The one year anniversary of my first drum lesson has come and gone without my noticing, somewhere around mid November.
Unfortunately, I didn’t break out the party hats and throw myself a drumiversary party this month – this pic is from Alex’s 7th birthday last year. (Yes, I do silly things to celebrate my dogs birthdays. It’s dorky but I’m not ashamed.)
My involvement with the drums has gone a lot further than I expected, especially for something I started on a whim. The initial plan was to take a month of lessons to learn about rhythm in general. I had no idea how much I’d like it.
Over the years I’ve tried many instruments (piano, violin, flute, french horn, clarinet, guitar, piano again… even the recorder) as well as tap dancing. I have always wanted to participate in music somehow. No other instrument has been as interesting yet comfortable for me as the drums are.
Finally in my 30s I have figured out exactly the kind of noise I want to make.
I’m grateful to have a fantastic teacher leading me in the right direction and many supportive friends, new and old, to encourage and inspire me. I’m also grateful to now own my own drum kit.
My biggest accomplishment in the past year has been to establish a routine of daily practice. This has been a struggle at times (see here and here) but I’m still chugging along.
So today I’m posting to celebrate a small personal milestone – my first “drum-iversary”.
I am still very much a beginner, but now a beginner who can say she’s been playing for a year.
Alex and Ringo.
My recent lessons have been focused on techniques to help my goal of being more versatile. I want to be able to improvise, to add extra sounds into a groove without it all falling apart as soon as I stray from what I’ve practised. (More about that in a future post.) Also my teacher has been encouraging me to pick up the pace.
Working on these has led me back to working on my grip on the drumsticks.
My grip has improved over the last few months, but when I’m focused on some other aspect (coordination, speed, timing) it gets sloppy. When that happens it affects my ability to play how I’m supposed to, especially when I try to speed up or play softer.
I’m most conscious of my grip when I play double strokes (aka “doubles”, played RR LL RR LL etc). When my grip is good they sound great and when it’s not I can hear it right away. This makes playing doubles a natural exercise for me to do for my grip.
Recently I purchased an app called Rudidrum.
(Demonstration video found on YouTube. That’s not me playing.)
When I first started, my teacher had me playing a lot of rudiments, but learning new ones has been put on hold for now to work on other things. (I still practice rudiments every day – singles, doubles, paradiddle, flam, drag - and others on a weekly basis, or while fidgeting during the day – roll rudiments and the paradiddle rudiments being my favourites.)
The main purpose of the Rudidrum app is to teach rudiments – probably obvious from the name – but I haven’t been using it that way yet.
Continue reading →
If you’re paying attention you might have noticed that I haven’t posted for a few weeks. I wasn’t feeling as interested in playing music either.
Over the last month I’ve been having a major motivational lull. Do you ever experience that?
Ringo knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Often people will discuss how to “get motivated and stay motivated” but I think that’s a little much. In my opinion, expecting consistently high levels of motivation from yourself is unrealistic. Even under ideal circumstances motivation levels vary. Still, during the low times it can be extremely frustrating to feel indifferent about something that you usually enjoy.
All in all, things are improving rapidly (special emphasis for my parents if they’re reading this: don’t worry!) so I’m very happy for that. I’ve got some drum-ish posts on deck, and now that I’m feeling chatty again I’m looking forward to getting those posted. Since it’s been a while since I’ve felt inspired to write, for today I’d like to write about working through my motivational slump.
Continue reading →
A few weeks ago my vacuum exploded. Not a huge explosion with shards flying everywhere, but internally and irreparably.
I’m told it made a huge bang.
We’ve now got a new one. This means I could finally vacuum up the dust puppies that have gathered behind my kit (like dust bunnies, but at our place they are composed mostly of dog hair – Alex sheds a lot) and take photos of my drum set.
Continue reading (and see more photos) →
Often my greatest moments of nostalgia aren’t from songs I loved and listened to, but from ones I didn’t know well – the songs I had heard but didn’t pay much attention to at the time. These songs give me a sense of atmosphere – a feeling of the time rather than a specific memory.
“Girlfriend” by Eric’s Trip is one of those songs. A little over a year ago, we found it again while following link after link of Canadian alternative songs from the 90s on YouTube. I’ve listened to it almost daily since then.
The moment I heard “Girlfriend” I was immersed in nostalgia, an immediate reminder of how it felt to be my teenaged self – driving aimlessly in my best friend’s Gremlin, drinking slurpees and listening to CFNY, hanging out in parking lots and playgrounds, feeling like every song we heard was describing our lives.
- Leanne, 1994.
