Teaching Difficult Concepts

cworrick

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Every student I have had wants to play the flam accent wrong in the beginning.
They want to stick it like a Swiss Army Triplet. I am always having to slow it way down to correct it.
 

APSdrums

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The dominant hand ALWAYS wants to dominate...
Soon I am going to push some students into leading "weak handed." I know frustration will prevail in the beginning but the ROI is more than worth it in the long run
 

Hop

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APSdrums said:
What concept do you find most difficult to teach / explain?
To be accomplished you have to work the "process," which requires time and effort!!!
Some get frustrated wanting instant results and may not have patience to work the process for the required length of time to get the results they are wanting at the moment.


EDIT: Doh! Fixed error, meant patience... not patients
 

dcrigger

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APSdrums said:
The dominant hand ALWAYS wants to dominate...
Soon I am going to push some students into leading "weak handed." I know frustration will prevail in the beginning but the ROI is more than worth it in the long run
Assuming we're talking about "on the drum set" - I've always found it much less "frustrating" if the added weak hand involvement comes from the musical approach being worked on actually demanding it - rather than "now lets try and play the same thing, but leading with the other hand" with little more reason than that.

In my own development, I didn't really embrace getting my left hand (I'm right handed) off the snare that much until I was confronted with music that really sounded better if I, for instance, used left hand lead on some fills and set-ups requiring an offbeat RH crash, or simply crashed with my LH, or got my LH ore involved melodically/orchestrationally. Again not so much because I "should be able to" - but that the music really demanded it in order to play it well.

Just a thought...
 

APSdrums

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Dcrigger...
I agree with you 100%. I do not learn things "just because" and do not want that for my students either. I'll show them why it is a beneficial skill to lead with each hand regardless of the playing situation. My students often hear that our goal is to prepare them for situations they will encounter at some point in the future.

Titus...
You nailed it! We cannot teach those who do not want to learn.

Hop...
Self-Discipline and Commitment are perhaps the most difficult things to teach. I also believe music is a great way for people of all ages to discover the true value of these character qualities.
 

TDM

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Titus Pullo wrote:
That's true, but what I was driving at is that both rote and reward-based methodologies will likely work better together than using only one or the other. It's great to be in a position to say I only spend time learning what I want to when I want to, but that's an extremely narrow way to approach learning anything. Memorizing the alphabet in grade school was rote to extreme, but I can't think of a better way to get on with the business of learning to read and write. If we were to use Dcrigger's method, that would be tantamount to increasing our core abilities on an as-needed basis, effectively setting the student up for a series of self-inflicted plateaus.
Hopefully I'm not hijacking. Here are a few related thoughts based on my own "learning journey" since the beginning of the year. This year, I decided to start all over again and abandon things I've been leaning on for a long time. Thus, I tossed out traditional grip and tore my drum kit apart.

I used a tape measure and measured my leg, thigh, and foot. Then, starting with just the throne, I set the height according to my measurements and used that as a starting point.

I experimented with sitting on the throne in different ways (no drums near me yet), finding out what height felt most natural, where to place my body (and legs and feet) for comfort and balance, and what effect moving from side-to-side and twisting around had. After placing the bass drum and bass drum pedal, some of my adjustments changed, but I tried to stay as close to my body's naturally comfortable and balanced position as possible.

Then, I added the hi-hat. I spent a couple of days working with just the throne, bass drum, and hi-hat, subtly altering heights and angles, and finding reasonable tradeoffs that allowed playing heel down, heel up, heel-toe, out of the head, into the head, hi-hat lifts with pedal only, and a variety of other techniques.

Fast forward. I added the snare drum. More experimenting and adjusting. Added the floor tom. Again, more experimenting and adjusting. And finally, I added a rack tom. Ultimately, I came up with new positions for everything, using my body and desire to have each instrument equally accessible to right and left hands as my guide. (No more angling the snare and rack tom for traditional grip such that the right hand becomes hindered somewhat.) Note, I now have the hi-hat and bass drum pedals positioned in front of me, with equal distance between them and both pedals sitting on the same plane. (No more hi-hat pedal to the side, forcing the body to twist unnaturally to access it or to access the toms.)

Fast forward again. I decided, as had been my notion before starting all of this, to learn everything open handed. If you're a close handed, traditional grip player (which I was), initially, there is nothing natural about open handed playing. But, as I've progressed, I've been discovering wonderfully musical things.

My left hand was always more capable with ghost notes than my right hand, and techniques like push-pull (which I use a lot for ride patterns and hi-hat work) totally eluded my left hand. That has changed.

