How to develop a curriculum for improvement and getting out of the intermediate rut?

Artimas

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There are so many drummers stuck in the intermediate rut. They play better than the beginner stage, perhaps even in a gigging band, but stick mostly to the basics. They have some skills that are pretty good, and some not as good. Typically they took lessons for a while, then taught themselves by listening to music or using on line content. An example would be someone who can play a pretty good standard rock beat with simple fills, but lacks independence.

In order to solidify the foundation and start to advance to the next level, how do you assess what level the different skills are at and then develop the curriculum that would best improve the player, either on line content or in live lessons?
 

toddbishop

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I get them working on a complete understanding of rhythm, usually working out of a snare drum book, and on the methods associated with the book Syncopation-- in whatever style is most familiar to them-- usually rock/funk. That's the book I use for 90% of everything on the drum set. Increasingly I'm also using Stick Control for coordination studies on the drum set. I'll have them practice drum set with sampled loops rather than a metronome, to keep them interested, and to get their musical ear working. Plus we'll work on whatever remedial technical issues need addressing at the moment. Most "intermediate" drummers are not true intermediates when it comes to facility on the snare drum, so we also get into the various types of open and closed rolls, flam rudiments, for paradiddle variations in 16th notes and sixtuplets, for example.

As far as assessing them, you just work with them and figure out what they need to work on right now.
 

toddbishop

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I hope that's not so broad as to be useless. I think it also helps to encourage them to get into some new music.
 
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jaymandude

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I get them working on a complete understanding of rhythm, usually working out of a snare drum book, and on the methods associated with the book Syncopation-- in whatever style is most familiar to them-- usually rock/funk. That's the book I use for 90% of everything on the drum set. Increasingly I'm also using Stick Control for coordination studies on the drum set. I'll have them practice drum set with sampled loops rather than a metronome, to keep them interested, and to get their musical ear working. Plus we'll work on whatever remedial technical issues need addressing at the moment. Most "intermediate" drummers are not true intermediates when it comes to facility on the snare drum, so we also get into the various types of open and closed rolls, flam rudiments, for paradiddle variations in 16th notes and sixtuplets, for example.

As far as assessing them, you just work with them and figure out what they need to work on right now.
I'd be interested in your approach to Syncopation and rock, because my background is the jazz thing with Dawson using that and Stick control. Personally i get away from the straight metronome and get into the thing with empty bars of time, starting with two and working up to 4, two bars with a click, two without. At different tempos. To help strengthen their inner clock..
 

RIDDIM

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I think it starts with the student. He or she needs to really want this and be willing to do the work necessary to to acquire the skills do it very well. Then all you need to do is point them in the direction they want to go and correct/nudge as needed.

It helps to expose them to folks who are high achievers, to know what's humanly possible if we do the work. The one common element in all those I respect is that they did the most they could with what they were given. This is a choice we all can make.
 

Tanabata

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I think if you want to do this for a living, you should start living it. A serious student should be practicing, listening, rehearsing, and gigging 8-12 hours a day. School kids, less, but as much as possible. Drums should be everyone's favorite toy.

When they're that hungry, you throw what you have at them, along with your records, and they find it.

I've always liked all the things you can do with Stick Control, as written, and across the kit, straight and swinging, same with Syncopation. Also I like Wilcoxon's All American Drummer, and Modern Rudimental Swing Solos (played with foot patterns), the Benjamin Podemski Snare Drum Method, and Keith Copeland's Creative Coordination. I like the Philly Joe brush book, but have never seen a student accomplish it. There are lots of great books though.

More than books, I like having them play with records, things I really like for them are anything with Jim Keltner, Al Jackson Jr, Ron Tutt, Billy Higgins, Al Harewood, Bill Kreutzmann, and various tracks with other drummers, Howard Grimes, Kenny Buttrey, Roger Hawkins, Bernard Purdie, Gary Mallaber, others. Also, any records they bring that they want to work on. I expect them to keep an open mind to the music I'm laying on them, so I keep an open mind to whatever they bring, whatever.

One big thing I do from day one, and keep harping on, is to teach them how to set up and maintain their practice routine. If I can get them on that, they have a map for accomplishment.
 

