Teaching Your First Five Lessons With A New Student

Here’s a guide to what I run through on the first five lessons with my students.

Lesson One

This lesson is normally a free trial lesson. Approx 30 minutes in length. We’re assuming the student is a complete beginner. I’ll start the lesson with a little conversation:

  • “Why do you want to learn drums?”
  • “Do you have a drumming goal in mind, is it just for fun or are you joining a band, playing in church?”
  • “What music do you listen to?”
  • “Do you play other instruments?”

This is just to get an idea of what direction I’ll be taking in the long run – are we going more metal or jazz or rudimental – and is there some existing musical knowledge that can help?

Then I’ll start by demonstrating correct grip and stroke technique – I run through basic stickings – All Rights, All Lefts, RRRRLLLL, RRLLRRLL, RLRLRLRL. I don’t make the students read anything, I just verbally tell them what to do.  Some students will get the technique correct, some will need constant correcting over the next few lessons (sometimes years!).

Then I’ll move on to Reading Rhythms #1. Here I explain how to read music and I’ll guide them through each exercise – correcting technique and trying to get them to alternate their hands as directed on the worksheet. I try to get them counting at this point too. Most students can do the last few exercises on their own after doing the first 4 with me. I skip the 8 bar exercise for now.

Next up is Reading Rhythms #2. An explanation of 8th notes is needed here. I have the student count the 1&2&3&4& with me to get them used to the counting. I’ll run through the first few exercises with them, then see if they can do the last few on their own. If they struggle I get them counting in time with the metronome before trying to play the exercise. It normally helps. Again I’ll skip the 8 bar exercise… don’t want to stress them too much on the first lesson!

Then it’s time to play our first rock beat – the first one from Eighth note rock beats #1 – I tell them it’s time for the fun part now! I then have them play 8ths on the ride or hi-hat.. counting as they do it… then it’s time to add the bass drum on 1 & 3… then the snare on 2 & 4… some may be able to do it in three easy steps, others will need it broken down further. If it needs breaking down further I work all the limb pairings:

  • Right Hand on 8ths and Right Foot on 1 & 3
  • Right Hand on 8ths and  Left Hand on 2 & 4
  • Right Foot on 1 & 3 and Left Hand on 2 & 4

After that I’ll have them try the whole groove again… If it’s still not working, then we go one note at time:

  • Right Hand and Right Foot Together
  • Right Hand
  • Right Hand & Left Hand Together
  • Right Hand

I get them to repeat that sequence slowly until they get it. Normally they get it!

Once they can play it, or nearly play it, I’ll show them the Eighth Note Rock Beats #1 worksheet and explain how that groove is written down.

If they can play the groove reasonably well I’ll have them play along with a short section of a song – The Reason by Hoobastank,  Billy Jean by Michael Jackson or Another One Bites The Dust by Queen – depending on how fast they can play it… this helps give them a real sense of accomplishment – they can play a song after just 25 minutes! If there is anytime left on the session I may have them play the next beat or introduce a simple fill – like the first one from Eighth Note Fills #1 – or I’ll just answer any questions they may have & tell them what to expect in future lessons; e.g.  more technique, reading, beats & fills & songs…

That concludes the first lesson. It’s just up to you to sell them on continuing lessons, I’ve always had success using this procedure as my trial lesson. Most students sign up for further lessons straight away.

Lesson Two

I start their second lesson with Eighth Note Sticking Patterns #1. The focus is on grip and technique at the start of the lesson. I have the students playing the exercises slowly and carefully. I don’t have them add the footwork at this stage. The focus is on getting good hand technique. Once the hands look good then we can add the feet (might take a few lessons).

While going through the sticking patterns I normally point out the rudiments on the pages – doubles, singles and paradiddles – and demonstrate what they can be used for (after lots of practice). I’ll normally only go as far as the first 8 patterns, then tell the student to practice the rest at home.

After sticking patterns I move on  to Reading Rhythms #1 & #2. I’ll ask the students if they remember it from the trial lesson and see if they can play the 8 bar exercises. If they are very uncertain on the 8 bar exercise then I’ll review the whole page with them again & tell them to practice it again at home. I also demonstrate how I’d like them to practice the exercises – playing each line twice then moving to the next line without stopping until they get to the last line. Then restart again but with the opposite hand.

Next up is Eighth Note Rock Beats #1. I’ll work through the first 6 to 8 rock beats with them. Often number 5 is a sticking point, playing a bass drum straight after a snare drum seems to be tricky for a lot of students. They may need help getting past that one. I’ll ask the student to try the remaining exercises at home and then I’ll check them on the next lesson.

