Archive | March, 2015

Drum Tutorials and Technique Discussions

drum teachers and lessons for technique enhancement

Keeping in mind certain principles while exploring drum technique is key to avoiding injury and maximizing performance.

Basic Drum Stick Technique

Stay Loose, Avoid Injury, and Maximize Natural Motion with Rebound

Most drummers, beginners and experienced, struggle with stick technique. There are many different ways to hold the sticks and strike the drums. I’ve spent many years working on technique and have even had to relearn the fundamentals after a hand injury. Through these trials and tribulations, I discovered that there isn’t just one technique for holding the sticks. There are, however, certain principles that will make techniques more effective (and help you avoid injury): form should be comfortable and loose, motion should follow natural body motion, and technique should utilize the rebound of the drum or cymbal.

 

  1. Stay loose! No matter how you hold the sticks, you should never feel tense or stressed. I liken holding the sticks to holding a hammer and building a shed – If you grip the hammer too tightly, you probably won’t last a dozen or so nails. If you allow the hammer to do the work, you can swing that thing all day long. Drum instructors talk about the fulcrum of the stick. This is the area where the pad of your thumb and the first or second finger hold the stick. It should be around the bottom third of the drum stick. How you hold this point is dependent on your own physiology (more to come on this), and you should never grip tightly. The balance point should be relatively loose so you don’t create tension in your tendons.
Drum Tutorials

5 Examples of Fulcrum Hand Positions – Students may prefer different grips based on their physiology.

  1. Embrace Natural Body Motions. Think of a hinge on a seesaw – The wrist is a hinge, and your technique should use that seesaw motion to your advantage (I like to play with my wrist relatively flat). Regardless of your preferred technique, the wrists should be loose and doing most of the work. A lot of people focus on using the fingers. Fingers are important to technique – they allow you to play at softer dynamics and get a lot of snap out of your sound. However, you can do all of those things with wrist motion. If you are using your fingers, just make sure they don’t impede the motion of the stick – You never want to create extra fulcrums with your fingers. Make sure your fingers are in a natural and relaxed position to avoid creating tension between the tendons on the top and bottom of your forearm. Such tension can lead to injury.
Relaxing into Drum Form

Find the balance point (fulcrum), but stay loose and relaxed – Find an interplay of rebound and natural motion

learning drums and taking drum lessons

Notice the looseness in the wrist (seesaw motion) and fingers across multiple techniques.

  1. Rebound is Everything. Sticks are designed to achieve maximum rebound. This is why sticks taper towards the end and have a defined tip. Likewise, drums and cymbals also have substantial rebound. The degree of rebound varies based on tuning and cymbal weight, but you must always use it to your advantage. If you strike a drum or cymbal and don’t feel the stick flying back at you, then you aren’t loose or aren’t holding the stick at it’s balance point. Stick rebound is like dribbling a ball – You should always feel the power of the stick coming back at you after you throw the stick down at the cymbal or drum.

 

Summary

Your technique will be influenced by the size of your hand and fingers and will not look exactly like others’. Regardless, it should still follow the above guidelines. Constantly check that you are tension free, using natural body motion, and using the rebound of the stick and the instrument. If you are struggling, try practicing in front of a mirror to monitor the fine points of your technique.

 

This Saturday, Baby and Kid Music in Fishtown

Music & Community for Kids in Fishtown

This Saturday, March 14th, join us for some weekend music in Fishtown! For all those who can’t make our weekday times, you can come sing with your little ones at Philly Music Lessons on select Saturdays. These classes revolve around fundamental musical concepts. However, the benefits of gathering for collective song are far reaching and go beyond brain development and early music learning. The qualities I get most excited about are the social and sharing opportunities. We often forget how important friends and community are for babies and young children. As adults, communities develop around work, neighborhood hot spots, interests, and of course within our families. They are essential to our well-being! Its amazing to see how children need community too. It quickly becomes a staple in their own little lives, as source of joy and a creator of shared purpose. A place among peers can become a seed for individuality. Community doesn’t happen right off the bat – it takes time to trust and get to know each other. Its clear these Fishtown kiddos relish in the opportunity to create their own little world. After some possible initial shyness, leaving mom’s lap is a first step into that outer world. Full of goals and inspiration, social experimentation and art, classes become a studio for these little minds to create their own space. The children who have been at it the longest are really starting to call these music classes their own – they identify favorite songs, negotiate with each other, and develop a curiosity about music and a shared language.

Come see for yourself! Friendships await.

