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Drummers Stick Together: Have Fun While You Play – With Henri Benard

learning drums

Every drummer starts out as a beginner. The ones you read about and see on stage stick with drumming and practice relentlessly to improve.  In our Drummers Stick Together series, veteran drummers share their personal stories of learning drums, developing their craft, and following their dreams!

Henri B. is a TakeLessons drum instructor in Phoenix, AZ and plays drums in the indie band, Dry River Yacht Club. Here, Henri shares his personal drumming journey as a student, teacher, and performer…

You describe yourself as a self-taught drummer, can you explain your process to teach yourself drums?

It all kind of started for me the summer of 2002, when I was living in a house with a drum kit. I had been playing percussion with some friends in various bands, and I wanted to be a kit player. So I worked every day for six hours in a hot, sweaty garage that summer, giving myself a crash course on the instrument. I learned by ear and by watching videos. I taught myself to read drum notation, and I really fell in love with the drum kit. Eventually in 2004, I bought my first Ludwig set from Milano’s Music in Mesa, Arizona. I started playing kit in bands, and never looked back.

Almost 14 years later, I’m a professional, touring drummer and drum instructor, with a sound understanding of music theory. And I still work all the time to make sure I’m getting better, as a player and an educator. I do not, however, want to undermine the power of private lessons with an instructor you can connect with. I have had a few lessons in my life, and those have proven to be critical in helping me really learn proper technique, as there was just some stuff videos couldn’t teach me properly. Any time I get stuck in my “self-taught” world, lessons still help me bust through to the next level. And the journey continues…

What were some of the challenges you faced teaching yourself?

I played clarinet growing up, so I was always playing music, but I wasn’t playing drums, formally. I just always loved drums the most. My mom always reminds me I was a “pots and pans” baby, so it has been a passion all my life. However, because of that, I struggled early in my career. I didn’t have the years experience playing as some of my peers, and it would show in my technique.

It was honestly quite embarrassing when people thought I was better than I actually was. I was stuck in my own world, and I needed new ideas and techniques to work on. That’s when I decided to seek out lessons to improve my playing in specific areas where I wasn’t performing or improving. And this is what truly took me to the next level.

You talk about your “let’s have fun while we play attitude,” why is this important for both beginner and intermediate drummers? How can drummers balance having fun with working hard and constantly improving?

I truly believe if you’re not having fun, why play? Music is meant to be fun and challenging for the soul, mind, and body. In my opinion, it’s meant to take you away from your constant state, and move you into a different realm. It’s one of the deepest connections I have with myself and life in general. So I really think it’s important to have fun with the playing, not “goofing around.” It is exciting when you’re first learning, or even as a veteran player, to be able to play a beat that was tough, or play a song you love and make those breakthroughs. If you like to play, the music and learning will be fun.

The lessons will be fun because the people in the lesson want to be there to share an experience together. And if you work hard and keep a solid routine, all the tricks that seemed tough at first will become more focused and deliberate techniques that you will have in your toolbox as a player. And that is where is the fun begins, through improvement and self-confidence from hard work. But YOU have to want it 🙂

You have a lot of experience touring with different groups, how has this changed you as a drummer, did you have to learn to play different genres and styles, or adapt to different types of personalities, bandmates, etc.?

I have been touring with several groups across North America and Europe, and every tour is different, but oddly the same. The people change, the music changes, but the van, the jokes, and the road do not. Every drive, especially if you sit in the same seat of the van, almost starts to look the same. The side views change depending on the region, but the roads and the heads in front of you always look the same, no matter what band you’re traveling with. (I don’t know about Tour Busses…YET!) Balancing personalities can be a challenge unless you’re smart, and understand how to really read your tour mates energy. Being able to read people is a HUGE part of being successful in the music industry, especially as a touring drummer. You have to know when to be there, when to shine, when to pull back, and truly know how to be a team player while you’re working with any band.

I have a love for touring and the experiences that come along with being on the road. I have had some amazing experiences and some struggles. On the whole, I would definitely say touring has changed me not only as a drummer, but as a human being. It’s like in the studio, there’s just a mode drummers are expected to be in at a professional level. And that means delivering every note, every night, right on the money! I’m thankful for these experiences, they have shown me new grooves I wasn’t playing, and taught me how be comfortable with myself. For example, I couldn’t play a shuffle to save my life eight years ago. I went touring for a year with a band where I HAD to play the shuffle, and you better believe the first couple of shows didn’t go so well.