Normally while they are attempting these grooves I’ll observe what’s happening in terms of bass drum technique and then have a discussion with them regarding bass drum technique. I’ll introduce the 2 basic techniques – heel down and heel up and have them try both to see which feels better and discuss the benefits of each. I leave it up to the student to pick the one they like.

Following from the beats is Eighth Note Fills #1. Here you’ll need to talk the student through the placement of the toms on the stave. I often write it above the 2nd fill for them (two eighth notes on Snare, Tom 1, Tom 2 & Tom 3) and tell them to refer back to it if they are not sure. I get them to play the first fill with their favourite beat from the Rock Beats we’ve just done (most will pick beat #1). I get them used to playing 3 bars of the beat and then the fill for 1 bar. I have them repeat that a few times. After the first 2 fills are done that way, I get them to read the next few fills and demonstrate it with the beat – correcting any mistakes as we go. Again I’ll normally go through the first 6 – 8 fills with them and then have them do the rest at home.

I tell the students to practice all the beats they have done with all the fills they have done. So if we’ve done 8 of each, that’s 64 combinations and if they do 12 of each that’s 144 combinations. I briefly demonstrate with beat #1 and the first 4 or 5 fills, then again with beat 2… I play 3 bars of the beat #1 then fill #1, 3 more bars of beat #1 then fill #2 and so on until I’ve done the first 4 or 5 fills. Then I’ll start again with beat #2 and fill #1…

I also encourage them to just play the fills repeatedly on their own to get used to moving around the kit and I’ll demonstrate that with 2 or 3 of the fills – slowly at first, but then showing them where it can go in terms of speed if they practice enough.

For some students that’ll be the end of the lesson. For students that move fast, I may introduce a simple song here & get them working on it. I like to introduce my students to song playing fairly early so they get an idea about what the drummers role is all about – playing a groove consistently, making smooth transitions between sections and keeping good time. The song I’ve used most is Boulevard of Broken Dreams from the 2012 Trinity Rock and Pop Intial syllabus. If that’s not available you can try the simplified version of the song on this site – working through the first verse and chorus should be enough for now.

Lesson Three

Lesson Three starts off with 8th Note Sticking Patterns #1 again. I’ll look at some of the patterns that we haven’t already done and correct any grip/technique flaws.

After a few minutes on sticking patterns I’ll move on to reading. Hopefully they can do the 8 bar exercise on Reading Rhythms #2 fairly easily now and we can move straight on to Reading Rhythms #3. I run through the first few exercises with them, but I like them to be able to read the last few on their own to show me they understand the idea and are actually reading and not just copying me. Again I’ll leave the 8 bar exercise for them to try at home.

Attention should also be paid to their technique again. Once a student has the rhythm of an exercise in their hands I ask them to play and look at their hands and make any adjustments to their technique they think are necessary. I like to get the student into the habit of checking their own technique so they can correct themselves when at home.

I normally teach German Matched Grip to start, common errors are not keeping the hands turned down with the palms facing the floor and not keeping all the fingers on the stick – only supporting the stick from the front. Gripping too tight and not accepting the rebound are other common mistakes –  normally easy to hear as the student doesn’t get a clean stroke, but a buzzed one. Working with a very bouncy practice pad can help them to really feel the bounce and accept the rebound.

After reading, it’s back on to Eighth note Beats and Fills #1. I’ll review the exercises by having them play beats and fills I choose at random – for example Beat #4 and Fill #1, then Beat #2 and Fill #6 – I get them to play 3 bars of  the groove and 1 bar of the fill and loop it round. Once we’ve covered the previously studied beats and fills then we’ll move on to the ones we haven’t covered. Often I’ll have them working on the beats and fills at the same time – so we do beat #9 with fill #9, beat #10 with fill #10. Obviously, if they are struggling with either element then we’ll just focus on getting that element right before putting them together.

If the students can get through all the beats and fills then I ask them to do the 8 bar exercises for homework.

And then it’s song time – if we haven’t already started on the song then I’ll introduce it now. If we’ve already started on it, I’ll have the student play through it and make corrections and suggestions on how to make it sound better – normally not hitting the cymbals so hard, playing a more consistent groove, making the transitions smoother and not panicking when they come to the drum fills. I’ll also teach them about counting bars and listening for cues to get the fills in the right place.

That should just about do it for lesson 3.

Lesson Four

Keep working on those sticking patterns! If the technique is looking good I will get them to increase speed a bit – we’re still using wrist strokes only at the moment, so, not too fast. In some cases, if I think the student is ready I’ll have them start trying to add the feet.

