CURRICULUM AND TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
I focus on three areas of concentration in developing an individualized curriculum for each student. I’ve learned from many years of experience that no two students learn the same. I’ve learned how to adapt my approach to each student.
Emphasis on becoming comfortable holding the sticks. The grip is the most fundamental skill and the key is development of a consistent fulcrum (where the stick pivots in the hand). This is the foundation of drumming. We learn how to relax breathe and play with no tension. The focus is on rebound and letting the stick do all the work. Since drumming is a combination of single and double strokes, the rudiments are used as a vehicle for developing rebound. Practice technique is also emphasized. Reading fundamentals are taught through the use of tempo, time and meter using various combinations of beats and subdivisions. Student progress is dependent on good practice technique and individual skill.
We next concentrate on coordinated independence. Through the use of rudiments, the student learns how to break down specific rhythms and apply them to the drum set. This is by far the most challenging aspect of playing the drums. We also explore various musical styles and their relationship to each other.
The student will learn how to play along to songs using drum charts. The emphasis is on learning to interpret the “roadmap” of each drum chart. Learning to write drum parts is also encouraged. Play along tracks are used to enhance the practice experience and motivate the student.
My goal is to individualize the approach I take with each student. I do NOT believe that “one size fits all”. How I work through the various steps in the process is different from student to student. I am always looking for ways to keep the student interested and motivated.
There are basic tools that all drummers should learn in order to develop a strong musical foundation. They include:
Command of the International Rudiments of drumming
Coordinated Independence between hands and feet
Reading and interpreting all musical styles
These fundamentals will help a student develop a solid foundation to work from.
Here is additional elaboration on the fundamentals.
While sitting up straight at the drum throne, allow your arms to completely relax and fall to the floor. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed. From this position, slowly raise your forearms so that they are parallel to the floor, but make sure your shoulders and hands are still completely relaxed; the hands should be drooping at the end of your forearms and the palms facing down. This is the basic “matched grip” position. Your elbows should be close to your sides. The position promotes ergonomic body motion. This healthy approach to drum set playing focuses on natural body motions as opposed to unnatural or forced body motions.
Rudiments are vital to drumming and essential for building technique. They also provide a vocabulary on the drum set for rhythms/grooves fills and solos. The rudiments are the foundation. There is a reason they have endured all these years. It is impossible to play the drums without playing rudiments whether the drummer is aware of them or not. Remember, rudiments are basically made up of a combination of singles and double strokes. It is much easier to accept a method of sticking patterns that have stood the test of time and are tried, true and proven to work. Why reinvent the wheel.
Coordinated Independence is the ability to do different things with different limbs in an organized way. This is learned through the concept of muscle memory. By playing sticking patterns repeatedly on a single surface (practice pad or snare drum), while tapping your foot on the beat, the muscles memorize the motion. Once the pattern is learned it can be applied to the various sound sources of the drum set.
It is an invaluable tool, just like reading and writing any language. Reading music allows the musicians to write down ideas, figure out phrases, expand their learning from instructional books and drum magazines and to prepare for auditions, gigs and sessions. Reading music also helps develop Coordinated Independence. The concept of drum notation is not unlike the “connect the dots” puzzles we all did as children… If one can count and connect the dots so to speak, one can learn Coordinated Independence.
Counting is extremely important, especially for a new student. Counting out loud helps to reinforce playing subdivisions and once you learn that you start to rely more on feel.
Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect! Without solid practice habits, the student cannot hope to better themselves musically. Taking lessons without practicing is like going to the doctor and not taking the prescribed medicine! As a teacher, I can educate, diagnose, encourage, demonstrate and monitor. I cannot magically impart the skills needed to become a solid drummer. One must practice diligently in order to grow.
Here are some practical guidelines to ensure good practice habits:
-It is what you practice not how much you practice
-Consistency is critical. It is better to practice a little every day than to try and cram at the end of the week.
-Focus on what you cannot yet do rather than practicing what you can already do.
-Set goals and measure them
-Set aside time at the end of the practice session to have fun and let loose
Muscle memory is an important concept in practicing. Our muscles have memory and therefore it is critical to practice slowly. If you try to push and force the speed, your will train your muscles to play sloppily. If you relax, concentrate on the proper muscle movements and train your muscles to play the figure correctly it will be easier for you to play faster in the long run. The bottom line is that if you learn incorrectly, you have to waste time unlearning it before you can learn it right.
Every drummer has a comfort zone where he or she feels best playing. Our goal through regular practice is to expand that comfort zone. By focusing on that which we cannot yet do, eventually we will become successful. There are two hurdles to overcome when learning new material. First the technical hurdle. This is comprised of all the various techniques and motions needed to execute the task at hand. The second hurdle is the emotional hurdle. Once we have the ability to play the material, we must make it feel good and groove. The more we clear these hurdles, the more these former obstacles become new tools to find their way into our toolbox and into our “everyday” playing. This is how the comfort zone is expanded. There are no short-cuts.
THE SLOWER YOU PRACTICE THE FASTER YOU LEARN