Thoughts On Online Drum Lessons

Thoughts On Online Drum Lessons

In relation to online drum lessons, I believe that content, particularly meaningful content, is a good thing. On the one hand, you can never have enough of it; good stuff is good stuff, and it’s good for everyone. That said, sometimes you can have too much of it. This can cause option paralysis; I mean, where on earth do you start, right?!

Having recently ventured into Drumeo’s website to have a look around, I found something that I didn’t fully sit with me. On their homepage, if you scroll down a little bit, there’s a table called “How Drumeo Compares To Other Alternatives”.  Have a look!

At the end of the day, and understandably so, Drumeo is a business. Like many other businesses, they have a Sales and Marketing function to establish their brand, develop new business, attract customers, and make money. Absolutely no issue with this; in fact, they’re very good at it, and I really like what they do!

I do think, however, that there’s a bit of a misrepresentation of the other alternatives, in particular private face-to-face tuition. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Drumeo positions its online lessons as a limitations-free, and better service than the other alternatives.

My point here is that it’s not better, just different; a part of the learning process. Therefore, I believe it’s worth making a couple of general observations about online lessons. For starters, generally-speaking, most people find it difficult to find or make time to play and practice… And we’ve all been there! Consequently, just because a resource is available 24/7, it does not mean people will take full advantage of it. In fact, a service like Drumeo could be thought of like a gym membership, many people may have it, but not make the most of it.

Another key aspect is instant feedback and its one way system. Students, in most cases, are not able to spot their own mistakes, which means mistakes can’t be corrected in real time, unlike having a tutor in the room. This risks the formation of bad habits. And furthermore, the online lessons will not adapt to the student’s learning style.

Additionally, much like with any learning environment, a large consideration in choosing who to learn from, is the personal relationship you have with your teacher. In an online environment, this is a one way interaction. In addition to this, if there’s something you don’t understand, you won’t be explained it in more than one way, in real time. This is something that a tutor can do effectively, as they get to know the student personally.

Again, the point here is not to have a go at Drumeo but perhaps provide a more balanced, or detailed view on their slightly misrepresentative table. At the end of the day, the best learning is a multi-faceted process, one whereby you use all the resources available to you to maximise your development!

Is Your Attitude Stopping You Being The Best Drummer You Can Be?

Is Your Attitude Stopping You Being The Best Drummer You Can Be?

Since I started teaching drums as a full-time thing a few years ago, I started noticing that when learning or, more specifically, becoming a pupil in our adult life, students above 25y/o seem to behave a bit like children. Now, I don’t mean this in a negative way at all! In fact, I behave exactly the same way when I’ve gone to see a drum teacher. So, how can we use this to learn drums better?

What interests me about this observation is this perceived change in attitude; the shift in which we proceed to accept information from an ‘expert’ (i.e. someone who’s considerably ahead of us). We surrender our trust and our will to this person, placing ourselves in a vulnerable position, and perhaps making feel a bit like kids again.

Have you noticed this yourself perhaps as a teacher or as a student? My partner, who teaches English in an ESL school, reports this exact same behaviour of her students. Senior as they may be in age or job in their native countries, she says they behave like middle schoolers. Now, her stories revolve around immature behaviour, which isn’t the case in my experience; my focus here is a general approach to learning.

So with that in mind, how can we make the most of this (i.e. learn drums better), our rejuvenating child-like sense of learning and adventure? To me, it’s about approaching learning something new with an open mind and a disposition to change something about ourselves (i.e. learning a new skill or developing it further).

The great Dom Famularo, said it best. To him, the fountain of eternal youth was to constantly be on the cusp of learning something new. Therefore, following on from those very wise words, consciously and actively try to

  • Keep an open mind, but not just when going for a lesson; do so in picking up new information and perspectives. Even if you might not agree with it, it might enrich your knowledge

  • Take advantage, and try to impress your teacher. On one hand, learning is done for ourselves, yet it’s also motivating to hear encouraging words from your teacher

  • Work with a mate on things you’re struggling with

  • Base your learning around projects like songs you’d like to cover, for instance

Thank you for reading my blog, as usual. I hope you’ve found this useful or interesting in one way or another. I would love to know what you think; whether you like it, or think it’s rubbish!

Simple Hacks To Become A More Confident Drummer

Simple Hacks To Become A More Confident Drummer

This quick blog entry deals primarily with the issue of confidence (i.e. how to become a more confident drummer), which is quite a personal thing, I suppose. You see, I was born musical, and consequently taught myself how to play my instruments: the guitar, bass, and drums. Of these, it’s the latter that I’ve gone into most detail; enough to make a career out of it.

Incidentally, I’ve always felt intimidated by those who have attended / graduated from music schools, or conservatoires. I tend to associate these musicians as being far more technically able and knowledgeable of music theory than I, which I always find daunting.

