Read it, hear it, feel it: How senses help our drumming memories

Reading music is a necessary part of learning an instrument. We must have the visual understanding of how note values work together to form rhythms. As drummers, we aren’t as focused on keys, chords, etc. but an overall understanding of music theory is arguably important for any musician.

So we must be able to see the music in order to determine what it sounds like. Similarly to how we read a book. We read the words on the page, they form sentences, and we understand the full story being told. Music is no different, except we are making an action after reading each note. The note is read and them a drum is hit, or a chord is strummed.

It might seem obvious for me to suggest it’s also important that we hear the music. While obvious, the challenging part may come when you ask someone to see and hear what they are playing at the same time. I’ve had students that are excellent readers but they are so involved with reading the part that they aren’t actually hearing what is being played. Getting both senses to work together creates a necessary checks and balances system in which your eyes identify the musical phrase and your ear validates how it sounds. Yes, there are amazing musicians without these senses. While this article assumes the reader can read and hear, I will say musicians without those abilities are extraordinary. They would have to overcompensate with certain senses to make up for the lack of another one.

7feec80aa0b202eb36c330f08db94419--drummer-quotes-drum-sheet-music.jpgPlenty of musicians “play by ear”, which just means they can play back some sort of musical phrase without the need to see it written down. We all want to get to this point. It’s really turning something that’s theoretical into second nature. Once we can play the drums without our focus being on reading the part, we can refocus that energy towards feeling that party and actually making it sound musical.

Once your eyes and ears have helped you get this far, you want to make your playing more natural.  In second nature playing, you are better able to anticipate changes, create comping patterns, navigate your way through a song, and generally become a more improvisational player. Instead of worrying about how 2 dotted eighth notes followed by 4 sixteen notes SOUND while the feet are playing an alternating quarter note pattern, you are now in a position to make that whole idea FEEL a certain way. It’s amazing how you can put 10 drummers in a room, have them play the exact same thing, but each will have subtle nuances that make them different from one another. That is the power of feel.

Drummers refer to muscle memory, a term used to identify comfort as your muscles develop from a drumming perspective. For example, when I first started playing, I couldn’t play a very strong double stroke roll. By working on way to play a better one, over time, the muscles I used to execute a faster and more controlled double stroke roll had gotten smarter, stronger, and familiar with the movements I wanted to make. So in a way, the development of muscle memory is really just you telling your body what you want it to do and changing it over time.

Gavin Hansen Yeager: Drum Student Tabloids

Before Gavin started playing the drums, he would beat on everything. So when his mom asked if he wanted lessons, it was a total no brainer… On top of being an excellent learner, drumming has proven to be a great way to channel his unstoppable energy! Gavin is a naturally creative young man. When he’s not whackin’ the drums, he often spends time writing his own stories and doing art. Gavin even creates his very own T-shirts, such as this one pictured here. I even got one for myself…
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Gavin’s favorite bands are 21 Pilots, Queen, David Bowie, Imagine Dragons and the Foo Fighters; So a good amount of old and new. I’m always a fan of a young drummer taking inspiration from the days of old and new. Gavin likes to emulate his favorite drummers, including the likes of Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl and Josh Dunn. We’ve had a great time going over drumming basics and are now beginning to explore a variety of rock beats. Great job Gavin. Keep up the good work!

Lon Poland: Drum Student Tabloids

After a 40 year hiatus, Lon Poland is back behind a drum set. When I first met Lon, I was very impressed to hear how he spent his time in the 1970s; living with a band, opening for reputable acts such as Hall and Oates, and really striking a lot of parallels with the way I lived in my early 20s. So it was no surprise we hit it off instantly.  Lon got back into the wonderful (sometimes perplexing) world of drumming mainly for enjoyment, physical and mental exercise, and to challenge himself in learning more advanced concepts. Lon favors jazz, classic rock, and classical music, so we spend a lot of time brushing up his chops to focus more exclusively on those genres. Lon is a very hard worker outside of the studio, managing properties all over the Philadelphia area, but when he gets some free time, he’ll never pass up a weekend getaway or a nice walk with his wife and dog.
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Drumming Technique: How to hold your sticks