After warming up the hands, it’s Reading Rhythms #3 – 8 bar exercise. Hopefully they can do it! Often before attempting the 8 bar exercise I’ll have the student play down the exercises, playing each line once or twice, without stopping until they reach the end.  I’ll make them start both right and then left handed to see if they have been practicing in this manner at home (as I demonstrated on the 2nd lesson). I stress the importance of developing the hands equally and being comfortable starting with either one.

Then it’s on to Reading Rhythms #4 –  the 8th note rest. This is a tricky one for some. Playing on the off beat does not come naturally to a lot of people. I have them work with an 8th note metronome at 60bpm and make them count out loud. Again I’ll run through the first 3 or 4 exercises with them and then try to get them to run through the remaining ones to see if they are really reading it. The 8 bar exercise is again assigned for homework.

Next I’ll have the students attempt the Eighth Note Rock Beats #1 Eight bar exercise. Upon successful completion I’ll move on to Eighth Note Rock Beats 2 – syncopated bass. I’ll explain the concept of syncopation and then demonstrate the first groove. Some students have trouble leaving so much space between the snare on beat 2 and the bass on the & of 3. Counting and going slow are emphasized again. Here I’ll work through the first 6-8 exercises with the student. Exercises 7-12 are a little strange as they don’t have a bass drum on beat 1. Students may need extra help here. Again, I’ll encourage the students to look at the other ones with haven’t done at home and maybe attempt the 8 bar exercise.

I always like to give examples of where they’ll hear syncopated bass drum grooves. Good examples are Heathens by Twenty One Pilots, Sugar and She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5, You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC, and Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran to name a few…. Examples of songs with no bass drum on beat one: Susie Q by CCR, Roxanne by The Police, Jesus he Knows Me by Genesis.

After the beats, it’s fills time again… Check on Eighth Note Fills #1 – Eight bar exercise before moving on to Eighth Note Fills #2. These are short fills lasting just 1 or 2 beats. I demonstrate the fills using a variety of the beats the student has already looked at & I encourage them to do they same when they practice. I also show them how to take the same sticking pattern and rhythm and create different fills. I tell them if they don’t like the fills that are written down, then they can, and should, experiment and create their own. Again I’ll normally run through the first 8 and have the student try the rest on their own.

If there’s still time at the end of the lesson I’ll run through their first song again or introduce them to a new song. Again something from the trinity rock and pop initial syllabus or something like Yellow by Coldplay – just ignoring the open hi-hats for now.

Lesson Five

Let’s start with sticking patterns for the first few minutes. Hopefully your students have a good grip and technique happening and you can start the add the feet to these exercises if you haven’t already.

Reading Rhythms #4 – the 8 bar exercise is up next. If you’re satisfied with your students progress then proceed on to Reading Rhythms #5. As before, I’ll do the first few exercises with them & then let them do the final few & assign the 8 bar exercise for homework. If the student is struggling with playing accurately on the offbeat – especially on exercise 7 – then I’ll have them work through the Eighth Note Accuracy exercise. It’s a good exercise to give all students to help develop their time keeping and ability to nail the offbeats at different tempos. I normally assign it around the time of Reading Rhythms #4 or #5.

An additional exercise I’ll add for Reading Rhythms #5 – normally on the next lesson – is to play the bass drum every time they see a rest. This gets them to start integrating the hands with the feet. They’ll need this for Eighth Note Fills #5 and for all the super cool licks you’re gonna show them in the future… start it early!

Up next, the remainder of Eighth Note Rock Beats #2 and Eighth Note Fills #2 & a run through the 8 bar exercise on both of those.  If your student is making good progress then proceed on to Eighth Note Rock Beats #3. Good songs for demonstrating the left hand variations being played here: Connie Francis – Lipstick On Your Collar, Pearl Jam – Last Kiss, Meghan Trainor – All About The Bass, and Muse – Starlight.

At this point I’ll often switch the fills to Sixteenth Note Fills #1 as most students can easily pick up 16th notes at this point and 16th note fills sound a bit more exciting than 8th note fills. It also gives a little more time to work on their 8th note rhythmic accuracy before trying 8th note fills #3. On the next lesson I’ll often do the Short Sixteenth Note Fills #1 & then come back to the 8th note fills after that. I’ll leave the Sixteenth Note Fills #2 until after we have studied Reading Rhythms #8.

Hopefully by now the student has gotten through their first song reasonably well and you can introduce them to something new (If you haven’t already). I often go with another simple song that’s a little faster than the first one – maybe Prince – Raspberry Beret, The Bangles – Manic Monday. If I’m working from the Trinity Rock & Pop initial syllabus I’ll use And The Cradle Will Rock or Days from the 2012 syllabus or maybe We Will Rock You, Hot Pants or Yellow from the 2018 syllabus.