So, I wanted to focus on this little issue of mine, partly to exorcise the demons. Yet, also partly to see if any of this resonates with any of you, and perhaps helps you in any way. This is because to me this feeling of intimidation is directly linked to confidence.

Of course, on the one hand, we can become a more confident drummer by practicing more. But that’s just one way. I think it’s worth spending a bit of time to figure out what makes you different. As I’ve come to understand it first hand, being a musician these days is a more all-encompassing term. You’re more than just a player of your instrument; you’re an entrepreneur.

A good place to start in building your confidence might be to look at what other aspects, both direct and peripheral, of being an all-encompassing musician you might be good at.

Can you play other instruments, or do you sing?

This may be useful in helping you getting a gig. I, for one, treat the fact that my first instruments were the guitar and bass, as a way of making me more aware of the ‘bigger musical picture’ when I play in a band. As a result, I get told I have a “great feel” for the music, which, to me, gives me a bit of a boost to compensate for some of the more technical abilities I might not have yet perfected.

Are you a savvy business person?

A huge part of being a musician is being clever enough to make money from it. Most musicians are artists, yet lack a business sense. Whilst others are very business-oriented, yet lack some of the more artistic side. To me, balancing this is important, yet being organised and being business-minded goes a long way in terms of your longevity in the industry and as a creative.

Are you a good teacher?

Something else to have a think about is where you stand as a teacher. In my experience, every time I teach something to a student, it helps reinforce it in mind. Likewise, not all musicians are good teachers… So, if you’re a good at this, it’s something to feel good about. You can use the transferable “teacher” skills to better communicate with your band mates or clients, or perhaps help  explain or clarify things for others, etc…

Are you a great entertainer? 

Again, perhaps your technical skills aren’t like Jojo Mayer, but are you a good entertainer? If you are, then use that to your advantage! Zoltan Chaney, for instance, is a great example of a very entertaining drummer whilst keeping a solid groove. Check him out here.

These are just a few thoughts, and whilst I can’t answer those questions for you, you should try to discover these things. And how can you incorporate this to your “offering”? Wear them on your sleeve; show them when you have to but don’t gloat; that’s never a good look.

Hopefully these things get you feeling like a more confident drummer. The above are very personal to me, so these may not resonate, and that’s OK! The point here is to think about yourself beyond your technical ability, given that “musician” does not equal being able to play 1,000 notes per second, although this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for that either!

Don’t forget, the more skills you have, the more you can bank on. But never stop developing your craft, learning from others, and from experiences.

My Top 10 Tips For Musicians

My Top 10 Tips For Musicians

I’ve been a musician all my life, a professional for many years, although I haven’t always been so full-time, and here my top 10 tips for musicians that I’ve picked up over time. In my “previous life” I was “suit” working in marketing and advertising, after having graduated with a degree in marketing management. This background and experience, I believe, have given me a slightly different approach to how I’ve gone about making a living out of my main, albeit not first, instrument (i.e. the drums).

With this in mind, I’d like to offer the lessons I’ve learned so far in the shape of tips for those starting out as musicians, or those wanting to take the same leap I did when I decided to turn my passion into my work.

A healthy routine, and being disciplined

Try to maintain a healthy routine, which to different people might mean different things. To me, this is about going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting up and being productive by 9.30am. This involves keeping a regular practice schedule, and well as going to the gym, and giving myself time to have a creative outlet.

Similarly, now that your passion is your work and your work is your life, be aware that it’s easy to get caught up in this. So do your best to spend as much quality time with your loved ones – they’re your support network and are just as important as your work.

Join a gym

Do this; it’s an investment and it’s invaluable. Exercise 3 – 4 times a week. You will look better, will feel better, and will even play better. Being physically fit also means being mentally fit; and will have a positive effect on every aspect of your life.

Don’t be a diva

Having a bad attitude is probably the worse thing you can have as a musician. Be polite, friendly and courteous, make sure you’re always on time and that you know what you’re supposed to be doing. Having a positive attitude and helpful disposition go a long way!Treat others how you want to be treated.

Don’t overplay

Leave your ego behind, and play to serve the song. Likewise, being a good musician is not about how many notes you can play per second; it’s about listening to the music and to what others are playing. In other words, it’s teamwork.

Trust in the universe

Did you ever read a book called The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho? Do yourself the favour and do so if you haven’t. One of the take away messages from the book is that when you follow your heart, the universe conspires to help you. And whilst quitting my job wasn’t inspired by the book, I have personally experienced that things have a way of working themselves out. Keep your head down and work.

Network

Go to gigs or musical / industry events (i.e. the London Drum Show, or drum clinics) and meet musicians. Make friends with your local music shop, jam with as many people as possible. This will help not only get your name out there, but you will meet people from the industry who could be helpful. For instance, the drums industry is very small, and as a result, is not only a nice community but also a supportive and collaborative one.

Have goals, but don’t compare yourself to others

As a player, it’s important to have goals yet you have to remember that you’re not better or worse than the next guy. They’re farther ahead than you because they’ve been playing for longer, or spending more time on stuff.

