Siz Destructive Beliefs

6 Destructive Beliefs That Hold Beginner Musicians Back

Siz Destructive Beliefs

Do you ever wonder how good your skills would be now if you started practicing a year ago? A question like this should motivate, not dishearten you. In this article, guest writer Elizabeth Kane will take you through six destructive beliefs you might face as you’re learning how to become a musician, and how you can overcome them…


Mind Over Matter

Your mind is a powerful tool. Your thoughts dictate just about every conscious decision you make.

Whether you’re a beginner guitarist who’s just learning how to hold your instrument or a seasoned singer who’s preparing for an important vocal audition, your thoughts can make or break your self-esteem.

Negative or self-doubting thoughts are mental poison — they can hurt your confidence and stop you from taking risks.

Risks Are Good

As you learn how to become a musician, you’ll soon understand it’s your job to take risks. It’s also your job to bring beautiful music (through passion) to an audience that craves authenticity. For this reason alone, we’ve got to put a stop to these perilous ideas that creep into our minds when we’re feeling overwhelmed.

Are you ready to face them? I’ll help you along.

Six Destructive Beliefs and How to Overcome Them


1) “If only I had…”

We think we need a particular instrument. We imagine learning from a specific teacher. We dream about having more time to practice.

Whatever it is, we have an idea that if only we had this or that, then, and only then, would we become the perfect musician.

But life doesn’t work like this.

Sure, we DO need a quality instrument, a great music teacher, and plenty of practice sessions. However, this “chasing perfection” thought pattern is holding you back from using the resources and skills you have now to become a better musician.

Instead, don’t idealize every step of the process. Take things as they come — you may be surprised by how well it all turns out.

2) “I’ll never be able to do that.”

Too many times we tell ourselves that despite everything we try, we’ll never be able to flawlessly play that piece, nail that audition, or impress that audience.

Naturally, some things do take more practice than others. You might have to work harder than you ever have before, but that doesn’t mean you won’t master the skill you desire at some point.

Think about something that’s ridiculously easy to you now: a skill, sport, or technique you’ve mastered. Remember when you didn’t know anything about it? When you barely even knew where to start?

Keep that in mind the next time a voice creeps in your head telling you there’s no way you’ll ever be able to do that. Time is all you need. Remember that patience and consistency are the keys to achieving whatever you want.

3) “If I mess up, ________ will happen…”

Let’s face reality — you’re going to make mistakes. We all do. To be great at what you do, you’re going to make a ton of mistakes.

Try to think about what you’re truly worried about.

Are you worried about someone laughing at you if you make a mistake? What happens if someone does laugh?

Write down what you’re afraid of if you make a misstep. Better yet — try it out! See what really happens when your fear manifests in real life. Overcoming stage fright is easier than you think!

4) “I’m not ready.”

It’s not easy failing, is it?

That’s what we’re really talking about when we say we’re “not ready” to give our skills a try. Failure is tough for every single one of us.

It’s terrifying.

We’ll never be truly ready to fail, no matter how much we’ve practiced, and no matter how much we’ve prepared. Trust me, there’s no giant sign that flashes across the sky saying, You’re absolutely 100% ready! There’s no way you’ll fail this time!”

But we do it anyway.

And with each moment, we defeat our insecurities, one shaky note at a time. We do this until we feel strong and proud, wondering why we were ever nervous in the first place.

5) “I can’t do that until…”

We spend too much time thinking about what we don’t have in order to achieve our goal. But with all the time and energy we spend worried about what we don’t have, we gloss over what we DO have.

What tools do you have now that will help you get closer to your goal? I’ll bet you can think of a few, even if they’re small: organization skills, persistence, optimism, imagination, etc.

Who can you go to for help when you’re struggling and facing unexpected challenges? Perhaps it’s a family member, a friend, or even a colleague. It’s important to know, especially for young musicians, that you have direct support when you need it.

What skills have you refined that will help you gather even better skills? Knowing one skill can help you learn another.

Use what you have now, right at this moment, to get to the next step. It’s not always easy and it’s certainly not always glamorous, but that’s how real growth happens: step by step.

6) “I’ll never be as good as him,” or “I’ll never play like her.”

Jealousy is a strong emotion.

When you doubt your own abilities, it’s easy to look at someone else’s highlight reel in comparison to your lousy dress rehearsals.

Everyone has someone they can compare themselves to. There will always be someone who began lessons before you did, performed a piece better than you played, and practiced more than you have.

The key is to measure where you are now to where you used to be — that’s a lot more satisfying. Staying motivated is a key to reducing anxiety during your practice and performance.

These destructive beliefs won’t go away overnight. It’ll take some practice to face these dangerous thoughts and eliminate them from your mind. Just know this — it’s definitely worth fighting for.

ElizabethKanePost Author: Elizabeth Kane
Elizabeth Kane is a music teacher who loves helping parents get the music education their child deserves. She is the creator of Practice for Parents, where she discusses what to look for in a music teacher, why kids really hate practicing, and what parents can do to guarantee their child’s success.

Photo by Alex Masters


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drum exercises

11 Drum Exercises for Speed, Independence, and Control

drum exercises

If you want to improve as a drummer, you have to practice! But how can you make your practice time more productive? By working on specific exercises, you can strengthen your weaknesses and work on important aspects of drumming that will improve your technique. So if you want to see some big improvements in your drumming, make sure you check out these drum exercises from Saint Paul, MN drum instructor John S…

Drum exercises are rhythmic patterns that develop your drumming coordination and independence. In this article, we’re going to take a look at a wide range of exercises that are fantastic for beginning drummers and even the most advanced players.

Ready to improve your drum skills? Grab your drum sticks and let’s go!

Drum Warm Up Exercises

Drumming is a physical activity, and like most physical activities, it’s important to warm up your muscles and get your limbs working in coordination. Whether preparing to practice in the woodshed or perform on stage, I always try to incorporate at least five to 15 minutes of warm-up exercises into my routine.

Warm-up exercises can range in difficulty, but it’s important to pick exercises that are appropriate for your skill level, because these exercises are geared toward simple coordination and building your confidence behind the drum set. That being said, I encourage drummers to use a metronome when warming up because it strengthens your time-keeping in addition to warming up your body.

Drum Pad Exercises

First, let’s take a look at a few simple rudiment warm-ups. Drum rudiments are drum patterns that you can use for drills or warm-ups, or develop into more complex drum patterns.

These exercises are designed to be played on one surface, and I like to play them on a drum pad before hitting the stage for a performance.

Single Stroke Roll



Double Stroke Roll


Single Paraddidle


Double Paraddidle


Triplets (Single Stroke Seven)



Drum Exercises for Beginners

Now, let’s try  some warm-up exercises that incorporate the whole drum set. These warm-ups are more challenging than the drum pad warm-ups because they incorporate more drums and the coordination of all four limbs.

Start slow, and remember: it’s about accuracy and coordination, not speed and power. If these exercises seem difficult, try subtracting one limb (I usually recommend the hi-hat foot), and then try the exercises with just three limbs.

Note: These exercises are divided into groups of two. The exercises on the left use just one surface for the hands (snare drum), while the exercises on the right focus on moving the hands around the drum kit.

Make sure to practice leading with both the right and left hand, and don’t forget to use a metronome!


Here’s a great five-minute drum set warm-up video that runs through a few of the exercises, in addition to providing a few new exercises. Check the video information section to download the accompanying sheet music and try playing along with the teacher.

Snare Drum Exercises

Snare drum independence refers to the ability to play snare drum rhythms that are separate from the pattern(s) performed by the rest of your limbs.

For beginners, I recommend playing the exercises on the left, which focus on just two voices on the drum set (snare drum and hi-hat). Intermediate drummers may benefit from playing the exercises on the right, which incorporate a steady bass drum pattern in addition to the hands.

If you’re more advanced, try playing the snare patterns over more challenging rhythmic patterns.

Here are a few examples of trickier bass drum and hi-hat patterns which can be played along with the snare drum patterns from the sheet above:


The goal of all these drum exercises is to be able to apply any number of snare drum rhythms freely to your own drumming, rather than just playing a repetitive loop.

Try mixing and matching the various exercises to come up with your own snare drum melody, or make up your own snare drum rhythms!