That should be enough to finish lesson 5.

What’s Next?

More of the same! It’s up to you where to take the student next, each student has their own abilities and challenges. For some the pace will be slower, for others it will be faster.  I always try to work in a logical manner and at the beginner level more structure is definitely needed to build the foundation. Once the student has a certain level of ability then you can jump around more with them. Do use the student progress checklists to keep track of what you’ve given them. I always base the next worksheet on their ability; if they can’t add feet to the basic sticking patterns, then there is no point in trying Hi-Hat Foot Independence; if they are not comfortable playing on the offbeat, then we’ll work on that more before trying fills and grooves with more syncopated rhythms.

Once Reading Rhythms #5 is finished & the students can add their feet to the sticking patterns then I’ll often move on to Singles, Doubles and Paradiddles #1 & #2, Sticking patterns #2 and then onto Flams. I’ll keep the reading going alongside the rudiments as well. Once the student can play sticking patterns while the feet are also playing, then I’ll get them to add the same foot ostinato to the Reading Rhythms Exercises. It’s a great independence exercise and it also gets them to review the reading.

After Eighth Note Rock Beats #3, it’s Eighth Note Rock Beats #4, and then I’ll often start on the Quarter Note Rock Beats as they provide a different challenge. Then after the first 4 parts of the Quarter Note Rock Beats I’ll work on the Eighth Note Rock Beats #5 and #6 and then Quarter Note Rock Beats #5 & #6 before moving through the Sixteenth note grooves. Don’t forget to challenge your students to add fills to all the beats they have learned as playing a fill with an eighth note rock beats feels very different to playing one with a quarter note beat. Also, once the students are confident with all the Eighth Note Rock Beats then I’ll also start work on Hi-hat Foot Independence and then Open Hi-hats.

For the fills, after Sixteenth Note fFlls #1 I’ll go back to Eighth Note Fills #3, #4, #5, & #6 (hopefully you’ll have studied flams by then ) and then I’ll hit Sixteenth Note Fills #2. I’ll mix the groove fills in along the way as well.

This is the approach I’ve used with hundreds of students. It gets them playing and it keeps them interested as there is plenty to work on and lots of variety. As long as the students practice they should be able to make progress.

Good luck with the next 500 lessons!

Guide To Teaching The Intermediate Syllabus

By the time your students get to the intermediate level  they should be really comfortable with playing the 4 basic hi-hat ostinatos with eighths and sixteenth note bass/snare grooves. They should be confident articulating 16th note rhythms and 8th note triplet rhythms. Technique wise they should be ready to push their doubles strokes to the next level and start playing open rolls at faster speeds.

This level introduces 16th note triplets and 32nd notes into the mix along with new hi-hat ostinatos for our rock beats. The shuffle and several other world grooves are introduced.

Reading

The focus on reading is on 16th note triplets and 32nd notes & playing them with our previously studied subdivisons.

Mixing 16th note triplets with 1/4 and 1/8th notes is normally easy for most students. Playing them with 16th notes is often trickier. Check the essential exercise “16th notes to 16 note triplets” for an exercise to help with this… The key is to focus on the 8th note that is common to both subdivisions.

When playing 16th note triplets with 8th note triplets it’s generally easier to just count the 8th note triplet and feel the 16th notes between the 8ths.

Rudiments and Technique

We continue our studies of the paradiddle and it’s variations at this level.  The paradiddle-diddle & double paradiddle get used in the 16th note subdivision rather than triplet form.  This can be used to create interesting licks.

The four stroke ruff is introduced in it’s open and closed form. Teaching it in it’s open form first and then getting students to close it up is normally the way to go.

Double strokes are studied further. We look first at playing double strokes using different subdivisions and then roll rudiments are also introduced. Use these exercises to develop your students double strokes fully using which ever technique you choose. Good double strokes take time to develop. Encourage your students to work on them everyday and to be patient.

Beats

Our four basic hi-hat ostinatos are finished off with some 16th note syncopation. The eighth note hi-hat ostinato is studied further to include 16th note triplet bass drum and snare drum rhythms.

Additional Hi hat patterns are introduced at this level – offbeats and combinations of 8ths and 16ths. These can be tricky and require patience to master –  especially the syncopated ones.

Sixteenth note triplet hi hats and 32nd note hi-hat grooves are also explored.

The shuffle is an essential groove for any drummer to learn but it can cause real trouble for some. Taking time to establish a solid bounce feel is essential. Use the Shuffle Development exercise in the Essential Exercises to start your students shuffling right.