There is very little we can do on the drums until we learn to hold our sticks correctly. Various grips have been introduced over the years, all with their own preferences and benefits. Many drummers begin playing with the grip that is most comfortable to them. Sometimes this means a grip that isn’t constructive to getting the most our of each stroke. Once your grip is solid, we can then begin exploring other types of techniques to improve things like control, speed, and dynamics. Let’s start with the most common grip:

Matched Grip

Matched grip includes a stance in which both hands match one another. This way, we can rely on the same grip and the same movement on each hand. Since they should both look and move the same way, this causes drummers to compare the two hands, sometimes very meticulously. While this is a good practice, it is important to remember that your left hand may operate slightly different from your right. So aim for a perfect match but don’t get hung up on subtle differences, as our bodies are all built differently. In general, it may feel a little weird exploring a grip that is not completely natural. So have patience as you develop your technique.

There is a very important word that is common to all grips – Fulcrum. Remember this from science class? The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines Fulcrum as “the support about which a lever turns”. In drumming, this means the point your fingers are secured to the stick to allow it to pivot. Every grip we discuss includes a fulcrum point.

German Grip

Philadelphia drum lessons German GripThis include a grip in which your thumb and pointer finger are forming a fulcrum point towards the bottom of the stick. If you pinch the stick, I always say you want about an inch sticking out the back of each hand. The remaining fingers will wrap around the stick and help control it when it’s in motion. Make sure the back of your hands are facing up, palms down. When your sticks meet in the middle of the drum, they will form a 90 degree angle, which will position your elbows out slightly. When the stick is in motion, remember that it’s important to use your wrists, not your arms.

American Grip

philadelphia drum lessons american gripThis is very similar to German grip. You will hold your sticks exactly the same way, however this stance involves tucking your elbows in towards your body, which will cause your sticks to meet at more of a 45 degree angle in the center of the drum. The back of your hands will now be positioned outward a little more, but still facing up.

French Grip

philadelphia drum lessons french gripWhile your hands are still matched, you will find yourself using your fingers a little more in order to move your stick with this grip. Here, you are bringing your sticks in so they are parallel to one another directly in front of your belly button. Where your palms are faced down for German and American grip, here they will actually face the opposite hand with your thumbs positioned on top of each stick. You will move your fingers to control the stick’s movement on both hands.

Traditional Grip

philadelphia drum lessons traditional gripBack in the day, marching band drummers used to march with their drums on the side of their bodies. In order to get good touches on their drums, they had to play with their outside hand faced up and inside hand faced down. This style became heavily used in jazz drumming and is still very popular today. While the dominant hand leverages the same stance used in German grip, the less dominant hand holds the stick a bit differently. Put your hand out, palm up. Let the stick sit in the palm of your hand with the “balance point” in the crook between your thumb and pointer finger. This is going to be your fulcrum with traditional grip. You will then wrap your pointer finger around the stick, maintaining fairly loose contact. Next, curl the remaining fingers around the stick to keep control while the stick is in motion. These fingers will not play a huge role in actually directing the stick. To play, you are still using your wrists to move the stick up and down. There are various forms of traditional grip that involve greater use of the fingers, but that’s another post.

Drummers must all make decisions as to which grip is most suitable for them. This may be a stylistic preference or a general one. Regardless, use the direction above to get started and let me know if any questions come up while you play.

 

 

 

Ben Masters: Drum Student Tabloids

Ben Masters Jon Ardito Drum School drum lessons in philadelphia

When I asked Ben why he wanted to take drum lessons, he told me he likes to be loud. I laughed and then attempted to pry a little deeper. After a few lessons, we started exploring a few different concepts including limb coordination, stick control and tempo. He admires heavy hitter, Neil Peart as well as lesser known drummers such as Josh Dun. We’ll start to play songs those guys are featured in to really test Ben’s abilities within the music realms he enjoys the most. I love Ben’s attitude towards music. For him, playing is a form of self-expression, which I can certainly relate to. I can also relate to That Eagles shirt he’s wearing. Ben loves his Philadelphia sports, especially the Flyers. To relax, he’s either enjoying a sporting event  or on a peaceful walk with his dog.