Essential Drum Skills: TV Show 1, Part 1

Natalie: Hello and welcome to Gigajam. Today is episode one, of part one, of the essential drum skills course. With me, Natalie Barrass, in the studio is Brian Greene. Brian

Brian: Hi there

N: Hello, how are you?

B: Very well thank you, you?

N: I'm absolutely very fine, yes

B: Marvellous

N: Alright, we're at the beginning of our pathway

B: We are

N: We're about to take the first few steps on our structured pathway

B: We are indeed. Absolutely

N: What are those steps going to be?

B: Well the first thing we need to do, and we will repeat this in every lesson, is to understand what we're going to achieve, within the timeframe that we have for each lesson

N: Okay, how many goals have we got?

B: Well we've got what we call either learning outcomes or lesson objectives. We have three today. We're going to learn about quarter notes, which I think is the most important note to begin with for a drummer

N: Mmmhmm

B: Then we're going to look at how to develop three-way coordination, which is essential for a drummer. So we're gonna be looking at the bass drum foot, the snare drum and the hi-hat, and how we bring that all together

N: Cor

B: And then with our quarter notes and three-way coordination we're going to use those skills to actually play something meaningful, and we're gonna play a rock groove

N: Right

B: Hopefully by the end of the lesson

N: Okay, Bri?

B: Yeah?

N: Shall we rock on?

B: We should

N: Alright

(laughs)

B: Okay, so let's introduce quarter notes. Okay, so the first thing that we have to do is actually understand that music is ordered into bars. Okay? So it's not some abstract flinging around of time…

N: (Laughs)

B: …it's very ordered, very structured

N: Few!

B: Okay, so the most common type of bar is, has got four beats in it. You probably feel that most commonly with most pop music, and you've, you know many people have heard this term at school, you know…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …the four beats in a bar. Because it's the most commonly used time in music, it's called common time. Okay? And some people will refer to it as 4/4…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …but we'd have to start to get into some technical stuff there. But common time is all you really need to know for the time being. Now in common time, there are four beats in the bar…

N: Yes

B: …and this is why I like to start with quarter notes, because for each beat we can have one quarter note each. If we look at our screen here, we've got an example. So we've got a bar of music with the C at the front denoting that it's in common time

N: Mmmhmm

B: And you can see these four notes on the stave, and these are quarter notes. So these little circles with a stem…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …okay, these are called note heads and a stem. And then underneath you will notice that I've put the beats. So we've got one, two, three, four. Okay? Four beats in a bar

N: It's simple really

B: Yeah. So because we divide a bar in four, this is why these notes are called quarter notes.

N: Alright

B: So again it's logical. It's a bit like the flat foot that we were talking about the other day. Most of the terms…

N: Yeah

B: …actually refer to exactly what they're saying

N: Few!

B: Few! Okay, so if we move on, use that knowledge to try and develop, start to develop three-way coordination. What I want to do is get into the playing as quickly as possible

N: Mmmhmm

B: Okay, so a little bit of knowledge, and now let's get some understanding and some playing going

N: Are we going straight into three-way coordination?

B: Well, we're going to go through the steps to build up three-way coordination. And I think it's very important to break everything down or, more to the point, build everything up

N: Ahh. That's a positive spin on it, isn't it?

B: Absolutely. So what we're going to do firstly is introduce the bass drum, okay? So we're going to use our knowledge of quarter notes…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …to help us play our first exercise, which is to understand where the bass drum goes in a standard rock groove. So what we're going to do is play a quarter note on beat one, and then again on beat three

N: Right

B: And what we're going to do is count all the four beats in the bar and then position our notes accordingly

N: Mmmhmm

B: So I'll give you the example. So I'll just count myself in, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. So I'm trying to keep a nice steady pulse, and playing those beats. It's very important to count so you can structure where you are within the bar

N: Mmmhmm

B: One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. Quite straight forward?

