Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Drumming 101 - The Basics

While coming up with some ideas for presentation here in this forum, I've come to the conclusion I should start with the  basics and work my way up from there.  If you are an intermediate or advanced drummer and you have some questions regarding anything at all just ask!!

Now, if you are a beginning drummer, as in you have never even held a pair of drumsticks, don't waste your money on buying a drum kit just yet that time will come soon enough.  What you need to do is go out and buy a decent pair of good drumsticks.

I personally use a very well known maker's sticks and they are made of New England hickory, you can do the math from there on what company it is I'm sure.
If you're not sure which drumsticks to buy for your age, dexterity or ability just ask your local music store professional they will be glad to help you out!

After you've got your sticks you will also need a good practice pad.
Real Feel is a great pad due to it's thin polystyrene pad and thick wood base, it makes for excellent accent and rebound practice. 

Another useful pad is the Billy Gladstone pad, it's a rubber pad that fits over the top of your snare drum and is thin on the sides and thicker in the middle, but you should really only buy this if you've already worked up your stick rebound ability as it's very "squishy". 

There's also a great little pad known as the Practa Pal, it's great for all you cats on the go. 
The great thing about the Practa Pal is that it attaches over and behind your knee with a piece of velcro and is actually quite comfortable, the downside is the strap doesn't hold up that well and the practice surface is small.
But any one of these pads will serve the purpose you will initially need it for.

Now that you've got your sticks and your practice pad, the next thing you will need is a good book which in our line of work, is listed as one of the many drumming "bibles".

It's called "Stick Control" by George Lawrence Stone and it will run you about $8.00 the last time I checked.

I start all of my students on this book and for at least the first 6 months that is usually all we cover but there is a method to the madness which most students don't realize until they have that light bulb "moment", and then it all makes sense to them.

Stick Control is one of the very best instructional books on inter-hand co ordination I have ever used, which is why it is still in publication and is very good for independence or 4 way co ordination studies as well as being able to be used a number of different ways.

A very simple assignment for a motivated drummer would be to tackle the first page which at first glance seems very, very basic and it is in a sense but, when you hit the fourth example your sense of what's basic and simple will be altered and that's where the fun begins.

There is a paragraph or two in the introduction to the book with recommendations on how to practice the exercises and it serves a purpose but, I've found more productivity from my students is achieved through the even bar repeat system when approaching these exercises.

Let's take Exercise #1 for instance.......

  ||: R,L,R,L  R,L,R,L :||  (after repeating this 4 or 8 times immediately move on to #2 WITHOUT STOPPING!! This is very important)
  ||: L,R,L,R, L,R,L,R :||  (and so on, for every example right down the page)

Also another very important thing to remember is the Time Signature in Stick Control is in Cut Time or 2/4 meaning you can count in 4 at first but you must at one point start "thinking in two" meaning instead of counting in 4 like this:

1, an, 2, an, 3, an, 4, an

Eventually you will have to start counting in 2/4 like this:

1,e,+ , da  2 e, +, da       (the + sign is meant to represent the word "an" or "and", whichever you prefer and the "da" is pronounced "duh")

Another thing to keep in mind is counting out loud, you must count out loud!!

A lot of my younger students have a tendency to count some syllables louder than others which when played comes out sounding lopsided. 
Do not emphasize any other syllable louder than the others or that's what the exercises will start sounding like and that is a

What we are looking for is fluidity of motion but also fluidity of stick motion which will make each note sound even. Counting with a stress on a given syllable will make your stick motion sound lopsided and that can take a long time to correct.

Instead of playing this exercise 20 times then moving on to the next what I prescribe to my students is play 4 or 8 bars of the exercise and then move on to the next.  So as opposed to playing one exercises 20 times, you would in essence be able to perform the entire page in just a few hours work which is very good for increasing hand technique and improvement for fluidity of motion and it also builds up the muscles in the wrists and forearms.

This serves a two fold purpose;  the first is the repetitive motion of the exercises become fluid in the hands a lot quicker and the second would be the natural effect you would assume, it begins to train the drummer's mind to start thinking in terms of 4 and 8 bar phrases.
Again, it's all subliminal but it works wonders when work on phrasing with these figures is ready to commence.

After you've gone through this method a few times you will no doubt understand as well as see and feel the benefits of this approach.

When you feel you've achieved a significant amount of practice, DO IT ALL AGAIN!! 
When your finished with that... DO IT ALL AGAIN!!
You see what I'm getting at here right?  The old saying "Practice makes perfect" is an old saying for a reason!
So start working on your hand technique then check back in and I'll have some more goodies for y'all!


Scott P. said...

Awesome Dan!! I've already taken some good points from this. Keep it up, I'm looking forward to more!
Regards, Scott

Devdrums said...

Thanks Scott,
I often offer my help and suggestions and it doesn't seem anyone really takes advantage of any of it. Neither did any of my past students until they realized I was onto something!
But, you know what they say hindsight is 20/20.