A few world grooves are also introduced to develop more variety in the students repertoire.

If your students are up for the challenge, then you can start them on the Beginning Jazz series. The first 5 parts get them playing either snare or bass comps separately. The next five parts get them playing snare and bass comps in the same bar. I wouldn’t suggest trying this until your students are confident with the shuffle. Only swung eighth notes are used in the Beginning Jazz series. We’ll look at playing on the middle partial of the triplet at the upper intermediate level.

Fills

Sixteenth Note Fills are explored further at the intermediate level. Sixteenth note sticking patterns along with 3 and 5 note groupings are formally explored used to create very applicable and commonly heard fills.

Sixteenth note triplet fills are also added to the students vocabulary to help add real excitement to their fill vocabulary. It’s important to work slowly with a metronome on this to ensure timing accuracy.

Basic 32nd note fills are also added to fill vocabulary.  Working at 50pm is a good place to start with these, slowly picking up speed.

Essential Exercises

These are support exercises designed to focus on specific areas that often cause trouble or to help build facility on the kit. Often I will use these as warm-up exercises at the start of the lesson.

Double Trouble – An exercise to work on double strokes working through different permutations of 16th note doubles.

Paradiddle, Inverted Paradiddle and Reverse Paradiddle Accents – designed to work hand dexterity and add accents to commonly used paradiddle variations. Great as a warm up – put accents on toms / bass drum & crash cymbals to create more variations.

Shuffle Development – Use this one before attempting the first of the shuffle worksheets with the students. Helps to solidify the bouncy feel needed for the shuffle.

16th notes to 16th note triplets – Students often have trouble moving from 16ths to 16th note triplets. This exercise helps the student to focus on keeping the 8th note that is common to both subdivisions steady.

16th note triplet riffs  – A great exercise for working on hand speed and dexterity and gets them used to rhythms that are very useful for fills.

 

Guide To Teaching The Pre-Intermediate Syllabus

After completing the beginner syllabus, your students should be confident in their ability to play basic beats and fills and have knowledge of basic rudiments.

The DrumLessonResources pre-intermediate syllabus focuses on 16th notes and 8th note triplets  applying them to rudiments, beats, and fills. Tied Notes & Dotted 8th notes are also dealt with on the reading side.

Reading

We start of with a continuation of reading 16th note rhythms from the beginner level. Here the study is the 16th note rest. This allows for more complex rhythms to be played and the focus is on playing all the notes landing on ‘e’ and ‘a’ precisely.

Dotted 8th notes are very common so we get familiar with them here. The concept of tied notes is also dealt with before we explore 8th note triplets in detail. Eighth note triplets are also contrasted with 8th notes and 16th notes to get the student confident switching between these common subdivisions – make them count the rhythms out loud against a metronome, it really helps!

All exercises are still played with strictly alternating sticking starting with either the left or the right hand. Students should be able to play all exercises starting with either hand.

Once your students are confident with the hand patterns and can play the exercises securely against a metronome, extend the exercises by having the student add the following foot patterns.

  • Quarter notes on the bass drum.
  • Quarter notes on the hi-hat foot.
  • Quarter notes between bass and hi-hat: Bass on 1&3, Hi-Hat on 2&4.

Rudiments / Technique

Hopefully your students have developed a good basic technique already. Now it’s time to speed things up. Singles, doubles and paradiddles are presented again, but this time as 16th notes. Double strokes also get their own focus. This is the time to introduce the student to your preferred double stroke technique – push-pull, open-close etc… Use the Doubles exercise page to focus on double stroke technique.

Sticking patterns are extended to 2 bar patterns and Accents are introduced. If your students can play flams in a controlled manner, then accent patterns shouldn’t be too difficult. Again get the students to focus on stick height and producing two distinct sound levels. To start with ignore the foot pattern, add it in once the student can produce consistently good sounding accents. Extend the exercise by having them put the accents on the toms. Make sure they can start with either hand.

Once you’ve started studying triplets you can introduce the paradiddle-diddle and double paradiddle. Both presented here as 8th note triplets.

Finally the drag can be introduced once a good double stroke has been achieved. You may also wish to show the buzzed version of the drag.

Beats

For the four main hi-hat variations we’ve been working on, this level is all about adding 16th note snare and bass drum. I normally proceed with the eighth note hi-hat variations first, followed by the quarter notes and then the sixteenth notes.