I forced myself to learn how to play it with confidence on every note and pushed through to become a more refined musician. I kept the gig for the duration of the record because I was able to adapt and wanted to be better. Overall, I wouldn’t trade the way the last 10 years of my life have been for anything, especially since I’m not bred from a family of musicians. I am proud to say I am self-made.

How has your experience as a musician affected your approach as a teacher? Do you think you have a different perspective since you were self-taught?

My experience as a musician has affected how I teach, but it’s even deeper than that, as I had a teacher who almost killed my vibe. She was always so mean and never seemed like she wanted to be there with us (the students). It made me want to quit playing, but my mom didn’t let me. And I’m so thankful she didn’t…I don’t think I would be where I am if my mom didn’t push me to keep playing and encourage me.

Because of this, I have decided to always be a fun and patient teacher who doesn’t ever want to kill someone’s vibe. This is also the reason I stress the “fun” aspect of our lessons. Pushy, rude teachers have no business teaching, in my opinion, at least not beginners. And I don’t think I have a super different perspective, being self-taught. I still demand the most out of my students, and I make sure they’re becoming well-rounded musicians and have very structured lesson plans; I just make sure we make it fun in the process. We all start somewhere.

What is your favorite thing about being a drummer? (if you can name just one)

My favorite thing about being a drummer is watching people dance to the music I play. Period. Even during sound check, just watching the heads nod and the feet tap when the bass drum comes through, it’s just amazing. Drums control so much of the vibe, and so much of a player’s personality goes into the instrument. You’re an energy creator at the drums; you’re pushing air into the room and creating an environment that goes deep into the soul.

Plus, you get the best view in the house. You get to see everyone and everything at all times. You can just unleash the beast and let it flow, and there’s no other instrument I have ever played that brings out the animal in me like the drums.

Do you still get nervous or excited for big shows, how do you keep yourself focused and grounded?

I do get nervous before big shows and I’m always excited to play. Big shows are the best, especially as a drummer, in my opinion. I stay focused by breathing and just having fun. It’s not that I don’t take my shows seriously, but music is meant to be a release. It’s a fun job, but I always remember it’s my job and I’m there to perform and deliver what people are expecting of me, and I am expecting of myself.

At the end of the day, the energy you put out is the energy you get back from an audience. Not every big crowd is always there for you, especially for newer bands, so you have to remember to play your best every time you step out on the stage, put out your vibe, and make the room yours. Whether it be in the practice room, for a crowd of 5 or 5,000, at a festival, or in a small club, I always just trust my abilities and play with the same level of intensity. Even though live the energy is

At the end of the day, the energy you put out is the energy you get back from an audience. Not every big crowd is always there for you, especially for newer bands, so you have to remember to play your best every time you step out on the stage. Put out your vibe and make the room yours. Whether it be in the practice room, for a crowd of five or 5,000, at a festival, or in a small club, I always just trust my abilities and play with the

Even though when you play live, the energy is insurmountably greater, I still find that space in my head in the practice room, even at the big shows. And anytime I get nervous, all I have to do is go right back there and trust that I am supposed to be here; I planned on this!

What advice do you have for a drummer who is discouraged or struggling?

Stick with it and work through your struggles. When I was 25, I joined a “big band” out of Joshua Tree, California called Gram Rabbit. At the time, I was super appreciative of the opportunity to play bigger shows with bigger bands at better venues, especially being just a little guy from Phoenix. My problem was, I was forced to play with a click live, and I had never done that before. With some encouragement, I was able to play to a click live, but I never felt comfortable with it during my time in that band.

Eventually, I got cut from the band because of my timing issues in the studio, and it really hurt my confidence. I almost gave up drums and questioned if I could even keep time. But I didn’t quit. I got back on my throne and hit the garage hard, like I did when I first started playing, making sure I was dialed into that click at any tempo.

Years later, I joined a band called Peachcake. This was a band that used tracks, so I was playing to a click there, but it never bothered me in my years in Peachcake. I loved it and it gave me more confidence. We even got to play a headlining slot at Slottsfjell Music Festival in Norway in 2012.

Instead of quitting, I worked on my weaknesses to improve my all-around playing, and that lead to many more amazing opportunities. It would have been so easy to quit, but I was never about that life. I just always remember there is someone better than me, and that keeps me motivated and focused to be the best drummer I can be.

 

 Looking for more inspiration? Check out the personal stories in our Drummers Stick Together series!

 

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Henri B. teaches drums, guitar, and songwriting in Phoenix, AZ. Henri has years of experience touring with Arizona-based groups like Dry River Yacht Club, Decker, and the Sun Punchers. Learn more about Henri 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!

 

 

 Looking for more inspiration? Check out the personal stories in our Drummers Stick Together series!