Ever since I started drumming along with songs, this has been in my rotation. I’ve even bought a second, live version on itunes because I could hear the drums better in that one.
There’s something about this song that that draws me in. I can’t explain exactly what. The sound is raw and a little messy (which I like), and the words are more than a little creepy.
For as much as I love “Girlfriend” now, I find it funny that I only vaguely remember it from my teenage years, especially since I’m sure I saw Eric’s Trip play back in 1994 or ’95 at the X-Club in Hamilton. I wonder… does anybody out there remember that place? It was at an old bar in downtown Hamilton – my first taste of nightlife, grimy clubs, and loud bands at small venues. I went there often for all-ages night to see local and Canadian bands – some amazing performances. It was THE coolest. I’m so grateful I got to experience it (and also that my parents let me go).
When I close my eyes and listen to this song I can almost picture myself back there.
Ringo checking out the tambourine.
Lately I’ve been using Stevie Wonder songs to motivate me for my household chores. They really get me moving. At some point I realized that my silly attempts at backup singer moves would be greatly enhanced by a tambourine.
So, I bought one. It is plastic and red.
The other, more relevant, reason I bought it is because I’m experimenting with “real” sounds instead of relying only on the e-drums.
Alex, my big dog, gets excited by the noise and picks up toys to play with. My beagle, Ringo, doesn’t like the tambourine much. He’s very suspicious of it. Continue reading →
At the end of the summer I had a few weeks off from lessons. I took the opportunity to start “Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer” by Ted Reed. It was recommended to me by my teacher and is one of the most used books for drumming, consistently ranked second on Modern Drummer magazine’s list of timeless drum books.
I’m currently practicing playing a syncopated rhythm on the bass drum, accompanied by the hihat and snare parts of the basic rock beat. Here’s an example, using line 1 on page 33 of the book.
This book is a collection of exercises that Ted Reed wrote for his students and published in the late 1950′s. The intention was to teach snare drum players how to read music, but it is used for much more than that. Drummers use the exercises in many creative ways, applying the rhythms to practicing coordination and creating new sounds. People play with different limbs, change accent placement, add swing, and probably even turn the book upside down.
I’ve titled this post as ‘Part 1′ because I’m positive that I’m going to be working with it off and on for a long time. Continue reading →
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fidget-er. It passes the time and helps to focus my attention. Lately, I’ve found new ways to fidget that help me work on my drumming. I think of it as ‘useful fidgeting’. Footwork (ex. working through foot patterns) has been a go-to fidget for me. I can wiggle my toes in my shoes and nobody has to know.
This has nothing at all to do with the topic, but it’s been a while since we saw my dogs in a post. So, here’s Ringo… sleeping like this, if you can believe it.
It is important to me that I not only write about my experience on this blog – ‘cause as a beginner I’m no authority – but refer to drummers with more experience and credibility. I figured that I can’t be the only one doing this “useful fidgeting”, so that presented a good opportunity to consult others. I asked the the wonderful folks on the Drummerworld forum for their thoughts – if they practice like this through the day, and how they did it.
One thing I learned for sure is that most drummers do this, (I wonder… do fidgety people tend to become drummers, or do drummers become fidgeters?) tapping with anything they can find on anything around them, including spouses and dogs (it’s not just me!).
Here’s what I learned from others who practice by fidgeting: Continue reading →
Over the last few days I’ve been working on a post that I’m excited about. I had planned to publish it tomorrow, but it’s getting a bit long and the formatting isn’t quite right yet. Who knows… maybe it’s our weird Ontario weather this week that’s making my brain not work. Anyway, I’m going to come back to it in a few days, hopefully with a fresh perspective.
In the meantime you get a break from my wordy wordy talk talk talk, and get to watch a video instead! (The blog post equivalent of having a substitute teacher at school.)
The other day someone mentioned practicing “3 against 4″. Since I didn’t know what it was I asked Google and learned that it’s a kind of polyrhythmic beat.
And what are polyrhythms? Besides being pretty darn cool, polyrhythms are – by my simple definition (which may be slightly inaccurate, but I try my best) – what you get when you play at two different time signatures at the same time. The video above shows playing 3 beats per bar at the same time as 4 beats per bar. As you’ll hear in the video the result is interesting.
What I like about this is how a simple idea can make a more complex rhythm.
And while you’re here, there’s a recent post I’d like to share with you from the ‘BANG! The Drum School’ blog. It’s about playing vs practicing, discussing the quote: “Never practice when you play and never play when you practice.”
I’d tell you more about it, but their post is ‘short but sweet’ and worth reading all the way through. Click here to check it out.