N: Very straight forward

B: Okay. So we're gonna rattle on. We've got the exercise here, which you can follow

N: Mmmhmm

B: And if you use the Gigajam support notes, you've got the multimedia files that we've talked about previously and you've got the play along file that will help you keep you in time, and you can repeat the exercise

N: Absolutely

B: But we'll show some examples of working with the software a bit later. Cos you've got me for the moment

N: (Laughs)

B: Yes, a dubious pleasure I know

N: No, no, no, we're very privileged to have you here Brian Greene

B: Thank you very much. Well the second stage, once you've got you're bass drum together, is to have a look at bringing the snare drum in

N: Okay

B: Now this uses beats two and beat four within a common time bar

N: Yeah

B: So we've got the bass drum on one and three…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …okay let's stick that in the pocket for the moment. We're now going to look at playing the snare drum on beats two and four. Now I'm not going to get too technical about how you hit the drums at this stage. I want people to just get on with it

N: Just hit them

(laughs)

B: Yeah. Just watch what I'm doing and get on with it. If we get too concerned with technique, it kind of stifles us. With a, "Do I hold the stick like this, what do I do?" No, common let's just get on with it. We'll develop as we go along

N: Just do what feels natural

B: To a large extent. We can always tinker around in these early stages before, you know, any bad habits become really bad news. So just holding the sticks in a nice relaxed grip…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …using your left hand for a right-handed drummer. Using your left hand on the snare drum. So what we're going to do, is gonna strike the snare drum largely in the middle …

N: Yeah

B: …on beats two and four. Again count yourself in so you know what you're doing. So one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. And it's very important to keep your counting consistent, and to make sure in fact that you are counting. There's quite a lot of people who sort of get into this very abstract sense of time…

N: (Laughs)

B: …and just……"Am I doing that right?" But it needs a time frame for the reference. That's why the counting is so important

N: Yeah

B: Okay, so now we've got the bass drum on which beat?

N: We've got the bass on one and three

B: Great. And the snare drum on?

N: We've got the snare on two and four

B: Great, so you are listening…

N: (Laughs)

B: …that's good news!

N: I don't just smile and nod you know. I do take it all in Brian

B: Well that's fabulous! We're now going to actually, on our way to three-way coordination, we're effectively we've looked at one-way coordination with the bass drum, and then the snare drum independently of each other

N: Mmmhmm

B: Now what we're going to do is look at two-way coordination where we're putting the bass drum and snare drum parts together. Now as you said, bass drum on one and three, snare drum on two and four

N: Yeah

B: Let's get on with it

N: So it's bass, snare, bass, snare?

B: It is. Let's count the notes in the bar, okay? So, count me in?

N: Alright then

B: Thank you

N: So just to remind, if you're following on the notes, this is exercise three

B: It is exercise three

N: Alright, okay, so I'm gonna count you in

B: Thank you

N: One, a two, a three, a four

B & N: One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four

B: One, two

N: Bass, snare, bass, snare

B: Perfect, two, three, four

N: Bass, snare, bass, snare

B: Happy with that?

N: I'm very happy with that Brian

B: Good. That makes sense to you?

N: Absolutely yes

B: Great, okay. So we've looked at exercise three now, now perhaps it might be an idea, that we could actually have a look at, you know if we're, the quality of our performance. So, you know, if you're following your Gigajam notes, what you can do, is you may look at the video and then actually have a play along

N: Mmmhmm

B: So why don't we have a just a quick play along with the exercise and actually measure our performance to see how we're doing

N: Okay

B: Yeah? So what we can do now, we've got our drum kit hooked into the computer

N: Mmmhmm

B: So we've got our play along file. This exercise here, is now going to play what I've just played. And we'll have a…give it a little listen

(Exercise starts to play)

N: So this is how it should sound

B: This is how it should sound. Metronome.

N: Bass, snare, bass

B: Correct, one, two, three, four. So that's what we're supposed to do

N: Mmmhmm

B: Okay

(Exercise stops playing)

B: So what we can do know to check that my timing is right, is actually play that exercise in here. So I'm going to play the bass drum and the snare drum

N: Mmmhmm

B: So bass drum here, and snare drum here. We're going to record it…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …and see how I'm performing

N: A hundred percent I'm sure

B: Well we'll see. We might not do the whole exercise, so…

N: (Laughs)

(Xtractor starts)

B: Two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four

N: Bass, snare

B: Bass, two, three, four. Okay, so trying to keep nice and even, nice and relaxed. Try to get the flow and playing in time with the music. Okay, that was close, bit of a dodgy one there. Shouldn't try and talk and do these things.