 

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

 

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Drummers Stick Together: Lindsay Bird Shares her Drumming Journey

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Hey drummers, looking for some motivation? In our Drummers Stick Together series, veteran drummers share their personal stories to inspire you to stick with it and pursue your passion….

Lindsay Bird  is the drummer for the Canadian rock ‘n’ roll band Dirty Jeans. She has been playing drums for over 14 years. Here, Lindsay shares her story to encourage beginner and intermediate drummers to keep on rocking!

What inspired you to start playing drums?

I have been playing drums for about 14 years. I started out playing trombone in my middle school jazz band. I was seated very close to the drummer, and I was always watching and listening to the drums, I was just drawn to it I guess.

I really wanted to play drums in the jazz band but, I had to wait until the drummer graduated. As soon as he did, I jumped right in there and I haven’t stopped since.

As a beginner, what kept you motivated to continue to practice and work hard?

Honestly, what kept me motivated was proving people wrong. Early on, I heard a lot of comments like “well, you’re pretty good I guess, for a girl.” I even got comments from teachers when I said I wanted to play drums. I remember one teacher saying “well, the boys get first pick on drums, so don’t be surprised if you can’t play this year.”

I wanted to show everyone that I could do it, and be just as good as the boys, if not better. I feel like that made me push harder and want it more, I had something to prove.

So girls… if someone tells you that you can’t play drums like the boys, just don’t listen to them, its as simple as that! There’s absolutely no difference if you’re male or female, it’s just less common for people to see a female drummer, but we can change that!

Just be confident in your ability, there’s no competition between sexes. Be the best drummer YOU can be, and as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing, that’s all that matters.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew as a beginner?

I wish I knew how to make the most of my practice time. I would spend most of my time doing the things I was already good at because it sounded good and made me feel good.

Instead, I should have been working on my weaknesses and only spending a bit of time on my strengths.

What do you love most about playing drums?

Playing drums is just an amazing outlet for me! It truly makes me happy, all aspects of it. Spending time at home alone practicing is very calming and it makes me focus, which is important in life; to be able to just shut everything out for a while during your day and just drum.

Of course, full band rehearsals are amazing and so much fun. It’s a great feeling when you really click with the people you’re playing with, it really gets the creative juices flowing.

Playing live is like no other feeling. Just feeding off the crowd and the rest of your band; its hard to describe, I absolutely love it!

Which famous drummer would you want to play with, and why?

If I could jam with one famous drummer, I would choose Travis Barker. I’ve bee drawn to his drumming for a long time now, I love his style and his creativity.

Not only is he an amazing drummer, but he’s truly an entertainer. The way he performs is just amazing to watch. Also, the way he writes drum parts is crazy to me, and I think I could learn a ton from him.

Plus, of course, he seems like a really cool guy.

When it comes to drumming, what does success look like to you?

My ultimate goal is for drumming to be my full time job, and to possibly teach or have some part time music-related job. Rather than working full time and drumming part time, ideally, I’d like the opposite.

Success to me is to be able to play for a living, to be financially stable doing what I truly love to do.

What advice do you have for anyone who is just getting started?

It’s important to push through and be patient in the beginning stages, because in the end, it’s really worth it.

You become a much more versatile player in the long run, and that makes it that much easier  to get gigs, whether it’s studio gigs, or with your band.

The tighter you become, the harder you work, and the more dedicated you are to your craft, the farther it will take you in the future!

 Looking for more inspiration? Check out the personal stories in our Drummers Stick Together series!


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Want to see Lindsay in action? Check her out with her band Dirty Jeans on their YouTube channel.

 

 


Ready to turn your drumming dreams into reality? Sign up for lessons with a private drum instructor today! 

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Gear Guide for Drummers: All About Drum Thrones

All About Drum Thrones

Now that we’ve looked at drum sticks and drum sets, let’s shift our focus to drum thrones. Whether you’ve been playing for a while, or you just started drum lessons, a high-quality drum throne is important to maximize your comfort. Here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. weighs in on the most popular drum throne brands…

As a drummer, you will sit at your instrument for hours at a time. If you have a drum set that came with a drum throne, chances are you will want to upgrade to something a bit more comfortable. In this gear guide for drummers, we’ll explore the top brands on the market and break down their models and features.

Roc-n-Soc

drum thrones

Roc-n-Soc has carved out a nice niche in the drum throne department, as they have been making cool seats since the ’80s.

