Timing is everything

I once had a very talented Berklee graduate jazz guitarist give me the total thumbs down while in the middle of playing a Coltrane tune live at a public event. He made darn sure I saw him as he gave me a thumbs up followed by the big thumbs down.

We found ourselves at a corporate gig. At break, he told me my timing had slowed down during his solo or bridge on one or two fast swing tunes. He probably was right, but it was by far the rudest thing I had ever experienced during a gig, particularly since he had actually approved of my playing on the same tunes at a prior library gig. We all have off nights. Suffice to say, I never got invited to play with those musicians again. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

The story here is why did I slow down. I can play jazz fairly well and have for many years both by reading it and with my ears. In fact, the Chair of Berklee’s jazz piano studies dept. even told me so at a freelance gig once. That’s a pretty hefty endorsement. Despite a guitarist nearly half my age being disrespectful on stage about it,  it’s still my fault. When I screw up with time or anything musically – and we all do – I always reassess what happened and how I can improve. At that particular gig – and not to make excuses – we were crammed upstairs basically in a hallway playing down to a bunch of people’s heads who could care less about jazz music and were celebrating the opening of some corporate product like windows or something. I honestly forget.

It was such a crammed space for instruments or sound projection that I didn’t feel right playing the whole night. It was like performing in a closet. The drums were stuffed in a corner of the hallway and we all played basically in a  straight line, which was a ridiculous setup by the event organizers.  We could not really see each other. I could not hear anything except saxophone. Still my fault.

I took it all in stride and re-examined my timing over the next few months to make sure a bad habit had not crept into my playing. There is an ebb and flow to timing on the drums and in music in general. Without that freedom, music would sound like a robot – and unfortunately already does in many of today’s loop-centric pop recordings. That said, we as drummers need to maintain solid tempo despite its inherent fluctuations. We need to know when to drag it back or rush it, paying heed not to lose control of the origin tempo.

There are many jazz tunes where the starting beats per minute is not how the song ends or solo transitions, and it was not due to a time signature change. It was due to jazz being about improv and responding to the energy of the music presented at that given moment.

The antagonist guitarist obviously knows this already as a Berklee grad. What he doesn’t know is that I used his thumbs down gesture as motivation to further refine my timing by working with a metronome regularly again, and also counting subdivisions during song passages. I made it  a point to get accurate metronome BPM markings written down for all songs with other bands I play in. I started recording every gig and important practices for later critique. I’m not sure if my timing improved because it was already solid to begin with. But it served as a great reminder.

In life, the best thing to do is turn a negative into a positive. That rude Berklee guitarist helped me become a better drummer. Sometimes the best thing to do is listen to constructive criticism and then take action.

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.





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.


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

Drum To Play Live

I was once invited to play my old, beat up, radiator-dented trombone live at a gig in Worcester last year. Though I found it difficult to play drums and trombone at the same time, what a wonderful experience that was and it reawakened my love for that instrument I began learning along with drums way back in the fourth grade. My sisters and I were writing and performing our own basic songs in the living room for our parents well before that age as well,  planting the seeds of songwriting in me early on.

I know life gets in the way sometimes with kids, money and many other demands, but I have tried hard to live by this mantra as a drummer my entire life: “Always Aspire To Play Live.” Another words, you should always practice and prepare to play your instrument live out in front of audiences as much as possible. Live performance is at the core of being a dedicated musician, in my opinion.

When looking back, the impetus for that excitement and challenge of live performance was entrenched within my soul when I was awarded an Outstanding Musical Performance certificate on the Drum Set by the National Association of Jazz Educators back in high school at a state-wide jazz ensemble competition while attending Auburn High School. I recall playing a drum solo to “Caravan” that impressed all the judges there and drew wide applause. I loved that live feedback, padding the end result of a lot of hard work in rehearsals. What a day that was.

However, drums eventually won out as the band director needed a jazz band drummer as did Show  Choir, Marching Band and Chorus ensembles. All I did in high school was play drums in rehearsals and live. I didn’t play sports or video games. And when I came home, I put on my headphones and played and sight read music every day. Then, off to college I went where I basically double majored in music and professional writing given how many minor track theory, songwriting and music history courses I took as well as how much live music I played in many bands at FSU. Endless hours of live performance at the college parties, with a popular alt. rock band in and around Boston, and in the college jazz and concert bands on trombone, coincidentally, etc. Blah, Blah, Blah.

As a professional drummer and music educator, I feel it is absolutely critical that we maintain our chops on whatever chosen instrument we’ve mastered (or even still trying to master). I never stopped playing out live or yearning for that opportunity, even while I worked as a part-time musician for many years while writing. Yes, continuing to practice your instrument alone certainly helps a lot in learning and maintaining chops, but the value of playing with other musicians can’t be simulated. It’s earned with a lot of hard work and live gigs.

If you find yourself in a slump and not playing out live enough or at all (and it does happen), the easiest thing to do is attend live open mic music jams in your area. That will get you playing live again and also introduce you to a broad network of other musicians who live nearby that you can then possibly start jamming with.  Many bands have grown from open mic night friendships. Another tip is to just pick up the phone and call former bandmates and musician friends and ask them to jam with you. You’d be surprised how many other musicians think alike.

If either of those solutions don’t pan out, try advertising in music stores and online community bulletin boards to form your own band or look for bands in need of drummers on Craigslist, etc. And if all else fails, come out with an impressive solo routine, get a permit from city hall, and play live out on the streets. I’ve yet to do this but it is on my bucket list. That said, I did start facilitating group djembe drum circles on the side about five years ago as another way to keep playing live and earn more money, which has steadily grown in popularity.

