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
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