Details

• The cloth seat covers come in a variety of colors and help to reduce your sweat. You can also purchase vinyl seat covers for a few extra dollars.
• The seats come in different shapes (original, hugger, square, and round) and they’ll retrofit to most of today’s stands.
• Gas shocks (in all but the manual spindle base) add comfort and allow extra bounce.
• Matching backrests (for an additional cost) add comfort and stability.
• Roc-n-Soc offers additional accessories and replacement parts.

Models

The Motion Throne ($195.75) has a spring box in the base that allows for forward movement.
The Nitro ($166.75) has a folding tripod base for easy portability.
The Lunar ($159.50) has a five-leg base for extra stability.

Pork Pie Percussion

drum thrones

Pork Pie drum thrones are known for comfort and they have some pretty snazzy designs.

Details

• Choose from cloth or vinyl tops in a variety of colors.
• Backrests are available for an additional cost.
• All thrones have a sturdy, double-braced tripod base.

Models

The “Deuce” ($349.99) has a thick, round, vinyl seat. The design is a nod to hot rods and there are 21 options so you can mix and match.
The “Big Boy” ($189.99) has a bike-style seat and can support heavier drummers.
The “Round” ($159.99) has an exceptionally thick seat for comfort.

Gibraltar

drum thrones

Gibraltar is known for great hardware, and their drum thrones are no exception.

Details

• More throne options than any other drum company.
• Hydraulic and manual models.
• Moto-style, oversized, and round seats available.
• Attractive designs.
• Some models have “super” feet for extra stability.
• They offer accessories and backrests (as well as some that are made specifically for them by Roc-n-Soc).

Split-Style Drum Thrones

drum thrones

Split-style (ergokinetic) drum thrones allow maximum freedom of movement, which can alleviate fatigue and tailbone and pelvic discomfort.

Models

Carmichael ($269)
Motion-Pro ($299.99)
Ahead (shown – $179.95)

Conclusion

With all the options at your fingertips, you can find a throne that’s both comfortable and suits your aesthetic sense. Feel free to customize and accessorize. Your bum (and back) will thank you.

Note: I have used a Gibraltar Moto throne and I own a Roc-n-Soc Nitro (with backrest) and I can personally vouch for their comfort and quality.

Remember, although reviews are helpful, the best way to pick a drum throne is to try out different models and see what works for you. For more insights and gear reviews, check out our ultimate gear guide for drummers.

 

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 Chris Borden

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Drum Practice: 3 Ways to Improve Your Time Keeping

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When you’re taking drum lessons it’s important to develop your time-keeping skills in addition to your technique. Here, Saint Paul, MN drum instructor John S. shares his practice techniques to help you improve your time keeping…

Time keeping is an essential element of modern music, for both live and recorded songs. It’s very important to develop a strong sense of time. The drummer is often looked to, more than any other musician, to provide a solid, consistent pulse in a musical performance.

For the beginners, let’s talk about what time keeping really means. Time keeping refers to a drummer’s ability to play in time with the pulse of the music. In contrast, timing (which is often confused with time keeping) refers to the drummer’s coordination of his own limbs, as well as his playing relative to the rest of the band.

It’s possible to be good at one and struggle at the other. For example, a drummer may be able to play extremely complex rhythms using all four limbs (good timing), yet he may be unable to play those rhythms at a consistent tempo over a period of time (poor time keeping). Timing and time keeping are both critical skills to develop as a drummer.

Here are three ways to improve your time keeping.

1) Practice With a Metronome / Click Track

In this day and age, all drummers are expected to be able to play along to a steady click track. The vast majority of studio recording is done to a click track, and more and more musical groups are using click tracks in the realm of live performance.

Even if you don’t find yourself required to play along to a click track, practicing with a click/metronome will drastically improve your time keeping which, in turn, will attract fellow musicians to your steady sense of pulse, and, down the road, will help you get more gigs.

All musicians should have a metronome, and luckily, metronomes are extremely easy to find. Almost all electronic drum sets come with a built-in metronome, and if you have an acoustic drum set, there are countless metronome apps and websites.

Acquiring a metronome is the easy part, but using the metronome effectively is a bit more challenging. There are many different ways to use a metronome, but here are a few healthy practice habits to keep in mind when practicing with a click:

Practice at Different Tempos

I encourage my students to alternate between faster and slower tempos. For example, repeat an exercise 15 to 20 times at a tempo of 70 BPM (beats per minute). Then, increase the tempo by 5 to 75 BPM and repeat the exercise another 15 to 20 times.

Next, lower the tempo to 65 BPM and repeat the exercise another 15 to 20 times. Then switch to 80 BPM and repeat the exercise, adding and subtracting 5 BPM from each tempo as you work on an exercise.