N: You were doing it to exemplify what can go wrong

B: Thank you so much. So all we've done now, is we've played the exercise, we've recorded in. We've hit the big A…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …which is the Analyser

N: Yep

B: Now this will give us some feedback, that we can have a look at…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …to see how we've performed

N: And obviously this only works with the electronic kit that we've hooked up to the computer

B: Yes if you've got it plugged in. Of course, the acoustic kit as we did works perfectly well…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …this just gives an extra bit of feedback for us

N: Yeah

B: Okay, so on our top line here this is what we should have played, these black quarter notes here…

N: Yes

B: …bass drum, snare drum. Noting that the bass drum is on the bottom line…

N: Yes

B: …and that the snare drum, or sorry I should say the bottom space really, and then the snare drum is on this middle space

N: Mmmhmm

B: Now that's traditional and a consistent thing that's followed through. So first bar was pretty good

N: I'd say that's pretty near perfect isn't it?

B: It is in fact perfect. And then we've got some green notes here where it looks like, if we follow the shading, that I was just a little bit early…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …but still good enough…

N: Yeah

B: …yes?

(Laughs)

N: (Laughs)

B: Then we've got a bit…

N: You don't need to convince me!

B: Yes, I need to convince myself! Then a bit slack here with this yellow one…

N: Yep

B: …but that's still good enough. If you listen to that back that will sound absolutely fine

N: Alright, so we've got the bass and the snare

B: Yes

N: What else do we need to throw into this crazy mix?

B: That's great, so developing three-way coordination we need to start to look at what we would do with our right hand to build up a rock groove

N: Mmmhmm

B: And we're going to introduce the hi-hat. Okay, so we're now going to go back to one-way coordination here

N: Mmmhmm

B: So we're going to play the hi-hat cymbals. And just a couple of things to talk about here, is firstly when you play the hi-hat in many of these exercises you're looking at putting your foot on it, bringing the two cymbals close together, and getting a nice chip sound

N: Mmmhmm

B: Okay? Now what we're going to do with the hi-hat is play it on all four beats in the bar

N: Right, so almost giving ourselves our own metronome

B: It is indeed. I'll just demonstrate this quickly if I may? So one

B & N: Two, three, four

B: One, two three four

B & N: One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four

B: Does that make sense?

N: It does. It makes perfect sense. However I'm just trying to imagine playing that with the right hand, the bass with my foot, and then the snare with my left hand

B: Well we can show you how to do that very easily

N: Okay, we're gonna show you how to do that after the break. Join us back in part two where there's gonna be arms and legs and limbs absolutely everywhere

Part 2

N: Hello and welcome back to part two of episode one of the essential drum skills course, part one. Now, in part one, of episode one…

B: Yes

N: …we were talking 4/4 time, quarter notes…

B: Yes

N: …we were doing some two-ways, and about to build up to a three-way

B: Yes indeed. Absolutely

N: (Laughs)

B: So to recap quickly if I may?

N: Yes

B: We'd introduced the bass drum on beats one and three…

N: Mmmhmm

B: We then introduced the snare drum on beats two and four. And just before the break we were looking at the hi-hat, and how that's played on all four beats. So all we've got to do now is develop two-way coordination a little bit further before we dive into our rock groove. And put the hi-hat in with the bass drum, and then put the hi-hat in with the snare drum, then bring the whole thing together. But let's take that in stages, if we may?

N: Baby steps

B: Baby steps, so we've got to exercise five now, where what I'm going to do, is I'm going to play the hi-hat with the bass drum

N: Mmmhmm

B: Yeah, let's play the hi-hat with the bass drum. So remembering to get the hi-hat closed by depressing your foot on the pedal

N: Totally closed position?

B: Yeah totally closed position. I mean, it's well worth just taking a moment to just think about posture and technique very, very briefly. So relaxed, sitting up straight…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …with your feet flat on the floor, so they're relaxed, creating the foundation for your playing

N: Mmmhmm

B: I mean it's actually, you know, quite an important point, so that when you play, your bedrock and your foundation is your bottom…

N: (Laughs)

B: …and your feet…

N: Right

B: … everything else that goes on top is secured by your feet. So it's very important to have relaxed feet on the floor

N: And you're kind of at a right-angle, aren't you, with your legs?

B: That's right

N: Is that right with the stool?