Listen to lots of different music

Not just that, but learn about the instrumentalists who play on these tracks and the nuances to their playing. You never know when someone might ask of you to play like such and such person in such and such record. Keep in mind that most of the time it’s not about what you play, but how you play it. Listening to varied music will make you a more well-rounded musician.

Don’t stop learning

Take lessons, watch videos, buy books… Whatever it is, don’t stop learning. Learning keeps you young, relevant, and as a result, in demand.

Get the most out of your instrument as a money-generating skill

What does this mean? For instance, I’m a drummer, yet I don’t just play to earn my keep. I teach privately, I write for magazines, I play in cover bands as well as original bands, I do teching work in studios, I created and launched my own product, etc. Think of different ways in which you can apply your instrument to make a living from it.

Bonus tip

Be confident

If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will? This is something I always struggle with, and need to remind myself constantly about. To that effect, you can only do your best under the circumstances you’re under. So, go for broke and give it your best shot.

The Shady Bunch? West London Musicians: A Brief Commentary

The Shady Bunch? West London Musicians: A Brief Commentary

West London Musicians.

London, the Big Smoke. It’s without a doubt one of the most exciting cities on this planet; rich with historic and cultural heritage. It is massive yet everything is within reach, and its North, South, East, and West divisions have their own strong individual personalities. But, you probably already know this.

But did you know what a YouGov survey classified each area as? The North got intellectual and pretentious, the East poor and up-and-coming, the South was rough and suburban, and the West posh (and pretentious too, actually). Beyond the survey, however, my experience is that us in the West, are considered to be far from all the cool places and we’re a drag to get to. Nonsense!

The West quite literally rocks, having played a pivotal role in shaping modern pop culture. For starters, Ealing and Acton are the birthplace to British Rhythm & Blues. The Rolling Stones, for instance, were formed in the Ealing Club, and The Who went to Acton High School (formerly Acton County Grammar School).

Furthermore, in the 1960s Marshall Amplification was based in Hanwell. Another name associated with the area is Freddie Mercury who studied at the Ealing Technical College & School of Art. Also noteworthy is Acton’s Adam Faith, the UK’s first artist to have his first seven hits chart Top 5. Similarly Jimi Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell, and more recently Jamiroquai hail from Ealing.

Perhaps it’s no wonder there is such a big community of musicians in West London – it’s a magnet for creativity. Abundant with rehearsal studios (e.g. Survival Studios and Panic Studios), world- famous recording studios as Metropolis in Chiswick, tons of record labels and iconic live venues such as The Troubadour, we have musically industrious economy.

But enough of history; what about some of our current local musicians? Musos can sometimes be perceived as larger than life, mysterious and not necessarily relatable. This, as our experience of them is generally on stage, TV (YouTube), or our Walkman (iPod).

So who are they and what do they do? I thought I’d introduce you to a few to give you an insight into the music scene, community and industry from the comfort of your seat. Perhaps this might even inspire you to go check out more live music, or even pick up an instrument.

You see, musicians have to do lots of jobs. Meet Ed Thorne, a fantastic professional drummer who, as well as teaching privately and in schools, plays in a covers band, the iPhonics. But that’s not all; he works as a freelance sound engineer all over the country. When I asked him about how he feels about this type of work, compared to gigging and recording, he told me “it’s very rewarding striving to produce a good sound, both for the band on stage, and for the audience to enjoy and dance to!” And like the rest of us, he works so he can fund his originals band, The Fuse.

But you see, not all drummers do the same jobs either! I too am a professional drummer too but work with independent artists in live and studio settings, teach privately, and write for drum magazines under my Moustache Music business. In addition to this I have my own product called CHOPZzz™, which is a nifty pillowcase that doubles up as a drum practice pad. The point is that we have to be entrepreneurial.

Similarly, there are also those of us who play for big artists. Take Dave Troke, a fantastic bass player whose work includes, amongst many others, playing with stars like Leo Sayer, Dido, Professor Green and Donna Summer. “What I like about my job”, he says, “is that fact I get to play with different musicians, in different locations, and I love playing bass”. Indeed, he also feels honoured when he’s asked to play with artists he listens or had a career before he was born. Such was the case with Sister Sledge, which he recalls as his favourite experience. And again, like most musicians, he also teaches – although he does so at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute.

So you see, it’s not all sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll – well, maybe sometimes. The truth is, however, that the job is tough, sometimes long hours for little pay. And to cope with the physical and mental aspects, we need to stay in shape and keep our chops up to remain relevant and maintain our reputation. And, unfortunately like everyone else, we also have to do admin – nobody is safe from admin.

I hope this has not only given you a brief insight into the scene here in West London, but likewise, made you a bit more proud of living in such a culturally rich and relevant community.

Originally published by the Ealing Gazette, August 2015. Read the original here.