The Drum Instructors Guide Part 5


As you delve a little deeper into this teaching thing, you will discover that your future drum students and drumming-enthusiasts will arrive at virtually every level, age, size, gender, shape, attitude, disposition, mentality, color, and creed, imaginable.

As teachers, it's our job to get on the same level as the student. We must try to make the student feel like a friend, and we must then try to help them grow, at least a little . . . no matter what difficulties may emerge.

That's WHY they're willing to pay for our help!

Over the years, and after around 2,000 different individual face-to-face students, I get the feeling I've dealt with a pretty good cross-section of ALL different student-types. Some were really difficult and challenging, while most were totally rewarding. Sometimes, the most challenging students can be the most fun, for a GOOD teacher. It can be an especially rewarding experience to take any student from square-one, (with absolutely no talent, coordination, imagination, feel or creative expression), . . . Then, walk them happily into the profession.

To date, I've only thrown one student 'bodily' to the sidewalk out front. (He knows who he is, haha.) All the rest were a fun blessing to teach, even though some have presented a few idiosyncrasies I wasn't exactly prepared for.

Since the beginning, I've always felt deep inside, if given a fair chance, I could teach virtually ANYONE to play. I still believe it deeply! But then, I suppose my 'SUPER TEACHER' mentality only goes so far. (I've definitely been proven wrong concerning that philosophy, more than once, haha.)

Hey! The 'SUPER TEACHER' attitude is the only 'decent-attitude' a teacher can live with, haha. I still try to think that way, in spite of a few failures! I do believe in the power of positive thinking. Without it . . . we're all dead-meat.

Some failure is to be expected though, or we don't grow! It's eventually inevitable, so get used to the idea that some failures WILL occur, and be ready to bounce-back when they happen to you.

Anyway . . . I have definitely encountered some 'lulu' students over the years. Sometimes, I was able to find solutions and help them, while at other times I've not done as well as I might have wished.

In this portion of the Instructor's Guide, I'm thinking 'maybe', if I talk about a few of the more challenging types here, and try to offer some of the positive solutions I've found, . . . It may help you, should similar situations occur in your own teaching career.

First and foremost, you must try to realize this important FACT OF LIFE:

"Try as we may . . . We can't always please everyone, and serve everyone, as perfectly as we would hope."

Sometimes, the problems that arise may be OUR fault, but very often it will be the student's fault. If it's our fault, we should correct our errors in judgement and vow to never make those same errors again.

If it's the student who is at fault, (and not us) . . . then we shouldn't take it to heart, or let it bother us too much. Call in the next student and move on. Hopefully, the next lesson will go a little better, and you'll survive.

In this lesson, we'll examine a few of the more difficult and challenging student-types. I hope to offer a few tips designed to help you deal with them.



TYPE #1: 
Intermediate, advanced, or ultra-ultra advanced Students:

These types may require a different tact but, usually they aren't a problem at all. (Actually, these students are often the most fun to teach.)

The trick is to assess them quickly. Our success may depend on our ability to quickly help them realize exactly what they DO know, as compared to what they DO NOT know.


Considering the fact that there are more than 125 varied lesson-topics within the course, it's usually pretty easy to evaluate almost any new student and discover lesson-topics that will get them happily moving forward, quickly. I'm about to show you HOW to do that.


Most Intermediate (and advanced) students will seek a teacher because they feel as if they're stuck in a rut. They're wanting someone to show them the way out. They're wanting to discover quick ways to reach newer, more interesting, and better playing levels. If we can help them do that, we're home free!

If the student has been playing less than ten years, there will almost always be lesson material somewhere within the course that will jump-start even the ultra-advanced students onto a bright new path of rhythmic discoveries.



As the student enters the room for the first lesson, we begin summing them up immediately by what they say, and how they carry themselves. Ask all the standard questions immediately.

      • How long have they been playing?
      • Do they own a drumset?
      • Are they already jamming with most recordings on their CDs?


SPECIAL NOTE: It's often possible to make the above determinations over the phone, before the student ever comes in for the first lesson. If I suspect that the student is intermediate or higher, while talking on the phone, I immediately begin summing them up right then and there. I'm already deciding what lessons they'll need, and exactly what I'll be teaching them as they arrive for that first meeting. It's wise to probe a little deeper if you suspect the student is 'somewhat' advanced.