It can be hard to get the bass and snare precise when playing quarter note hi-hat patterns. Other than making my students practice slowly with an 8th or 16th note metronome & counting; I also get them to play the beat using an 8th note hi-hat pattern then get them to change to the quarter note pattern without altering the bass or snare. It often works as the student already has a feel for where the bass or snare should be. Have them play 4 or 8 bars with the eighth note hi-hat and then 4 or 8 bars with the quarter note hi-hat without stopping.

Two handed 16th notes here require special treatment due to the co-ordination issues of hitting a bass drum and a left handed hi-hat at the same time. Also moving the left hand to the snare from the hi-hat can cause problems. Go slow! Count! Metronome!

Half time and double time feels are also introduced. Fairly easy concepts to understand, play them a few songs to demonstrate the idea. The chorus of Enter Sandman by Metallica is good for Half Time feel. Since you’ve been gone and Burning heart – both in our song library – also feature half time sections. Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City has a great double time feel ending.

Eighth note triplet rock beats are introduced at this level. After starting your students on this, challenge them to find a song with 8th note triplet rock beats. It’s important that they can pick it out on their own. Eighth note triplet rock beats 1 contains all the basic beats you’d need for a slow blues jam. The grooves on Eighth note triplet rock beats 2 are more challenging and are to help the students get more comfortable with triplets.

Fills

Here we’re focusing on developing sixteenth note and eighth note triplet fills. Sixteenth note fills 3 focuses on tricky but useful patterns with broken sixteenth note patterns. Get the students to follow the stickings closely as they aid in playing the exercises in a flowing manner.

Sixteenth note fills 4 and 5 add the bass drum to make the fills sound more sophisticated and powerful. Working on getting two clean powerful bass drum strokes from a single pedal is necessary here – see essential exercises for help with that and for an exercise to help integrate the bass drum with the hands.

Sixteenth note fills 6 & 7 add crash cymbals to the drum fill mix to add energy to the fills.

Sixteenth note fills 8 uses flams to add texture to the fills and to make certain notes sound bigger.

Eighth note triplet fills are presented much like the earlier eighth note fills. Demonstrate to your students how playing eighth or sixteenth note fills with eighth note triplet rock beats sounds weird, but playing eighth note triplet fills with eighth note rock beats sounds really cool.

Groove fills are also presented again, but this time with a focus on sixteenth notes.

Essential Exercises

These are support exercises designed to focus on specific areas that often cause trouble or to help build facility on the kit. Often I will use these as warm-up exercises at the start of the lesson.

16th note accuracy – To help students get comfortable playing on each 16th note partial.

16th note bass drum substitutions – To help integrate the hands and bass drum.

16th note bass drum doubles – to help develop a powerful double bass stroke on the single bass drum.

Triplet Trouble – to help familiarize the student with all parts of the 8th note triplet by moving tom tom hits through eighth note triplets.

Eighth note triplet bass drum substitutions – aka Bonham Triplets. Presents all combinations of 2 snare hits and 1 bass drum in eighth triplet form. Get your students working on those classic rock triplet licks now!

16th note fill durations – to help students start a 16th note fill on any ‘e’ or ‘a’ in the bar. Once the student can play them correctly on the snare drum, get them to move their hands around the kit and create their own fills.

 

Conducting Drum Lessons – A Rough Guide

There are 5 main areas to hit using the material contained on this website. Reading, Rudiments/Technique, Beats, Fills and Songs. During any 1 hour lesson with students I’ll try to hit 3 or 4 of these topics. If I have 45 minutes I’ll try to look at 3 areas and if it’s a 30 minute lesson I normally try to hit two and maybe have a sneak peak at what’s coming next.

The first five minutes on each area is normally spent reviewing what we’ve done in previous lessons – I’ll normally choose random exercises from the ones they should already know and see if they can still play them – if not, then it’s revision time. If I’m satisfied they have grasped the earlier material, then I’ll move on to new material.

I normally structure my 1 hour lessons as follows:

  • 0 – 15 minutes – Reading or Rudiments & Technique
  • 15-30 minutes – Rudiments & Technique or Beats
  • 30-45 minutes – Beats and/or Fills.
  • 45-60 minutes – Fills or Songs.

I go through Reading or Rudiments & Technique first as generally these are the least favourite topics. Students will always try to start with beats or songs, never reading! For the first few lessons I focus on reading and playing with a good technique. Once some reading ability and a stable basic technique are in place then I’ll start discussing rudiments.

I move onto beats next followed by fills. Obviously these two complement each other and should be practiced together too. Normally I’ll get students to practice the new fills with the beats they have just been learning – but then also get them working on the new fills with all their old beats in their practice time and vice-versa.

