Areas of Study
While there is practically an infinite variety of ways to play the drum set, I find it helpful to break things down into two skill sets—beats and solos. Drum beats are the cyclical patterns that define the overall rhythmic feel of a song. This is essential if you’re going to play in the rhythm section of a band. Soloing is the ability to play variable musical phrases, utilizing the full range of the instrument. I help students advance each skill set and synthesize them into a unified voice.
As my students learn pieces, they also learn about the drummers who created them. This helps improve their skills and also understand historical context. We focus on the great drummers in a genre, while always making it accessible to the students’ skill level. They apply their skill foundation and learn music theory, such as song structure, ensemble dynamics, and elements of composition, to name a few.
Trying To Decide What Style of Drumming You’d Like To Explore? Here Are Some Options…
- Rock – When students want to learn rock, we start right away with the backbeat. From there we explore bass, snare, and ride cymbal variations that yield a surprising variety of sound textures and moods. Then we develop energy and power to really drive a band. I teach students how to incorporate triplets into their rock, how to play double-time, 6/8 ballad grooves, and so much more.
- Jazz – Drumming in a jazz style is often called for in school jazz bands of various sizes. I teach students how to swing, from ballads to up-tempo. We cover concepts such as playing in 3/4 time, using brushes, comping, chart reading, second line, and improvisation.
- Funk – Syncopation is supreme when it comes to being funky. Learning how to play syncopated beats and fills is the first step, then developing a bumpin’ bass, subtle ghost notes, and hi-hat footwork. We will also work on beat displacement, half-time shuffles, and (of course) the classic “funky drummer” variations.
- Dance – These are the beats that get people moving! From disco to techno, dubstep, drum and bass, and other electronica—everything four-on-the-floor and even more. While many of today’s popular drum beats from these styles are created electronically, they can be emulated with either electronic or acoustic drums. We’ll break-and-drop too!
- Latin – The wealth of exciting Latin rhythms means there’s practically no end to the fun. I start with the standard bossa nova, cha cha cha, and soca, and then move beyond into the samba, mambo, songo, and so many more. This style is great for limb independence to free your hands, feet, and mind to make some great music!
- Blues – For blues beats, we look at all kinds of ways to play driving, energetic shuffles. We also learn half-time feels, 12/8 slow blues grooves, and all manner of triplet-based fills.
- Progressive – When helping ambitious students play progressive rock, we dig into odd meters, frequently mixed. I help them understand ensemble phrasing and create their own complementary parts. We explore prog’s unique sound palate of cymbals, double bass drum, tribal beats, and more.
Playing in a wind or symphonic band, whether in a community or school group, requires good music reading ability. I work with students to make sense of written parts and perform them. I teach my students the drum rudiments that are so much a part of this repertoire. Mallet percussion study (such as xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, or bells) is most common in concert percussion. When developing students’ mallet technique, we start with scales and then quickly move to short melodies from classical, pop, jazz, or whatever else excites them. From there we learn how to play longer pieces as well as how to improvise melodically and harmonically. As for timpani, I teach tuning and technique. There’s also a wide variety of exotic and wondrous orchestral percussion to learn about, from clave to gong to wind machine to the vibraslap!
Learning drum rudiments on the snare drum is essential to a marching style, and I guide my students through these rhythmic building blocks of the musical language. Playing cymbals in a marching band also has a surprising degree of technique and showmanship, which I impart to my students. I work with students’ ability to play marching bass drum (both unison and tonal), and I share my insights on the technique of tenor drums. I help my marching band students learn their flip book tunes and make their cadences sparkle!