If the phone conversation makes me feel I can't help them at all, I tell them so, immediately. It can save a lot of terror and frustration later, if we'll just be honest about it. Never enroll a student that you KNOW you can't help. That's just common-sense!

Enough said?



      If I already know that I'm dealing with a somewhat advanced drummer, I often invite them to immediately sit at the drums a few minutes and go at it. I watch them, as I evaluate their hands and feet coordination. I'm determining which of my lessons they may be needing, as I observe.

Are they using left-hand (snare) syncs already? What about bass-syncs? Fills? Are they basically playing just one fill (usually 16ths) and variations of it, over and over? Or . . . Are they using a wide assortment of note-value fills? In essence . . . Do they already know what they're doing, or are they just flailing-away imaginatively?

If they're doing well with 8th rock, I ask them to branch out a little. I try to discover just how fluently they handle ALL the other beat structures (ie; 16th 4/4, Blues, Shuffle/Swing, Quarter 4/4, Waltzes, Latino rhythms, solos, etc., etc.) What about (note-value) fills within those structures?

If they smoke the drums on everything I suggest, I begin to sweat blood, haha! Gulp!

What to do?

In all honesty, the likelihood that an advanced student will smoke every one of the above topics with flying-colors is VERY rare!

We'll usually see a LOT of things they're needing to learn within just a few minutes. The next thing we need to do, is begin formulating a lesson-plan for them, right then.

Also; It's best to then launch immediately into the most obvious and most basic lesson they are needing. While at the same time we will be mentally trying to formulate a series of future stair-stepped lessons, that will help them out of their current rut.

My memory isn't all that good, especially now that I'm into my golden years. I find that if I don't jot some written notes about individual students, I often forget from week to week, just exactly what I've previously decided as 'THEIR' special lesson plan.

Very often, as I'm assessing a new advanced student, I'll grab a sheet of paper and begin a file on the student. I'll quickly scratch a quick lesson-plan of the most obvious lessons they're needing. I know it'll help me jump directly to a good set of lesson choices, the next time they come in.

THE MOST COMMON SCENARIO is the average intermediate student. They can often cook a rock beat as well as anyone, but at the mention of 'other basic beats', we'll get a blank questioning stare.

Right then, we know we can hold this student for a long, long time. The same is true if they have no clue as to the variety of note-value fills, that are so commonly used in every music style. (There's usually six or eight weeks of great lesson material, right there, too!)

Almost all drummers need that stuff, whether they agree or not. Sometimes, part of our teaching job is about selling the student on what they do and don't need. (More on that in a moment. Right now, let's consider a different type of 'difficult' student.)


TYPE #2: 
PRE-SCHOOLERS, and very young children in 1st or 2nd grade.

You would think this type of student might be easy to teach, but actually, they are sometimes twice as difficult. At the very least, a pre-schooler can offer a real challenge for the teacher.

Usually, one of the child's parents may be the 'drummer wannabe', and they're hoping to live it, through the child. I've found that to be the case more than once. Yet, in most cases, I've been very successful in getting most of the tykes to play.

Just as often, I see really young kids with VERY SPECIAL, latent talent, arriving at my door. I especially love teaching these kids. They can be a blast, though they can be very challenging as well. Any pre-schooler will probably be a challenge, no matter how naturally gifted they may be. (Be prepared for that.)

Immediately, we do the aptitude testing. I try to get the child clapping in-time with the backbeat of a song, with the parent looking on.


NOTE: I feel it's best for the parents to attend many of the early lessons if the child is a total pre-schooler. That way, the parent can help the kid, during the week. The kids aren't going to remember, or think much at all about drums, during the week, if the parent doesn't work with them, at least a little.


So we do the aptitude testing right away (clapping on the backbeats of a song.) I get the parent to do it too! I instruct the parent do their best to help with it, at home occasionally, during the upcoming weeks. In other words; At any time a song plays on the radio or whatever, I want the child (and parent) clapping in-time, on the backbeats of every possible song. Remember . . . THIS IS THE SEED . . . and it may grow like wildfire, once it has been planted. If the parent can get it, they'll actually do a lot towards helping YOU succeed with the student. Also; I find that by having the parent there, it often helps me produce two drummers for the cost of one. What's wrong with that? Now, we know they'll both be coming back week after week, for years to come.

