One of the great things about drumming is the camaraderie... drummers always seem happy to help one another and talk drums, and this can be vital for young or new drummers and their progress. On our musical journey we'll meet many other drummers, some of whom will go on to have a great influence on us. For most of us, it was an initial drumming influence (maybe on TV) that made us want to start drum lessons in the first place, and these influences will continue to shape us.
Our first really helpful influence will of course be our drum teacher. A good teacher will encourage us, push us, and ensure that we really make some progress.... Unfortunately a not so good teacher may well put us off, never to pick up the sticks again although this is rare. So finding the right drum tutor is important, and these early lessons will really shape our outlook. However, its the other drummers that you meet over the years that can really have a profound effect on us.
Looking back at my own experiences, i had a great teacher from the age of 11, and he gave me a very solid grounding in playing snare drum and orchestral percussion. Away from lessons I was playing drumkit at home, watching and learning from drummers on TV shows such as top of the pops in the early 1980s. By my mid teens, I came into contact with 2 older guys that I feel were a huge influence on me...both were Nottingham based jazz drummers at the top of their game...Phil Alexander (who presented the first drum clinic i ever attended) and Barry Page. The first jazz gigs I ever went to were thanks to Barry sneaking me into venues such as Nottinghams Cafe Royal long before i was legally entitled to be in there! I would hide behind his bass drum case as he entered the venue and then he'd sit me in a quiet corner with half a lager so I could watch the band! I learnt so much about being a working drummer from him, and met many great musicians. I guess by this stage I really felt that this is what i wanted to do in life, so in a sense the influence of these guys (now sadly no longer with us) was a major factor in the course of my lifes direction.
After leaving school, I got more into playing kit and less into the orchestral side of things, and was looking to have some drum kit lessons. Again, fate played its part and I was introduced to another prolific Nottingham drummer, Andy Ferguson. Andys playing really knocked me for six....great funk grooves that I had never encounted before, and this set me off on a whole new musical direction. I gained so much from Andy, and began listening to new musical influences such as Phil Gould (Level 42) and Dave Weckl (Chick Corea band). These were really exciting times, and in addition, Andy was a great pipe band drummer which again blew my mind a little..he'd play these incredible snare drum patterns that fascinated me. I used to badger him all the time to show me new beatings, I really couldnt get enough! And massive to respect to him, as he always took time to show me.. So once again an almost chance meeting led to a drummer becoming a major influence on me, as I continued with the pipe band drumming which eventually took me all over Europe.
There have of course been many other great influences on me over the past couple of decades. Ive been fortunate to meet so many great players and formed some wonderful friendships, but its the encounters from my early musical career that really stand out in my mind and I will be forever grateful to those guys.
So, if you are new to drumming, listen to as much music as you can, and really vary the genres...you might just find something new, fresh, and inspiring where you least expect it. Try and attend drum clinics or live gigs.... watch and learn from the drummer and if possible have a chat after the show. Most drummers will be more than happy to talk drums and you can learn from every drummer, so be receptive.
And to any established drummer, I would say....be that great example. If a young or new drummer approaches you, give advice freely whenever you can. One day they might just look back and acknowledge the influence that you had on them....
There was a time many years ago when electronic drums were something of a novelty.. great for adding a bit of visual effect on Top of the Pops, but definitely sounding nothing like a real drum set. I remember all too well the rise of the Simmons electronic drums in the 1980s, with their distinctive hexagon shaped pads, and how excited we used to be when the latest model came out with loads of extra knobs, buttons, and flashing lights.... but looking back they never sounded like acoustic drums, and certainly didnt play like them..... you could play 20 fast notes on the snare pad and only a dozen would be picked up..... and you could forget about dynamics and nuances....these things were all or nothing! In short, they were a bit of a gimmick, but the seed had been sowed....
Fast forward a few decades, and electronic drums are now a mainstream instrument, used by serious drummers both live and in the studio. Technology has caught up with the playing demands of drummers, and todays electronic drum kits are responsive, sound great, and are cheaper than they have ever been. Now featuring digital samples of real drum and percussion instruments, these digital drum sets put a huge collection of sounds at the drummers fingertips (or should that be stick tips!).....want to sound like a rock kit with deep toms and big cymbals?...easy..... how about an open, jazz kit sound?....no problem...... maybe looking for some high pitched drum n bass sounds?... its all in there!
