Weighing the true value of in-person vs. video-based drum set lessons

Do you really think purely video-based drum lessons such as with Canada-based Drumeo are the best method for private drum set instruction?

To its credit, Drumeo does claim that having a private, in-person instructor in combination with Drumeo online lessons is advantageous. Perhaps.

But then in the very next section of their latest promotion linked far below out of fairness to them, they completely attack all private in-person drum instructors with a $197 year-round drum lesson offer. The average cost for weekly private, in person drum lessons during the school year is about $1200-$1500.

So how can us lowly private, in-person drum set instructors compete?

It would take me at least one year of full-time work to develop a video-based lesson program on the scale of Drumeo’s as I am a one-drummer show. It’s my career and it has to be multi-faceted in order to earn a living. There are also only so many prospective drum students in any given market. Losing 5-10 percent of that market to online video lessons is a killer.

If you are spending $197 a year at Drumeo for basically the same checkmark program offerings as a $1500-a-year private, in-person drum instructor, then what’s the catch? Sorry, local drum set instructor and working musician who lives in or near your community. You lose.

But there is a catch you should really consider (and it’s a big one): Drumeo has thousands and thousands of active video students worldwide.

I personally have 12 per week between my home studio and a school where I teach, not including my group djembe drum circle work.

I find many video teaching methods aren’t personable, the quality of the lesson isn’t very good, and above all they rarely if ever are point specific to any one student’s actual musical needs in any real micro way.

For example, can Drumeo help a student prepare for an upcoming theater pit band gig by going through that student’s charts one page at a time – slowly – and help them understand notation? They probably say they can, but they really can’t because they have to cater lesson programming to the group dynamic. It’s a business model based on supply and demand. And they still have to pay all their top tier teachers and support staff money as well. So $197 per student looks far less appealing when you consider how many of those single student programs Drumeo actually has to sell in order to make ends meet.

You get what you pay for in life.

Drumeo may have some of the top drummers (many of whom I greatly admire) teaching group video lessons that may or may not apply to you, and offer very flashy website attractions and all sorts of big names and major product endorsements, but they don’t have your best interests in mind.

I can promise you the personal feedback and passion for each and every student is not there with Drumeo nor will it ever be. It’s like suddenly flipping a switch and your kid goes to school one day only to find giant flat screen tv videos have replaced the actual human teachers in the classroom.

Think long and hard about in-person private music lessons and don’t be tempted by the flashy video lesson programs like Drumeo’s. The reality is a lot of those same video lesson themes can already be found online for free.


Four basic drum set limb coordination tips

Below are four basic and proven drum set limb coordination tips.

1 – Count Aloud and Understand Subdivisions: There is one whole note, two half notes and four (4) quarter notes in one measure of 4/4 time. Wholes and Quarter Notes are both counted “1,2,3,4″ in a steady rhythm. Half notes are counted 1-2. Remember, it takes two half notes to make one measure of 4/4 time. There are eight (8) eighth notes in one measure of 4/4 time. Eighths are counted “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”, in a steady rhythm exactly twice as fast as you counted the 1/4 (quarter) notes. Double the speed of eight notes are 1/16th (sixteenth) notes, and they are counted “1 e and ah, 2 e and ah, 3 e and ah, 4 e and ah. Counting subdivisions aloud or to yourself while playing helps your timing and understanding of how song structure and basic notation works.

2 – Four-limb coordination daily exercise: The exercise that follows is easier to play if you’re sitting at a drum set, but if that’s not possible, just grab a pair of drumsticks and a metal folding chair and place it on a hard floor. (Any tiled or hardwood floor is ideal.) If you’re using a chair, play on the right chair leg for your cymbal, the left leg for your snare, tap your right foot on the floor for your bass drum, and tap your left on the floor for your hi-hats. Start by playing quarter notes with your right foot floor or bass drum. While your right foot is doing that steadily, play eighth notes against it with your left foot hi-hat or left foot floor. This is two-way coordination. Now play eighth note triplets with your left hand chair leg or stick against the other two ongoing foot patterns. This is three-way coordination. Next comes the tricky part. With your right hand, play whole and half notes on the ride or right leg chair. Evolve that to more intricate rhythms that don’t copy any of the other three limbs’ ongoing patterns. Your four limbs are now playing different subdivisions all at the same time. Cool.

3 – Sight-reading quickens muscle memory: Start with practicing short 1-4 measure coordination-patterns on the drums while reading notated drum chart music. If you do this, you will progress rapidly. It is easy to learn sequences of two or three “limb-combinations” and store them in your muscle memory. Then, when you attempt longer patterns, your muscle memory will help you out and it won’t feel impossible.

4 – Timing is everything: Play along to favorite bands’ and artists’ songs and with a metronome using earphones. Break those songs down into smaller compartments or sections at first. Learn each section at a time before progressing to the next part.


Getting back to basics

“It seems there are too many drummers whose work is of rough-and-ready variety and whose technical proficiency suffers in comparison with that of the players of other instruments.
– George Lawrence Stone

This week I challenged myself as a drum set instructor to then challenge my students to get off the drum set and sit at a snare drum for 45 minutes with a notated book on stick control and rudiments.

Many great drum books came to mind for this lesson, including the legendary “Stick Control” snare drum book I studied as a kid originally published in 1963 by the great George B. Stone. Today, I particularly enjoy teaching  “Reading Syncopation and Beyond” by Joel Rothman published in 2010.

I selected Page 32 from Rothman’s book as a starting point to gauge where my students are at in terms of stick control, dynamics, rudimentary abilities and general knowledge of musical terms, theory and chart markings.

What a shock this lesson came to many of my students, despite me reinforcing the basics at every lesson. I discovered they just are not putting enough emphasis or time into mastering Rudiments, which are the language of drums, as well as sight-reading and basic stick control methods that separate a good drummer from a poor one.

From just one page of Rothman’s book, my students learned how to count most all the subdivisions, got a primer on all musical notation, dotted notes, learned many of the dynamic markings and names as well as repeats, Codas, accents, and crescendos,  and explored different time signatures. From one single page! And you know what? After 5- 10 minutes of hard work and listening, they all started to smile and really enjoyed the refresher course. I made tem not only count the measures where it was displayed, but also the bars where no counting numeration was listed.

If you want to drastically improve and reinforce your own drumming, I highly recommend you taking the time each week to master one page for either of these books. It’s worth the investment in time.

– Tim Kane is a professional drum set instructor, performer and drum circle facilitator.