Aside from private drum teaching here at Amber Valley Drum School, I have also worked as a peripatetic drum teacher in schools in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire over the years.
Now, music in schools is a bit of a mixed bag....I hear that some schools have closed the facility for GCSE music due to there being very little uptake from students, yet other schools seem to have a thriving music community. Of course, all schools are run by teams who have a different focus, and you often see secondary schools now with names such as "sports academy" or "science and technology academy" so you can see where they like to focus. Music in many schools has become a bit of an afterthought, almost unimportant, and that is a real shame.
The UK is still very much a world leader in music and the arts, producing some of the worlds greatest musicians ,who bring a lot of money into the UK economy. This really is something we should celebrate, and when children show interest we should give them every encouragement to succeed in this industry. Now not every child who plays music in school is going to become the next Ed Sheeran or Elton John, but learning an instrument at an early age really does add quality of life. Even if they continue to play as a hobby into adult life, the happiness that making music can bring is immeasurable. Plus, we've all heard about how learning a musical instrument has other beneficial effects such as increased concentration, mathematical awareness etc, so it really is a win-win situation.
Its so important to keep music alive and vibrant in our schools, and ensure children who wish to play a musical instrument get the chance. Back in the 1980s, music provision in Nottinghamshire was fantastic... not only were the secondary schools full of peripatetic music teachers, but we also had the Nottinghamshire School of Music which used to run on saturdays and provided talented musicians the chance to play in orchestras, brass bands, choirs etc. A truly fantastic training that launched the careers of so many of us. I will always be grateful to the staff and tutors who guided us back then, and to this day im still in touch with many of the friends I made there. Similar things do still run thanks to organizations such as the Nottingham music hub who strive to ensure children get access to music.
I recently had a month of drum teaching in a large secondary school on the edge of Nottingham, and I couldnt believe what I saw when I first walked through the doors... the most incredible music department Id ever seen. The practice rooms were full with violin teachers, piano teachers, saxophone teachers etc..... there were swing bands, orchestras, rock bands..... even their own recording studio! We need much more of this...... our children deserve it!
I spoke recently to a lady looking for hand drum tuition for her son. Whilst he loved the idea of hand drumming, he didn't really know where to start... should he get a djembe, or bongos, or congas?? Which would be most useful? We had a good chat, and I've outlined the main points here, but I must point out that this is only my opinion.... another percussionist may hold entirely different views.
There is a huge popularity in playing djembe in drum circles, and for many people this gives them all the rhythmic pleasure that they want... to meet up with others in a park and play tribal rhythms. Its a great introduction to drumming, but for me congas is the best place to start for someone looking to become a rounded percussionist, and I'll explain why.
Learning congas gives a great introduction to latin music, but this also crosses over into mainstream modern music. By studying all the different strokes on conga drums, you get a real feel for hand drumming and soon realize that you can obtain so many tones from just one drum. Understanding the clave, the bedrock of latin drumming again gives you a great musical foundation, as does learning some of the basic conga rhythms such as Tumbao... and whilst this rhythm has its roots in authentic latin american music, it is equally at home playing with a pop band. Thats the great thing about congas... versatility. You can play so many diverse rhythms and use them to play latin, jazz, pop, funk, dance music..... the list goes on. Look at some of the big name artists on tour... its very common to see a percussionist on stage alongside the drummer, and the centrepiece of the percussionists set up is congas. So no matter what your musical aspirations are, congas will fit into it.... maybe a salsa band? Or a funk band? Or maybe west end musicals?? Congas will be at the centre, and from that grounding you can start to add other instruments to your set up... bongos, timbales, bells, tambourines etc.
Maybe start by watching some of the current crop of modern conga playing - a very diverse group including Jody Linscott, Shovell, Stephan Maass, and my favourite Kati Fernandes (check her out on instagram and youtube!)
Many decades ago, a debate was raging amongst drum set drummers... Split into two camps, these players were arguing over the merits of the latest fad... plastic drum heads. Many of the more conservative players looked on in horror and swore that they would never stop using real calf drum heads, whilst others were quick to embrace the lastest innovations and loved the fact that plastic drum heads didnt go out of tune so easily and were a little more durable.
Fast forward to more modern times and this debate seems almost unimaginable. Plastic drum heads have now been the norm for years, However, the debate has now moved into the forums for conga and bongo players. Whilst good quality "real" conga skins are still very popular, there has been a big swing amongst players to the new breed of synthetic heads. Once again the merits of plastic heads have come to the fore, that being that they are far more stable in differing temperatures, making endless tightening and loosening a thing of the past. Now you can tune your congas and leave them....
Remo were early pioneers, and their vast range of synthetic conga and bongo heads includes Fiberskyns, Nutones, and more. For my own drums however i decided to try the Evans Tri Centre conga heads. Fitting to a pair of Pearl Primero Pro congas (11.75" and 12.5") was relatively straight forwards. A quick chat with the guys at D'addario UK confirmed that I'd need the extended collar versions, and a few days later the postman dropped off a pair of gleaming white heads.
