Do you struggle to keep your child practicing and focused?
It’s an age old problem that, as a drum teacher, I have been trying to wrap my brain around since I started teaching nearly 16 years ago.
How do I get my students to practice?
First of all lets dispel a few myths around the world and idea of practice. When we sit down at the drum kit to practice we can often be mislead into believing some of the following;
We must practice for hours on end
We need be able to play everything at lightning speed
We should sound good when we are practicing
We should be working on all areas of our playing in every practice session
When I look at the list above I know that I myself have been mislead into believing these ideas. During my time at music college I remember hearing someone say ‘if you're not practicing 4 hours a day, you're not practicing enough’ Now this may be possible and even necessary at college level, after all thats what we were there for but I remember having a feeling of inadequacy and if I didn’t meet that criteria I gave myself a really hard time.
This self deprecation is something that’s stuck with me and I am now working hard to break this pattern.
I do believe there is a time in our learning journey for this amount of effort and putting time in on this scale, will or should, have a big effect on one’s playing but (watch out, controversial bit coming!) I believe it’s neither the most efficient or enjoyable way to get results in the practice room. When we’re at at the beginner stages of playing the drums surely the most important thing should be fun and love of the instrument!!?? In the past I have been guilty of pushing students too hard, too early on. This has nearly always lead to a lack of interest and ultimately an end to their drumming journey. It’s a pattern that I’m sure other drum teachers have seen before. A student starts with all the drive and passion in the world, the first 1-3 months passes and a steep learning curve has been the order of the day. Beats are being learned, rudiments and even full songs are within reach. Then, a road block. A certain topic or concept pops up and, for some reason or another, it throws the student totally out of kilter. The idea of putting in hours on the practice pad or trying to get our bass drum technique up to par is no longer fun or as pretty as playing big fills that end on a crash cymbal. Our limbs no longer feel like they are our own and our coordination at the drums is pretty much non-existent.
So how should we approach this? Not only as a drum teacher but as anyone sharing in this journey. Parents, that means you guys!
As I mentioned above I believe one of the keys to this lies in the love of playing the drums. For me, this is first and foremost with any beginner student.
I can remember so fondly those first years at the drums. Figuring out and experimenting with the different sounds of each part of the kit, even the smells of my first drum kit I remember vividly. For each student unlocking this will be different. For some their faces light up when they hit the crash cymbal for the first time or when they realise why the drummer on TV has always shouted 1, 2, 3 ,4! at the beginning of a song. Sometimes this excitement shows up after learning and playing the first beat. It doesn’t really matter when this happens, the important thing is why. When I see this happen I take a mental or written note for the individual. This then becomes my secret weapon that I can call upon during those low moments or when we need to grind the gears in order to progress to the next stage.
For all the parents reading this you can be a massive help with this too. Have you thought about sitting in on a lesson? Giving yourself a basic understanding of what’s going on could really help your child with their learning process. Being able to answer questions when they come up and figuring stuff out together is a really useful tool and you’ll definitely learn something too!
I want to give every student that comes to Al’s Drum School the opportunity to really fall in love with the drums. I want to create an environment that allows for pure creativity and experimentation. This I believe is the key to unlocking enthusiasm and the drive to want to play, learn and create more as a musician.
Love your drums and the rest will fall into place.