Whether you use this technique or make up your own, I always recommend alternating between faster and slower tempos because simply increasing the metronome by a few BPMs with each exercise may subconsciously train the drummer to speed up when playing without the click.

TIP: Remember to start with a slow, comfortable tempo before trying faster and slower variations.

Alternate Playing and Stopping

This tip is especially important when learning a new, challenging concept that’s too difficult to play in time for 10+ measures in a row. Play a rhythm for one measure and then rest for one measure, letting the click continue while you take that measure to analyze your performance.

Inserting a measure or more of rest quickly reveals if you’re rushing or dragging. This technique forces you to lock into a steady tempo. I find it often takes a few measures to get into a solid groove with the click, but this practice technique will strengthen your ability to feel the pulse from your very first note.

Practice Fills

Drummers are notorious for speeding up or slowing down while performing drum fills. It’s common to rush fills at slower tempos and speed up during faster tempos. Challenging fills are also very difficult to keep in time.

When you practice fills with a metronome, make sure you’re playing them in the context of a groove, just like you would if you were playing with a live band. I always encourage my students to practice in groups of four measures (alternating three bars time with one bar fill, or two bars of time with two bars of fill).

2. Play Along to Recordings

Most of my students find it easier and more exciting to play along to a recording because it’s much more interactive when there are other instruments involved. Playing along with the rhythms of other musicians presents a whole different set of challenges than playing to a metronome, yet both techniques strengthen your time keeping.

Playing along to a recording allows you to lock into the groove of another drummer, or it can free you up to play in response to the music, whereas playing to a simple click is much more challenging from a creative standpoint.

Practice playing along with recordings that simply have the drums removed. There are a number of websites, CDs, and YouTube videos that allow you to play along to songs from any genre or tempo. Here are a few free options that I use with my students:

TIP: Don’t rely solely on practicing along with recordings. It’s easy to use the recordings as a crutch, but that often makes playing alone or with a live band much more challenging. Make sure you’re comfortable both playing to a simple click, and playing with no metronome at all!

3. Record Yourself

Playing along to a click track is great, but sometimes it’s hard to determine which areas need improvement unless you listen to your own performance. There are countless ways to record yourself, but I recommend choosing a method that allows you to monitor both the click track and your own playing, so you can accurately analyze your playing relative to a steady tempo. Most of my students use GarageBand or other free recording applications that allow you to record yourself and then play the click track with the recordings.

There are several different ways to work on your time keeping, and you’ll discover which method works best for you. Remember to practice a variety of techniques with varying tempos and rhythms to develop the most well-rounded sense of time.

Need help with your time keeping? Search for a private drum instructor near you! 

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 by Jamie Bernstein

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Drummers Stick Together: Drum Tips and Advice for Beginners

 

drummers

When you’re learning drums, sometimes you need some motivation to keep practicing and stick with it. In our Drummers Stick Together series, veteran drummers share their stories and offer their advice and wisdom for beginners…

Dallas Ybarra is the drummer for the Los Angeles-based band The Public Trust (@MichaelTRossi). He has been drumming for over 20 years. Here, Dallas shares how he got started drumming and what keeps him motivated to continue to develop his craft.

How long have you been playing drums? What made you get started?

I actually started on guitar at age eight, then started learning drums when I was nine. My little brother started on drums first, and after watching how much fun he was having and learning a bit about the beats, I tried it out for a bit and decided to switch.

Twenty years later, here I am!

As a beginner, how often did you practice? What was challenging for you when you first started?

Hmm practice… in the early stages I mostly found myself in musical environments. Most of my time was spent playing the basic beats with the school jazz and concert bands, or in the garage with my buddy on guitar.

When I was by myself, I would be in my parents garage, always learning new and more complex beats.

The most challenging thing was playing with other new, beginner musicians, and trying to stay in time!

What do you love most about playing drums?

It’s an evolving relationship with the drums. First it was just banging on stuff, then it was jamming with my friends making music.

After years of playing, I would have to say the underlying layers of rhythm are the part I love most.

Whether it’s within my own drum grooves, or the different layers of rhythm between the instruments and vocals, it always makes me smile when we all find our voice in the groove.

Which musicians inspire you, and why?

I’ve found a ton of inspiration from my band mates; we always try to push each other to the next level. My little brother Dustin was my original inspiration to start drumming. My little sister Darian is killing it on the piano as I write, and I remember when she just started learning. 10 years later, she runs up and down the piano like a mad scientist. She is currently working on “Sonata Pathetique” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Another source of inspiration came from a book written by one of my favorite bass players, Victor Wooten. It’s called “The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music.”