To my own amazement . . . It's interesting to note how many of the pre-schoolers can easily find and feel the backbeat flow. If I see a kid do it without effort, I know that I can eventually get them playing the full drum set. Usually, they'll be playing along with half the songs on the radio within a few weeks or months, if they feel that backbeat thing already.

It is important to remember too . . . the attention span of the average 5-year-old is usually only about 30 or 40 seconds at best. We need to give them ample play-time, then inject little tidbits of knowledge here and there as we allow them to be 5-years-old.

It's often like walking a tightwire, because we're on the clock. We're being paid well to get fast results! We want to progress as rapidly as possible, but the limitations of waiting for a kid to 'try' to do as we ask, can be unnerving. Take it REALLY SLOW! That's the best advice I can offer. Go as SLOW, as you can go, then throw on the brakes at the first sign that the child is becoming frustrated with info-overload.

Avoid scolding the child, and try to remain calm, even as they crawl around on the floor chasing imaginary bugs, or climb the curtains while doing the Tarzan yell. Let them play, but always try to coax them back to the job at hand, without upsetting them too much.

It may take a 'talented' 5-year old up to a month or more to begin manipulating the basic 8th rock pattern well enough to jam with their favorite Disney tunes. So . . . It's VERY important for you the teacher to realize that you're dealing with a VERY small child. Show them tons of fun! Make them enjoy the lessons at all cost. You want them to look forward to coming in every week, for more 'playtime' on the drumset. If you can show them fun, they'll be coming back to you every week for the next several years.

Again, I've found that once I get a pre-schooler into jamming with songs . . . they'll often take off like gangbusters. Very often they'll begin learning all the other lessons at a rate that's almost comparable to the more adult students. The hardest part for them, and us teachers, is the first few weeks, mastering that 8th rock pattern to a point where they play along in-time with recordings. From then on . . . the more they play . . . the better drummers they become, and the easier it gets for us to teach them the more difficult lessons. Yes! It gets easier, not harder . . . once they've digested the first few very important lessons.

Teaching a preschooler successfully, is always a crowning achievement for both the student, and the teacher. It will do your confidence a LOT of good to get a pre-schooler going. Don't be afraid to try!



Over the years, I've developed a million-and-one sales pitches (pep talks), designed to convince ANY advanced student as to what SHOULD be studied. I've become pretty good at it as time has passed.

I guess, if I tried to include ALL of my pep-talks here, this little course might swell to 1000 pages. I'm betting you'll come up with your own as the needs arise.


      • 1. Typically, the (so-called) intermediate to advanced drummer may not want to study other beat structures, like 16th 4/4, Blues, Shuffle/Swing, Quarter 4/4, Waltzes, etc., etc.

        We may need to sell them on the idea!

        We teachers need to convince our students: If they are to become well-rounded, the trick is to become red-hot with ALL music styles, and not just one music style and/or one beat structure. Every drummer needs the ability to smoke every song that's thrown at them, or they really aren't pro-quality.

        We have to make the student realize this. I start by telling them; "On the gig, no one is going to ask us if we WANT to play a Waltz or a Swing tune."

        No one will ever ask the drummer for permission to play a song. They'll probably just play it, whether we like it or not! If we can't cut it . . . they'll simply call another drummer the next night, (or maybe in the middle of the next set, haha.)

        Don't laugh! That happens a LOT!

      • 2. It's the same with the note-value fills. If a keyboard player asks us to drop a quarter triplet fill, or a 16th triplet fill, into a song (as it's being played 'live' onstage), we need to know exactly what they're asking for, and we need to do it without any questions. Failure in this area can make the difference between playing the fancy hotels uptown, or the sleazy skid-row bars down by the wharf. Knowledge is power! It leads to more money, more prestige, and a BETTER reputation as a drummer.

      • 3. Here's a pep-talk I use when a student balks at studying anything other than 8th rock permutations. This tends to occur a lot with students of all levels. Maybe my little pep-talk will help you someday . . .

