Many people are very excited to buy their first drum.
Sometimes we get it, get home play for a while then get bored. Some of us will find a teacher and some of us have friends to play with or even go out and join a drum circle. Often when we are playing outside, the tempo of the rhythm we are playing with others increases rapidly and we loose our part or falter. Here is a way to deal with this.
When playing at home I like to use an inexpensive drum machine and I program in the rhythm patterns I have been studying in a class perhaps. If I want to practice a west african rhythm arrangement I will program the drum machines drum set, specifically the toms as substitute for the dununs and the cowbell for the dun dun (djun djun) bell, the conga tones for djembe parts, etc.
I often start my practice session at a slow speed, then after my muscles are warmed up, I will keep increasing the speed using the tempo control. I will take it to a level I can just barely play at. Then I will relax into it, surprise myself, then push again to the next level. Watch your breathing as the spped increases. Are you holding tension anywhere in your body?
If you have a mirror I suggest you watch yourself playing as you practice. This is a great and useful way to “self correct”. Check your posture. Are you sitting straight or sluping. Is your jaw clenched?
This is a terrific way to get past the self imposed limitations we all have of how fast we think we should be able to play. And it works!
On my blog page I often get asked this question, “who should I study from” or “how can I learn to play drums”?
The first and most obvious way to find a teacher is to google search for one in your area. For example “djembe class New York City”. If nothing pops up for a teacher close to your home you can also do a search for “drum circle” or “drumming event”. Going to a drum circle, music performance or drumming event is a great way to meet other students as well. At a drumming event you can see the teacher perform or teach and then feel out if that person is the right teacher for you or not. You can also ask other drummers at a drum circle or drumming event who they study with or who they recommend. Word of mouth is an excellent way to find a teacher as well.
Remember that just because someone plays well, or performs well at a concert or performance does not make them a good teacher. Teaching is a skill into and of itself. Patience and great communication skills are a must as well as experience and knowledge of the subject. Often people are teaching that do not know the material they are teaching correctly. So be sure to check out the persons credibility.
If there are not teachers in your area and you want to drum at home there are excellent resources on line as well. Mamady Keita has excellent “How to Play Djmebe” DVD’s and a book as well. They will never replace a hands on experience like you will have with a teacher, however. I say this from experience as I drummed for years without an instructor. When I finally found my first teacher my drumming improved quickly and efficiently as well.
African drumming comes from an oral tradition. This oral tradition of learning was passed down from father to son. There was not a written notation system or use of math and numbers like we do in the west. It was a teaching method of sharing by being shown a part, one part at a time. Today many teachers still pass on the wisdom and information in the traditional way as well teaching with western methods and notation systems. See which way works for you the best or try both!
My name is MIchael Pluznick and I have been playing , teaching, recording and performing around the world since the early 70′s.
Although I started as a “free style” or thunder drummer, I quickly bcame bored with myself and eventualy sought out the help of teachers.
One of the many things I have discovered about learning drumming and taking classes is that it is fun to do but sometimes hard to learn or moreover hard to remember the rhythms.
In my many years teaching I have found that basically there are two types of learners or students. The first type learns quckly and forgets quickly, the second type (like myself) learns slowly but when we finaly learn and “get it” we remember everything over time.
If you are studying with a drum teacher I highly recommend a recording device, such as a small digital recorder. One thing that infuriates teachers however, is when they are showing you something and you are fiddling with the recorder turning it on and off, etc. So turn it on at the begging of your class and off at the end.
Even better, if your teacher will allow it, I recommend video taping your class.
It never ceases to amaze me how much I miss in a class I have taken until I get home and watch the tape. Furthermore, I am a somewhat slow learner at times, so having the video to watch really helps me to breakdown the parts and see what was and is going on. To demystify the teachings so to speak. Many teachers do not like their classes taped so you will often have to earn their trust first, or perhaps pay a little extra for your class. It is worth it. I am still watching class tapes from several years ago!
If you do not have a recording device or simply do not or can not use one for whatever reasons I recommend you develop a system of notation. I have seen every kind of notation system from traditional musical notation to made up language. I use a very simple box system on graph paper using 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a for 4/4 patterns for example. Some people who do not wish to deal with math use a traditional vocal system developed by Olatunji called Gun-go do. The Gun represents a bass tone, the go represents an open tone, etc. If these type of systems work for you I suggest exploring them with a teacher who can help get you started.