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.