Hello, I'm Monica.
I'm a violin teacher at Planet Drum and in this article I would like to introduce you to the violin and talk about my experience with this fascinating instrument.
Firstly, let me tell you a little bit about my beginnings in the world of music. When I was 7 years old my parents enrolled me in music school in Gran Canaria and even though I struggled with the mathematical side of things, I remember loving the music theory classes and having plenty of fun learning. When it was time to choose an instrument my mum was leaning towards the piano, but the director of the school told her that it was a solitary instrument and that I should perhaps try the violin. He got his son (who later became my teacher) to play a piece for her and my mum instantly fell in love with the sounds of the instrument. This is how my journey began with the violin.
Thanks to learning this instrument I have acquired long term skills such as patience, discipline and determination. I had to go through long and arduous periods of practice where to play only a single note in tune required a huge effort. Preparing a whole piece was a difficult process and the more that I progressed, the harder practicing became! But contrary to many popular beliefs, the violin doesn’t belong exclusively to the academic world of classical music and is not solely about hard-work and hours of practice. Learning this amazing instrument has allowed me to be a part of a variety of musical projects such as orchestras, quartets, indie bands and even accompany singer songwriters.
For a decade I played in 'The Bela Bartok' orchestra where we travelled with our music and had so much fun sharing it with many people we played for. I also had the fortune to be a part of the Dr. Dre orchestral rendition travelling across Europe playing violin to hip hop grooves and making people dance. The feeling of playing in an orchestra is incredibly unique, because you are completely and entirely surrounded by the music. Recently, I have joined the 'Comedy String Quartet Graffiti Classics' where I get to sing, dance and goof around whilst playing.
The violin is an extremely versatile instrument and grants you the opportunity to play in so many different settings. It’s also an instrument that allows you to perform with others, which I believe is the most beautiful aspect about music - not only sharing it with the audience, but connecting with those you are playing with. Someone once said to me that any song sounds better if you add a bit of violin, and in my experience, these words have always held true.
Drum tips for beginner drummers
Always go into a practice session with a plan
Practicing is the key to improving your drum skills, but it is important to pre-plan what you are going to practice. Making time to practice is hard enough in everybody's busy day-to-day lives. Pre-thinking about what you will recap and study will help to maximize and get the most out of your practice session, even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes!
Practice with a metronome
There is a common misconception that having a steady pulse and solid sense of time is something that’s innate and can’t be taught. This is of course absolutely not true, and while some people do have a more natural sense of pulse than others, time is something that everybody should devote a large portion of time to practicing, no matter how natural a player they might be.
Go back to basics
Drummers often try to run before they can walk, which can lead to bad habits and gaps appearing in ability. Mastering the drumming basics is the best way to build a solid foundation upon which to develop your playing. We recommend focussing at least some of your practice time on improving single and double strokes, and polishing key rudiments like the paradiddle and five-stroke roll. Once you can execute these drumming fundamentals with consistency, dynamics and solid time, you will be fully prepared to take your playing to the next level.
Play with Other People
Despite the fact that there are tons of videos of drummers alone in their practice rooms on the internet, you should go find some like-minded people to play music with. Music is a team sport for the most part, and you’ll learn a lot by getting yourself into bands early on in your development. Don’t skip this step; it’s crucial.
Look for role models
They will shape your playing, as their drumming style and ability level helps you to measure progress in your own performance. If you need some inspiration, you can check out our Legendary Drummers playlist on YouTube.
Don’t Hold Your Drum Sticks Too Tight
The most common and grip technique is called ‘matched grip,’ and this is what I teach to my students. You will use your left and right hands to hold the drum sticks in the same way. The main area of grip is between the thumb and the second knuckle of the index finger, and the remaining fingers wrap around the stick.It’s key that you don’t hold the drum sticks too tight. The drum sticks should be allowed to bounce after striking a drum head, and this rebound will help you out significantly to achieve fast speeds. This rebound is a pivotal part of drumming and becomes a large part of your ‘playing feel’ as you develop as a drummer. You will naturally learn to feel when to begin the motion of striking a drum head and anticipate the rebound.