        It usually goes something like this . . .

        I explain that very often, we won't have any chance at all to rehearse with many of the bands who'll be offering us a job, and an income. The phone may ring at 7:00 pm, and the person on the line needs a drummer at 9:00 pm.

        The voice on the other end of the phoneline says, "Your name came up! We need a drummer tonight! Will you show up and play at 9:00? It pays X,XXX dollars."

        You say, "Yes!", not knowing what songs will be played, none of the arrangements, nor any of the musicians in the band.

        You DO want this gig! You've heard about this band before. You already know they are really hot, and the money is totally awesome!

        Sure! You want this gig! Just receiving the call is the most excitement you've experienced in months!

        So, you accept . . . 
        Then later, with legs and hands trembling . . . you arrive at 8:30, set up your drums, shake hands with everyone, and climb onstage in sheer terror!

        The blinding lights come on, and you hear the bass player yelling at the top of his lungs, "Swing beat! 1, 2, 3, 4 . . ."

        What are you going to do at exactly this moment in time? You just can't yell back and say, "I HATE Swing tunes! Don't play this dang song!"

        No! You'll be playing a kick-butt Swing tune for the next three to four minutes, like it or not. You'll be learning it onstage, under the lights, in front of a tough crowd, with musicians glaring at you from both sides of the stage. It can be a total nightmare if you haven't prepared yourself. You had better have your 'Swing' chops together, or this is about to become the absolute longest night of your life!

        Then . . . To make matters worse . . . the next song is a Waltz!

        How well will you do on that?

        You've waited half your life for this great opportunity and now, all of a sudden, your immediate career, your dreams, your future, and your reputation as a drummer, are swinging in the balance here in the middle of a Waltz or Swing tune you've never heard in your life, before now.

        Right about then, you'll be wishing someone had convinced you to broaden your tastes and knowledge a little! You'll wish that someone had beat you on the head and convinced you to study and learn some of the things your weren't necessarily interested in studying, (like Swing or Waltz.) It'll all hit you in the face at one time! You are going to need more than a handful of 8th rock variations and syncopations to survive in the professional World.

        At that point in the story, I always turn to the student and say, "Don't you think it might be easier to study those things now, while the pressure isn't quite so great, so you'll handle the situation well, when the big moment arrives?

        Isn't this WHY you came to me for lessons?"

      Usually, after hearing arguments like those above, the student will concede a little, and at least try to swallow the lessons you are proposing for them, whether it's Swing, Waltz, or something else.

The above are just a few of the pep-talk pitches I often use when I need to convince a student to learn WHAT'S NEEDED, whether they think they need it or not. You'll come up with similar pitches of your own as you continue to teach.

Many times, the intermediate and advanced students will voice all the traditional concerns about rudiments, too. That's also a clue that they should tackle the note-value fills, right away.

I say this because the note-value fills are MADE-UP of the primary rudiments. As the student learns to manipulate those fills in a myriad of ways, they are also mastering all 400+ rudiments simultaneously, but in a VERY fun, creative way.

Later, they can tackle the various 400+ rudiments of the World, a lot easier, if they decide they really want to do that. They'll whiz through ALL rudiments, if they've mastered, (ie; Singles, doubles, triplets, and paradiddles) as note-value fills.

Besides, . . . That series of lessons is really a triple-whammy series of lessons. As a student masters the note-value fills, not only are they learning the most useful fills in pop music, but they're mastering the note-value system too, AND they're mastering the MOST IMPORTANT (foundational) rudiments, simultaneously. Bam! Bam! Bam! It kills three birds at one time!

On top of everything else, those lessons are absolutely the most fun, most palpable, and painless way, to master what would otherwise be very boring and frustrating topics.

Grab a root and growl! Go to work! Get the student interested in whatever is lacking in their knowledge and ability, then teach it.


        There are tons of great drumming methods on the market. Study them all!  Add those techniques to these, and create some of your own.