Bass Drum Exercises

Bass drum independence refers to the ability to play bass drum rhythms that are separate from the pattern(s) performed by the rest of your limbs. Much like the snare drum independence exercises, I recommend that beginners focus on just two voices on the drum set (bass drum and hi-hat) before adding the third (snare drum).

Check out this video from Online Drummer and accompanying sheet music (below) for a series of great bass drum independence exercises.

drum exercises

Image courtesy Online Drummer

Drum Exercises for Speed

Besides how to improve, most drum students want to know how to play drums faster. Like the other skills we’ve discussed (coordination and independence), becoming a faster drummer doesn’t just happen overnight. Let’s take a look at several drum exercises to help improve your speed.

Develop Sound Technique

While there are a number of correct drum techniques, there are an awful lot more incorrect techniques that will inhibit your speed. Poor technique can even potentially cause injury, in the long run.

Developing good drumstick technique takes time and lots of practice. As a beginner, it’s important to watch your hands to make sure you’re using proper stick technique. Check out this video to learn a few simple exercises that will increase your hand speed.


There are a number of things you can try to boost your drum technique. For example, play heel down vs. heel up, or bury the beater against the head vs. releasing the beater from the head.

I also recommend playing along with the simple exercises in this video from Drumeo to improve your bass drum speed.

Use Heavier Sticks for Practice

When you practice, use sticks that are heavier than your regular drum sticks. In much the same way that baseball players put weights on their bats before going up to bat, practicing with heavier drum sticks will make your usual sticks seem almost effortless when you switch back.

Practice single strokes, double strokes, and paradiddles with a metronome, gradually increasing your metronome speed. Then practice alternating singles, doubles, and paradiddles between the hands and feet. The four-limb warm-up exercises in this article are also great to develop speed. Remember, speed comes from both of your hands being even, so make sure you practice leading with both.

In this video, Tony Royster Jr. discusses his practice routine for increasing speed, which includes combining singles, doubles, and paradiddles into a smooth warm-up loop.

Swing Pattern Drum Exercises

These drum exercises are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to warm-ups and developing independence with each limb. Most of the exercises focus on straight rhythmic patterns, but I encourage drummers to try the exercises with a triplet-based, “swing” feel.

Here is a video that can help beginner drummers learn to swing a drum pattern:

For more rhythmic drum exercises, I recommend purchasing Ted Reed’s book Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer. This book is often considered the most important source for developing independence, as it provides page after page of unique rhythms that can be applied to any limb on the drum set, and performed either swung or straight.

Below is a brief excerpt from his book that combines a wide range of patterns into an exercise that will test overall independence of any limb you choose. These rhythms can be translated to any drum(s) and can be played with either a straight or swing feel

Now you have several different drum exercises to keep you busy and help you improve! If you need help with any of these exercises, make sure to ask your drum teacher!

Which of these drum exercises have you tried? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!


Maegan-W Post Author: John S.
John S. is a drum and percussion instructor in Saint Paul, MN. A full-time musician and teacher, he performs with two different bands and teaches in-home and in-studio lessons. Learn more about John here!

Photo courtesy David Russo 

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drum sticks

From Brushes to Brooms: The Complete Guide to Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

When it comes to choosing a pair of drum sticks, there are a lot of factors that can influence your decision. Knowing what’s out there can help you decide which sticks are best for your drumming style. Here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. breaks down the different types of drum sticks…

As drummers, we get to play a wide variety of instruments, and just as a painter uses many different brushes and tools in his or her arsenal, we should employ various types of sticks to achieve different effects. Those of you who venture into the broader world of percussion will have a particular interest in variety.

Here, I will discuss several types of drum sticks and their applications, so get ready to fill up your stick bag!

How Are Drum Sticks Made?

Before we get into the different types of drum sticks, let’s go over some drum stick anatomy.

Wood Type

Drum sticks are generally made of wood, and the type of wood can impact the durability. For example, oak and hickory drum sticks are durable, while maple is lighter, but less durable.


The taper is the grade from the body to the tip of the stick. A thicker taper is best for loud, intense beats; while a more narrow taper is better for a lighter sound.

The tips are made of wood or nylon, and the shape of the tips affects the sound. Try an oval tip for a well-balanced sound, an acorn tip for a rich sound, or a barrel tip for high volume. You can also get drum sticks with a teardrop tip and a round tip.


Have you ever wondered what the numbers on the drum sticks mean? They have to do with drum stick size. The number indicates the drum stick circumference. It may seem counter intuitive, but for the most part, a lower number indicates a higher circumference, so the 7A is smaller than the 5A.

The letters help to identify the application; the most common letters are “A” (orchestra), “B” (band), and “S” (street).

types of drum sticks


The 5A is the most common type of drum stick. While they’re commonly used to play rock, you can use them for just about any type of drumming. The 5A is a middle-of -the-road drum stick, and a general-purpose tool.


7A drum sticks are smaller and thinner. Because they are more lightweight than the 5As, they’re ideal for younger drummers and jazz musicians.

2B and 5B

These sticks are much heavier than the other two types, and as a result, they pack a lot more power!

Want to learn more? Check out this video for a behind-the-scenes look at how drum sticks are made.

Types of Drum Sticks

Now that you understand how drum sticks are made, let’s look at the different types of drum sticks!

Looking for something specific? Here’s what you will find in this section:

Cheap Drum Sticks

When you’re just starting out as a drummer, you may be overwhelmed by all the new gear. While a brand new drum set isn’t required for a beginner, you should at least have a decent set of drum sticks to use for practice.

While you may be looking for a pair of cheap drum sticks, I’ve got good news for you: most drum sticks are pretty affordable. In fact, most pairs are less than $8.

If you have a set budget in mind for drum gear, a basic pair of cheap drum sticks will be just fine to help you get started.

Beginner Drum Sticks

Beyond an affordable pair of drum sticks, many new drummers want to know if there are specific beginner drum sticks. Again, here’s where the letters and numbers come in. Many drum experts recommend 7As for beginners, especially kids, who are learning how to hold drum sticks, as well as proper technique and control.

5As are generally recommended for adults and teenagers since they’re ideal for drummers with average-sized hands.

Kids Drum Sticks

These sticks are great for smaller hands, and they’re made by some of the best-known companies.

Vic Firth Kidsticks


Vic Firth’s Kidsticks are 13″ long, designed for players aged three to eight, and come in pink and blue.

ProMark Future Pro Jr.

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Musician’s Friend

ProMark makes the Future Pro Jr. sticks, which are the 5A diameter with a 13″ length.


Once you’ve been playing for a while and you’ve experimented with cheap drum sticks and beginner drum sticks, you will have a  better idea of what you like and what feels comfortable. Now you’re ready to look into types of drum sticks that are best suited for the music you want to play.

Jazz drum sticks are usually light, long, and thin for finesse, while rock drum sticks are heavier, for power and volume.

Orchestral Drum Sticks

You can use these sticks on the snare drum in an orchestra or concert band setting, or for snare drum repertoire (not for chopping on hats!). This context requires particular nuance, and the sticks are designed with this in mind.

Some orchestral drum sticks are made with specialty woods, like persimmon, laminated birch, or rosewood. Some orchestral drum sticks I recommend are Cooperman, Malletech’s PhD SeriesProMark, Innovative Percussion, and Vic Firth.

Marching Band Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy taylormusic

These sticks are heavy duty and thicker, with large beads, as they must aid in projection and volume for play in a (primarily outdoor) large band setting—and be used on high-tension marching snare heads (made of kevlar, which is a thicker material than mylar).

Vic Firth, ProMark, and Vater have great marching band drum sticks.


types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Steve Weiss Music

When it comes to types of drum sticks, don’t forget about brushes. While they’re mostly used in jazz settings, they’re great if you want a softer sound.

They may be drawn across the surface of the snare for a scratchy sound, and they’re also great for a Cajon (an Afro-Cuban wooden box percussion instrument).

Drum set brushes may have either nylon or metal bristles, and may or may not be retractable.

Rutes / Multi-Rods Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image Courtesy AMPCO Musical Products

These deliver a softer attack than sticks and serve well in low-volume situations—or if you just want a different texture, they have a cool “chick” sound.

They’re made from a cluster of dowels of various diameters. Rutes made with thinner dowels will have a lighter sound. (Incidentally, these are fairly easy to make, and I have been doing so for many years).

Timbale Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Stew Weiss Music

You can use these sticks on timbales, blocks, and cymbals. They have a uniform diameter, with no bead.