My right hand is now playing gentle, subtle ghost notes in a way it never could before. Simultaneously, my left hand is now doing push-pull and other techniques that make it much more useful. Certain grooves (four-on-the-floor rock) make so much more sense to play open handed because this allows adding tom figures in addition to the backbeat. As my hands become more equally competent, I'm seeing the kit in entirely new ways and picturing new musical ideas. Placing a floor tom on each side of the kit will soon be essential.

Bottom line, though I have a long way to go with this new approach, I'm already enjoying musically applicable gains. My single and double strokes have vastly improved. I'm starting to lead fills naturally with either hand so that transitions feel better. (i.e. No more jumping from one side of the kit to the other due to only playing hat and ride patterns right handed - now both hands are becoming equally capable at laying down cymbal subdivisions.) My time and feel are getting better. I'm finding grooves like country train feel much better when all four limbs are equally skilled; minimally, it seems almost impossible to get a smooth train groove without equally adept hands... I always knew this, but never did anything until now to resolve the problems I was having with this groove.

Tomorrow, I'll play my first gig open handed for at least half the material - not as a challenge, but because the material works better with left hand lead. I've not thrown away close handed playing. Rather, I'm embracing both methods and using each where it makes most sense musically.

Though I'm not a double bass drum player, I'm taking the same, both sides lead, approach with my feet. Whatever pattern I learn with right foot lead, I rotate the pattern for left foot lead. Again, I'm finding this helps with overall balance and feel, and opens the mind to new ways of thinking and playing.

Is there anything natural or context applicable that started this journey? No, not that I can tell. The entire approach is one hundred percent contrived from the notion that having all four limbs work equally and maximally should provide better technical results and more musical opportunities and expression. Thus far, this seems to be the case.
 

Hop

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Wow... good story. Great ergo approach for body comfort and to make the kit fit your body instead of the other way around!
 

APSdrums

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TDM...
How would you convey that to a student?
I went through a similar self-inflicted experience about five years ago and now play open all the time. All my students are reluctant to push their weak hand, and understandably so.

I look forward to hear your ideas. Excellent real-world info my friend
 

APSdrums

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Titus,
Please leave your posts up. It is good to see the various points of view on a given topic.

Personally I switched to playing after listening to and watching Carter with the Dave Matthews Band. I knew that Simon played open as well, but Carter and the way he puts rhythms together between the left ride cymbal, hi hat, and snare drum got me to see that there are more ways of creating cool rhythms and I wanted a piece of that action. I do not have Carter-like chops and do not expect to in the near future. But I am now able to add a lot more variety to my playing with my country band because of the inspiration from Carter. This brings me back to the question...

I introduce my students to this approach because it has opened up my playing and enables me to be more creative. I want all students to enjoy playing as much as I do. Students seek out instructor for one reason: to learn! Beginning students want to learn beats and rudiments. More experienced drummers want to learn new approaches to playing so they can offer greater variety to their respective bands. Drum Line students do not escape the weak hand lead concept either. Each hand must learn to master the various techniques needed when playing today's hybrid rudiments. Weak hand lead really pushes the rudimental / drum line player to build chops; and the tenor players need this ability more so than the snare and bass line players. Master Drummer M'Bemba Bengora offers similar thoughts about djembe players who can only lead with their dominate hand too... so this discussion is not limited to the drum set or North America.
 

TDM

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APSdrums,



How would you convey that to a student? I went through a similar self-inflicted experience about five years ago and now play open all the time. All my students are reluctant to push their weak hand, and understandably so. I look forward to hear your ideas. Excellent real-world info my friend.
Shortly, I'll be doing set up and sound check, so I don't have much time presently. However, I'll come back and add detailed thoughts, if you'd like. The quickest answers I can come up with at the spur of the moment are:

1.) Playing open handed is fun. Seriously, it is. Once leading with either hand becomes more natural, it becomes something one can do without thinking about it.

2.) To end with certain instruments on certain beats, due to the way hands alternate, it becomes necessary to lead with both hands.

3.) When both hands have equal ability, you have twice as much playing potential at your disposal.

4.) Best student motivation I can give is actually per Mr. Crigger. Find a fun example that requires open handed playing. In my case, it started with learning Steve Smith's part for the Journey song "Don't Stop Believing". As smith describes the various parts "the four-on-the-floor rock groove takes care of business and gives the band time; it's the various open-handed tom motifs that give the song texture, lift-off, and something interesting to listen to".

When I first taught myself those parts, the sense of accomplishment was immense, as was my surprise! Who'd have thought there was so much to learn from a pop song? After that, the idea of returning to close handed playing seemed silly. Why would I deny myself the opportunity to play so many fun things? I could immediately see opportunities to apply the approach to other grooves and I wanted to dive in. The desire to do that made me realize my left hand had to be on par with my right. (i.e. To lead shuffles, jazz ride patterns, eighth and sixteenth note patterns, etc. with my left hand.) This the made notion of strengthening the left hand seem fun... 'cause I wanted to apply this "cool Steve Smith thing" to more grooves.