Realize that skill takes a long time to build. Becoming a great musician can take years. Be patient, do the work and you’ll become good. Focused practice under good guidance will take you there.
Guitar and Ukulele lessons with Vladimir
I love to play in bands as well as teaching as I can learn something from each world. So far I manage to stay in a few bands and musical projects as well as teaching in a few schools.
The most important thing for me is to keep things fresh in what I do, so that both my audience, my students and myself keep the interest in music. Usually this is done by constantly refreshing the repertoire and studying music. Whenever the set list becomes stale I get nervous and need to change something.
With students or workshops, it is the same. It doesn't have to be a new song , it could be a new arrangement of an old tune - or musicians can swap and jam. Every musical situation is an opportunity to learn something from the musicians around us, and especially something about ourselves as well.
Our job as teachers and performers carry a big responsibilty as we are, in a way, role models for future musicians so I always have that in mind. The best part is that I don't look at it as a job at all as I enjoy doing what I do and would not trade it for anything. The best feeling in the world is when a concert or a workshop goes well and when you manage to spark some interest in a student.
Learn guitar or ukulele with me at Planet drum, or online.
Chick Corea interview
Chick Corea, who has died aged 79, was a playfully prodigious jazz piano improviser, a versatile composer and a pioneer of 1970s jazz-rock fusion
He was also an accomplished jazz drummer. Many iconic drummers such as Roy Haynes, Airto, Lenny White, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl and Marcus Gilmore collaborated with him.
SOURCE: All About Jazz
Who are some of the jazz musicians and classical composers who have influenced your work?
The list is very long. In a general but true sense, it’s every composer, musician and piece of music that in some way caught my attention to teach me or inspire me. There is a shorter but still long list of the artists that have continually inspired me through the years, but this list is also too long for an interview. Let me try the short short list of those whose music is currently part of my active musical life: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Henri Dutilleux, Thelonious Monk, Domenico Scarlatti and Alexander Scriabin.
Could you tell us something about your early training as a musician?
My father, Armando, was my guide into the music world. He and the musicians in his bands were a relaxed and fun group and I wanted to join them and play music with them from when I was a tot. My father taught me to read music and play some tunes on the piano. He also introduced me to the recorded music of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and many more in the ’40s by constantly playing his 78 rpm discs of these great musicians. I was enthralled and wanted to play all those notes immediately but couldn’t approach the fast bebop just yet. But in the early ’50s I came across Horace Silver’s music and began to copy his songs and piano solos from his recordings. That was a great school for me. I also played a lot of dance and wedding gigs with my father where I learned many of the standard songs that, interestingly enough, are still popular today.
Your father was a musician. Did this inspire you to pursue music as a career?
My father and my mother, Anna, both encouraged and helped me to pursue music because they saw that I loved it. That was the best career encouragement I ever got. My mother packed chocolates for Schrafft’s Candy Company in Boston for years and saved the money to but me a Steinway baby grand when I turned 16. They were the best parents one could imagine having.
When did you meet Miles Davis and could you tell us about your work with him in the early 1970’s?
I first met Miles when he came to sit in at Minton’s on a 6-week stint I was on with the “Sister Sadie All Stars” – which was basically Horace Silver’s quintet without Horace. Blue Mitchell was the leader with Junior Cook, Gene Taylor and Roy Brooks. Miles came and sat in one night playing Blue’s horn. He played like the god I knew he was and then came by the piano on his way off the band stand to whisper in my ear the cryptic question “Was I playing the right changes?” Of course, he was putting me on – but it was friendly. Then Tony Williams called me and said Miles wanted me to come and play with the band in Baltimore. I called Miles and asked him of there wasgoing to be a rehearsal – and he said “No, just play what you hear.” That set the stage for 2 years of some of the most exciting “free” music I ever played – together with Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and Dave Holland – then, after 6 months, Jack DeJohnette came on for the rest of the time.
Miles was relentlessly experimenting the whole 2 years I was in the band – trying different approaches – always working everything out on the gig. There were never any rehearsals.