Brooms / Cajon Brushes

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Interstate Music

These are great to use on Cajons, congas, and the kit. They have movable bands to allow for adjustment toward the handle for a softer attack—or toward the end for a more solid thump.


types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Sam Ash

These sticks have a bead (nylon or wood) at one end and a felt mallet tip at the other. They’re great for quick changes if you want to do some cymbal swells or tom work (and hey, it’s a chance to work on some spins).

Brush / Stick Combos

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Interstate Music

These offer some great textural options with quick-change capabilities.


types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Intersate Music

It’s always fun to have some miscellaneous goodies, and here are a few items that can add a bit of seasoning to your groove:

ProMark’s TUBZ have an interesting attack and add a bit of their own tone to the mix.

Vic Firth’s Dreadlocks produce a pronounced attack on the snare, and give you cool options for scraping or striking your cymbals.

Flix products give you the best of both worlds: the sound of rods and the added durability of a built-in tip.

Custom Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Custom Stix

Custom drum sticks can be made with artwork of your choice, or the company’s art (for an art fee).  So, if you’re interested in aesthetics, you may want to venture into custom territory.

Custom Stix is a cool company to check out, as well as West Virginia Wood Arts, which does custom laser engraving (on Vic Firth sticks) of words, your submitted images, or their own artwork.  They also have different color options.

These are just a few of the many tools you can use to expand your tonal spectrum (and they make great stocking-stuffers). Experiment with different types of drum sticks, and find your favorites!

Want to know more about different types of drum sticks? Check out our gear guide to find out which drum sticks are the best!

Which type of drum sticks do you use when you play? Why are these your favorite? Let us know in the comments below! 

TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums with various bands for more than 13 years. Tracy earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University and has played with the OKC Community Orchestra since 2009.  Learn more about Tracy here!

Featured image courtesy Clint Pollan

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How to Decode Drum Charts, Drum Tabs, and Notation for Beginners

The Beginner’s Guide to Drum Charts, Drum Tabs, and Drum Notation

How to Decode Drum Charts, Drum Tabs, and Notation for Beginners

If you just started learning drums, you may feel a bit intimidated when it comes to reading drum charts and drum tabs. The good news is, you’re not alone. While it may seem daunting now, with a little practice you’ll be able to understand and read drum charts and drum tabs with ease. To help you get started, here’s an easy-to-follow beginner’s guide from drum instructor Tracy D

Drum charts, drum tabs, and drum notation are all terms you’ll come across when you’re learning drums. This is especially true if you play in a marching band or ensemble.

As a beginner, you may find drum charts to be a bit intimidating. You may also encounter drum tabs or solos with every note written out. I’ll cover each of these so that you’ll be able to read drum tabs with confidence.

First, I’ll show you how to figure out what’s going on in the following drum charts. For this, I’ll be using a part from my jazz band days (this type of chart is typical for a jazz band or big band ensembles).

How to Read Drum Charts

Refer to the sheet music that follows; sections of the chart are circled in red ink for you to follow along.

Page 1

Meas. 16: These are ensemble figures, and the whole band will play these notes in unison. Notice the elongated note heads — look for these throughout your piece and nail them.

M. 17: This indicates timekeeping with a specific bass figure (in this case, it’s a Tumbao pattern).

M. 33-36: The voices that carry these figures are indicated. You should hit with them, usually with accents on the snare drum (and sometimes adding hats or cymbals).

M. 37: The segno (sign) indicates the beginning of a section that will be repeated.

M. 64: Fill — you have some leeway for creative control, but stay true to style and mind your count.

M. 75: The coda symbol indicates a jump to the concluding section, which will be marked with the same sign (or the word, “coda”).

M. 81: Time, in this case, means play the original groove.


drum charts

*Courtesy:  “Newk Meets the Prezident” Lawn, Rick N.d. New York: Kendor, 1996. Print.

Page 2

M. 93: Be alert, the feel changes here!
M. 157: Solo — generally you’ll want to stay true to style, but here, you want to change the feel about halfway through.

Be sure to count so you don’t get lost.


drum charts

Page 3

M. 221: Use this solo to return to the original feel and style of the piece.
M. 228: Dal Segno al Coda (from the sign to the coda) — here, return to the sign at m. 37, and play to the coda sign at m.75 (not playing m. 75) then jump ahead to “coda” at m. 229.
M. 229: (Coda) There are a couple things going on here. The meter changes to 3/2. The “half note = half note” means that the note value for the tempo stays constant even though the meter has changed.
M. 232: Vamp — Keep time until the cue. The number of repetitions may vary.


drum charts


*Note: If you’re playing a piece that has extended periods of rests or repetitive patterns, it can be easy to check out mentally. To avoid this, be sure that you can so you don’t lose your place.

Where to Find Drum Charts

If you want to practice reading or playing along with drum charts, ask your drum teacher for some sample sheet music. You can also find drum charts online. Here are some of the best websites to find drum sheet music.

Online Drummer

Online drummer has note-for-note sheet music available to download. You can search by song or by level.

Drum Central

Drum Central provides free downloadable drum transcriptions. Search their database by artist to find the drum sheet music for your favorite songs.


You can search DRUMSCORE.COM by artist or by drummer, however, most of their drum music costs about $3.99.

Drum Tabs

Drum tablature or drum tabs are different from traditional drum notation. Drum tabs are generally comprised of the same number of lines as there are instruments in the music.

The dashes are usually broken up into 16ths, and if there’s a “note” to be played, it’s shown by the use of a corresponding symbol. Don’t play anything on the dashes. Traditional sheet music will use a rhythm staff.

Drum tabs are typically easier to find than sheet music, so many drummers will try to find drum tabs for their favorite tunes.

How to Read Drum Tabs

Here is a basic chart with some variations of the symbols used. Different authors may use different forms.

The Most Basic:

B = Bass Drum
S = Snare Drum
H = Hi-Hat
C = Cymbal
T = Tom

Drum Variations:

BA = Bass Drum
BD = Bass Drum
B1 = Bass Drum #1
B2 = Bass Drum #2
T1 = Tom 1 (T2 = Tom 2, etc.)
TT = Tom Tom
F = Floor Tom
FT = Floor Tom Cymbals and Hi-Hats
RC = Ride Cymbal
CC = Crash Cymbal
SC = Splash Cymbal
OH = Open Hi-Hat
SH = Slightly Open Hi-Hat
CH = Closed Hi-Hat
HF = Hi-Hat (played with foot)


CB = Cow Bell
TA = Tambourine
SH = Shaker
WB = Wood Block
CL = Claves
BE = Bell

*Courtesy of

Let’s take a look at the drum tabs for Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” to point out the use of the lines and symbols. The legend indicates that the hats will have a closed (x) and open (o) pattern. The instrumentation is listed vertically, and the drum tabs read horizontally. Pretty easy, right?

The drums here are notated with an “o” and the cymbals/accessories are represented by an “x”. Accents may be notated with a capital X. This chart is good for those who are new to drum tabs, because the groove is straightforward, and the song sections are clearly marked. (The first dash in each measure is a placeholder, not an indicator of time passage).

drum charts* Tab courtesy of blindleaf.freeservers

How to Find Drum Tabs

Like drum charts, there are places online where you can find drum tabs for the songs you want to play.


911TABS lets you search by artist or song. In addition to drum tabs, you can also find guitar tabs and piano music.


Search for drum tabs and learn more about reading drum tabs and drum music.


Don’t let the name fool you; UltimateGuitar has lots of resources for guitar players, but you can also find drum tabs for just about any song you want to play.

Drum Set Notation

Now, let’s look at standard notation as it appears in sheet music for solos, etudes, and fully-notated drum set music. These exercises are very basic grooves with the bass drum notated on the bottom space, the snare drum on the second space down, and the hats on the top.

It’s in 4/4 or “common” time (four beats, with the quarter note getting the beat). This is broken up into 8th notes — you can see this because there are eight strokes on the hats. Count those: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. The corresponding notes on the drums will line up directly with the hats.

There are two measures per line. In the first measure, in the bass, you see a little squiggle. This is a quarter rest and it means that you refrain from playing that voice for the duration of a quarter beat. Next, you see what appears to be an odd looking number seven. This is an eighth rest, and it means that you refrain from playing that voice for the duration of an eighth. Pretty simple!


drum charts* Exercises courtesy of

Note: If you’re playing a piece that has extended periods of rests or repetitive patterns, it can be easy to mentally checkout. Be sure that you count so you don’t lose your place.

