PASSION, PATIENCE AND PRIORITY - CHOOSING A DRUM TEACHER
There are many factors to take into consideration when shopping for a drum instructor. Most parents looking for an instructor for their children and adult students interested in pursuing their passion don't have the slightest idea how to find a good drum teacher. Unfortunately, as with other professions, the teaching industry is populated by scammers, inexperienced drummers looking to make a quick buck and those drummers that prioritize performing over teaching. Too often, prospective students are swayed by marketing gimmicks rather than legitimate teaching criteria. The following are some tips to help you in your search to avoid the pitfalls of scam artists and marketing ploys.
As a parent myself, I know how important it is to make sure the activity providers for my child are legitimate and passionate. As a former peace officer with the Orange County Probation Department, I've seen my share of criminals. When looking for a drum teacher, make sure that teaching is his or her passion. One way to measure a teacher's passion and commitment to teaching is to inquire about his or her career. Is teaching a major source of income or is it supplemental? Do they plan on missing many lessons due to performance or touring obligations? Do they have specific references or testimonials? Many excellent drum educators perform regularly (including myself!) I think the performance aspect of a musician's career lends credence to his or her teaching as it bridges the gap between academia and real-life, practical application. Just make sure to check your prospective teacher's performance schedule to ensure they won't be missing too many lessons! These are but a few ways to discern a teacher's commitment to the profession of teaching.
Beware the marketing gimmicks! Unfortunately, many larger studios are forced to resort to using marketing ploys to attract students in order to meet overhead and profit requirements. Some of these marketing tools are legitimate and can be instrumental in helping to choose the right drum teacher. Others can be sugar coated ideas that look enticing at first but later on prove to lack substance. When shopping for your drum teacher, make sure you are not lured in by fancy gimmicks. Look beyond the gloss and seek out the qualitative rather than the quantitative
Many parents fail to realize the important role a music teacher can play in the developement of their child. Confidence building, mentoring, coaching, encouraging and many other character building activities can occur when the student/teacher relationship is nurtured. The relationship between the student and the teacher and the parent and the teacher is of paramount importance. Success is guaranteed when the right fit is found. In my opinion, this relationship is the most important aspect of taking drum lessons.
Before beginning your search, ask yourself what are the most important qualities you are looking for in a drum teacher. These qualitites should include things like professionalism, relationship building, fundamentals, passion, organization, patience, education, experience and versatility. You can avoid the aforementioned pitfalls by using these criteria to guide you in your search for the right drum teacher.
Rob has been playing the drums for the past 40+ years and has been teaching the drums for the past 20+ years! He is an award winning drummer and educator and has toured, recorded and performed all across the country. After starting a family, Rob decided to make teaching his priority. He still performs locally for supplemental income but teaching is his passion and allows him to focus on his number one priority… his family! In addition to his awards, Rob has been blessed to work with several major drum companies as an Educational Endorser. Many of his students have gone on to the Orange County High School of the Arts, Musicians Institute and the Berklee College of Music.
Rob's parents were amazing, but they did not encourage his love of drumming. Consequently, Rob had to do everything on his own to follow his passion. When he was 16 and had his first real part-time job, he used his own money to purchase drum lessons. He did not have a drum set at the time but devised a way practice that he uses with his current students who don't own drum sets. Unfortunately for Rob, his first two teachers were a huge disappointment. The first teacher was embittered and negative. The second was nice but unorganized. It wasn't until several years later that Rob connected with his first really good teacher. Rob uses his negative experiences with teachers as well as his positive to shape his teaching personality. He is more coach/mentor than dogmatic dictator.
The goal of this curriculum is to accommodate each student’s potential and cater to each student’s individual needs and wants. Rob has students ranging from very young to senior citizens and also teaches students with a wide range of disabilities and special needs. There are no definitive black and white lines as to where the curriculum phases start and stop. Rather, each of the phases can overlap and intertwine as the student continues the learning process. The end result is to keep the student interested, challenged, rewarded and most importantly, playing the music they want to play as quickly as possible! The tools learned from this curriculum are designed to stay with the students indefinitely and create a solid foundation with which to achieve their musical goals. In short, the curriculum is designed to flex with each student's learning potential rather than to be rigidly administered in a dogmatic fashion.
DRUM LESSON CURRICULUM
Phase 1: The first phase emphasizes proper grip and technique in order to assure that the student plays correctly and reduces the chance of acquiring a repetitive motion injury. Good technique is stressed throughout the entire span of lessons and the foundations are laid forth during the first month or so. The 40 International Drum Rudiments are used to teach proper technique including grip, fulcrum, stick columns, rebound control, wrist strokes, finger strokes, accents utilizing the Moeller technique and relaxation. Proper practice techniques are also covered. Beat studies are implemented in order to expose students to tempo, time and meter. Reading fundamentals are covered as well as basic music theory pertaining to rhythm. It is important to note that no two students are alike and that the amount of time devoted to practicing as well as the student’s individual skill level plays a pivotal role in determining the progress of the student.