The selection of which beats, fills, & songs I play with the students depends on their reading ability. If they are only comfortable playing basic 8th note rhythms then I won’t give them 16th note fills to do. If they haven’t mastered playing on the offbeat yet, then I won’t give them beats with syncopated snare drums or fills with lots of offbeats.

Building up technical ability and co-ordination also take time. Don’t force your students to play fast, but do force them to focus on technique. Good technique should eventually lead to speed and good sound, bad technique will just need to be unlearned at a later stage. Likewise with co-ordination. If your students can only just play the 8th note rock beats, do not get them adding the hi-hat foot or open hi-hat immediately.  Once they are playing the rock beats with ease, then you can add the additional challenge.

When choosing songs, I look for something that is a little challenging, but not out of reach. It might be the fastest they can play, or be a very busy song. Sometimes, I’ll simplify the song for them – maybe change a fill or two – or tell them to skip something if we haven’t yet covered it (often open hi-hats at the beginner stage).

While most of my lessons follow the reading/technique – beats/fills – songs format, sometimes it’s good to disrupt the routine and give them something different:

  • Teach the basics of a new popular song – or a song they’ve been listening to – without referencing a score. I always get the students opinion on what they think the basic groove is first. Get them to do a basic drum chart for homework.
  • Introduce them to something like the Soca or Bo Diddley beat if you haven’t covered those areas yet.
  • Work on putting together a short solo.
  • Trade drum fills with beginner students and trade 4s with more advanced students.
  • Find a drumless track and let your student decide what they would play on it (with some guidance from you). Jim Riley’s Survival Guide and Tommy Igoe’s  groove essentials have lots of great tracks to play with or just search for “drumless tracks” on youtube.
  • Show them a cool lick that you know, or just created, or saw someone do on youtube – explore how to apply it and take it further.

While it’s great to have a routine so your students know what to expect in the lessons, it can get – for want of a better word – routine. So don’t be afraid to change it up from time to time.

Guide To Teaching The Beginner Syllabus

Teaching beginners can be the most rewarding experience. They can often make fast progress in relatively short time.

The DrumLessonResources beginners syllabus focuses on getting students familiar with basic note values, playing basic beats, fills and rudiments and getting them started playing songs.

Reading

Once you have got students playing with a reasonable hand technique, focus should be on reading. Reading Rhythms gets students moving through the note and rest values in a systematic way.

The lessons focus on reproducing the rhythms just on the snare drum so students can focus on developing hand technique while studying and understanding the note values. Sticking patterns and rhythmic counting are written to aid understanding. The reading exercises should be played using alternating sticking starting both with the right (RLR) and Left hand (LRLR).

Once your student can play the exercises correctly with good technique then you can extend the exercises by adding a foot pattern. Recommended ones are bass drum on quarter notes, hi-hat on quarter notes, quarter notes with bass on 1 & 3 and hi-hat on 2 & 4.

Rudiments & Technique

Getting students playing with a good basic grip and stroke is the focus here.   I get students working on sticking patterns on their first lesson to build hand technique. Although it’s written on the worksheets, I don’t have them play the bass/hi-hat foot ostinato until they have established a good hand technique.

I usually start introducing rudiments once students have basic hand technique working and can  read up to reading rhythms 5.

Singles, Doubles & Paradiddles are to get the student familiar with the 3 basic rudiments and to get them thinking about using them to create ideas around the kit. Speed is not the primary concern here.

Flams are a more difficult rudiment to master, stick control is the focus here. Get the students playing the grace notes from a low stick height and the main stroke from a high stick height. Technique and control are the  priority, not speed. This is the last rudiment I introduce at the beginner level, make sure students hand technique is correct before working on this.

Beats

This is what the students normally prefer to focus on and practice. Here we  present rock beats focusing on on eighth note snare and bass combinations with 4 common hi-hat patterns – eighths, quarters, sixteenths with one hand and  sixteenths with two hands. Mastery of these basic grooves will allow the students to play a lot of popular songs.

Normally I’ll go through the eighth note beats with the students first, then the quarters, then I’ll do the two sixteenth note variations at the same time. Depending on the student’s ability I may just do parts 1-4 of all four hi-hat variations first and then introduce parts 5 & 6 later as they need a firmer grasp of timing – especially being comfortable playing on the offbeat.

Fills

The focus at the beginner level is on 8th note fills and introducing concepts such as sticking patterns, off beat rhythms, bass drum substitution, and flams into basic fills. Obviously, it depends on the student’s reading & technical ability for when I introduce them. If the student can’t play off-beat snare rhythms then I won’t do off-beat fills!