How to Use Drum Charts and Drum Tabs

At this point you may be thinking, “I’m not a drum major and I don’t play in a marching band, so why do I need to learn drum charts and drum sheet music?” Well, regardless of your drumming goals, learning to understand drum charts can help you make sense of the music and help you develop your drumming skills. Eventually, with enough practice, drum sheet music can be your secret weapon!

Now you have some direction to help you understand drum charts, sheet music, and drum tabs. It’s important that you become familiar with different musical styles, so you can play with confidence. You can generally find a recording of just about any song, so give it a listen while reading your chart.


How has learning to read drum music helped you become a better drummer? Let us know in the comments below! 

TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums with various bands for more than 13 years. Tracy earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University and has played with the OKC Community Orchestra since 2009.  Learn more about Tracy here!

Photo by eric.mailloux

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6 Things to Consider Before Buying a Musical Instrument

Here’s What to Know Before Buying an Instrument

6 Things to Consider Before Buying a Musical Instrument

Thinking about buying a new instrument? It’s a big decision, as an instrument is truly an investment — especially if you’re spending several hundred dollars (or more, for higher-end brands and models) on it.

Before making your purchase, you’ll want to do some research. But where do you start? With so many brands out there, how do you know which ones are worth the money? What do you really need to ensure years of playing and practicing?

We came across a great article over on Donna Schwartz’s blog that we think hits the nail on the head for what to consider before handing over your cash — whether you’re looking at new or used musical instruments.

Donna writes:

Whether you are a beginner, hobbyist or pro, here are 5 questions to ask yourself when trying out different musical instruments:

  1. Does the sound of this instrument match my concept of how I want to sound?
  2. Is the instrument free-blowing enough to allow me to get my “perfect sound”? (Or maybe I want a little resistance on this trumpet to help out with high notes?)
  3. Is it easy enough to play in all registers of the instrument comfortably?
  4. Can I control the intonation in all registers of the instrument?
  5. Are the keys placed in such a way that I can perform rapid passages comfortably?

The above 5 questions are important and vary for every performer. This next question though is absolutely necessary for every musician that wants to perform at their best for a long time.

When you are comparing a few different brands and have found some you really like, before you pull out the credit card, it is crucial to ask this question:

If my instrument breaks, do you have the parts to fix it, and if not, can you get the parts?

Donna continues to point out that an instrument like the saxophone has more than 600 moving parts — so if you end up with an instrument with sub-standard parts that can’t be replaced… you may be out of luck if it breaks. Moral of the story? Do your research. Ask questions. Get help from your music teacher, and have him or her try out instruments with you. Make an informed decision!

You can read the article in full here.

For even more tips, we also like this article from the Tampa Bay Music Academy blog. As part of their steps for buying an instrument, they offer some additional pointers regarding instrument quality:

Instrument quality can generally be assessed using three categories: student quality, intermediate quality, or professional quality.

Your 5th grader doesn’t need a professional quality instrument yet, but should you go the cheap route with a student model or shell out a few more bucks for the intermediate? Ultimately, that depends on your goals for your student.

Is this a “try it and see if you like it” endeavor, or have you and your child committed to this instrument for the long haul? Student quality instruments are usually made of cheaper materials and won’t produce as nice a sound, but they are good for students who don’t know if they will stick with it or not. They’re also good starter instruments if money is tight.

If your child (and you) have committed to playing this instrument throughout middle and high school, however, go ahead and invest in the better quality option if possible.

Continue reading the article here.

And finally, if you’re opting for the used musical instruments route, has a great article on how to evaluate a used instrument.

Readers, how have your experiences been buying new or used instruments? What other tips would you add? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Image by Vincent Diamante

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drum performance

8 Ways to Prepare for Your First Drum Performance

drum performance

If you practice hard and stick with your drum lessons, you’ll eventually be ready to take the stage for your first drum performance. Whether you’re playing a local gig or you have aspirations to make money playing drums, we want to help you prepare to rock your first show. Here, San Diego, CA drum instructor Maegan W. shares her eight-step checklist to help you nail your first drum performance.. 

So it’s time for your first drum performance — do you feel nervous? Don’t worry, that’s normal; being nervous just means you care. Once you stop getting nervous, that’s when you need to worry.

Remember, you have done all the work: practice, promotion, networking… and here it is, your first drum gig!

Here are eight things you can do to be successful at your first drum performance. By the way, this checklist is also great for your 20th, 100th, or 1000th gig, too.


drum performance

Make sure you know the set list inside and out. If you think you’ve got it, run the set one more time, and then one more time after that.

Once you’re on that stage, your mind will be in a million places, and you’ll need to rely on muscle memory to help you through. The more you play and practice before you take the stage, the less you will have to think when you’re up there.

Once you hit the stage, you can have fun and let loose!


drum performance

Before your gig, practice counting in to your metronome. This may seem silly, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to add an extra 10 bps when your heart is racing with the adrenaline of a live show.

Lock in the time, and make sure you can remember how the song starts so you don’t get confused.


drum performance

Preparing for a gig doesn’t stop after your practice your songs. Before the show, make a gear checklist or a counting system so you don’t forget anything. Write down the items you need: your set list, your throne, a rug, etc.

There’s nothing worse than forgetting something you need for a show.

drum performance

You don’t just want to be prepared, when it comes to playing a show, you want to be over prepared. Bring a spare snare or drum head, and bring extra drum sticks. Throw in an extra pedal, if you have one, and an extra cymbal. You may not want to lug the extra supplies to the gig, but once you’re there it’s too late, so bring them just in case you need them.

Here are some more suggestions, for musicians in general, of important items to pack in your gig bag.


drum performance

Have someone film your show. Don’t let this distract you, this is not to make you a YouTube star; not yet, anyway. Video is a great learning tool. The best way to learn and improve is by watching yourself.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not happy with your performance; use it as an opportunity to learn.


drum performance

What’s the real point of playing this show? What’s the end result for you? If you’re considering drums as a career, than you must always think bigger than the current gig, and always look for opportunities.

Bring some business cards with your contact information. Be ready to meet people that may be good connections to help you book more gigs.


drum performance

Part of being prepared is being professional. Always act like there’s someone important in the crowd, you never know who’s watching. Behave as you would in a job interview (for something cool that you love to do).

The point of playing, besides having a blast, is to get exposure and grow your business (if this is your ultimate goal). Never overlook an opportunity, this is what separates the wannabes from the professionals.


drum performance

There is absolutely no point to any of this if you’re not having fun. Playing gigs requires a lot of time, energy, and preparation, so if you’re not having fun, you will burn out or lose interest.

When it really comes down to it, the reason you started playing drums is because it’s fun and you love to do it. remember that, above all, when you play your first gig.

I hope this helps, I know you’re going to have a great drum performance. Playing live is a learning experience; don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake.

I’ve learned something new at each and every gig (and I’ve played hundreds). Sometimes the lessons are embarrassing, but they always help me learn and improve.

What lessons have you learned from playing gigs? Share them with us in the comments below!  


Post Author:
 Maegan W.
Maegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004.  Learn more about Maegan here!

Photo by Ashraf Saleh

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How to Play Drums A Guide for Beginners

How to Play Drums: The Complete Guide for Beginners

How to Play Drums A Guide for Beginners

Do you want to learn how to play drums but aren’t quite sure where to begin? You may be asking yourself a number of questions like, “What equipment do I need?” to “How can I learn to play with a band?” Like most tasks in life, the first steps are often the most challenging.

Rest assured, everyone has to start somewhere. In this article, drum instructor John S. breaks down how to play drums for beginners, and gives you a solid foundation to have the best possible drumming experience.

In this article you will learn:


Parts of a Drum Kit

One of the most intimidating things about drums is the cost of getting started. Oftentimes, instruments don’t come cheap. And unlike most other instruments, the drum set is composed of several pieces of expensive gear — it’s not just one simple piece.

Before we look into alternative options for beginners, let’s take a look at the basic parts for buying your first drum set.

Snare Drum

snare 450x300


The snare is the center of a five-piece drum kit. The snare drum is responsible for the loud crack, usually on upbeats, that you hear during songs.