As you can see, these things have a way of driving other things, so the desire for open handed playing caused me to look at how my kit is set up. "Ah, that's not a great setup for open handed playing... let's start from scratch". And, because open handed became a goal, traditional grip no longer made sense so I dumped it (for now).

One tip I can give is... it's fairly easy to lead it with either hand or either foot when first learning a new pattern. Sure, the pattern may not be smooth yet, but I don't find it that much a chore to rotate the pattern around. In fact, it helps eliminate locks in my brain and frees up physical restrictions so that the pattern becomes all about the musical content only.

Conversely, if you spend hours practicing a pattern one way only, the mind and limbs become locked into that approach. It's much harder to rotate the pattern at that point so I suggest learning patterns on all limbs and rotating them right at the beginning. Make the notion of "all limbs are equal; all limbs get to lead" a fundamental aspect of learning new patterns / rudiments.

Not sure if this is at all helpful, but I must sign out now. Thanks for the opportunity to participate. I'll check back over the weekend.
 

TDM

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Quick callout to Titus Pullo,

I've been enjoying your input in this thread and, like the OP, I hope you continue participating, too.
 

dcrigger

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TDM - wow, that's quite an undertaking. Good for you.

I'm curious - in your ergonomic exploration, whether you considered anything like Bruford's pretty much R/L agnostic setup? (HH centers with toms going off in both directions). Again, just curious.
 

Hop

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Yea that's a great question and it triggered me to think of Mike Mangini's set-up that, although is based in a monster kit, is really well balanced for each limb... almost like a set for the right and left side!
 

APSdrums

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TDM---

It is funny you mention Don't Stop Believin'!!! A student asked for help with this song cuz he and some friends want to play it at their school's talent show. I first thing we focused on was helping him get comfortable with playing open while his right hand added those infectious grooves that make that song work. He has it working now and is very pleased with himself. It's been fun to watch him learn it too.

I show my students how playing open enables them to be more creative when putting rhythms and fills together. Steve Smith's drum track proves this point extremely well. I tell my students that I specifically watch drummers when their bands cover this song. I expect them to get this drum track cuz it makes the song what it's become, as far as I am concerned.

Side Note:
Interestingly, Simon Phillips started playing open early on because there was a certain appearance he was after. The only way he could get the look was to play open so his HH could be placed further to the left so his rack toms would be the same height.

Bill Bachman's drum set has a symmetric configuration to it as well. The HH is directly in front of him and the toms seem to mimic the tenor configuration of his DCI days.
 

bolweevil

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One my difficulties in learning difficult concepts has to do, I think, with ego.

I tend to move on to higher tempos before I am ready to, and therefore don't have an overall solid technique when it comes to stickings even vaguely challenging. It's a lot of hand-flinging that is correct in terms of Rs and Ls but doesn't sound good musically. I realize this, and I am no drumming dynamo, but for some reason I try to practice like one (and therefore never play like one). I subconsciously am trying to replicate what some of my drum heroes do without building a foundation to do so.

I guess admitting you have a problem is the first step...
 

APSdrums

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It's taken a lot of years for me to embrace learning at slow tempos. I am comfortable with it now, but it was a painful experience getting to this point. My bruised ego has finally recovered. My playing improves a lot faster now too
 

APSdrums

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That is a very good one, DiddleBob

Sometimes it is something you feel intuitively. A student and I recently discussed playing in 7, where finding the one is critical because 7 sounds chaotic and disjointed until you find the one of every measure.

We listened to different songs in 7: "Whiplash" started the conversation. We listened to Pink Floyd's "Money" which is a nice 7/4 groove that makes it easier to find the one.
Another good sample is Dave Brubeck's "Unsquare Dance" which is in 7/8, with the bass and hand claps setting the rhythm and making it easy to find the one.
We went back to Whiplash again and it made a bit more sense because he understood the idea and value of "finding the one" in every measure
 

JamisonS

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I find some basic concepts aren't difficult to teach or explain, but are difficult for students to understand. The concepts are new to students and require thinking in ways they haven't thought before. Two concepts I can think of are time signatures and triplets.

With time signatures, alot of students come to me already confused or unsure of this mysterious concept. Some band teachers seem content with students' comprehension of the subject if the student can answer the two time-signature questions: 1. What does the top number mean? 2. What does the bottom number mean?. Understanding time signatures is crucial for drummers. When I get a student, I dedicate time to it to make sure it's very clear to them.

With triplets, it's a simple concept, but getting students to master it can be challenging. The amount of work sometimes needed to teach a student triplets is grossly disproportionate to the simplicity of the concept.
 

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