After only a few months, Miles directed me towards this electric piano he had rented – and after that night, I never played the acoustic piano again with Miles. He seemed to be searching for a sound and a new way of expression and the electric piano was part of what he was envisioning. Of course, it’s history now how that slowly developed into all the groove and electric oriented music he was to make in years to come. But at the time Miles was leaning towards rock and pop, Dave Holland and I were leaning more and more towards free improvisation and so we together left the band to form our own group, Circle. Miles was a true freedom fighter. He taught me to stay true to my own vision no matter what.
How did you get interested in composing fusion jazz? Are there any rock music artists that you admire?
Hearing John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra in ’72 was inspiring to me. I had never heard a guitar played that way. The impact of emotion was tremendous. As a composer I wanted to write for a sound like that – and shortly after that, Stanley CLarke and I found Bill Connors in San Francisco, resulting in the electric version of Return To Forever.
I wasn’t listening to rock music in the 60’s – I was listening to Coltrane, Miles and Monk, as well as Stravinsky and Bartok. But Stevie Wonder really caught my attention and has held it all these years. His music has always transcended any style and he was my model as a songwriter.
When did you meet John McLaughlin and could you tell us about your collaborations with him. Did both of you agree on the direction of the music?
I met John when he first came to work in the US with the Tony Williams band. We became instant friends and have remained so through the years. Our recent project the “Five Peace Band” was a great joy. Since I first heard John and played with him, I always wanted to have a band with him, and last year, this dream was realized. Both of us wrote the music and there was an easy agreement about the direction of the music, both of us sharing very similar tastes in music.
What lies in the future for jazz?
Your guess is as good as mine. I think there’s never a problem with the musicians – their desire, abilities and creativity. The problem is always calming and making more ethical the world around us.
Could you tell us about your latest work?
I’m always working towards perfecting and improving my abilities. I like to be a student and learn. I’m currently working on new composing techniques — ways to get my thoughts down and captured in more efficient ways. I’m working on new ways to capture my flow of
improvisation and make certain parts of it into compositions that will be able to be played again and again.
What lies in the future for yourself and is there always a need to look for new sounds in jazz-from avante garde and free jazz to fusion etc.?
Creating music and touring and playing for people everywhere is the greatest joy I know. So that is and has always been my goal and future – to continue to make new music and spark imaginations wherever and whenever I can.
Planet drum teacher, Radovan
shares his experience of his latest studio session at Wax Studios.
'This is an upcoming debut EP of my good friend Severin Bruhin who is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger from Switzerland. His music is in the realm of jazz/fusion mixed with neo-soul, hip-hop and more. The project features quite a few international session musicians, vocalists and artists including a successful Canadian-born producer Robert Strauss (studio owner).'
You can watch their experience below:
At Planet Drum, we always like to encourage our students
to play with other people as much as possible. That’s why we have been doing our band workshops for several years now and those sessions are enjoyed by our students and our teachers alike. There is something special about different people gathering in a room and creating music together, it’s like giving birth to a new spirit or new being that otherwise wouldn’t be possible to create.
In order to enjoy playing with other people at any occasion and to benefit most from it, there are some things we can do and pay attention to, in order to make it smoother, more musical and enjoyable for ourselves and everyone else.
the most important thing whether you play music on your own or with other people. Music is a language and you communicate with other musicians by listening to them. So many times great sessions are ruined by a musician focusing on his own instrument and not listening to what’s going on in the band. Remember, everyone in the band is there for the music and not for their own individual’s sake. So, if you feel there should be more dynamics involved, or you should play quieter, louder, or maybe even stop playing at all at some point, always be aware of what’s going on in the song. If you are not sure what you need to do, keep your eyes open as well as ears. By watching other band members, you’ll be safe and aware when to change gears during a song.
2. Respecting the soloist
Let’s say you play in a rhythm section (drums, bass, guitar, piano…) and someone is soloing. Don’t ever force them into your own rhythmic/harmonic/dynamic variations - listen to them instead and just follow what they do - it’s their role to lead you and not vice versa.