The list is always growing when it comes to inspiration. I’ve found inspiration can come from any aspect of music and life. Some from showmanship guys like Frank Zappa and Steve Vai and their variety of band mates. Other inspirations come from high-energy bands like Pantera, Meshuggah, or IWrestledABearOnce.

I started out learning how to play Nirvana, Green Day, and Metallica songs then moved on to more complex music. Then there are some amazing players that posses a sweet finesse on their instruments, guys like Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd, Bela Fleck, Jason Becker, and Jaco Pastorius.

As a member of a band, the drummer is looked to as the time keeper. How do you learn to take on this role?

Time keeping is definitely important. Over the years I’ve found it to be a split job between the bassist and drummer. There’s a time and place for “the shred” as opposed to keeping time, but it all should be within balance and the mood of the song.

An example would be a slow ballad. At the climax of the song, you wouldn’t play a bunch of fast notes across your 10-piece kit (but if the composer wants it then of course), but rather you would play more of a dynamic increase and more swelling of the cymbals, and that could be considered your “shred” for that particular song.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to learn to play drums?

Just remember that the end result is music. Playing songs and studying things like technique, rudiments, and theory is important, but these things are learned over time. Just think of those as adding a fresh take on your vocabulary; it will help you articulate your desired voice.

What about advice for drummers who want to join a band?

Know your passion, play what you love as it will keep you inspired. Try to be a musically diverse drummer, jam with as many people as possible and in as many genres as possible. It will help you to develop your voice in the long run.

If you’re looking to start a band, definitely start with friends. You already have the most fun with them anyway, might as well keep it fun!


drummers

I hope my story can help not only drummers, but all musicians keep up the search for inspiration, fresh  talent, and to have open ears to experiment and constantly evolve their musicianship!

Want to hear Dallas and his band mates in action? Listen to The Public Trust online.

 


 

 Looking for more inspiration? Check out the personal stories in our Drummers Stick Together series!

Ready to turn your drumming dreams into reality? Sign up for lessons with a private drum instructor today! 

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The Drumming Community Honors Vic Firth

honor vic firth

The drumming community took to Twitter after news broke that Vic Firth, timpanist and drum stick maker passed away in his Boston home Sunday at the age of 85.

Everett “Vic” Firth was a timpanist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 46 years prior to starting the Vic Firth percussion equipment company.

Known for his talent and his well-designed drum sticks and percussion equipment, Firth was a beloved, respected member of the drumming world.

vic firth

“For me, it has been an artist in music and in their own inventions as Vic Firth accompanied them on their lost family.”

– drummer, percussionist, and music teacher @samuelmauricioa

 

vic firth

“Vic Firth drumsticks and accessories are my best drumming tools. To this and from this… R.I.P.”

– drummer @ll_bluewind_ll

vic firth

“I was sad to hear the news. I have been testing new carbon fiber drum sticks for him. True man with class.”

– Drummer, producer, and composer @URIT2

vic firth

“It came to me as a shock, but what can we do. His boundless passion for music and musicians. RIP #vicfirth

– drummer @nanacwasis 

vic firth 4

“When I first started drumming, I used Vic Firth. I learned how to play using Vic Firth. The man is a legend and his company will live on. People will remember him, and be grateful when they look in their hands and see his name on their sticks.”

– drummer @lindsaybird44

vic firth

From what I hear, he was an amazing person. Also, he gave us THE drum stick. His influence on the drumming community is unmatched.”

– drummer @beckbeat

vic firth

“I’m a huge fan of Vic Firth because he was a timpanist. Very sad day for drummers, but his sticks will live on!”

– drummer @jynyates

 

vic firth last

“Vic Firth lived a long, prolific, and impactful life. Let’s celebrate him.”

– record producer/recording engineer @stsn

These are just a few of many thoughts, comments, and memories shared by drummers and music enthusiasts.

Share your thoughts and condolences in the comments below.

The drum community lost an important, beloved member.

R.I.P. Mr. Firth.

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Drummer’s Gear Guide: A Crash Course on Cymbals

cymbals

As you’re learning drums you will acquire new gear like drum sticks, drum sets, and cymbals. It’s important to understand how drum equipment can influence your sound, and it’s helpful to have the appropriate information to make smart buying decisions. Here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. gives you a crash course on cymbals…

Your cymbals make up a complex, beautiful mix of voices. As you develop, your ears will crave more nuance and depth from your instrument(s).

When it comes to cymbals, there are important things for you to consider like tonal color, size, finish, and application.

I will explain these factors and introduce you to brands  to help you find the right cymbals to suit your needs.