For this reason, electronic drums are now widely used, and especially so in homes, practice rooms, and tuition studios. Simply plug in a set of headphones and play to your hearts content.....you get to hear all those great digital drum sounds, and your housemates hear nothing! Certainly for home use, the electronic drum kit has become king. They are responsive enough now to pick up all the notes that you play, and will even reproduce drum rolls etc smoothly and evenly. As an added bonus, not only are they quieter than their acoustic counterparts, but they often have a host of useful features for practicing built-in.... click tracks so you can check your timing with the on board metronome, play along backing tracks to jam along to, and often the facility to hook up to a laptop and use tuition software (or programs such as Rolands Friends jam). So, they are the perfect kit for anyone taking drum lessons and wanting to play at home.
But what about acoustic drums? Well they will certainly be around for years and years to come, and definitely have their uses. Firstly, for drummers who want to take a kit along to a band practice or just jam with friends in a garage, an acoustic kit is self contained and wont require a large external amplifier in order to be heard over the bass and guitars etc. . Secondly, as far as responsiveness goes, nothing beats a real drum. And thirdly...... appearance. To many people, seeing an electronic drum set on stage just doesnt look right......maybe you just cant beat the look of all those drums, surrounded by chromed hardware and shiny cymbals!
So, there are pros and cons for both electronic and acoustic drumkits...Over the next few weeks im aiming to produce some videos demonstrating the features of various electroninc kits and showing you what exactly you are getting for your money. Meanwhile, if you have any questions regarding any of this, or are looking for product recommendations, please feel free to get in touch and drop me an email at email@example.com
Way back in 1981, i turned up for my third drum lesson and began to play a snare drum piece that I had been practicing. After a few minutes, the drum tutor stopped me and asked if I wrote with my left hand... When I replied that i did, he muttered something about "that explains it!" and promptly got me to hold the drumsticks in traditional grip but in the opposite hands. Once I did this and started to lead with my left, things got much easier. It had never occurred to me that there was such a thing as a left handed drummer!
30 odd years later...Im posting various videos onto media such as youtube, both for my tuition practice and also demoing products for a well known drum store. This is when the comments began..... Usually along the lines of "hey dude, you're holding your sticks wrong!".. No, I reply, Im left handed.....I play everything the opposite way round. Then comes the comment that really drives me mad..."dude, theres no such thing as left handed drummers!!"
I tend to count to 10, calm down a bit and then type a response, usually pointing out that if left handed drummers dont exist, someone better tell Phil Collins, Ian Paice, Pete Riley, Rod Morgenstein and many other top pro players. Or maybe they should check out some of the leading marching band drummers, such as the 4 left hookers in Field Marshall Montgomery pipe band. And yet STILL these annoying internet trolls with far too much time on their hands insist Ive made the whole thing up! Maybe I am a figment of my own imagination?? Or maybe there are more left handers, southpaws, left hookers......call us what you will, out there? No one bats an eye at the sight of a left handed guitarist, or batsman, or bowler, so whats so unbelievable about left handed drummers?
For any drummer starting out who is left handed... firstly try and play right handed, it will make life easier for you in the future when you have to use other peoples drumkits etc, but if it feels wrong, switch everything around and unleash your true, proud, left handed self!
If you have just decided to start drum lessons, firstly
I would always advise to get a few lessons under your
belt before buying anything.. Make sure that you enjoy
it and can see yourself continuing for the forseeable
future. Once you know drumming is for you, you will need to get a few basic items which I will cover in this blog post. Clicking on the product links will take you
to more detailed product pages with the option to purchase online..