Saturday Group Music for Babies

Fishtown Saturday Fun

Music Classes in Fishtown (Baby and Tots 0-4)

  • $10/class when you sign up for the month (Weekdays or Weekends)
  • $15 Drop in (email first)
  • First time FREE!
  • Weekly classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays @10 AM
  • Wednesdays 11:30 AM
  • See our Calendar for upcoming Saturdays

Email Phillymusicbabies@gmail.com or Contact Us

Drum Teachers at Philly Music Lessons

Meet one of our Tried-and True Drum Teachers, Tom Cullen

Tom Cullen - Drum Lessons in Philadelphia

Tom Cullen – Drum Lessons in Philadelphia

We have two drum teachers at Philly Music Lessons. Both Temple grads of the Boyer College of Music, these guys are experienced performers and teachers. Tom Cullen and Alex Maio have been with us since the beginning – since before we started interviewing teachers about their own experience and interests! Thus, we have some fresh new thoughts from them. Here is Tom Cullen’s interview:

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
My main goal as a musician is to be able to express myself without limitations. I’m on an endless path to be able to channel all the musical ideas in my head through my instrument. My other goal is to make others feel what I am feeling. I want my music to effect people emotionally and hopefully even make them want to move and dance.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?:
I remember when the Moeller Technique finally clicked for me. I was studying the technique for months with no real sign of it improving my playing. Until one night all the hard practice paid off. It happened on a gig. I placed my hands over the tom-tom drum to play a fill and the idea came out effortlessly. After that night playing fast and playing fluidly was never an issue. But I learned the biggest lesson of all that night. Consistent hard work really does pay off. It can be hard to see the path at first but with the support of a good teacher, it can be a fun a very rewarding journey.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
Several teachers have told me to ‘never stop learning’.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
The most challenging moments I’ve ever had learning an instrument were when I tried to teach myself. When studying with a teacher, there were always challenging moments. Trying to teach myself – there is no comparison.

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
I guess that would be when my band iNFiNiEN was ranked the ‘Top 5 Live Bands of 2013’ by The Buffalo News. The reason it was a big deal is because the other 4 bands were really famous. Such as The Flaming Lips and Jane’s Addiction. So to be held in the same regard as those bands was a big honor.

Favorite thing about teaching?:
My favorite thing about teaching is when a student works hard and meets their goals. It’s a very rewarding feeling being able to share my joy of drumming with someone else and have them benefit from the knowledge I’ve acquired.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
Be patient and be consistent. Listen to the opinions of others but also trust your intuition. And never compromise your integrity. And be sure to never confuse integrity for arrogance.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
I have always been involved with many musical projects ever since I was young. I like to surround myself with creative people, so I always happen to find myself in the mix. I’m busy doing shows and recordings with all kinds of artists all the time. Besides those projects, I have an original band called iNFiNiEN that I am very passionate about. I also recently began setting up a recording studio and learning how to be an engineer. I hope to record all 0f my own projects in the future.

Tom Cullen’s – Bio

I teach Drums and Piano. Music is my life. On any given day I am performing, teaching, recording, rehearsing or writing music. I began playing and studying drums at a young age and continued my music education all the way up to college. I have 2 music degrees from Bucks County Community College and Temple University. I’ve been teaching students of all ages for close to 10 years. Instead of a hard lined curriculum I approach each student individually and establish personal goals. I teach with an open mind, patience and care. Lessons are fun and informative. I am a versatile player with years of experience and knowledge. I can teach you any style or technique you wish to learn. Schedule a Lesson

 

More About our Drum Lessons in Fishtown & Philly at Large.

Spoken like a true musician, Tom brings up some very good points about hard work. To be a drummer at the level that Tom plays takes an incredible amount of practice and dedication. Drums have a lot to do with muscle memory, so even if you have a ton of natural rhythm, there is still plenty of room to dig further. Continuing to master techniques and patterns will enable you to play fast, fluidly, and creatively on the spot. While drums embody one of the most basic musical concepts (rhythm), they also have the potential to be incredibly intricate, complicated, and expressive (such as in Birdman, where the entire soundtrack was created by a single jazz drummer!!). Drums are a great instrument for beginners, but can also take you far into a world of endless rhythm patterns and musical applications (making beats, playing jazz, backing rock bands, making movie soundtracks, and more). We’ll have more from Tom about what to expect when taking drum lessons soon!

Meet our Voice Teacher, Hayley Cass

Introducing New Jazz, Blues, and Soul Voice Teacher, Hayley Cass

Voice Teachers

Hayley Cass – Voice Lessons in Fishtown

We’re so grateful for our newest addition to the group of vocal teachers at Philly Music Lessons! When I first met Hayley, I was immediately struck by her positive energy, enthusiasm for music, and ability to inspire. She not only has a passion for music, but also a genuine desire to share that passion with others. Its clear that her goal is to help people find their own voice and experience joy in music. I almost signed up for lessons right then and there!