Anatomy

  • The raised center of the cymbal is the bell, and the bow is the area between the bell and the edge; you will use all of these surfaces when you play.
  • Higher quality cymbals are made of bell bronze (an alloy of copper, tin, and silver) usually called B20.
  • Entry-level cymbals are typically made of a B8 (92 percent copper, eight percent tin) alloy.

Sound

  • Lathing produces the concentric circles on its body, and the width – or lack of, affects the sound.
  • Hammering also affects sound by adding depth, dryness, and complexity.
  • The finish (brilliant, natural, or raw/unlathed) will also affect the sound (brighter to darker) and tend to accentuate the following qualities: glassy or shimmering (brilliant), steamy or simmering (natural), or complex and dark (raw).
  • The size and weight of the cymbals will affect the sound in terms of decay (the duration of time before the sound terminates) and volume.
  • Smaller, thinner, and usually with a flatter bow = quick or fast-decaying. Larger, heavier, and usually with a pronounced bow = “washy” or long-decaying, and will produce higher volume. A cymbal that is very dry and quick may be described as “trashy”.

All of these variables influence the overall effect, and several different options make it possible to create a customized palette.

Cymbal Types and Applications

There are several different types of cymbals that make up an expressive set, and each has a different, sometimes overlapping use:

  • Hi hats: Usually 13- 14 inches, have bark and bite. Hi hats keep the clock ticking; they have attitude and are tremendously expressive.
  • Crashes: Anywhere from 14- 22 inches, they add drama, mark transitions, and act as the loud speakers. You will most likely want several of these.
    • Splashes: Usually six – 12 inches, these are great for quieter passages or quick punches.
    • Rides: Generally 20 to 22 inches, rides range from articulate to washy. They carry bridges and choruses. They are prominent voices in jazz, and the bell is used quite often.
    • Effects: These come in all sizes and they can be Chinas, stacks, perforated, cup chimes, etc. They are your color instruments.

Now, let’s look at a few well-known brands. Remember, a cymbal series is like a family that plays well together.

Sabian

sabian b8 pro

Sabian B8 Pro – photo from Sabian

Sabian offers the B8 and B8 Pro series, among others. These are bright, entry-level cymbals.

Higher-quality cymbals in the brighter range include the AAX, AA, and Paragon series.

The darker series are the HH and HHX.

Zildjian

zildjian zbt

Zildjian ZBT – photo from Zildjian

Zildjian’s entry-level lines include the ZBT and ZHT (bright).

Higher-quality brights include the A Custom, or the K Custom in the dark range.

Meinl

meinl brilliant

Meinl Byzance Brillaint – photo from Meinl

Meinl offers the MCS at the entry level (bright) and on the upper tier, the  bright Byzance Brilliant.

The Byzance Dark speaks for itself.

Paiste

Paiste

photo from Paiste

Paiste offers the PST (bright) and others, at the entry level, and the more refined Signature Precision on the brighter side.

The complex Signature Dark Energy rounds out the range.
While you can get a picture of a cymbal’s sound from online sources, nothing beats first-hand trials when making your selection. Consider how the cymbals will interact with your drum set, and know that the room will affect the sound, as well.

You may choose to stay within a specific series or mix it up a bit for a more customized sound. Either way, enjoy the process and have fun!

What type of cymbals have you tried? What did you like about them? Let us know in the comments below!

Get started with your drum lessons today, find a drum teacher near you! 

Photo by j_arlecchino

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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The 5 Hardest Drum Songs: Are You Up to the Challenge?

The Five Hardest Drum Songs- are you up for the challenge-

Everyone learns drums at a different pace, and it’s important to determine the right pace for you. Sometimes, however, you want to challenge yourself and see what you can do. Take a break from your normal practice routine and try your hand at these challenging drum songs, chosen by San Diego, CA drum instructor Maegan W

Calling all drummers! If you’re ready for a challenge, here are some of the hardest drum songs (in my humble opinion) for you to tackle on your drum kit.

These songs are the most challenging because they include several, if not all, of the following criteria:

  • Precise dynamic control and execution: Every level of every note is intended and complimentary to the music.
  • Technicality: Most, if not all, of these songs contain very unique and challenging grooves and fills. They may seem simple at first, but they are much more difficult than they appear.
  • Speed: Many of these songs have grooves and fills played at high speeds for the amount of notes being played. They include complex beats played at top speeds.
  • Polyrhythms: Hard drum songs usually contain poly rhythms, or the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms.
  • Odd meter: Many of these songs are in odd time or odd meter. Common time is 4/4 and anything else is considered odd. Challenging drum songs will often incorporate several different time signatures in one song.

If you’re still up to the challenge, let’s get to the list!