The snare’s sound comes from its shell, which is generally made from wood like maple, birch, or mahogany, or from metals such as aluminum, bronze, brass, or stainless steel.

The drum head (batter) is coated, while the bottom of the snare is thin and responsive. The rims are the hoops on the top and bottom that secure the drum heads on the snare.

While all of the parts of a drum kit are important, developing your snare drum skills can help you become a better all-around drummer. In fact, it’s good to practice some snare drum exercises so you can practice to improve your technique and focus on things like rhythm and intonation.

Bass Drum

bass drum 450x300

The bass, or kick drum, is easy to find because it’s the largest drum in a drum kit. Most bass drum shells are made from woods like maple, heartwood birch, and mahogany, but you can also find bass drum shells made from metals.

When you play the bass drum, you use your foot on the drum’s kick pedal to produce a thumping sound. The bass drum is essential to the drum kit because it’s the most distinctive part of a band’s timekeeping.

Timekeeping refers to a drummer’s ability to play in time with the pulse of the music. It’s a very important skill for drummers to learn. Make sure you practice this and improve your timekeeping skills in order to develop a consistent tempo when playing.

Toms, Hi-Hat, and Cymbals

toms and cymbals 450x300


The toms, or tom-toms, are mounted either above the bass drum or held up by adjustable legs. In a five-piece drum kit, there are two types of toms: the rack toms and the floor toms. The floor and rack toms are most commonly used during drum fills. Like the other drums in the kit, the toms are generally made from wood or metal.

In addition to these basic parts of a drum set, you can also add cymbals like the hi-hat, crash, and ride cymbals. These add accents to your music and can serve as transitions from one passage in a song to the next.

Most beginner drummers don’t have the luxury of having a full drum set at their disposal — luckily, you don’t need a complete drum kit to get started learning to play drums.

 Drum Equipment for Beginners

The first piece of drum equipment that I recommend for students is free and readily available: your own body. I always encourage students to start with hand drumming; whether that’s playing on your thighs, a pillow, or anything else you can think of that won’t get damaged from repetitive hand tapping.

Start by tapping along to your favorite songs and focus on playing along with the drummer or another instrument in the song. If you don’t have immediate access to music, then simply practice keeping a steady tempo, alternating between tapping with your right hand and then your left hand.

Sticks and a Metronome

When you’re ready to take the next step, the first piece of gear I recommend purchasing is a pair of good drum sticks. You can find drum sticks at any music store and countless online stores, and they’re very affordable (most pairs are less than $8). I also recommend buying a rubber practice drum pad in the early stages, but if money is an issue, you can always use your drum sticks on a book, pillow, or any other firm, durable surface.

One final piece of equipment that will help you begin your journey as a drummer is a metronome. Drummers (and all musicians) are expected to be able to maintain a steady tempo, and nothing keeps a steadier tempo than a metronome. Metronomes come in both analogue and digital, but I prefer the digital version because it gives you more rhythmic options.

snare 450x300

I recommend practicing with a metronome at the beginning of your drumming journey, as it’ll help you develop a strong sense of time and rhythm. This will save you a lot of headaches later on.

How to Hold Drum Sticks

Now that you’ve got a pair of drum sticks, let’s talk a little bit about how to play drums and learn proper technique. There are essentially two ways to hold drum sticks: matched grip and traditional grip.

Matched Grip

With matched grip, you’ll hold the drum sticks the same way with both hands. Your thumb should rest opposite of your index finger on the stick, this pinching between your thumb and index finger is your fulcrum or pivot point. Matched grip has three different variations: German, American, and French.

German Grip

Hold the sticks with your palms facing down and use your wrists to drive the motion.

American Grip

Turn your hands to a 45-degree angle. With this grip, you can use your wrists for power and your fingers for control.

French Grip

Hold the sticks so that your thumbs face the ceiling and your palms face each other. The fulcrum rests between your thumb and index finger.

Traditional Grip

Traditional grip is often used for jazz music and drumlines. To do this, extend your left hand as if you’re about to shake someone’s hand. Place the stick in the webbing between your thumb and index finger, and rest the stick on the cuticle of your ring finger. Rest the tip of your thumb on the first knuckle of your index finger.

Your middle finger should rest lightly on the top of the stick. The fulcrum, or pivot point, is between your thumb and index finger. You’ll grip the stick in your right hand the same way you do with the American matched grip.  In traditional grip, you’ll rotate your forearm as you play (think of twisting a door knob).

As you advance as a drummer, you can decide which grip style works best for you. The most important thing is to establish good drum stick technique. Poor technique can make drumming more challenging and can also increase your risk of injury.

If you need a visual, here’s a helpful infographic on how to hold drum sticks:

how to play drums

How to Play Drum Rudiments

Once you have your basic equipment (drum sticks, playing surface) and a good sense of proper technique, you’re ready to start learning the fundamental patterns of drumming, or the drum rudiments.

Drum rudiments are often described as the basic building blocks of drumming. There are 40 essential rudiments, each of which consist of a unique sticking pattern (coordination of right and left hands) and distinct rhythm. Mastering all 40 rudiments provides you with a wealth of control and rhythmic knowledge that you can then apply to the entire drum set.

Don’t be intimidated about learning all 40 rudiments right away. Here’s a step-by-step video to help you learn the seven essential drum rudiments. As a beginner, these seven drum rudiments will give you a solid foundation and help you learn to play basic drum patterns and songs.

How to Read Drum Sheet Music

I always encourage drummers to learn how to read drum notation and sheet music. While it isn’t necessary to know how to read sheet music to be a great drummer, I believe that sheet music serves a similar purpose to books: they offer a language of codes that allow us to learn.

It’s also worth noting that many drummers are also expected to know how to read sheet music, as it’s a requirement of school concert bands, marching bands, jazz bands, and many professional ensembles. But when you understand drum sheet music, it can be used as a drummer’s secret weapon.

Drum notation is a fairly simply code, and once you understand the basics, it becomes easy to apply that knowledge to more advanced concepts. It’s important for beginning drummers to start with reading very basic drum rhythms before trying to jump into understanding intermediate drum beats.

Start Out Simple

For example, begin with exercises that use a combination of quarter notes and quarter rests with all notes being played on only one drum. I encourage students to read rhythmic exercises out loud before trying to play them on the drums, because it strengthens the connection between your brain and limbs and it mentally prepares you for the exercise ahead.

Reading the exercise before playing it also allows you to locate any challenging rhythms and work them out ahead of time. Once you have read the rhythm out loud, it’s time to play!

With beginning rhythms, you should focus only on the coordination of your left and right hands (no feet yet) and ensure that you’re playing in time with a metronome. This lesson introduces basic drum notation in a clear and easy-to-understand fashion. The accompanying audio clips are also extremely helpful.

Get the Rhythms Down

Regardless of your skill level, I strongly suggest beginning your practice routine with basic rhythmic exercises involving just your hands on one playing surface. This will help you improve your coordination and timing, and mentally prepare you for more difficult exercises.

Once you’ve learned how to read and play rhythms on one drum, it’s time to add another playing surface. Still focusing on only the hands, start to play patterns that involve the left hand playing one rhythm while the right hand plays another. Most drum beats involve at least three different playing surfaces (often kick, snare, and cymbal), but I encourage beginners to focus on just the snare and cymbal.

When you can accurately play exercises that involve two different rhythms with the hands, then it’s time to add the feet. First add your kick drum foot, working on exercises that focus on coordination between both hands and your kick drum foot.

Coordinate the Limbs

If you’re having troubles coordinating all three limbs, break the exercise down so that you’re only focusing on two limbs at a time. Make sure that you’re comfortable with each limb combination (i.e. right hand-left hand, right hand-right foot, left hand-right foot) before trying to put all three together again.

Eventually, you’ll also want to start working your fourth limb, the hi-hat pedal foot. Like the other limbs, start with very basic exercises that coordinate all four limbs before trying to learn more advanced drum beats.

Be aware that drum notation for the full drum set is much more challenging to read than snare drum notation because there are many more drums/cymbals involved.