I’ve been blessed in my life to play with many great musicians and bands. While I never found the good luck and “been in the right place at the right time” to join a national touring band, I have certainly done smaller tours regionally in New England. The point is I have gained enough skill by practicing hard and following my philosophy of “Always Aspire To Play Live” to deliver on a national artist touring situation should it arise. Below is a compilation of my upcoming local and regional gigs on drums. I smile every time I pull out of my driveway with a truck full of gear. If you come to a show and see me smiling on stage, now you know why.

The Island Castaways Band
(One of New England’s most in demand trop-rock and Jimmy Buffett touring cover bands)

TICB Studio Single Released 1-25-18 – “Somewhere Down US1

Feb. 23 – 2018 New England Parrot Head Convention – 9:00pm – 1:00am! The theme of this year’s convention is Under the Big Top! Great People, Great Music and a Great Cause! For more information go to www.newenglandphc.com/2018.

May 29 – Red Sox, Fenway Park, Margaritaville Night, Boston MA
Band plays outside at Yawkey Way before game v. Blue Jays.
Gig tickets and info here: www.mlb.com/redsox/tickets/promotions/themes/margaritaville

June 1st – Indian Ranch, Webster, MA

July 6 – Indian Ranch, Webster, MA

July 11 – Cuttyhunk Concert, Tropical Island Somewhere off Maine

Aug. 4 – Cutuit festival, Cutuit Cape Cod

September 7 – Indian Ranch, Webster, MA

** Many additional TICB tour dates TBA as summer approaches.


Luscious Lushes (all original jazz, funk and R&B, Sturbridge, MA)

10-Song All Original Music CD Launch Party, Homefield Brewing, Sturbridge, MA – May 5, 7-10 pm

Studio Recording at Long Hill Studios in January 2018 – now in post production


The Jeff McClean Project (all original alternative rock based in southern NH)

10-Song All Original Music CD Launch Party, Homefield Brewing, Sturbridge, MA – May 5, 2-5 pm

Studio Recording Done Entirely Online in year 2017


The Trinity Big Band (Worcester, MA based jazz swing band) 

The All-Volunteer Jazz Big Band plays most every Tuesday morning in and around Worcester, MA


All Together Drum Circles (Facilitated by Tim)

Tim facilitates group djembe drum circles on a weekly and monthly basis at various senior centers, kids’ facilities and assisted living facilities throughout Massachusetts. He’s hauling his 20 djembes and assorted percussion to Oasis Living Center in Worcester, MA every Friday morning with several other monthly gigs.

Email: tim@kanedrums.com

Cell/text: 774-757-7636

First drum set lesson free. Djembe lessons included in program.

Thank you for visiting my page. I have taught drum set for the past 12 years professionally and have played the instrument for 30 years. I also play trombone and and a little piano. I am a songwriter as much as I am a drummer.

I teach kids from 4th grade though adult and also offer drum circle music therapy sessions to senior citizens and special needs folks all over Massachusetts. I am a member of the Tantasqua Music Association and volunteer with kids and seniors on a weekly basis year-round locally.

I cordially would like to invite you to please try one drum lesson with me for free. I’m a natural teacher who studied it in college and relate well with kids.

If the first drum lesson seems like a good fit, I can teach drum set and orchestral percussion in your home or my own drum studio on a weekly or even monthly basis.

I have plenty of references to offer from other Tantasqua and area parents who have taken lessons with me, and please feel free to check out my website below to learn more about where I play and what I do on the educational front. I am also the resident drum set instructor at Eagle Hill High School in Hardwick and a professional freelance writer.

I also play gigs regularly to keep my own chops fresh. I’m the drummer for a weekly volunteer senior big band, and tour drummer for one of New England’s most popular trop rock bands. My 30 years of playing in jazz and rock bands is an instrumental part of my lesson program. That performance experience can not be learned in college alone. It’s honed on the road in clubs and venues spanning decades. I’m grateful to offer that vast experience.

Younger drummers generally tap my skill sets to get better at sight reading concert band and jazz music and improving their chops or technique. However, I also leave plenty of room for creativity and for students to find their own voice and style on the kit. Ear training is critical as well.

I also give Djembe lessons as an added perk with taking drum set lessons if kids are interested in learning more about world beats.

My large studio is full of drums and percussion of all kinds with several drum kits and recording gear, mics, guitars and keyboards. Kids love being in the studio.

Thanks for reading this message and giving me chance to explain what I do for a living. I look forward to meeting you in person soon.


Tim Kane
195 Rice Corner Road
Brookfield, MA









Kids Compose Own Drum Circle Songs at Greendale YMCA Camp




All Together Drum Circles at kanedrums.com has been working with K-4 students all summer long on Tuesdays at the Greendale YMCA Summer Camp. Above are links to songs the kids composed and recorded together last week after learning the basics of song structure.


Best, Tim


Kids Compose Own Percussion Song on Sturbridge Town Common

The audio link above contains a song about 12 kids recorded as part of a Sturbridge Recreation Dept. group drum circle program held on Sturbridge Town Common Aug. 9, 2017 funded by a Sturbridge Cultural Council grant.

After learning the basics of hand drumming and practicing some beats, the kids then learned about song structure, including verses, bridges and choruses. They broke into smaller groups to create their parts.

Directed by drum circle group facilitator Tim Kane using silent hand signals for orchestration, the kids named the song “I Don’t Even Know” – though it’s quite apparent they did know quite a bit about rhythm by the conclusion of the hour-long event.

Great job kids and thank you for choosing All Together Drum Circles at kanedrums.com.

Warmest regards, Tim


kanedrums.com is a multi-faceted, self-employed music business offering online virtual and live performance, drum set and percussion lessons, drum history lectures, group djembe drum circles, drum and percussion repairs, and musician/band marketing. Email: tim@kanedrums.com • Cell/text: 774-757-7636