Pursue your passion

I always wanted to go to music school and was encouraged to by my former high school band directors. But my parents and family just did not support it at the time yet music was basically all I did as a kid. It was a constant head scratcher and my chosen college track in writing never really seemed like the right fit. Music always felt right. The lesson here is young students need as much encouragement from their parents as they do from private music instructors about pursuing their passions in life. Failure to fail or to recognize your true talents can result in being stuck in the wrong career like I was for far too many years.

After 20 years spent as a newspaper journalist while endlessly moonlighting in music, I began switching gears back in 2005 after my young boys got a little older. Truth be told, I do not possess an advanced Masters or Phd in music teaching or performance. I do have a minor in music and a BA in professional writing, however, from Fitchburg State University.  I played there in the collegiate concert and jazz bands under the direction of Conductor Frank Patterson for several years before being whisked off to the big Boston area clubs tour in a popular original alt. rock band, The Love Dogs. I spent many of my college nights and weekends jamming and creating with other musicians – just like they do at music schools. I always have loved playing in original music bands as they are the epitome of why you should play live music: to create and improvise.

Life has a funny way of putting people back on the right paths. What I feel I can bring to the table today as a live drummer, drum circle leader, and private instrumental instructor is a vast jazz, concert and jam band performance portfolio dating back more than 30 years that never wavered or collected dust. I am the type of musician and teacher who loves to perform live and always has. Over the past 10 years, I have built a respected and demonstrated music instructional business by partnering with local schools and parents in homes, specializing in jazz and rock drum set and group djembe drum circles. I also teach beginner trombone mostly to my own son right now, which I played throughout much of my younger student years along with drums right through college.

I also possess a broad understanding of music composition and theory as an active songwriter in bands and with my own studio compositions on piano.

What I’m trying to convey today in this blog post is that wisdom, life experiences and creativity also count a lot in music and teaching regardless of what that piece of paper says you earned. This belief is meant to take nothing away from prospective music degree seekers or many of my fellow musician friends who have earned such advanced degrees. The truth is many of those same well respected musicians and teachers have personally mentioned to me that I am a talented drummer and naturally-gifted teacher meant for this career track.

My point is skillsets earned through life experience can sometimes bear equal value. Make more exceptions. For example, the experiences I honed as a hiring and training news editor and intern supervisor in the newspaper industry for 15 years count and serve me well as a drum teacher today.

These many experiences combined with my life-long passion and active pursuit of music can’t only be taught in college. That’s just one pathway.  It can also be mastered on the job and in life as someone who switched careers and never looked back.

Life is good.

 

 

Drummers should listen to sight-reading wisdom  

By Tim Kane

Although my New Year’s resolution is to tighten up my timing and tempo control, drummers should also strive to learn how to sight-read musical charts, even though most will never use that skill live.

Luckily, I was taught to sight-read musical notation live as a young student in grammar school when I played trombone. That early Bass clef knowledge carried over to drums and continued on straight through my college jazz band years. But not everyone is a schooled musician, or even wants to be. The fact is drummers really don’t need to sight-read in most musical settings today, unlike wind, string, piano and brass musicians. After my college band experiences ended, I did not read a single note for more than a decade. I played everything by ear.

My point is not so much having to learn to sight read in order to play in a successful band – unless of course you plan to enter the music industry professionally and attend college where sight reading is a pre-requisite. For most part-time and hobbyist drummers out there – and many full-timers, too – you probably will never be asked to read a chart or define how a 5/4 time signature breaks down.

I stress with my own students that learning how to sight read has a lot more to do with opening up new avenues of musical expression across the entire drum set; discovering cool new rhythms and patterns you would never have played without sight reading them first; and providing yourself with an instant framework to focus yourself during practice. In my opinion, learning to sight-read is as important as playing along to your favorite bands and songs or performing live with other musicians. Your ears and eyes are intrinsically connected.

HOW TO LEARN SIGHT READING

The easiest and best way to learn to sight read, if you don’t want to go out and hire a private drum instructor, is to buy a good music theory and composition book or CD, and definitely check out national drum magazines such as DRUM! and Modern Drummer. Those publications always carry great how-to-read exercises and notation breakdowns in each edition.

Once you understand note and rest values and the mechanics of how they apply to measures, time, dynamics and all of your drum and cymbal “instruments”, the best way to master them is to use your ears. Take several of your favorite recordings and transcribe the drum parts for them on music staff paper (manuscript). Then, ask a musician friend who can sight-read well to grade them. Try to work drum chart transcription – or at least live sight reading – into your regular practice regimen. And if you get stuck when reading music, slow it down to a tempo that’s more manageable or seek help in an online drum forum.

And if more advanced chart reading skills just aren’t in your future, consider simply learning the meaning of quarter, eighth, sixteenth and 32nd notes, counting measures in time, and the basics of song composition with regard to verse, bridge, and chorus construction. If you can even just talk music theory lingo a bit, it improves your opportunities as a drummer not only from a performance perspective, but also in terms of being able to offer meaningful feedback and ideas to other musicians about their arrangements and original compositions.

Remember, it’s rare today for a rock band leader to hand you a drum chart at a gig or practice and ask you to sight read it verbatim. Beyond being prepared for something that rarely occurs for drummers outside of recording studios or at more intricate jazz and concert band gigs, learning to sight-read just makes you a more complete and smarter drummer. Happy New Year!

Tim Kane is a professional drummer, instructor and writer living in Massachusetts. http://www.kanedrums.com