How to Read Drum Tabs

Drum tabs are different from sheet music because they’re written specifically for the instrument, so they use the parts of the drum set that we talked about earlier. Drum tabs use abbreviations for the drum parts, for example:

  • CC – Crash Cymbal
  • HH – Hi-Hat
  • Rd – Ride Cymbal
  • SN – Snare
  • T1 – Hi Tom
  • T2 – Low tom
  • FT – Floor Tom
  • B – Bass Drum
  • HF – Hi-Hat (with foot)
  • O – Bass drum hits
  • X – Snare and hi-hat hits

Here’s an example of this practice in the “two and four” beat from the article about easy drum beats for beginners. The drum tabs appear as follows:

  • HH: X X X X
  • SN: X X
  • B: O O

Here’s another example from the “boom, boom, clap” beat:

  • HH: X X X X
  • SN: X X
  • B: O O O O

These drum tabs show you which parts of the kit to use (hi-hat, snare, and bass) and when to play them. You can learn more about drum tabs in this beginner’s guide to drum tabs.

How to Play Drums for Beginners

Once you’ve got a pair of a drum sticks, a playing surface, and practice materials (rudiments, sheet music exercises), it’s time to hit the woodshed! Like any other skill, good practice habits are the key to becoming better at your craft!

Start out practicing with these essential drum beats and these easy drum songs for beginners. Another great way to learn how to play drums is to practice along with your favorite songs.

While practicing, it’s very important to check in and make sure you’re doing the things you’ve learned along the way. For example, I’ll often ask myself, “Am I holding the sticks correctly?” or “Am I playing this rudiment correctly?” If you forget some of the skills you’ve learned, make sure to ask your drum instructor — plus, you can always check back here to review the basics!

Good luck on your drumming journey and remember to have fun along the way!

Maegan-W Post Author: John S.
John S. is a drum and percussion instructor in Saint Paul, MN. A full-time musician and teacher, he performs with two different bands and teaches in-home and in-studio lessons. Learn more about John here!

Photos by Brandon Nguyen, Vladimir Morozov, Maxime Seguin, Jeremy Wright, Edwin M Escobar

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how to overcome stage fright

The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

Stage performance is a challenging art form. Whether you’re acting out a role in a musical theatre setting, giving a speech in front of a crowd, or even playing a solo at an open mic night, the experience can be nerve-wracking even for seasoned performers.

It can be even more anxiety-inducing if you’re a perfectionist, as that can breed a fear of failure… and from there, performance anxiety can feel even stronger.

Performance anxiety (commonly referred to as stage fright) can devastate a performer’s career and enjoyment of their craft, but it doesn’t have to — performance anxiety is a normal human reaction and a completely curable condition if given the right resources, patience, and support system. This article is a guide to learning how to overcome stage fright, for anyone who may experience it — musicians, actors, dancers, speakers, educators, and students. If you wish to understand and improve anxiety issues that are holding you back from giving your best performances, read on!

What is Stage Fright?

Let’s start with anxiety, which is defined as a feeling or worry, nervousness, or unease about an upcoming event. Most people have experienced some level of anxiety before, during, or after a performance, speech, sports game, or test. Anxiety differs from fear in that fear addresses a present threat, while anxiety is typically felt in relation to something in the future. Anxiety is a normal, healthy human experience and, in small doses, is beneficial in making decisions and in achieving peak success.

Performance anxiety (stage fright) in particular is nervousness or unease about a specific future event in which you will be required to execute a task, such as a song, a scene, speech, or test — and usually when you’ll be in front of an audience. Symptoms may be present during the task, for weeks or months leading up to it, and sometimes after the event is over.

So, how do you get over stage fright? Even most experienced performers feel anxiety, so it’s more a process of learning how to deal with stage fright. Here are the steps I recommend.

dealing with stage fright - step 1

Knowing if you are truly experiencing anxiety is critically important, as it’s the first step toward understanding and overcoming it. If you have experienced a few or many of the following symptoms before or during a performance situation, you are experiencing stage fright:

  • Excessive sweating (typically in the palms, feet, armpits or face, but could be anywhere)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chills, hot flashes, or sudden changes in body temperature
  • Shallow breathing, tightness in the chest, or hyperventilation
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Racing thoughts, obsessive fear of failure during the task
  • Inability to concentrate or process logical information
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent urge to use the bathroom
  • Inability to make small talk or hold a basic conversation
  • Shakiness, especially in the hands
  • Sensitivity lights, sounds, or textures in the environment

As you can see, this list of sensations is not only unpleasant, but makes performing at your best nearly impossible. Fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

  • Look at the list of anxiety symptoms, and make a mental checkmark next to the ones that you have felt during performance situations.
  • Note when it happened, how often, and any other details you remember. Are your symptoms limited to a specific few, or all of them? Are there symptoms you’d like to solve first as a priority, before others?

Now go back next to each symptom that you’ve checked, and rate it on scale of 1-10 as to how severe it felt (1 being hardly felt it, 10 being you felt it so much you couldn’t concentrate on anything else).

If you are seeing numbers in the 1-4 range, it’s likely that you are experiencing normal, healthy jitters that can actually add to your performance by making you more focused. If you are seeing numbers in the 5-10 range, you are experiencing moderate to severe stage fright and should read on to discover strategies for improvement.

dealing with stage fright - step 2

Before you can properly map a route to overcome stage fright, it’s important to know where you’ve been — and what has caused stage fright in the past. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you are experiencing stage fright, how they might contribute to your present challenges, and how you can utilize them most effectively.

Start by asking yourself some questions about your performing career, starting from the very, very beginning, which might include childhood memories or more recent situations depending on your age.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

  1. Recall the first time you performed for an audience, formally. Who was there? What thoughts and feelings do you remember? Were you happy with the outcome of the performance? Was it a positive or negative experience, was it stressful or relaxed?
  2. Recall the first time you performed and experienced anxiety (if different from above). What were the circumstances? Who was there? Did you practice or prepare, and how much? If different from #1, what do you think sparked anxiety if there were previous performances that didn’t?
  3. Recall the next few times that you performed, after #2 above. Ask yourself the same questions and look for patterns.
  4. Recall the 2-3 most recent times you performed. How recent was it? Have you purposely avoided performing in recent circumstances due to fear? Were you with a large group, small ensemble or solo? Were there any post-performance experiences worth noting?
  5. From the above questions, look for patterns. Are there any pivotal events that dramatically changed the course of your performance history? Are there any key people, venues, or pieces that contributed to where you’re at today?

dealing with stage fright - step 3

The next step is re-contextualizing key anxiety triggers so that they don’t continue causing problems. Most people can identify one or two key incidents that left a large impact on their self-esteem.

Maybe it was a teacher giving an aggressive critique, a family member telling you not to quit your day job, or a performance in which you froze on stage and ran off crying.

At the time you may not have realized the impact of this key event, but in hindsight you can see that it has undermined your confidence and affected your ability to perform ever since.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

The mind is powerful and can distort memories, making them seem bigger and nastier than they really were in real life. As far as exercises that can help you deal with stage fright, this is a great one to try. Pick one of your key incidents that is particularly painful or memorable and jot a few notes about it to the facts:

What venue were you performing in?
What piece were you performing or practicing?
Who was watching?
What feedback were you given, either verbal or non-verbal?
How did you react? Did you shout, cry, freeze up, or laugh it off?
If you responded verbally, what did you say?
What did you do after the event?

Re-Contextualizing the Event

Now let’s bring some imagination to it: sometimes taking the gravity out of a memory and bringing it into a lighter, if not humorous, context can be extremely healing. By re-contextualizing this event, you are not dismissing it or minimizing its impact, but re-framing it in a more positive, lighthearted perspective. By giving your brain a new way to interpret it, you will begin to move past it and no longer allow it to block your present performance opportunities. Jot a few notes in response to the following:

If you could go back and re-live this event, what would you do differently?
Is there anything positive that has come out of the negative memory?

dealing with stage fright - step 4

We’ve spent the preceding sections of this guide processing your past. Now it’s time to move into the present and start thinking about what you can do now, and in the near future, to overcome stage fright.

There is no magic formula, unfortunately; you must expose yourself – you must perform, perform, perform, and this is known as exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a fancy name for the common-sense approach known as “facing your fears,” a technique commonly used by psychiatric doctors to treat phobias of all kinds. However, there is an art to exposing yourself to your fears, and it should be done in careful, small, planned doses that gradually lead up to a major milestone.

Create an Exposure Ladder

Exposure ladders are a technique used widely by the medical psychiatric community to treat generalized anxiety, panic disorders, and phobias of all types.