OK, first up you will definitely need a pair of drumsticks.. there are sticks of all sizes etc available so I would recommend something of medium size and weight such as a 5A model. Go for decent Hickory wood sticks such as those made by Vic Firth (and their cheaper version, Nova, which are great value for money ). Another good item to own initially is a practice pad...this is a small rubber pad that you can practice your sticking patterns and rudiments on....it gives the feel and bounce of a real drum but is quiet and far cheaper! Popular models included the Billy Hyde Pad, and the Remo Tunable Practice Pad. These pads will last a lifetime and are invaluable for practicing at home. Another initial purchase might be a tutor book...your drum teacher will usually recommend one that he/she tends to like working from. For me, I tend to go for the Drumsense Volume 1 Book and CD, which gives a great introduction to playing the drum kit. This combination of sticks, pad and book will get you started and you'll soon make some good progress if you spend some time each day practicing.
After a while, you'll hopefully get the drumming bug and will want to practice more and more at home between lessons...this will mean buying a drum kit, either electronic or acoustic (each has their pros and cons)....
In todays blog post we'll look at entry level electronic drum kits. These have got extremely popular in recent years as the prices have got lower and the quality has improved. The market is now awash with chinese models under a wide variety of brand names, many of which are not particually good or robust. One exception to this is the Carlsbro CSD532, an affordable electronic kit with good sounds and a decent build quality. At around £259 its a great buy for the beginner and will really help you to make some progress with your drumming. You can plug in a mp3 player and drum along to your favourite songs, or use the onboard metronome to ensure that your playing is precise and in time.
The market leader in electronic drums is most definitely Roland, a well respected brand that produce some great kits at a wide range of price points. The entry level Roland TD-1K offers excellent sounds and a rack system that wont take up too much room in the house. It also features onboard play-along backing tracks and a metronome, so its ideal for serious practice. It uses rubber pads which feel fine, but if you fancy a mesh snare drum pad for an even more realistic feel and response, the next model up, the Roland TD-1KV might be the one for you. Either of these kits will give years of use as a great practice aid..just plug in a pair of headphones and drum away, without bothering the other people in the house or neighbours. They are laid out like a regular drumset, with pads for snare, toms and cymbals, and silent pedals for bass drum and hihat. This layout means that you are basically playing an industry standard 5 piece kit and have all that you need for a good few years worth of lessons. Even if you start to work towards drum exam grades, these kits have all the pads etc that you will need so you dont have to worry about out growing them and needing to upgrade for some time.
We'll cover a few more models as well as acoustic drumkits next time.....
Teaching young childen to play the drums does present a few challenges!! One of which is the physical size of the drum kit, which I will touch on later.... the other is engaging the childs imagination, ensuring that they are happy and keen to learn... in other words the lesson needs to be fun! The tutor books and material that I use for older children, teenagers and adults are of no use to a young child. However, my number one teaching aid in this scenario is Alfreds Kids Drumset Course...a fantastic book and cd package that Ive been using for many years. Easy to follow and very well written, this book takes children from the very beginning, and soon has them playing beats..... the included CD of backing tracks is great for them to play along to and its fantastic to see their smiles when they finally get grooving along to one of the songs! I use this book in all my childrens lessons as an introductory tuition book.
As regards the size of the drumkit, I tend to teach on Roland electronic drumkits, which can be adjusted for size, so hopefully students of all ages can be comfortable and find that everything is within reach.
For further information about our childrens drum lessons, please visit our webpage www.ambervalleydrumschool.co.uk/kids-club.html
As well as our main drum tuition studio in NG16, covering areas such as Heanor, Eastwood, Codnor, Ripley etc, we also offer drum lessons in Nottingham city centre, just a stones throw from the Motorpoint Arena (or the ice rink as it will always be known by me!!)
Like our main NG16 teaching base, our studio in Nottingham is equipped with Roland electronic drums, plus a sound system to enable drumming along to backing tracks etc, and we also offer our rudimental snare drum lessons here too..... So, between our two drum studios we can cater to drum students across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. To check availability, book a lesson, or just have a chat about where you want to go with your drumming, call David on 01773 715870
Dont forget, we teach all styles of drum kit playing including Rockschool and Trinity drum exams!
Welcome to the new look website for Amber Valley Drum School!
Hopefully you will find it easy to find the information you require, but should you have any difficulties or spot an error that i might have missed, please get in touch!