Phase 2: The second phase emphasizes the building of a vocabulary utilizing the rudiments and sticking patterns covered previously. The concepts of “One Surface Learning” as well as Coordinated Independence are introduced. Coordinated Independence is one of the most challenging aspects to playing the drums and much time is spent breaking the techniques down. Creativity is encouraged and the students will learn how to multiply the patterns they’ve learned exponentially! The student will also be introduced to different styles of drumming and how they are inter-related.
Phase 3: The third phase includes having the students choose songs they want to learn. They will learn the fundamentals of writing and reading a chart for the song and playing along with it. State of the art software is used to provide professional, easy to read transcriptions as well as playalong practice CDs with slowed down versions of the students' chosen songs (making it easier and more enjoyable to build up to the required tempo.) Advanced styles will be introduced as well as specific techniques pertaining to the genres the student wishes to concentrate on.
Customized Lessons: No two students learn alike. Some of my students are visual learners. Some of my students are aural learners. Some of my students are tactile learners. I also have many special needs students who have various disabilities. I strive to find the learning styles preferred by my students then capitalize on them while also exposing them to other learning styles in order to help them grow. As a result, each student's lessons are customized and tailored to get the most results while ensuring the lessons remain fun and stress free!
Q) How old does my child have to be in order to take drum lessons with Rob?
A) I prefer a child to be at least 6 years of age at the onset of lessons due to the physical nature of the instrument and being able to reach all the pedals. I recommend the parent(s) sit in during the lessons for younger children as they can help keep the child focused and also learn what the child needs to practice throughout the week. I have taught children as young as 2 and do make exceptions based on each child's individual abilities.
Q) Do I need a full drum set in order to take lessons?
A) No! I recommend a practice pad and a pair of sticks for beginning students. I provide all the needed materials in the form of handouts and handwritten assignments. The initial investment is minimal. Practice pads run between $20 and $30 and a pair of sticks runs about $7. I have a proven method for teaching coordinated independence using just the practice pad that translates directly over to the drum set!
Q) How much should I practice?
A) The old cliche' about getting out what you put in holds true. I'm not a taskmaster when it comes to my students. Some students want to take drum lessons for fun and some want to make a career out of drumming. I'm simply there to motivate, provide instruction/direction and keep things fun and interesting! Due to the importance of developing proper muscle memory, the quality of practicing is more important than the quantity. Consistency is key! Shorter more consistent practicing is more beneficial than longer "cram" sessions.
Q) What size sticks should I get?
A) Whatever feels comfortable in your hands! I personally use Pro-Mark sticks and find them to be of superior quality and consistency.
Q) Are neoprene drum mutes right for me?
A) I've been using neoprene drum mutes or silencers since they were first introduced many years ago. Prior to their introduction, practice pad sets were the only way around playing on a set without making too much noise. In my opinion, the benefits of drum mutes are many. First of all, they come on and off with ease. Students can practice with them on to keep the noise to a minimum. When they want to cut loose or jam with friends, they come right off! Secondly, they allow students to play on their OWN SET rather than playing on a practice pad set then moving over to the real drum set. This is critical for maintaining consistency with the all important aspect of muscle memory. Thirdly, they are reasonably priced and much cheaper than purchasing a practice pad set. Fourthly, they allows students the luxury of practicing in the garage or within their house without fear of disturbing the neighbors and having the police knock on the door! Fifthly, they allow students the opportunity to practice without damaging their hearing. Most of my students have their drums set up in small rooms in their house or their garage where it can get loud. The mutes provide just enough drum tone without being too loud. This works great when jamming along to CD's or iPods!
I've heard detractors say that drum mutes can damage touch and technique. If this is true, why are gum rubber practice pads considered indispensable for any serious student of the drums? Gum rubber pads don't feel like real drums yet when used properly can develop the student's technique wonderfully. In just about any sport, there are practice and training tools designed to strengthen the athletes' technique but may not be too representative of what they'd encounter in a real game. My personal preference for drum mutes can be found here at Evans! Another option I currently use in my teaching studio is Remo SilentStroke heads. They are mesh heads but feel more like a real drumhead and are 80% quieter!
Q) When should I buy a drum set? | How do I buy my first drum set?
A) A drum set should be purchased ONLY when you or your child are serious about the instrument. Buying a drum set is an expensive and daunting task that can be very confusing with all the brands, types, sizes, levels, configurations and accessories. When the time comes to take the leap, I am here to provide advice and offer help.
Much like automobile manufacturers, drum manufacturers offer many makes and models which include different series within the models. The main three series offered from the major drum companies are Beginning, Intermediate and Professional. Beginning kits and Intermediate level kits are mass produced and are therefore cheaper than their handmade, Professional counterparts. Sticking to a reputable company means even their Beginning level series will be of good quality. I have been playing Yamaha Drums since 1987. They have a wide range of products to suit every budget! I recommend steering clear of the cheap sets offered for $200-$300. A good Beginning or Intermediate series set should run between $800 and $1000 new. Other great brands are Pearl, Tama, Gretsch, PDP, Ludwig and Mapex.