An exposure ladder is a list of activities that lead you gradually to a big goal (such as performing on your city’s biggest stage, for example), with activities ranked from least to most anxiety-provoking. An individual will work up the steps of the ladder, moving on to the next step only after mastering exposure to the current step with little or no anxiety.

You’ll need to create your own customized exposure ladder, starting with #1, which is your first, tiny little step toward performing — something that you could handle right now, today, with little or no anxiety symptoms. Then you’ll move on to #2, and so on, gradually making steps more anxiety provoking as you go, until you’ve reached a final step which is your final performing goal. You can make your final step as big or small as you want, just be honest with your true performing goals.

One precaution: be careful not to create too big of a jump between steps on the exposure ladder. You can repeat a step as many times as needed, in order to master that level with little to no anxiety. Depending on how often you are working on the steps, it might take months or years until you feel you’ve mastered a step, and that’s just fine. Study the example below to help you brainstorm ideas for your own ladder.

Example Exposure Ladder

1. Imagine yourself performing.
2. Perform alone.
3. Record yourself performing a scene or song and watch it without critique.
4. Perform for a supportive partner or friend.
5. Perform a duet or ensemble in front of family or friends at an informal gathering.
6. Perform solo in front of family or friends at an informal gathering.
7. Perform a duet or ensemble at a venue that is higher caliber, like a talent show for your class at school, a neighborhood barbeque, or karaoke at a bar.
8. Perform solo within the same circumstances in #7.
9. Perform with a semi-professional ensemble, such as an audition-only community chorus or community theatre.
10. Arrange an opportunity to perform solo for your peers or an audience, within the group you’ve identified in #9.
11. Enter a competition.
12. Continue finding opportunities similar to #11 with gradually higher caliber venues (or even paying gigs!).

dealing with stage fright - step 5

Once you start working the steps on your exposure ladder, there are going to be successes, and also setbacks. It’s important to arm yourself with relaxation techniques so that when setbacks occur, you have a strategy in place to deal with them in a healthy way. Try these:


Find a quiet space, sit or lay in a position that is comfortable enough to sustain for 10 minutes minimum, close your eyes, and stop thinking. It’s as simple as that; meditation is simply a state of thoughtlessness. Your mind will wander, and when it does, just bring it back to a blank space. If you can commit to meditation as a daily practice for 10-20 minutes, over time you will be able to push aside thoughts that distract you during performances, including anxious thoughts.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Find a quiet space and lay down with your arms naturally at your sides and legs fully extended. Close your eyes. Prepare with three slow, deep breaths. As much as possible, focus all of your attention on the task at hand; don’t let your mind wander. Tense your forehead muscle, holding it as tight as you can for about five seconds. As you do this, inhale and hold the breath while the muscle is tense, and then exhale and breathe normally as you let the muscle relax. Enjoy the relaxed position for about five seconds.

Repeat the above process with the following muscle groups: your face/cheek muscles, neck muscles, shoulders (pull them up and tight), back muscles (pull your shoulder blades back and in), abs/stomach muscles, arms and hands (make a fist while you do this and tense it all the way down to the fingers), glutes, thighs, calves, and then finally feet.

dealing with stage fright - step 6

Acceptance is a final and critical step in learning how to overcome stage fright, as resistance will only make a problem grow stronger. It’s important that you stop criticizing or judging yourself for having fears or challenges on stage, as it is one of the most common types of anxiety, and you are definitely not alone!

Acceptance is not declaring that stage fright is “just a problem you have” and that you’ll have to deal with it for the rest of your life. Acceptance is realizing you have some uncomfortable symptoms that are occurring and allowing the process of change to unfold, even if the process is difficult. Acceptance is allowing setbacks to happen, refraining from self-criticism when they do, and celebrating the small successes along the way.


Public speaking and performances of all types continue to be the number one fear of most adults. By reading this article, you have embarked on a journey that very few are brave enough to take – congratulations are due just for starting!

Your reading has given you initial tools for understanding what stage fright is, how you experience it personally, how your past is affecting your present, and beginning to learn how to deal with stage fright.

Performing is one of life’s great joys and you too can enjoy sharing your unique gifts and stories in front of an audience, free of fear, paralysis, or uncomfortable feelings. Don’t give up, and remember that psychological change is a gradual process. Good luck, and happy performing!

Readers, what other ways have you learned how to overcome stage fright? Let us know in the comments!

How to Overcome Stage Fright Infographic

ErinRPost Author: Erin R.
Erin teaches acting, singing, speaking voice, and more in San Diego, CA. She holds a B.A. from University of Minnesota in Vocal Performance, a M.A. in Education from National University, and has been teaching since 2007. Learn more about Erin here!

Image credit: Kian McKellar

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Drum Tuning Video

Video: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Drum Tuning

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Drum Tuning Video

If you want your drums to sound their best, you have to tune them. Proper drum tuning and good drum heads can make even an inexpensive kit sound better. In this video, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. walks you through the basic techniques to tune your drums…

You’re here because you want to learn how to tune your drums to perfection, and that’s exactly what I’m going to show you. This article and video provide step-by-step instructions to help you tune your drums and achieve the quality sound you desire.

Before we get started, it’s important to understand that this process will take some time, especially if you’re new to tuning, or if you’re outfitting your kit with new drum heads. Remember to be patient. It might be confusing at first, but with a little practice, you’ll be able to tune your drums like a pro (and not make any drum tuning mistakes).

Drum Tuning Key

First thing’s first, you’ll need a tuning key to tune your drums. If there’s a Guitar Center near you, make sure to pick one up, or you can buy one online. Luckily, most drum keys are pretty inexpensive, so you may want to invest in more than one (in case you lose your first one). You can also use a drum tuning key to adjust memory locks and some bass pedals, so it’s a necessary tool.

Drum Tuning Tips

If you’re putting new heads on your drum, finger-tighten the tension rods before using your key. Some suggest “seating” the head (placing your hand in the center and putting weight on it). However, you can find some heads, like the Evan’s Level 360, that are pre-made to avoid this.

You may also tune the heads, play on them for a while, and dial (fine tune) them back in. They loosen in a manner similar to new guitar strings.


drum tuning


When using your drum key to tighten the tension rods, use a diametric pattern (as illustrated). This retains the evenness of tension across the head. Tighten each rod a quarter turn before dialing to a particular pitch. You should set your drum (including the bass) on a surface that will dampen the head opposite from the one you are currently tuning.

Snare Drum Tuning

You can tune your snare by tightening the lugs on the drum head. Use a diametric pattern (straight across) rather than tuning around the drum head, which can cause uneven tension. Once you’re ready to fine tune your snare, you can move around the drum lug by lug.

Start with the bottom side of the drum; drop your snares and take a stick and place it underneath the drum. Rest your snare on your lap to kill the sound from the bottom head to get a true tone.

To find the fundamental tone of your drum, hit it in the center (open). These snare drum exercises will sound great after proper tuning!

Tuning Toms

The size of your toms and the material can affect the sound. For example, maple toms have a warmer sound.

Tuning toms is similar to snare drum tuning, but some people recommend tuning the bottom head higher than the top in order to get a more controlled sound. For example, if you tune your top head to an A, tune your bottom head to a D.

Bass Drum Tuning

The bass drum is the heartbeat of your kit. Tune your bass drum as low as you can go, generally an octave below your floor tom. Press your hand in the middle of the drum head, then take your key and loosen the lugs. When you notice wrinkles, tighten the lugs back up. Coupled with a good bass drum technique, your bass is going to sound amazing.

Note: You may have to plug your tuner into an external speaker to pick up any note below C4.

Drum Tuning Intervals

You have several options for drum tuning intervals. You may choose to tune the toms in 4ths (from the bottom). These pitches will be the fundamental tone for the drum. For example, my kit is tuned as follows:

14″ tom= E2, 82 Hz
12″ tom=A2, 110 Hz
10″ tom=D3, 147 Hz
8″ tom= G3, 196 Hz
Snare= G3, 196 Hz (snare side) B – batter
Kick =E1, 41 Hz, an octave below my floor tom

You can also dial your kick just until the wrinkles disappear (rather than tuning to a specific pitch). You can also tune toms to 3rds, etc. This isn’t set in stone — once you understand the drum-tuning process, you’ll be able to tune your drums to your preference.

