific age-brackets.

I hope to hear from you soon and I look forward to helping you with your drumming goals!

In my next post, I will be covering some frequently asked questions concerning beginner students.