PART II: THE DRUM INSTRUCTORS MANUAL . . .
Copyright@1998 by Bill Powelson
All rights reserved Worldwide
It is that SPECIAL ingredient! The 'SEED' is that special thing inside that makes a person gravitate to the beat. It is something all drummers learn to 'feel' . . . or they aren't really drummers.
Some seem to be born with it . . . others learn it on their own in a natural way . . . and still others must be taught.
LEARN TO SPOT PEOPLE WHO POSSESS DRUMMING TALENT . . . Become a people watcher! You may be one already! I do it instinctively, from habit I suppose. You can always spot the potential drummers in any crowd where music is playing. They just can't sit still when a song is playing. Either they tap and rap on something with their hands, or they will stomp (in-time) with their feet. These people are totally consumed with that primitive thing we call rhythm, and they are ALL, potential drum students.
After a lifetime of observance, I've come to believe that about 70% of all people possess this thing we call rhythm. They could all become excellent drummers (or musicians), if they were to actually pursue it.
I love to observe large crowds at concerts or revivals where the entertainers try to get the crowd clapping in-time with the music. Some of the people will have no clue as to where the backbeat (or any beat) is. They often do not understand what all the excitement is about. They just don't feel the rhythm. Though these people can be TAUGHT to feel the beat; They (at this point) are what I would call the non-drummers! You DON'T want them as your first students, haha. They could drive you slap-dab crazy!
Before we'll ever teach these people to play drums, we must first teach them to FEEL rhythms. It can sometimes take an additional month to six weeks to make this happen. It means they'll first need to be taught to listen, especially for the backbeat flow in music. They'll need to learn to habitually focus on that flow, connect with it, then clap in-time with it . . . (no matter how slow or fast the tempos of the music may be.) All natural rhythm stems from this habitual listening habit. I've seen 3-year old kids who could do it, and I've seen 70 year-old Grand-parents who couldn't do it. I've never met anyone who couldn't learn it, if given enough time and patience.
An inability to feel the backbeat-flow and the rhythms within the music, does NOT mean that a person can't become a drummer, it only means that they'll be more of a challenge to teach. It takes extra time to help a person develop this special listening habit. It's is the seed of all rhythm.
Some people (about 70%) truly ''FEEL' the beat in an almost 'natural' way. They even feel, and can easily follow the 'BACKBEAT-FLOW'! They instinctively know to clap in-time with the snare (or BACKBEAT) of the song! These people are our potential bread and butter. They've already learned to listen and focus on the backbeat flow. Their sense of rhythm has become much more developed as a result of the way they have always listened to music. They can easily be taught to play, and they can become the very best drummers! This is the thing that determines an APTITUDE for playing drums.
An interesting point here is this: Many of these 'natural' types, don't know or suspect they are potentially natural drummers. They have never realized, that with just a small amount of training and help they might become top-flight pro-drummers. . . . (It is probably a good thing too . . . or we might be up to our necks in really hot drummers.)
THE APTITUDE TEST:
Almost every new student that comes to me gets a little aptitude test. I do it more for ME, than the student. It tells me WHERE we must begin. The aptitude test goes like this . . .
HOW TO CHECK FOR DRUMMING
APTITUDE IN AVERAGE PEOPLE:
I play a recorded song on the sound system. It is important to choose a song that contains a strong and powerful backbeat. We just quietly sit listening for a minute then I begin popping my fingers or clicking the sticks in-time with the BACKBEAT of music. Next, I ask them to 'clap' along (in-time) with me. If they can do it, I breathe a bit easier, haha. But . . . we aren't through yet!
Now . . . I shut the volume off and clear the air for a second. My next move is to turn up the volume again . . . and point my index finger as the (recorded) drummer connects with the snare on the Backbeat. I tell the student to listen carefully . . . for the snare. Then, I stop pointing my finger (in-time) and tell them to clap along (in-time) with the backbeat on their own . . . with no help from me. If they can do this, I know I have a potential drummer. This will probably be a fun student to teach.
If they can't seem to do it . . . then the seed must be planted, and it must sprout before we can expect results. The FIRST lesson starts right there with the 'seed'. Some will need this lesson and some won't . . . it depends on how well they 'FEEL' the beat.
If they have trouble with finding the backbeat . . . we may spend most of the first lesson listening to song after song . . . picking out the snare and clapping along in-time. Then I send them home with a very EASY lesson project . . . They are told to devote the entire week listening and clapping in-time. I stress the importance of forming the backbeat habit. If they can't get this . . . the whole thing will be a waste of time and effort. Most will show great improvement in only a week or two. It is sometimes amazing how quickly many students adapt to this MOST CRUCIAL of rhythmic ingredients. Then, there are those who may need several weeks or even months in developing it.
SPECIAL NOTE: With some pre-schoolers and very young students (ages 4 to 8), I've found that it can sometimes take up to 10 weeks for them to begin to focus and feel the beat. I never give-up on anyone until THEY cry uncle. Too many times in my career as a teacher, I've been totally convinced that a student just couldn't and wouldn't ever get it; Then, one day they walk in and they're rocking like a pro! I'm now convinced that ANYONE can eventually develop natural ability, but some may be a lot more challenging than others.
If we teachers can help any person in this way we've actually done them a great service, whether they become drummers or not. After instilling these special listening habits, the person will also become better at dancing, and their focusing abilities with math and other subjects, will also improve as well. So, the time and effort devoted to all this isn't ever wasted.
I think the greatest satisfaction for me as a teacher is to take a student who starts with absolutely no 'FEEL' and get them all the way through the course and into the profession. It is one of those things! It is a TRUE feeling of accomplishment. This is what teaching is all about! It is easy, fun, and VERY rewarding.
NEXT . . . We'll assume your first student has natural ability and we'll take them through their very first drum lesson . . .