Batter to Resonant Head Ratios

The tuning of the batter (top) heads in relation to the resonant (bottom) heads will affect the resonance and decay. If both heads are tuned to the same frequency, the drum will have maximum resonance. If the resonant head is tuned higher than the batter, the sound will be more controlled.

Many drum experts recommend tuning the resonant head to a 4th above the batter. If the resonant head is tuned lower than the batter, the sound will have more attack (or a doppler/descending effect).

Drum Tuning Apps and Tools

The following apps and tools can help you tune your drums to a specific pitch or frequency.


drum tuning

photo from DrumDial

DrumDial Drum Tuner

DrumDial drum tuners let you measure the tension of your drum head so you can tune your drums with precision. If you want to buy a DrumDial or learn more about how the tuners work, check out the DrumDial website.

drum tuning

photo from tune-bot

tune-bot Drum Tuner

This device enables you to tune your drums to specific notes and then match the lug pitches accordingly. The tune-bot also allows you to save your drum tuning settings.

drum tuning

photo from iTunes


This is the app I use in the video. insTuner is a chromatic tuner, which means it recognizes the 12 chromatic steps on the scale and can be used to tune any instrument.

drum tuning

photo from iTunes


This drum tuning app analyzes your drum sound and measures the drum head vibration frequency. Want to see for yourself? You can download it from the iTunes app store for $4.99.

Fine Tuning or “Dialing In”

If you’re not using a specific tuning tool for measuring lug pitches or tension, you can use your ears/tone generator for the fine tuning. To eliminate overtones, place your index finger lightly in the center of the head. Tap your stick lightly about an inch or so from each lug to gauge the evenness of tone, and adjust accordingly.

You should turn your key in very small increments at this point in order to avoid over-tightening. In my experience, the floor tom has proven to be a bit finicky, so it may require a bit more patience on your part. It helps to know how often you should tune your drums.

Drum Tuning: Your Step-by-Step Guide

Grab your drum heads and follow this video to learn to tune each part of your drum kit!



Now you have a starting point to achieve a sweet-sounding kit! Remember to be patient with the process. With practice, you’ll become more proficient, and the process will be smoother and easier. Experiment until you find your sound, and most importantly, have fun!

If you have any questions about drum tuning, let us know in the comments below, or ask your drum teacher at your next lesson! 

TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums with various bands for more than 13 years. Tracy earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University and has played with the OKC Community Orchestra since 2009.  Learn more about Tracy here!


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Drummers Stick Together: Pursuing Your Passion With George Beck

learning drums

Every drummer has to start somewhere, and every experienced drummer remembers what it was like to be a beginner. In our Drummers Stick Together series, veteran drummers share their personal stories of learning drums, developing their craft, and following their dreams!

George Beck is a touring drummer and drum teacher. He played with his first band when he was 14, and he is now the drummer for Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Katie Barbato and Dirty Holiday. George, a.k.a Beckbeat, recently published his first book “Play As You Are: A Collection of Essays – Picking a Drummer’s Mind”.

We caught up with Becks to discuss music, drumming, and his new book.

You started playing with your first band at 14, what was it like to be part of a band at such a young age — not only developing your skills as a drummer, but learning to mesh with a band? How did this experience affect your future as a musician?

I consider myself lucky to have started playing in a band at a fairly young age. First and foremost, it was all about friendship and having fun. The great thing about being young is that there’s no tendency to overthink or overanalyze. We just played together and kind of figured it out along the way.

I remember that the focus was really on making music together and listening to each other. We would jam on parts and play around with them. This is how I first experienced what it means to lock in with a bass player, and to craft a simple groove as a rhythm section, not just playing along next to each other.

I’ve always enjoyed singing, and I ended up doing lead vocals on some of our songs. Again, it kind of happened organically — it was just a fun thing to do. Today, I’m grateful for that experience because I usually don’t struggle with singing background while drumming. I don’t know if I would feel as comfortable singing if it weren’t for my first band.

It taught me the importance of listening and the power of working and creating something together; the collective creative process.

You came from a musical family, how did this influence your personal musical journey? Were you able to share your passion and early experience with your family?

There was always music in the house. My grandparents would listen to Austrian folk music all day on the radio. My dad was an avid singer and a fixture in the church choir. We had an old, often out-of-tune piano in the living room, and my two older brothers and I were encouraged to take piano lessons.

My parents were supportive of my drumming. They were generally supportive of my drum lessons and music making with my friends, but never showed much interest in my musical endeavors per se. They were busy people at that time, and the music was way too “rock ‘n’ roll” for them, I guess.

I think the first time they realized that I was serious about playing music was when I sent my dad to pick up my high school diploma because I was busy sound checking for a gig.

What have you learned from touring and playing with other musicians? How has this helped you become a better drummer and band member?

Working with artists from different genres expands your musical horizons, you learn so much, if you’re willing and open to learning.

I once worked live with musicians from Turkey (the band Coup De Bam). We mixed Turkish folklore themes with down tempo electro beats. It was very interesting and challenging to take a piece in 5/4 or 9/8 and make it “dancey” (in the modern sense of the word), and figure out parts that would pay tribute to the folklore tradition as well as to the modern-beat style.

Trying to adjust to a new musical situation and listening to the artists’ needs can be challenging, but this is how I grow. I bring all I’ve got to the table and learn to work with what I have.

A lot of the people I’ve been lucky to work for inspired me, not only with their music, but even more so with their attitude. For example, I once worked with a singer who would always give his best and perform every gig as if he were playing Yankee Stadium, even if there were only five people in the audience. I remember thinking: “this is how you do it”.

How have your own experiences as a drummer influenced or changed the way you teach your students?

When I started to teach many years ago, I thought every student had to follow the same path–MY path/MY framework of learning. Needless to say, I had many frustrated students, and I ended up frustrated, too!

I totally abandoned that approach, and now, I focus on the students’ needs and goals. It’s not about what I can do, it’s about what I can give.

As a drummer in a band, you work for the band. As a teacher, you work for the student.  It’s about the drum students, not me. Everybody’s different. All my students have different personalities, preferences, learning abilities, skill sets, and goals for playing the drums. Therefore, as a teacher, it’s my responsibility to put the student first and adjust my teaching style to him/her.

You just finished writing your first  book “Play as You Are”, was this something you’ve always aspired to do, or did the opportunity just present itself?

I never seriously thought about writing a book. I enjoy teaching a lot, and some of the stuff in the book was inspired by my reflections on certain lessons, or remembering my own struggle in becoming a drummer.

I just started writing short essays, most of them on my phone when I had time to kill, and later, decided to compile them into a book; that’s really it.

I love how you say that making music doesn’t start with your drum sticks, but with your desire or compulsion to make music. Can you talk about how it’s not just about what you play or what you practice, but about really going after your passion?

In the book, I talk about how you can do whatever you want, but you can’t choose your wants. I never decided to play the drums. Sure, I can make up all kinds of stories and theories about why I ended up playing drums and not the violin, but the truth is, I don’t know.

There’s an unexplainable desire to play the drums, and starting out, I sensed an urge to follow that lead! It’s very tempting to take the “I’m a drummer concept” and turn it into a competitive mind game, a competition with other drummers, other musicians, and with yourself.

For me, the passion to play is my true desire. It often gets buried or covered up in aforementioned concepts. I’m all about putting the passion to play first. Music (and drumming) is an art form and it’s about expressing yourself. In my opinion, you have to start there, or more accurately, go back there.

You say your book is an invitation to explore a different approach to playing music. How is it different and why is it successful?

The approach is different because it directs the attention back to yourself. It’s not a book of answers, it’s a book of questions. I’m convinced that in order to become the best player you can be, you have to ask those questions of yourself. And only you can answer them.

This approach can shine a light on your assumptions and beliefs, when it comes to playing the drums or being a creative person in general.

Here’s a quote from the book I’d like to share with you:

“…before I sit down to practice, I ask myself two simple questions: ‘What am I going to practice?’ and ‘Why am I going to practice it?’ It doesn’t matter if you are a professional drummer, a weekend warrior, or are happy drumming along to your favorite songs in the basement. The clearer your answers to these two questions, the easier and more enjoyable your practice sessions will become…”

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Special thanks to Becks for taking time to chat with us, and sharing his insight and wisdom. Check out his website to learn more about his book and listen to his music!



Follow your dreams and start learning drums today. Search here for a drum instructor near you! 


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