Do your eyes glaze over when you see difficult drumming patterns or unconventional time signatures? Don’t let your confidence drop! Read on as Columbus music teacher Seth D. explains how to approach even the most difficult drumming styles, patterns and beats…
One of my favorite things about being a musician is that I get to constantly learn new things. Whether it’s improving my technique, working on my groove, or listening to other players, I feel like I’m always growing and changing. However, sometimes learning something new can seem like a very daunting task. Specifically, playing comfortably in an unfamiliar musical style. It could be as specific as playing authentic samba surdo patterns, or just playing in 3/4 meter. Whatever you want to accomplish, here are some tips that should make the learning process easier.
For starters, if you really want to be able to play a new style authentically, you MUST listen to it! Ask your teacher for songs, albums, or famous players that played in that style. Then, check your local record shops, online, or your library for what your teacher recommended. However you can, get your ears comfortable to the new sound; I can’t stress enough how critical listening to music is when absorbing a new style. If you don’t know what it can sound like, how are you supposed to play it?
While you’re actively listening to these new sounds, you might have some uncertainties. Feel free to ask your teacher whatever you want. I promise, nothing you ask will be dumb or anything like that. If it is going to help you learn, please ask. Maybe your question will lead you to hearing new things in the same music you have, or uncover even more great music to listen to!
Music books are great, but you can’t hear how all the other instruments fit in with the music just from text. For drummers in a swing feel, the bass drum and snare drum are played much softer than they usually are with rock or pop music. A text book might say that, but just HOW much quieter are they played? Are they always quiet?
So, once you feel comfortable listening to the music and you have been working with your teacher to better prepare yourself for the style, you may want to look into getting some music books about the style. Or your teacher may be able to write out some patterns for you. If you had jumped right in to a book or pattern, you may have felt overwhelmed or even unsure as to what the patterns were supposed to sound like.
Remember to stay relaxed the whole time you’re trying to get the new coordination down. The slower you practice, the better. And practicing these new patterns with a metronome is even better. Don’t try to play these patterns as quickly as your ear might hear them, because your body might not be able to keep up.
4. Break It Down
For drummers, learning a new pattern with all limbs at once can be extremely challenging. To make it easier, try playing the pattern but leave out what your feet play. Then, use only one hand and one foot. Break the pattern down so you can really feel where all your limbs are supposed to work together. You’ll be able to focus on the new kinds of coordination that are needed to make the patterns work. Then, SLOWLY increase the tempo.
When you get some of these patterns in your hands, try using them in a context outside of just the book. When you’re playing around on your instrument, try adding in a pattern or two. Or, better yet, try using them while playing along with recordings. These patterns help you develop comfortability and technique to play the style easier. They should NOT be what you fall back on when you don’t know what to do. As a next step, try learning or transcribing some of your favorite licks from the music you’ve listened to.
Hopefully these few tips can help you tackle a new kind of music with ease. Remember, always stay relaxed and enjoy yourself.
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Seth D. teaches bass guitar, drums, music recording, music theory, percussion and songwriting lessons to students in Columbus, OH. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Percussion and Jazz Studies from Capital University, and specializes in jazz, brushes, Latin, rock and all forms of studio drumming. Learn more about Seth, or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by Pa_nda