Her talents can be heard around Philly and beyond in her band, Red Martina. Hayley writes for the group while also contributing lead female vocals. We’re looking forward to seeing this talented act move up in the world of hip-hop and soul. They’re worth checking out! Here’s some material from their newest release:

When we chatted, Hayley told us about her own experience learning music. She’s an experienced teacher and is psyched to share valued insights from her own training. A true believer that anyone can find their voice through technique, exploration, and practice, Hayley is a great vocal teacher for all ages and styles of singing. Read more about Hayley in her bio and interview below:

Teacher Bio:

I teach voice, piano and composition. I started singing at a very young age and was always involved in church choirs and bands, as well as school chorales, competitions and a cappella groups. Although I attended Penn State University for science, I took many music courses. I have been trained by talented and prestigious music teachers outside of schooling and have used my background to pursue a full-time career in music. I have recorded two albums with my band, Red Martina, and have performed shows consisting of much of the music I have written. I am primarily a blues, jazz and soul singer and love to write songs on my free time. Much of the time, the songs that I write are used in Red Martina’s music and (with the help of my band members) we work together to make the songs come to life. I am excited not only to teach students and help them grow but to learn with them, as well. Schedule a Lesson

Hayley’s Interview

When did you begin singing, and why?:
I started singing before I can even remember. I always remember listening to my dad play blues and jazz guitar while I went to bed as a kid and I’d just sing a long until I’d fall asleep. I might have even been singing before I could speak but you’ll have to ask my parents about that! I then started singing and playing piano in church and Sunday School plays and my love and passion for music continued to grow. I started studying piano around 6 years old under a fantastic pianist in Warwick, New York and was lucky enough to learn piano ranging from classical and jazz, theory, and the importance of discipline. I don’t think there is a reason to why I “started” singing and playing. It is and has always been a part of me that is an expression of myself. Music has a way of taking over the soul and, for me, all else just falls into place.

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
I am currently the lead singer in a band called Red Martina and we have been working hard to do an international tour. I am lucky enough to have a great support system and we are always working very hard to create music that resonates with those it reaches. I wish to continue polishing my craft as a vocalist, composer, and musician and to never give up even when it gets tough!

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?:
 Yes! I’ll never forget when a vocal teacher of mine in college told me to “drop your birdcage”. It’s a breathing and diaphragm technique that helps with control of the breath and overall vocal delivery. I’ll never forget it! I remember exactly where I was when it “clicked” too! 

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
 While it may have not been a “teacher” per say, everyone in life can be a teacher if you let them. A friend gave me advice a few years ago that just stuck with me. A lot of times, things may be fearful, such as learning something new, trying something for the first time, or going to a place you’ve never been. Yet, instead of going into that experience with fear, go into it with love. Be excited, and don’t forget its okay to make mistakes. If you find that you have the passion for whatever it is you want to do, its normal to be scared, but don’t give up! The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground. 

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
 Getting into the recording studio for the very first time and singing on a microphone through a PA system. I had never heard my voice other than acoustically and it was so tough for me to get used to it! The microphone can also serve as an instrument if you know how to “work it” properly and in vocals it’s important if you’d like to perform.

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
 Writing and recording two albums with my band and performing to a sold out show for our very first live performance (my very first time singing and performing my own music). I am definitely proud of myself for remaining diligent with my work and continuing to live my dream when others have told me to give up. It has been tremendously gratifying to see my growth as a singer, composer and performer over the past few years. Also, one of the happiest moments for me was singing my brother and his wife’s First Dance at their wedding. It was incredibly beautiful and I’ll never forget it.

Favorite thing about teaching?:
 I love teaching for so many reasons. I’ve had great teachers and I aspire to be like them as I grow in my teaching personality and technique. I hope to coach my students to truly find the fire within themselves and help them discover what they’re capable of. When students can take home with them something new and make it come to life in their own image, it brings such delight and wonder.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
 It’s much easier to give up when you get frustrated and just walk away. In those times, that is when you slow it down. I mean REALLY slow it down. Relax and let yourself actually FEEL the music. Almost like a meditation, it becomes you. 

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
 I am primarily with a band called “Red Martina” and we have released two full length albums and a live studio session album. It has absolutely changed my life and I couldn’t be any happier. You can check us out on Spotify, Bandcamp,Pandora, iTunes, Youtube and other sources where you can find music online these days. Our debut record is called “Intransit” and our sophomore record is called “Come on Home”. It’s definitely worth listening to