I recommend buying a 5 piece drum set to start out with. Most of the companies I mentioned above offer their Beginning and Intermediate series sets in a 5 piece configuration. This refers to the number of drums in the set and not the cymbals, hardware or other accessories. A 5 piece drum set includes a bass drum, snare drum, two mounted toms and a floor tom. When purchasing a 5 piece kit, it should include the following hardware: snare stand, hi hat stand, crash cymbal stand, mounted tom holder, ride cymbal stand and bass drum pedals. Drum thrones and cymbals typically are not included when buying a new set. I'll touch on cymbals a little later.
Wood type plays a huge role in drum sound. The two most popular wood types are maple and birch. Maple offers a resonant, warm sound and birch provides a more controlled sound with focused attack and low end. More exotic woods are also offered but usually not in the Beginning and Intermediate series. Some of the lower series drums offer sets with mixed wood types. If the set is from a reputable manufacturer and provides the desired sound, that is all that matters. Personal preference again is key in the decision making process.
The two types of finishes on drum sets are wraps and lacquers. Wraps are laminates that are glued to the drum shell whereas lacquered shells are stained and finished with a clear coat. Lacquered sets tend to cost more due to the manufacturer's costs in making them. Wrapped sets can come unglued and warp if left out in the sun but they can resist dings better than a lacquered set. Lacquered sets look beautiful, but can scratch and ding easier. Personal preference plays a huge role in deciding your first drum set's color and finish.
Cymbals also come in different makes, models and series. I recommend a good entery level cymbal pre-pack from a reputable company like Zildjian. It should include 14" hi hats, a 16" crash cymbal and a 20" ride cymbal. Additonal cymbals and stands can be purchased as add-ons later! Typically a decent cymbal pre-pack runs just under $300.
Many of my students have had great luck purchasing used kits from places like Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up and Craigslist. They have been able to get Intermediate series sets with everything included for the price they would have paid for a new Beginning series set. I always have them send me the links to new or used sets for me to check out to see if it is a good deal or not.
The more informed you are when buying your first set, the better your chances of avoiding buyer's regret. If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to contact me!
Q) Which are better: home based teachers or studio based teachers?
A) It all depends on your needs. Both have their advantages. Larger studios tend to have multiple teachers so it may be easier to accommodate your schedule. Studios often provide self-contained stores where you can purchase accessories. Studios also usually offer performance opportunities in the form of recitals. Home based teachers offer the consistency of having the same teacher in the same comfortable location. Home based teachers focus on teaching and teaching only; the headaches of running a larger business won’t interfere with your musical education nor will high overhead costs force your tuition rates up. Home based teachers can provide a personal touch that quite often is lacking in a corporate studio setting. Having personally co-owned a large teaching studio, I much prefer teaching out of my home studio. I liken the difference between studio based lessons and home based lessons to the difference between HMO's and a personal family doctor. It's not that one is necessarily better than the other. They both provide the same basic service. They just do it in a different manner.
Q) Are Mobile Drum Lessons right for me?
A) Mobile Drum Lessons work really well for students who can't travel to a studio to learn. They also provide the student with the opportunity to learn on their own drum set (provided they have one.) I offered mobile lessons when I started teaching many years ago. The problems I encountered included Southern California traffic, not having easy access to all my teaching resources (specific drumming equipment, laptop, Internet, copy machine, etc...) and distractions from the student's home (i.e. siblings, television, video games, etc...) I find my students are better prepared to learn in a studio away from their home. This helps focus their attention on the drum lesson and the drum lesson alone. It also allows me to make the most of the student's lesson time. I don't have to rush from student to student and worry about traffic. All my teaching resources are within arm's reach and I can instantly customize each student's lesson based on his or her current needs.
Q) Why don't you teach with two drum sets?
A) The first two teachers I took lessons with unfortunately were not very good. I had a very bad experience with both of them. They both had two drum sets at their teaching studios. One teacher in particular spent the majority of my lesson time showing off on the drum set. Since I was paying for my own lessons at the time, I was very frustrated and felt like it was a waste of my time and money. When I got with my three amazing teachers, all of them only taught on one drum set. When I asked why the answers were always the same... "I want my students to be behind the kit as much as possible with me right there to analyze their technique. I don't want to have to worry about screaming over two drum sets in order to be heard. My students aren't paying me to show off." Needless to say, this resonated with me after my bad experience and for the last 20+ years I've only ever taught using one drum set. I know many great teachers who use two drum sets but that just isn't my style.
Q) What qualities should I look for in a drum teacher?
A) PATIENCE - A good teacher is patient and realizes that not everyone learns at the same pace, nor is everyone interested in pursuing a professional career in drumming. EDUCATION - A strong educational background including both formal education and private instruction can provide a teacher with all the proper tools necessary to impart knowledge easily and effectively. EXPERIENCE - Nothing can substitute real world performing, recording and touring experience when it comes to tempering academic knowledge with practical knowledge. VERSATILITY - The ablility to play many musical styles makes for well-rounded students and provides the teacher with the flexibility to acommodate each student's individual needs and learning style. ORGANIZATION - Good organizational skills enable the teacher to ensure each student recieves a quality, consistent, personalized lesson each session. PASSION - The teacher's job is not only to impart knowledge but to encourage and motivate.