Drum roll please…..

1. “La Villa Strangiato” – Rush


This song contains almost all of the criteria on our list, along with other aspects that make it extremely challenging.

Not only are there a ton of different parts to learn, but the technicality, speed, and precision put it on another level.

2. “Moby Dick” – Led Zeppelin


This song features some crazy footwork by John Bonham and great bass dynamics. There is a world of difference between playing these hand-foot combinations, and playing them with dynamics.

If you want to nail this song, you need to play with complete control and finesse.

3. “Ticks and Leeches” – Tool


This song can be described in one word: insane! But seriously, the polyrhythms are hard enough to figure out, let alone play all at once.

Watch the video, and pay close attention to Danny Carey’s precision.

This song is also physically demanding and requires a good deal of endurance.

4. “Goliath” – The Mars Volta

(or anything from The Mars Volta, really)


Start with a nasty groove in multiple time signatures, then add a blazing fast double bass beat, crazy fills, and blast beats (and that’s all before the breakdown).

Try this song, if you dare!

5. “Sedation Deprivation” – Nerve (Jojo Mayer)

Let’s compare this one to our list of criteria for the hardest drum songs:

Odd meter? Check!
Blazing speed? Check!
Insane Poly rhythms? Double check!
Complete dynamic control? Check!
Funky breakbeats? Check!

The list goes on…

This one may take a while, but will be well worth it once you’ve got it down; it has a hypnotizing groove and a smooth feel.

Of course, there are millions of songs that could be included in a list of the hardest drum songs, but these are my top five. My list may vary from other peoples’, but I wanted to include different types of music.

I hope you have fun with these songs, go ahead and have try to play some, or all of them. If you’re not quite ready to tackle the hardest drum songs, we’ve got some more options for you in our ultimate list of drum songs.

Want to improve your drum skills? Search here for a drum instructor near you! 

 

Maegan-W
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 Sean Molin

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Words of Wisdom: 11 Drummers Share Their Best Advice for Beginners

When you’re learning to play drums, it’s important to remember that it takes hard work, determination, and patience in order to improve.

It may be a slow process, but don’t get discouraged; even experienced drummers had to start somewhere.

Need some inspiration? Here, 11 experienced drummers share their best advice for beginners.

 

1 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Never stop learning from everyone around you. Confidence, skill, dedication, and determination will ensure you go far!”

#NeverStop – @lindsaybird44 – Ontario, Canada drummer for @DirtyJeans

 

2 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Never give up and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t play because your’e different. And no matter what you do, love what you’re doing. Smile and have fun! It’s what music is all about.”

@Jynyates – professional drum set and percussion teacher

 

3 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Take lessons. They give you a solid basis to build on until you’re ready to step out and explore on your own. You can never be too good at rudiments!”

@harryomatic – drummer for JuneBug

 

4 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“When it comes to getting good at anything, you have to put in the time; practice, practice, practice. Take lessons and learn from anyone and everyone. Play, play, play, and always have fun!”

@Richredmond – drummer, producer, and author

 

5 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Practice from the head, play from the heart.”

@Jonesylessons – Ireland session player and teacher

 

6 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Get a metronome, and always practice with it. It will help you keep time. And practice hard and don’t give up on your dreams.”

@drummerboi911Hole Dug Deep drummer

 

7 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Make it your passion! Even the simplest of lessons can be an intense learning experience! Also, watch ALL drummers and absorb what you see!

@jeffpagedrums – Burbank, CA drum teacher, drummer for @alicecooperland @theremotesband and @its_memargaret

 

8 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“I tell my students who struggle learning a new beat: If you can sing it, you can (almost) play it.” #rhythmisamelody

#rhythmisamelody – @beckbeat – touring drummer and songwriter

 

9 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Practicing without goals is like playing basketball without a hoop.”

@keithperc – Salt Lake City musician and educator

 

10 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Live in the pocket. This is so crucial. Play for the band and not for yourself; your career will go a long way!”

@MattPanaMitchell Grey drummer

 

11 - 10 Words of Wisdom for Beginner Drummers

“Learn the 40 rudiments early in your drumming career and NEVER stop practicing them! Mastering these will enhance your creativity behind the kit when playing beats and fills. Practice the rudiments on a practice pad and then apply them to the drum kit using multiple drums, cymbals, and even your feet.”

@MikeD_rums – New Jersey-based drummer

Follow these words of wisdom, keep practicing, and stick with. Before you know it, you’ll be an experienced drummer just like these guys, and beginner drummers will look to you for your advice!

Ready to get started? Search for a drum teacher near you! 

Photo by Anais

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