3. Respecting the style
If you happen to play a song in a blues/jazz style, don’t try to play your heavy metal licks or double kick rolls over the song. It just doesn’t fit there. If you are not familiar with the style, just be as simplistic as possible and it will all be ok!
4. Don't overplay
Less is more, most of the time. Especially if you are a drummer. Nobody cares about drum fills every 2 bars, or every 4 bars, or sometimes even 32 bars. Same for guitarists, if there is a space for your solo in the song, that’s fantastic. Otherwise, the less, the better. Again, it’s all based on listening, being familiar with the style and the song.
5. Don't be afraid or ashamed if you are a beginner
Nobody will judge you, we are all here to learn and communicate through music. As already said above, even if you know only one rhythm or a couple of notes on the bass guitar, good musicians will know how to make the best use of your skills.
6. Don't be crushed by your own mistakes
If you make a mistake, make a mental note and just continue playing, but remember it and work on it later. Again nobody will judge you. The worst thing you can do is stop because you made a mistake. It’s not a big deal, it’s human!
There is always something to learn at any band session because it’s not just music, it’s the exchange of people’s energies when we play together. Even one song can sound different every time. That’s why we are keeping the band music alive at Planet Drum. We can’t wait to go back to our regular sessions hopefully once the lockdown is over. In the meantime, keep practicing your instruments!
Planet drum guitar teacher, Vladimir
“Improvisation is too good to leave to chance” - Paul Simon
To say “I’m practicing improvisation” sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact a lot of preparation is required in order to improvise well. And by preparation, I don’t mean memorising a bank of perfectly formed riffs and fills that can be retrieved at random whenever someone points and shouts “drum solo!” - I mean getting comprehensively familiar with patterns, variations on those patterns and variations on ways in which those patterns and their variations can be applied to the kit and to the music.
When I started playing the drums, almost two years ago, I thought that I always needed a kit to be able to do meaningful practice, but recently - and following the wisdom of my tutors - I’ve realised that a lot of what I’m doing is actually just learning how to count, but using my whole body.
I’ve realised that it’s entirely possible to develop independence, coordination and the ability to count with each of my limbs (and my voice), using nothing but my body. And, I’m not for one moment discounting the importance of practicing stick and leg technique, for which you obviously DO need some sort of physical resistance from a practice pad, or pedals.
I’m just talking about the daily brain workout that (will hopefully) lead to becoming a thoughtful and creative improviser. I’m not there yet and I’m sure I’m not the only drummer who can say that I know how I want to sound, but the reality of what comes out of my sticks doesn’t quite live up to the dream…. Yet.
My current practice regime
involves sitting with a metronome, Ted Reed’s syncopation book and a whole load of patience, to go through each of the patterns, page by page, playing each pattern on different limbs, with the metronome on different beats, using different ostinato patterns, playing it straight, playing it swung etc…
Essentially playing the same thing in as many different ways as possible, until my brain becomes comfortable enough to enable each of my limbs to count their own way through the piece, with my voice keeping track of the base pulse and time signature.
Though, this alone isn’t going to make me a great improviser. I’m not practicing this stuff absent mindedly - I’m also trying to use these exercises to develop ideas, which I can only try out on a kit and with a band, in the moment.
The development of ideas and the application of these ideas to create something musical and interesting, is the real goal here - not the mental endurance test that I set myself (most days) with Ted Reed and the metronome. I’ve not been playing for long enough to know whether this is all going to pay off, but my tutors reassure me that it will and I trust them...
So to reiterate; the future is uncertain and no one is totally in control of the type of drummer that they will become, but it seems that it is possible to increase the chances of becoming an inventive improviser through… PRACTICE.
Planet drum student
Well, if you want to get in a band, VERY.
When you hear a band live and they have a really rounded and full sound, the chances are they’ve got at least two backing vocalists. With budgets getting tighter by the minute, the best way to achieve this is with musicians who can sing.
A lot of my students are instrumentalists who are a bit shy when it comes to their vocals. Like any other instrument, singing well involves good technique and while nothing beats consistent practise, there are a few simple rules and tips that will really help you to feel confident when you open your mouth to vocalise. For example, being mindful of your vowels when you are struggling to reach a note.