Sixteenth note fills are also introduced and sixteenth note fills part 2 introduces  fills using broken 16th note rhythms that are found in Reading Rhythms 7 onwards. Point out to students that the earlier 8th note fills can also be used as 16th note fills. Exercise 11 on 16th note fills 1 is an example of fills from 8th note fills 1 being reused as 16th notes (Exercises 4 & 10).

Essential Exercises

These are support exercises designed to focus on specific areas that often cause trouble or to help build facility on the kit. Often I will use these as warm-up exercises at the start of the lesson.

Hand & foot co-ordination 1 – great for building co-ordination and bass drum strength.

8th note accuracy – focuses on playing on the off-beat accurately –  do with a metronome that can play 8th notes.

8th note bass drum builder – to help build endurance in the bass drum – have them play it repeatedly for 5 minutes.

Sixteenth note fill durations 1 – gets the student playing a 16th note snare drum fill starting on any 8th note in the bar. Once the student is confident get them to move their hands around the kit to create new fill ideas.

Hand speed exercises 1 & 2  – simple exercises to build hand speed. Do them every day & try to increase 1 bpm per day.

Ultimate drum set warm up – great warm up routine to get the student moving between snare & toms confidently – add the feet if possible.

 

 

Maroon 5
She Will Be Loved
Drum Score

She Will Be Loved is one of Maroon 5’s most popular songs. Drummer Ryan Dusick lays down a syncopated groove that changes ever so slightly throughout the song – sometimes playing a 4 or 2 bar pattern, at other times repeating the same bar over and over again. It’s a great track for working on syncopated eighth note bass drum.

Also of note is the song’s only drum fill. It’s repeated a a few times throughout the song, but it never varies and it fits the song perfectly.

Give it a go!

Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved – Drum Score

Green Day
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Drum Score

Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day is great song to work on with beginner drum students. Virtually everybody knows it and I haven’t come across a student that doesn’t like it.

The drum transcription presented here is a modified version to make it more suitable for beginners. The song features three basic eighth note grooves, fills that will prove useful in other songs and a slightly challenging bridge section. Restarting on the “&” of three after the bridge can also pose a problem for some students. To solve that problem, get the student to play that bar over and over again with a metronome while counting eighth notes out loud. Being able to start on the “&” of three is a must for any drummer.

This is often the first song I work on with students and all of them find it rewarding to be able to get through a popular song.

Give it a try!

Green Day – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (Simplified) – Drum Score

Imagine Dragons
Demons
Drum Score

Trying to get a student to get their 16th note bass drum grooves consistent? Demons by Imagine Dragons is great song for working on a consistent 16th note bass drum pattern. The pattern doesn’t vary for almost the whole song. There are no fills to get distracted by. This allows students to really focus on nailing the groove.

The challenge is to make the groove as consistent as Daniel Platzman does. Students working on this song should record themselves practicing the groove and listen back to notice any inconsistencies. I recommend starting at a slow tempo (60bpm) and gradually building up speed, checking for any problems along the way.

Working on a famous song by one of the most popular bands in the world is a great way to motivate students.

Check it out!

Imagine Dragons – Demons – Drum Score

Billy Joel
Easy Money
Drum Score

Easy Money by Billy Joel features the great Liberty Devito on drums. Liberty Devito is a drummer that every drummer should study. Liberty has a rock solid time feel, plays exactly what the song needs, and is incredibly versatile; Billy Joel’s songs run through Rock, Pop, Funk, Motown, Jazz, Bossa Nova etc. Liberty played on almost all of them.

Easy Money is an album track from the Innocent Man album that is great fun to play. The verses move from a 4 on the snare Motown groove to a more regular 2 & 4 back beat groove. The chorus features a 2 bar syncopated pattern while the bridge has a half time feel. That’s a lot of grooves to nail down in one song!

Check out the score & have fun playing it!

Billy Joel – Easy Money

Phil Collins
Another Day In Paradise
Drum Score

Another Day In Paradise is a great song from Phil’s 1989 album, But Seriously. This song is an example of the “less is more” approach that Phil took to his drumming when he became a solo artist. No crashes, few fills, a two bar repeating drum pattern… not a lot happening here. What fills he does play are very memorable, very re-usable and will sound great in a lot of situations.

The whole song is built on a simple 2 bar 8th note rock beat pattern. The challenge of this song is to keep that 2 bar pattern correct throughout the song. The 9 bar bridge section flips the beat around and that can create a challenge to the concentration.

There is also a nice example of Phil’s musical drumming. After he sings “He pretends he can’t hear her” the kick drum goes missing on beat one – you can’t hear it! A good example of drums responding to the lyrical content of a song.

Check out the drum score below!

Phil Collins – Another Day In Paradise-Drum Score