Teachers, What Do I Need to Get There?

Jazzhead

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Hello to all teachers here,

I have been playing drums on and off for about 12 years now. Growing up, all the people around me, although very good at playing, would play by ear. That’s how I learned to play as well, never got a teacher really. Initially I would play different beats on the table by hand and then i got sticks and practiced on a pillow until my dad got me a drum set and I continued playing by ear on my Drumset. So, I cannot read music and I know it is ideal to be able to read music and play by that but I think playing by ear has helped me to be creative and imaginative behind the kit at least.

I have grown up now and I have developed a deep interest in Jazz drumming. I listen to a lot of old jazz stuff (brubeck, miles, coltrane, etc.) and also some modern avant garde jazz bands. My goal is not to be a superstar but I want to be able to play some jazz standards and be able to keep up with a trio or sth at a local restaurant playing jazz standards.
Where do I need to start to get there? Should I practice rudiments? Master the snare drum?
Currently, youtube is my teacher, I practice basic jazz patterns, rudiments, etc. all by ear still. It does help me but I am not sure what I am doing is the best way to get there.
I’d appreciate your input on how I should practice, what should I practice, how often, should I get a private teacher?

Thanks!
 

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dcrigger

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You should get a private teacher and learn to read. If you go to a teacher that tells you, you don't need to learn to readread - say "Thank you", stand up and leave, and find a real teacher that knows what they are doing. Why?

Because the process of learning to read teaches what you need to know in order to really understand what you are playing. It doesn't matter if you never play with a band with charts, or ever use your reading in public. its value is in the clarity it puts into your head.

Plus it is by far the shortest path to really improving. You've been playing 12 years - which means you are of some adult age, which a. just makes learning slower and harder and b. means you have less time to waste... if you're wanting to get as good as you can, so you can truly enjoy playing. And there's nothing like playing when you're feeling confident, in control, relaxed and knowing you're sounding good.

While YouTube is great for inspiration - as a learning tool, it's 100% a one way street. Everyone's showing you what to do - with no ability to actual help you do it. A good teacher is all about knowing the shortest path to success and being there to help keep you on it.

Sorry if I'm coming off all bossy and opinionated - but you are asking about the best path, and IMO the above is absolutely the best path. It's not the only path - it's more than possible for someone to lock themselves in a room with drums and a giant stack of recordings and figure drumming out - all by themselves. It will take a long time, but i see no reason why it wouldn't be doable.

Except for the frustration - and the risk of giving up long before the task is complete. Thus probably the hardest path.

And IMO every other in-between option just lies incrementally between that and learning to play properly. So if you have the will and the means, then why not go the route with the most proven track record for success.

OK - one last thing - giant wive's tale debunking... Learning to read has ZERO, ZIP, ZILCH, NADA negative effect on creativity. That is simply a giant rationalization used by folks that haven't learned to read to help justify their not having done it.

And to be clear, I'm not suggesting needing to read good enough to be some studio sight-reading wiz - again, I'm talking about learning to read as a tool for fundamentally becoming a better player as efficiently and effectively as possible.

As for practice - how much you practice isn't nearly as important as what and how you practice. But again, this is something a private teacher should be able to help you with.

Anyway best of luck to you,

David
 

JDA

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I want to be able to play some jazz standards and be able to keep up with a trio or sth at a local restaurant playing jazz standards.
If lucky, you can join a band that does just that; and your best learning will be in the doing, on the stage..
You'll adapt real quick and over time.
the "old guys" bands are few and far between; even if you have to volunteer with the town's Senior Citizen Big band but the small quartets and quintets (of greatest generation players) is over about gone.
So get the chance to play with older (and or genre experienced) players.
Study hard (by listening to the old records; figure it out) and then find the setting to apply it.
 
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Hop

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David gave you some really good thoughts/insights, and I'll echo a couple of them.

Absolutely get a quality professional instructor... not just any teacher. You may have to go through several teachers to find that quality instructor (or you may luckily land on them right away). I went through some very well known player/teachers in L.A. before finding a "quality" instructor. It's easy to get dazzled by a musician's reputation or playing ability. So the qualities I'm talking about are beyond that and include the ability to communicate (verbally, written, physical demonstration - as well as listening skills), have a legitimate structure that also has some flexibility; assessment skills, honesty and integrity (you certainly don't want somebody that is just going to take your money whether or not you make any progress), motivated and disciplined (this is very important IMO - some instructors won't care if your prepared or not [i.e. money seekers] others will hold you accountable. I've been sent home and told not to come back until I did the work... nothing more humbling than apologizing for wasting a professional's time - he was ready, why wasn't I???).

