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? | 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 $500 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.
The main two configurations that are available when purchasing a 5 piece set are Standard and Fusion. This refers to the diameter and depths of the drums. Standard sized kits have larger sized toms (12", 13" and 16") whereas Fusion sized kits have smaller toms (10", 12" and 14".) Usually Standard kits have a floor tom with legs and Fusion kits have a mounted floor tom. The bottom line here is personal preference. I recommend going to a large music store like Guitar Center or Sam Ash and playing some of their drums to get a feel for the difference. You can also base your decision on what your favorite drummer plays! One is not better or worse than the other.
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 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.