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Keith Bartlett
November 18, 2020
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Do I have to have a drum kit in order to take drum lessons?

In over 30 odd years of 1-2-1 drum teaching I’ve been asked for quite a lot of advice on all aspects of the instrument, but, thinking about it, one of the most common is ‘Do I have to have a drum kit in order to take drum lessons?’.

Now, it would be ridiculous of me to pretend that owning your own kit is not a huge bonus.  Parents (and neighbours!) permitting, it’s sitting there just waiting to be hit whenever you like so it’s bound to help you practise and improve. But there’s more to drumming than just the technical and physical side and that’s CO-ORDINATION.  

Co-ordination in drumming is the act of playing different things with each of your limbs at the same time.  Sometimes we have to play stuff using all four limbs for goodness’ sake and there aren’t many instruments out there where that happens!

Almost every day I get comments from my pupils such as ‘I can’t play my left foot at the same time as my right hand’ or ‘my left hand is rubbish’.  Maybe it is but it won’t improve by getting more and more frustrated!  Disabilities obviously excepted, everybody’s limbs are the same.  It’s the brain that is the big cheese and, whatever body they’re attached to your limbs willl only follow instructions from that lump of grey matter inside your head. So, take a step back from the kit, take a seat with nothing more than your arms and legs and get to work on a bit of brain training!

Personally this is where I think DRUMMIT excels as in many ways it’s simply a yellow and black, never ending, co-ordination improving, drumming MONSTER!

For the more advanced of you there are many ways of using the app to improve your co-ordination (that’s for another blog), but today I’m concentrating on beginners and any non-drummers who are up for a bit of a challenge.

Use your right hand for the hi-hat (on your left knee), your left hand for the snare (on your right knee and your foot for the kick/bass (on the floor!). (You might like to reverse the order if you’re left handed).  Set DRUMMIT to on the spin page and set the metronome to super slow.  Then listen to the beat and listen good. When you feel ready, start to tap along with your hands and feet. If you keep going wrong STOP immediately and slow down.  If you continue to play the wrong rhythms over and over again all you will do is start to convince the brain that the wrong rhythms are actually the correct rhythms thus creating a bad habit-and we all know how hard it is to break a habit.

Wait until you can play the beat through at least four times without mistakes before you ‘gently’ increase the tempo or change the pattern ( then etc. is a good way to go). The brain will then put the correct version into its data base where it will stay forever. None of this is going to improve your stick technique, sound you produce etc., but as co-ordination is such an important part of kit drumming it’s a fantastic way of improving this valuable asset for all you drum kit-less folk out there until, one day, you are the proud possessor of your own ‘dream’ drum set.

That’ll do for now.  Lots more advice to come in future blogs, but, in the meantime, off you go and start tapping those knees or anything also you can find.  I’ve discovered (in the last two mins!) that bashing a half full matchbox on your knee makes a pretty acceptable snare drum sound.  Any substitutes for hi-hat and bass drum would be gratefully received!

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