B: Well I think so. I mean there are, there's some great examples of some fabulous players, who sit in all sorts of strange positions…

N: (Laughs)

B: …you know, which, you know, kind of prove exceptions to the rule. But a kind of, you know, if we're going to get into the 'one cap fits all', I would say for most people sitting up straight, keeping your body straight, a right angle of the top of your legs to the floor, and sort of a ninety, a gentle ninety degrees here….

N: Mmmhmm

B: …is appropriate for most people. Which leaves you with your arms, just above the snare drum

N: Okay

B: Okay, well I don't, as I've said, I don't want to get into too much technique, but that kind of general posture works for most people. One other caveat, if a drum teacher says, "This is the only way to do something", don't believe him

N: Really?

B: Absolutely. There are so many different ways to play, it's good that you, you know, sort of challenge and explore what feels comfortable. But look at the sort of basic, you know, sort of science and principles of being comfortable and relaxed. Anyway, to our exercise number five

N: Dr Brian

B: After that minor diversion!

N: (Laughs)

B: Just to recap, we're playing the hi-hat on all four beats. Let's just do that. So one, two, three, four

N: Mmmhmm

B: Okay? Nice, chip sounds. I tend to use the shoulder of the stick here

N: Yeah, well you can see there's a few little gouges on that one

B: There's quite a few little gouges here. I tend to use that, around, just at, above the lip of the right, no, of the hi-hat

N: Mmmhmm

B: If you play with the bead, you get a thinner sound

N: Oh yes

B: So I quite like to use the shoulder

N: A more meaty sound, we've got there

B: A slightly more meaty sound, gives you more depth in that. So the hi-hat on all four beats, and then using leg strokes that I talked about very briefly in our introductory lesson on the bass drum on beats one and three

N: Mmmhmm

B: So I'm going to put these two together. Hi-hat on all four, bass drum on one and three

N: I'll count you in

B: You're very kind

N: A one, two, three, four

B: Perfect, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four

N: You've got the consistency of the hi-hat there, hit with the right hand

B: Yeah

N: The right foot hitting the bass on one and three

B: Correct, so that's two-way coordination getting up towards the top of the kit now. So we now need two-way coordination incorporating the snare drum and the hi-hat…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …so the hi-hat is of course the same pattern as we've just played. But then we've got the snare drum to negotiate. Now this is the first time we come across the standard position for the drummer, which is right-handed player, playing the hi-hat here, and the left hand comes underneath…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …the hi-hat to play the snare drum. Now with, just a very, very brief note about snare drum technique. What I generally do is look to hit the snare drum somewhere in the middle

N: Yes

B: There are people who put little fifty pence piece type…

N: (Laughs)

B: …size bits and pieces in the middle of the drum, or a marking…

N: What, like a drawing on there?

B: Yes. Yes which I've done on the rolling kit there. But where you play the drum, you're aiming for the same spot all the time

N: Mmmhmm

B: What I use a lot of the time for my playing, whether it's jazz, rock, pop, I tend to use the sound that you get when you clip the side of the rim of the drum as well, which is called a rim shot…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …and it gives you quite a strong back beat. I'll demonstrate, now just watch your ears for a second. So, woa, those are three varying degrees of accuracy

N: Yeah

B: So my consistent playing

N: (Laughs)

B: But you can hear a bit of weight in there. If I just play with the bead in the centre of the drum you'll hear a slight difference

N: A bit echoy

B: Yeah a bit thinner, little bit more echoy. With the rim in…

N: So you're actually striking down on the rim there?

B: Yeah

N: And the angle of the, I was gonna call it a chop stick then!

B: Drum stick

N: (Laughs) The angle of the drum stick…

B: Yes

N: …is pretty much flat then, but when you're hitting it in the middle obviously you've got the angle sort of dipping it down a bit

B: You have indeed, you've got a slight angle on the snare drum. Our sitting position and posture is that our arms are at a right angle, so if you've got your position right, that should produce that for you immediately

N: Mmmhmm

B: Let's do the exercise which is number six…

N: Yeah

B: …which is hi-hat on all four beats,…

N: Mmmhmm

B: … snare drum on two and four

N: Yep

B: So we're, would you count me in again?

N: If you wish me to Brian

B: Please do

N: Coming to you Brian Greene, in a one, two, three, four

B: One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four

N: I was just mimicking you then

B: And very nicely so

N: When you haven't got a drum kit around you can you practice just…

B: You can

N: …like this?

