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Great Drumset Instructors Are Rare

"When you stop learning, you're dead." A very smart drummer once told me that, and it's absolutely true. No matter how good a drummer you think you are, you can always learn something new. Ask a top professional in any field not only drums.

The best drum pros are constantly learning and striving to improve themselves. They keep open minds, open eyes, and open ears. But while most professional drummers know what to look for in a drumset instructor, beginners usually need help. And while there are thousands upon thousands of drumset instructors to choose from, the great majority of them are less than great.

So what makes a great drumset instructor? I'm glad you asked.

The ABC's of Drumming
When pros search out a teacher, they're usually looking to improve a certain aspect of their playing. But if you are a beginner to drumming, you need it all. Look for an instructor who offers a solid foundation in the ABC's of drumming: Reading, Technique, and Practical (OK, so call it the RTP's).

Although it's important that you find an instructor that you really like, don't let that be the sole factor in your choice. Look for an instructor who will give you a solid foundation in drumming, as detailed below.

Learn to Read
Reading is a good place to start. Why learn to read music? Because it's easy (you only need to learn seven notes, compared to 26 letters in the alphabet), and if you intend to play drums for a living, you'll need to know how to read music. Look for a teacher who gives you more than just a page full of notes and a quick explanation on how to count them.

A great instructor will explain the rules behind the music, so you'll understand how to play any piece of music - not simply memorize the music for a particular week's lesson. You should be learning:

  • The seven basic notes and their equivalent rests
  • What time signatures are
  • How and why the values of the various notes and rests vary depending on the time signature
  • How one and two dots affects a note or rest
  • Explanations of counting, repeat signs, grace notes, abbreviations, and ties
  • Basic musical terms and their meanings - including tempo designations and dynamics

If you're not being taught how to read properly, as per the above, think about looking for a better instructor.

Chops Are Important
Technique is the second of the three critical building blocks of drumming. A good teacher should cover the proper way of holding the sticks (stressing a relaxed approach as opposed to muscling it), rudiments (exercises that have been given crazy names like paradiddles, ratamacues, and flam-a-diddles), and other exercises to help you develop speed and agility with the sticks.

Some beginners feel that rudiments are only for those interested in Drum Corps and Marching Bands, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In the first place, everything that you play is technically a rudiment. And second, the difficult sticking variations that make up rudiments will help to improve your technique and control whether you play in a Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop, Jazz, or Polka band.

If your instructor is lacking in the technique department, it's time for a change.

Be Practical
Practical is the last and, arguably, most important part of drumming. (Not to mention the most fun part.) This is where you learn how to develop your four-way coordination, learn dance rhythms of all kinds, and basically learn how to get around the drum set in a relaxed and efficient manner.

Keeping "time," developing the proper "feel" for the music you are playing, "driving" the band, and learning how to solo, should all be part of a comprehensive drum lesson.

If you are not getting all of these things, look for another teacher.

It's All Up to You
I've given you the guidelines that will help you find a great instructor and let's face it – you deserve the best! But remember this: No instructor can teach you anything. All any instructor can do is show you what to practice, you have to teach it to yourself. And the only way to do that is through the regular practice of repeating each exercise enough so it becomes second nature.

Happy instructor hunting!

Note: For information on Private Lessons, Master Classes, or Internet Lessons with me, Click Here.

Until next time: Stay loose.

Tiger Bill Meligari


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