My course lacks in two primary areas:

      • #1.  SWING: I have purposely ignored Swing Independence for good reasons.  Swing Independence was covered very well by Jim Chapin.  Get a copy of his now famous book, 'Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer'.  I believe it is distributed by the Mel Bey publishing Company. He had a web site online for awhile. Do a search and get a copy of his book. Study it, then teach that material to your own students who are into Jazz. All drummers need those techniques. They're an absolute MUST for Jazz oriented drummers. We're talking about the 16,000,000 variations/ permutations of Swing, here. Jim taught it best! I feel like I'd be plagiarizing him if I published that same material here. I would want to teach it exactly the way he's been teaching it for years, in his very popular book.

      • #2  Latin Rhythms:  I will be adding to the course as time goes by.  More Latino beats are on my agenda, I just haven't had time to get started. Also; I'm a green-eyed Gringo. I've never had the opportunity to play as much Latino music as I would have liked. I do love Latino styles, but there are other Latino teachers who are better at teaching those techniques than I am!



        Well, that's about it for now . . . If you have questions or would like to debate anything in this manual, PLEASE let me know.  I want to hear everything you have to say!  It might just make things easier and better for someone else.

        Good luck!  Go to work!

        Start over at the beginning of this course now, and DO everything you've read about in the past hour. Your students and your future are waiting!

        Back to the beginning. of this course for instructors.

      Oh . . . One more thing . . .


As you acquire your first students, you may want to print the various lessons in my complete course, and hand them to your students in the form of an 8" x 11" sheet (or two) of paper. This way, they can take the individual lessons home, one-at-a-time, and devote a week of practice to each one.

Normally, I 'hand-write' the individual lessons for each individual student, or . . . I give them a copy that I've run-off on a copy machine. 

It's easy for me to do that; I just work from what is in my mind. But, I've been doing all this for a liftime. I have it all memorized in my fuzzy lil' brain. It won't be that easy for you, in the beginning. You're Probably going to want, and need, some help with the preparation of each lesson.

You may want to print my individual lessons, and use them as a template (or crutch) in the early days of your teaching career.

So . . . As a part of this course, I've prepared two 'EASY-TO-PRINT', versions. One version is online as you are reading this now. Just click on the link below and go to the lesson you need, and print it while online. That PRINTABLE version of the entire course is at this link. The Online Printable Version

I've also prepared a "" download of all the lessons for you too. You can download it to your hard drive, and print any of the same 125-lessons, without being online.

Click here to do the download.


NOTE: If you try to print the lessons directly from the MAIN online web site at, you will encounter (margin) problems as you try to print each page. The lessons online (in the free public course) aren't designed to be easily printed. They'll look pretty bad on paper. That's why these two special options above have been prepared for you.


If you choose to do the (4.49 megabytes) download . . . be SURE to read all these following instructions before you proceed.

  • unzip (extract) '' into a special folder of it's own, on your hard drive,
  • then click on the file named 'index.html'.

  • NOTE: DO NOT extract (unzip) these files into your desktop folder! It will create a horrible mess on your desk top. Be sure to isolate the downloaded file into a folder of it's own, before extracting the 532+ files.

Printing these files will be easy . . .

  • The files will load into your browser (offline.) Just open your browser to 'index.html'.
  • With that file loaded into your browser, you can access any lesson from there. Once you find the lesson you want to print, you'll go to 'File', on the top menu of your browser,
  • then, select 'Print'.

Each lesson should print almost exactly as you see them there in the browser.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND . . . My lifetime of work is very vulnerable in this form. I'm reluctant to provide it this way . . . but, I feel you will need it, and that you should have it.

PLEASE RESPECT MY COPYRIGHTS AND MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS. I've painstakenly, written virtually every word in each of lessons of my courses. EVERYTHING is copyrighted. NEVER change the wording, and never alter any of my work . . . even the typos, haha. Their mine . . . and it tooks years for me to learn to screw-up the English language, this way! :)

You may teach these lessons individually, but you may NEVER sell the course as a whole package at one time . . . (either online or offline.) To do so would be a direct copyright infringement and could result in a very expensive lawsuit.

Please don't do it! I don't want to meet you in court, with a lawyer in tow.

   To the beginning of this Instructor's Guide . . .

Print any lesson now, while online.

Download the 'printable' .zip file to you computer. This will enable you to print any lesson in the course, directly from any computer, without being online.


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