Old PIT Guy

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Great suggestions so far.

Efrain Toro had a teaching approach where lesson material was secondary to music for intermediate players. For example, rather than pages of latin rhythms with varying degrees of difficult independence to tackle, he'd put on a latin track and examine the role of the percussive instruments (conga, timbale, shaker, etc) within the musical context and we'd discuss what we thought essential to reproduce on the drum set as replacement for the percussion parts. Then we'd go about putting that together interactively, discarding some and keeping some, to form hybrid grooves that we liked, stressing how everything ultimately relates to the clave.

For rock, pop and funk, perhaps a similar approach but isolating the accompanying instruments since there's no other percussion. This would be musically adjunct to technique studies and forms a good creative outlet to apply the rote stuff. For simpler concepts everything could relate to the push-pull of 2&4, and for the more advanced (funk), orchestrating linear concepts that fit well with syncopated bass lines by examining how the bass line relates to the song.

edit: video for background on Efrain -

 
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JDA

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There are so many drummers stuck in the intermediate rut. They play better than the beginner stage, perhaps even in a gigging band, but stick mostly to the basics. They have some skills that are pretty good, and some not as good. Typically they took lessons for a while, then taught themselves by listening to music or using on line content. An example would be someone who can play a pretty good standard rock beat with simple fills, but lacks independence.

In order to solidify the foundation and start to advance to the next level, how do you assess what level the different skills are at and then develop the curriculum that would best improve the player, either on line content or in live lessons?
Listening...and Analysis
If you have basic notation down
Listen to music possibly outside your comfort zone
Try to unlock anything and as much as possible
You have to go (or take someone) into unknown unfamiliar territory
Then it's
Listening and analysis
 

Old PIT Guy

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That's absolutely true -- listening and analysis -- but refining what's involved in knowing how to learn helps a lot when we hit any plateau. You'll get this in school, certainly, but you may not with private lessons. The first time someone used the terms conceptually and abstract I nodded but really didn't know WTF they were talking about. Sometimes I still don't!

But at least now if someone says something like 'think conceptually' if I'm trying to understand how Vinnie Colaiuta created the phrases in a particular song, I know that in my analysis I'm going to first require the basis of what he's using in a particular phrase. That's likely going to require an area of study on its own, possibly technique. Or maybe I'm simply missing something in the form of the song that he's utilizing or a motif established by a soloist etc etc. How to analyze is something else we have to learn, and developing that in tandem with technique might be overlooked in private study with 30 minutes to an hour a few times a month.
 

JDA

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You take a song and tear it apart or you take a one bar phrase/event and take it apart.
Paper and pencil Transcribing is also useful-very. Short phrases not 5 page events. Two bars four bars one bar etc....Basic notation skills needed. and intermediate and advanced

If a student came in with a problem " I don't know what's going on in this song"
Pencil paper notation time patience skill -get it written out- Sometimes it's just one measure. One measure transcribing is Use ful..

Like take the first few introductory measures of this:

These are the things you do when starting out and you end up filling a notebook full.
 

mtarrani

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Listening...and Analysis
If you have basic notation down
Listen to music possibly outside your comfort zone
Try to unlock anything and as much as possible
You have to go (or take someone) into unknown unfamiliar territory
Then it's
Listening and analysis
Listening and analysis - that sums it all up in three words. The only thing that I can add is to apply listening when performing with others. Some genres, such as jazz, require it. However, as a musician if you apply that single thing - listening to everything that is happening while performing you are going to be at the next level. That does not diminish JDA's advice, and they are not mutually exclusive. They complement one another.
 

Old PIT Guy

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I was driving more at where the flow of ideas develops in advanced players' phrasing. A few of the guys I hung with went off on a tangent trying to understand how particular creative processes were developed in some players. You know, the 'how the F did he come up with that?' thing. There's inherent talent, sure, but also theory, compositional training, etc. But I always felt like there was more to it because there's always someone without much of that who is amazingly fresh and creative.

There's obviously a big intangible at work with percussive phraseology that stands above and beyond the mainstream. Anyway, the point was if an instructor had any handle on that it would be a great thing to include in an intermediate player's study to end a rut.
 

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