B: You can practise in the air. Sometimes, for some of my students, when they first come along they don't have a drum kit. One of the things I quite often get them to do, is kind of mimic the layout of this table top with a mouse mat…

N: Oh okay

B: …cos it's nice and quiet and you can play it. So I draw little circles on it and people can just practise there. So there, you know, there are many ways of practising, but of course you need the dedication and motivation to do that

N: Exactly, exactly. Alright so that was exercise six

B: It was

N: Does exercise seven mean then that we combine it all together?

B: We do indeed, and this is the sort of culmination of bringing all three parts together. Now I think it's incredibly important that we understand the components of any groove. And this works in building up grooves, and also breaking patterns down. Professional players often have to learn new patterns, and they want to develop new patterns, they're still experimenting. And quite often what they will do, is they'll look at a very difficult, say for instance, a Latin groove which has got complicated four-way coordination which may use the hi-hat foot as well, and by learning the individual parts and breaking them down, and then bringing two-way, different two-way combinations in, then three-way, they build their patterns up

N: Mmmhmm

B: So by no means are we taking a very kind of basic approach. This is a consistent approach to how you develop your coordination

N: Mmmhmm. This is a standard. I suppose you've got to know what this hand is doing, and then what this foot is doing…

B: Yes

N: …and then just layer it up…

B: Yes

N: …like a sandwich

B: And develop the combinations. So what we've got to do now is put our three-way coordination together

N: Mmmhmm

B: And what I'm going to do is just demonstrate how sometimes I would perhaps bring all three instruments in together. The three voices of the kit as they're often referred to. Different voices. So, perhaps you might wish to start by playing the hi-hat, one, two, I'll play slowly…

N: Yeah

B: …three, four. Get that going, get your position nice and comfortable. Perhaps then introduce the bass drum, two, three, four, one, two, three, then perhaps bring the snare drum in if you're feeling bold, three, four, one, two, three, four. Now sometimes, it can fall over…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …but the thing to do is to try and keep going, and then just bring them back in again. So develop some fluency in your playing

N: Right

B: So I'm bringing the snare drum back in on two and four, and bring the bass drum back in. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four

N: So essentially what you're saying, I mean if you fall, don't just throw the drum sticks in the air…

B: Yes

N: …push the drums aside…

B: No

N: …and storm off and cry

B: Don't stop

N: No

B: Keep it going. Okay, so we've got a pattern together. Now, it's always much more fun playing with supportive music, like we have with our band in a box effectively…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …with our software, so if we refer to our lesson notes here, what we can do is we can look at the next exercise but with supporting music

N: Okay

B: And of course the best thing to do is repeat exercises over and over and over and over. And if you've got some music to play to…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …that's fab. Now by using the drum Xtractor in this way, we can actually control the speed and the balance of the exercise.

N: Mmmhmm

B: But ideally what we want to be doing is playing to music. Music that we love, that's what got us into playing initially…

N: Yeah

B: …in the first place. But what we're going to do is play along with the Gigajam drum Xtractor…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …which has a supportive band track. It means that we can control the tempo…

N: Yep

B: …use the environment to get the groove really working nice and gently,…

N: (Laughs)

B: …and get nice comfortable with it all. And then we apply it to playing with the music we have in our collection

N: Okay

B: Let's play along with the track

N: Let's get that groove working

B: Absolutely. I'm gonna bring the hi-hat in. One, two, three, four, to bringing each of the voices in one at a time

N: Yep

B: So once the hi-hat's nice and comfortable, I'm gonna bring in the bass drum

N: On one and three

B: On one and three, here he goes, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, now that's nice and comfortable, I'm feeling balanced…

N: Mmmhmm

B: …try and drop the snare drum in on

B & N: Two and four

N: Simpletaneous

B: Four, brilliant. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. And we're out

N: Fantastic

B: Great

N: So, if you haven't got your Gigajam software, what do you play along with?

B: Well, I mean the key thing is you really get into music, you get into playing your drums because of the music that you love

N: Mmmhmm

B: So what you should be doing is applying this rock groove and all the other rock grooves…

N: Yeah

B: …and patterns that you're gonna be learning through the course to the music that you love in your record collection

N: And do you know what? This isn't in my record collection yet, but I love this music. It is the end of Gigajam for this episode. Keep practising and join us again for episode two. But keep watching to find out how you can get hold of your very own Gigajam course notes. Bri, take it away