More about drum lessons

October 9th, 2009  / Author: fredhayes

I want to use this page to talk a little more about my teaching and some of my former  and current students.  I started teaching drum lessons a few years after completing my degree in jazz and contemporary music from the University of Arizona.  I taught for over twenty years at WORKSHOP MUSIC AND SOUND.  I moved my teaching studio to RAINBOW GUITARS in 1998.  I have taught hundreds of people  to plays the drums.  I have also helped many who already play the drums to refine and improve their skills.  Some of my students have gone on to be professional musicians.  Most of them however just play for enjoyment.  My students range in age from eight to sixty-five.

I believe that drummers should know how to read music and have at least a rudimentary knowledge of different styles, so that is how I teach.  Even if someone never plays in a band where music reading is required, learning drumming through notation teaches one to understand the theory of rhythm and the ability to communicate easily with other musicians.

A typical first lesson for a beginner starts with learning the proper grip, hand position and stroke mechanics.  I usually start students with the “matched grip” where both sticks are held the same.  When I started playing many years ago, most instructors taught the “traditional grip” where the left hand uses a grip that evolved from early marching drums that were hung from a strap.  Many high school and college drum lines use this grip for visual purposes and to “keep the tradition alive”  so if a student of mine is in that situation I will work with him or her on that grip style.  However in most cases learning to play is much easier using “matched grip”.   Efficient and relaxed stroke motions are also very important and I try to emphasize this from the very beginning. I give the student some simple exercises for wrist strokes and then start on the basics of reading music.

A frequent question is what equipment is needed to start studying drumming. All that is required is a pair of sticks and a practice pad or snare drum, although many start out with a full drum set from the beginning. If a beginner does have a drum set I usually get him or her playing basic rock beats at the first or second lesson. I like to use “play-along” recordings in my teaching. These are songs that are recorded with the drum part left out. Practicing to these gives the student an idea of what it is like to play with a band. I have quite a lot of these for all levels of students and in many different styles.

Another frequently asked question is how long are lessons and how often are they taken. I recommend one half hour lesson per week for beginning and intermediate students. Some more advanced students take hour lessons. I also welcome players who have been at it for a long time but might want to drop in for a lesson or two for help with some technical issue or to work on a different style of music.

Another FAQ. “How long will it take to learn to play the drums?” This really differs with every student. Everyone progresses at a different rate depending on how much they practice at home, if they have any prior musical experience on another instrument and how much natural ability they have. Prior musical experience is not necessary nor is a huge amount of talent. The one thing the student has control of is practice time. The more time you put into it the more you get out of it and the faster you progress. Also, learning to play drums is an ongoing and never ending endeavor. I have been playing for more than forty years and I still practice as much as I can!

Here is a list of some of my students from over the years that have gone on to become full time or part time professional musicians:

Adam Ackerman
Alan Anderson
Cory Boone
Zach Briefer (San Francisco)
Alejandro Canelos
Van Christian
Aaron Emory
Kai Felix
Paul Gibson
Lucas Gillan (Chicago)
Peter Greenberg (US Army Bands)
Rob Lauver
Todd Mellor
Rick Pierce
Matt Pirc
Tim Rachbach (New York)
Roger Reed
Chip Ritter
Gil Rodriguez
Billy Sedlmayr
Ed Shemansky (Los Angeles)
Glenn Valardi
Arthur Vint (New York)

I’m sure there are more that I have lost track of and not mentioned. It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to have helped these and many others learn or improve their drumming.