Widening or narrowing vowels fixes a multitude of problemsand will usually go completely unnoticed within a song and allow you to stabilise your larynx. Shyness breeds flat notes, nasty tones and unintentional fall off.
Enjoy what you’re singing. Embrace it and make it free, but please remember, If you have any discomfort whatsoever you must always seek out a professional voice coach. Following exercises from a video or a blog is sufficient if you are performing them correctly, but an understanding of YOUR voice and YOUR areas of improvement is essential before undertaking any generic voice exercises.
Where do I find ads for musicians wanted?
There are so many places to look: Social media, local music shops, ads in the back of music magazines and online, notices in music venues and rehearsal studios, word of mouth, the possibilities are endless – and it’s easy to get lost.
The key is: to know what YOU want.
Knowing what you want to achieve will make you better to work with, more positive and focused and undoubtedly help you reach your goals faster.
What do I want to gain out of the experience?
Some people think of it as a hobby and others as a career choice, either way, it’s about enjoying yourself.
Work out how and where you see yourself playing and what kind of commitment you are prepared to make.
If you’re not sure, talk to your tutor, other musicians and friends, get involved with workshops, join a drumming group or musical collective.
Sometimes you need to find ways to bounce ideas around before making an initial commitment to a band.
What type of music do I want to play?
This is not about playing one style but it’s helpful to give yourself a starting point so that finding people becomes easier.
You’re likely to discover all sorts of sounds that inspire you and, ultimately, it’s about finding like minded people to play with.
Most bands looking for members state music their musical preferences in their ads. Match your taste against theirs. If it fits, get an audition.
How long before I find something?
Some of you may feel ready to go out there and find your band, others might want to join workshops, collectives and jam with other musicians to get a better idea of which direction they want to go in, musically.
The advice is always the same - If you practice hard, give it your all and keep an open mind, you're likely to do just fine.
Putting the work in will open doors to all sorts of opportunities and the more you put yourself out there, the more chance you have.
Get involved, stay focused and things will fall into place.
Don’t forget if you're a drummer, that compared to the other members of a band, drummers are in high demand, so use this to your advantage.
And above all – ENJOY THE RIDE!
I have only recently learned her name
due to her recent passing, but I was instantly inspired and curious to learn more about her. As it turns out, she was pretty epic. In a male dominated industry (and world), she was quickly promoted as the ‘fastest girl drummer in the world’ in the 1930’s, alongside blazing a path for women in music. Viola played a giant drum set that included a double bass drum, an instrument that would years later become a tool for hard-hitting rock drummers.
Where did it all start?
Viola smith took up drumming as a teenager in Wisconsin, when her father assembled the ‘Schmitz sisters family orchestra’ (there were 8 daughters)! Their band played in theatres during school holidays and Viola took lessons from drummers in the orchestra pits. They were soon in demand for weddings and fairs. By 1938, she formed another all-female orchestra - The Croquettes. They moved to New York in 1942, where Viola studied under legendary snare drum innovator Billy Gladstone.
In the same year
as men were being drafted to war and women taking their place in factories, Viola wrote a now-famous article for Down Beat magazine, arguing for the inclusion of women in the big bands of the day. She wrote:
“Many of the star instrumentalists of the big name bands are being drafted. Instead of replacing them with what may be mediocre talent, why not let some of the great girl musicians of the country take their places?
“We girls have as much stamina as men. There are many girl trumpet players, girl saxophonists and girl drummers who can stand the grind of long tours and exacting one-night stands. The girls of today are not the helpless creatures of an earlier generation.
“Some girl musicians who are as much the masters of their instruments as are male musicians. They can improvise; their solos are well-defined and thought-provoking and show unlimited imagination”.
At the height of her success, Viola performed with Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb, as well as for the 33rd president, Harry Truman in 1949. Today in 2020, the drumming industry is still very male dominated, with very few female drummers pursuing it as a full time job. I feel it is important to read about these female pioneers and continue to play in their honour.
Let’s keep drumming girls!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.