IMO you should have some general goals; you should have your abilities assessed by the instructor; you should agree to some very specific short/medium term goals that are in alignment with your general goals (aka long-term goals) with your instructor; then work diligently at achieving those goals. You will need to periodically reassess your skills and be honest and accurate with criticism to shape your next set of goals. Another key is not forgetting to celebrate your success, you'll have earned it when you hit your milestones. I keep a daily journal to help me through this goal setting/achievement process (I've adjusted the journal from an end of the day "what did I practice," to include a start of the day "what will I practice," that is aligned with my goal sheet).

Do some research on SMART goals. It will help you to frame your goals into realistic accomplishments and really push you to another level.
SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.
When structured properly it is the difference between "I'm gonna practice Stick Control" and I want to improve my ability to play and apply flams:
  • On the pad I will practice Stick Control, Pg.16, Numbers 1-7, 20-mins a day for 7-days with a metronome set at 60-bpm (for wrist control) and 100=bpm (for bounce control).
  • On the snare/kit I will practice applying Flam exercises 1-7, for 30-mins a day for 7-days with a metronome setting at 70-bpm on the snare then move the R flam hand to the floor tom and the L flam hand to the small tom, playing 3-measures of basic time and 1-measure of flam "fills."
  • At the end of the week I will play and record each exercise at the practice speed on the snare twice before directly moving to the next exercise, completing all seven exercises error free; I will then play 3-measures of basic time and 1-measure of flam "fills" directly cycling all 7 exercises error free.

Learn how to read music! It will allow you to work independently on a ton a really incredible material that great instructors/players have shared with us. I'm not a strong reader of charts that can just blaze through the material, however I constantly work through written content all the time - it may be slow - but the key is I'm working through it. Also I use the material as a springboard to creativity. For instance I may take a basic exercise and then challenge myself to be creative with it. For example, I'll take a 4/5/7-stroke ruff and challenge myself to orchestrate in at least five different ways (this also helps get my eye off the page and mindfully get my ear into the music).

EDIT: Just to add on to this... As I mentioned, I use a Goal Sheet to help me set/achieve things that are important to me... I have a screen shot of it to share.
I'll also try to upload a copy of the file itself (not sure if the forum allows that type of file though???)
EDIT on the EDIT: no go on the .docx upload, if you want a copy I can email it.
 

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multijd

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Hop and dcrigger nailed it. This should be pinned somewhere because it has come up before and will come up again and again and...
 

Jazzhead

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Thank you all for your advice and honest opinion. I do agree that I should get a teacher and learn how to read music. This will help me in the long run. Some people have already recommended some great teachers in LA area.
Although some of the great drummers in the past just played by ear, most of the great drummers today always talk about how their teachers helped them get where they are.
 
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Jazzhead

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EDIT on the EDIT: no go on the .docx upload, if you want a copy I can email it.
Although I assume my teaher will somehow document my goals and improvements, I would be glad if you email it to me so I can keep track of my goals personally.
My email is Arazito1@yahoo.com
Really appreciate it!
 

Hop

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OK... One goal sheet, comments and some encouragement has been sent!

Although I assume my teaher will somehow document my goals and improvements, I would be glad if you email it to me so I can keep track of my goals personally.... Really appreciate it!
...And you'll be surprised at how many teachers simple don't understand this as a process. I can't tell you how many merely wrote the date on the page(s) and said, "See ya next week!" and in the ensuing weeks never provided quality feedback, let alone documenting it in a more formal fashion.
 

mathale

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If you want to keep up playing jazz standards, the best thing (IMHO) is to learn to play them on the piano. Or, at least learn to sing them precisely (not important to be in-pitch). Then, the tunes will just come out in your playing - you'll catch all of the nuances, and will be outlining the road map. (Arguably 90% of jazz standards all follow the same two song forms - rhythm changes or the blues (with or without variations)). Some of the best drummers that I've come across tend to play the piano, and learn the tunes on the piano before gigging them. Best of luck.
 

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I agree get a good teacher, try to get a referral at a reputable music store or 3, specifically a teacher who can help you learn to read and play jazz.

Additionally, it goes without saying, try to find as much examples of players playing jazz, and try to find recordings of great players in the past playing this music. LISTEN. try to figure it out. Practice lots of playing time, start out on the ride cymbal only. Dave King in Modern Drummer magazine said he played time on the cymbal until he got it steady. There are so many subtle variations just in how swing time is played. Everything builds upon everything else. But listening is really important. It's important to learn to read, I used (my teacher took me through) Haskell Harr books one and two along with other snare drum exercises. Obviously Riley's book is good but the Chapin book is great. But working with a teacher, reading this stuff down with a teacher there for you to work on it, and LISTEN to a bunch of jazz. I had to do this because I grew up in the ROCK era. My teacher helped a bunch. and I'm glad I learned to read. It isn't an end but a means to an end. Everything ties in together. You get all these extra neuron pathways going and things start falling into place quickly. For learning, You want as many tie-ins as possible. for creativity, you want the learning to be in place so you can set the limitations in place and make creative choices. but at first practice getting your jazz ride time down, gradually practice some various beats and develop some independence, and listen a bunch.