Made from 2 plies of 10mil film with a 2.25" centre dot to control the overtones, these heads certainly had a "real skin" feel, being slightly textured. These heads are only as good as the sound they produce, and in this case Id have to say I love them. The open tone is loud, full and ringing, whilst the slaps are bright and penetrating. Im sure of course that different drums will produce different sound characteristics with these heads, but certainly in the case of my oak shelled drums, the sound is great. I love the fact that everytime I go to play them the tuning is the same as when I last left them. Well worth a look for any conga player, check them out here
Im a little late with my best wishes, but its been a busy couple of weeks. The new lockdown, whilst not coming as a surprise has nevertheless meant Ive had to make a few more restrictions with in-person lessons over in Nottingham and continue to concentrate on delivering online drum lessons via Skype... This is working for all formats - drum kit, snare drum, and percussion.
The last 8 or 9 months have been a bit of a revelation for us all, but we are all adapting to new ways of doing things, and I like many of my music teaching friends have had to embrace the technology and try to continue with drum tuition for those that want to keep learning through these dark times. Its been a real joy to me to see how so many of you have responded to this, and whilst online tuition is not the perfect scenario, its far better than the alternative of doing nothing. Many of you have made some amazing progress over the past few months, learning new beats, playing along to new songs, etc. And apart from getting more skilled with your drumming, I hope that in some small way the learning process has helped to brighten your outlook and bring some sense of normality to your days amidst all the uncertainty. I know for me, knowing what lessons I have each day is the only way I know what day it is!
This is heartening to see, as it seems things will continue like this for a little while longer. Theres good news ahead thanks to the vaccine which im sure will be a game changer and slowly allow us to get back to some kind of normality. Im hoping that once the current restrictions are relaxed that I will be able initially to start teaching in person again over in Nottingham, and then as more people are vaccinated and further measures are lifted that we can get back to lessons in Amber Valley..... seems like a distant memory at the moment!
So, lets try and start the new year off with a positive outlook.... things WILL get better and im really looking forward to seeing you all again. Meanwhile, my regular skype crowd will see my ugly mug back on the screen this week and we will continue where we left off before Christmas. If any of my existing lessons fancies trying a Skype session, drop me a line and we can have a trial run to show you what its about.
Stay safe, keep practicing, and lets speak soon!
linkDue to the current requirements to adhere to strict social distancing, I stopped teaching in Amber Valley at the end of March, and since then have concentrated on giving drum lessons via Skype. Once things have settled down with the Coronavirus I will be back teaching in Amber Valley as normal....
However....I am now able to offer safe drum lessons in Nottingham! I am using space at the Nottingham Drum and Guitar Centre, which is just down the road from the Ice Arena and Bowling alley. The drum centre has car parking facilities and most importantly at the moment it means we can have drum lessons but keep to the social distancing. The drum kits are set up around 10 feet apart, and everything is cleaned and sanitised between lessons. Face masks are also worn for additional safety.
Lessons take place in the evenings, so you can avoid rush hour traffic etc, so please drop me a line if you are interested! Meanwhile for more information check out the video link below..
Hello and I hope you're all keeping well and staying positive.
Im keeping busy and continuing to adapt to teaching via Skype, which is working far better than i had imagined! Im sending music via email so students can print it off before the lesson, and then we do the lesson via the internet! Isnt technology wonderful! Anyone who fancies a go at this please drop me a line...its a great way to use this lockdown time creatively and keep your drumming progress on track.
It seems like the whole industry is adapting... many of the music examination boards are now allowing entry to graded drum exams via video submission rather than in person... its not ideal but we all have to try and work around the current vital lockdown situation.
So, keep practicing and drop me a line if you need a hand with anything you're working on. Lets hope that it wont be too long before we can get back to normality! Meanwhile keep updated via my facebook page www.facebook.com/ambervalleydrumschool
Its been a busy few months with a good influx of new students... some really great young talent appearing which is always nice to see. A few are now starting to work towards the Rockschool drumkit exams, a great way to measure progress and have a lot of fun in the process, drumming along to some really cool backing tracks! If any students fancy getting involved in this, please let me know. Don't forget that you can buy the Rockschool books by following this link.
Thanks too for those who have started to leave us Google reviews! These really do help with page rankings etc as well as being good for prospective students to read. If you have had lessons with us and are willing to write a sentence or two about the experience (good or bad....hopefully good!!) please go to google homepage and type "amber valley drum school" in the search box..... our info will come up and you just need to click on the review button.
Im working on some new video material, showcasing the fantastic Bill Sanders practice pads... these offer fantastic feel and are the pad of choice of most of the top UK military bands. For those who want to purchase these pads, please contact the Nottingham Drum and Guitar Centre on 0115 8414148. The store incidently has a new gift guide for drummers, just in time for Christmas..... please click the link below.
Drummers Christmas Gift Guide 2017
As i seem to often get asked about which drum tuition books I would recommend to students, I have now added an online Shop to the website. Whilst I am not selling the books myself, I have made it easy for you to see the range of recommended books and simply click and purchase from Amazon for home delivery.
The listed books are all titles that i use everyday, and I can highly recommend. Please visit the page and take a look for yourself... If you are a beginner or advanced player of drum kit, snare drum, or tuned percussion, theres a book here for you, as well as the complete Rockschool Drum Kit exam series.
Please do get in touch if you are unsure and want a recommendation and I will do my best to guide you to the right book for you. However, all of these drum books are tried and tested, and will certainly help you in your drum and percussion studies.