Reading is very important. It won't hurt!
 

Jazzhead

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That is what I have been doing, listening to a lot of jazz. I talked to multiple teachers and yes all of them emphasized the importance of being able to read music because I told them I want to play Jazz. I watched an interview with Dave King where he said he only played the ride cymbal for months. I am excited!
 

drumreverie

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Listening is the key. Loving jazz goes without saying if you want to play it. If you don't love jazz, why bother. Almost no one in the world listens to mainstream jazz, let alone avant garde jazz. If you listen and love the music, everything else will follow.

I don't disagree with any of the other threads from drummers about reading and having a great teacher, but that hasn't been my path. For me, playing with others is at least as important as reading music or having a teacher. You learn by listening and playing, playing and listening. My notion is that you have to listen to the entire music, not just the drummer. Listening is itself an art and you express it when you play with others.
 

jansara

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Listening is the key. Loving jazz goes without saying if you want to play it. If you don't love jazz, why bother. Almost no one in the world listens to mainstream jazz, let alone avant garde jazz. If you listen and love the music, everything else will follow.

I don't disagree with any of the other threads from drummers about reading and having a great teacher, but that hasn't been my path. For me, playing with others is at least as important as reading music or having a teacher. You learn by listening and playing, playing and listening. My notion is that you have to listen to the entire music, not just the drummer. Listening is itself an art and you express it when you play with others.
Amen. You learn by doing. Put on the headphones and start playing time along with drummerless recordings. There are many available. Keep it simple and, as drumreverie said, listen to the music. Don't sweat the chops or technical stuff, which is not to say don't learn to read. You don't need a lot of chops to be good at playing Jazz. Develop your time, your feel and inner ear. Those elements have been valued above all in a drummer by virtually every accomplished Jazz artist out there.
 

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Every city has an on-call drummer who can play jazz in the big-band orchestras. Find out who it is. If they are a reputable teacher, see if they have an opening. If they don't, tell them what you're after, and ask them to refer someone to you. Of course playing jazz is essential. All this stuff combines into the formula you need.
 

Jazzhead

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I think my inner ear is pretty strong since that’s how I have been playing for a long time but I need to learn the correct way. Again, this is my hobby, I am not a music major, not trying to audition for a school, or be a teacher, or a touring drummer, I just want to learn the correct way of playing jazz because I love Jazz and jazz drumming. I do have some friends and cousins whom I played with before and can have a small combo jazz band.
I was actually given the contact info of a teacher that apparently Peter Erskine recommends to people if he doesn’t have time. I just need to see if he has time for me and also how much he charges.
 

Hop

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I was actually given the contact info of a teacher that apparently Peter Erskine recommends to people if he doesn’t have time. I just need to see if he has time for me and also how much he charges.
Excellent! And remember you don't have to take weekly lessons if money is tight for you right now. See if you can't get on a longer interim cycle like once a month or bi-monthly. You can load the lesson accordingly.
 

Jazzhead

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Excellent! And remember you don't have to take weekly lessons if money is tight for you right now. See if you can't get on a longer interim cycle like once a month or bi-monthly. You can load the lesson accordingly.
That is exactly what I am going to do, this is my hobby there is no need to drop 500 bucks a month on lessons. I will take my time but I will go with a good teacher.
 

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I don't know of there is a "correct" way of playing anything. There are various ways of approaching the music, and there are ways of doing these more or less efficiently; a good teacher should help you through these. Learning to read is great - it's paid bills for many - but at the end of the day there is no substitute for knowing the music inside out - form chord changes, lyrics if applicable. The better we can do this, the better we can help our bandmates as they wrestle with the tunes.

So find someone who can help you play efficiently; ideally, find someone who can help you serve the music better. That may not be a drum teacher; it could be a keyboard player. Better you, start studying piano or guitar; these will help you both to read better and escape the trap of thinking like a drummer, so you're more likely to give the music what it needs rather than something that might be technically amazing but has nothing to do with the music.

As you go out to see folks, look for guys who make music with their instruments - Lenny White, Jeff Hamilton and Peter Erskine come to mind - and listen for what they do and don't do.

Good luck.
 


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