My name is Nicholas Sentongo and I am a director at a company called Fixnrev Mechanics in Uganda. Having lived in Uganda for a year and a half, I travelled the country mainly for work but have really seen the suffering of people, especially young teenagers and children.
I felt I had the opportunity to give back. There are several ways in which we as a company are supporting local charities and the main charity we support is an orphanage called “oasis of life” based in Kampala, Uganda (please see our charity page on our company website.
I got the inspiration to build a music school
to help provide music skills that will empower children and those less privileged thereby taking them out of poverty. I however didn’t have all the funding to acquire music instruments and to complete the construction works.
I then reached out to several organisations, music schools to help donate any music instruments, furniture etc.
We are pleased to say that planet drum came through to our support. They provided a variety of music equipment like drum sets, music speakers, guitars, sound proofing equipment, cabling and a lot more other music equipment.
We can’t thank them enough for their generosity. This will go a long way in helping us achieve that dream of facilitating the music school and we are so grateful for their support.
Blog post by Nicholas Sentongo
I started drum lessons
at Planet Drum when I was about 7 and I quickly picked up the basics: everything as simple as stick grip to complex rudiments. My favourite part of my time at Planet Drum was that you would rarely ever play alone. Whether it be in a concert with a full band or just practicing with your teacher and a background track, I was almost never just asked to play along a track with no one else.
I also liked
how the lessons were structured. As a student I had a lot of control over the lesson, for example I could ask for a longer warm up or to focus more on one particular song. I could also control whether I did the grade exams or just played for fun, which allowed me to progress at my own pace without pressure. Outside the lessons themselves, there were also workshops with many children of similar age, where I met and learned from musicians of all sorts.
Blog post by Gaspard Froment
Behind the Beat Podcast
We are excited to announce the launch of our brand new podcast ‘Behind the Beat Podcast’. Join me, Katy Russell, as we speak to some very special guests and leading industry experts about all things music!
What is the podcast about?
The podcast is an interview format where we will be speaking to professional musicians, teachers, exam boards, producers, music production experts, drum collectors and the list goes on! We will be talking openly about their experiences, stories, as well as dishing out tips and advice for budding musicians.
Who are the hosts?
Katy Russell, planet drum singing teacher, will be hosting the podcast and she will be occasionally joined by the Planet drum founder Alain Maurel. Between the two they have countless stories and experiences to share.
Where can I listen to the podcast?
You can listen to the podcast on Podbean, and also on our YouTube channel! Go and check out the first 2 episodes now, and our 3rd episode is launching on Monday with special guest and drummer, Robert Castelli.
Hi Alain, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into playing drums?
I started playing piano as a kid but switched to drums age 17. I thought drums and drum lessons were easier, which is maybe true at the very beginning, but really they're a lot of work!
What made you want to go into teaching?
I started teaching drum lessons professionally after completing a CTMA music teaching course in Goldsmith college many years ago. Teaching drums was always a lot of fun for me, and a good way to supplement my income between recordings and tours.
Who is your biggest musical inspiration and why?
My main inspirations are John Coltrane, early blues and Bob Marley for the soul in their music. The Beatles are a great inspiration for the wonderful songwriting. Traditional percussion music is also very important because rhythm is where all music comes from.
What is your favourite style to play?
I love Jazz, Latin, and African styles mostly.
I have been informed that you have a drum book coming out! Can you tell us what people can expect from this book?
Yes, I've been writing the new drum book for two years now. It is a synthesis of all the teachings I've received and transmitted since I started playing. The book incorporates snare drum technique and coordination studies as well as play alongs in all styles, with over 100 audio tracks! My friend Mark Fletcher is a featured guest drummer in the second part of the book.
What made you decide to write this drum book?
When teaching, I've always been using a multitude of books with my students, and I really wanted to condense all this important information into one book.
When can people expect to buy your book/when roughly can we get our hands on it?
Expect to be able to buy the drum book by late 2021 or early 2022.
Finally, what advice would you give to students just starting to learn the drums/students who want to start to learn drums?
Get yourself a good drum teacher you have a good relationship with, and listen to as much music as possible. Go to gigs, learn the history of drumming, and ... practice!
It’s all too easy to get bogged down in music theory and lesson material when you’re doing your grades.
And when you’ve managed to somehow successfully make it through one grade, you start work on the next one only to find it all gets even harder, more complex and in time signatures you never knew were possible.
At times you wonder how you’re ever going to fit all this new information in your head, and when your limbs will be able to naturally jump into action to play these complex rhythms without having to “think about it” for ten minutes.
Every drummer has their own way of learning. Some like to be very rigid with their practice sessions, some are determine to play the same rudiment over and over for an hour until it becomes muscle memory, and others find short bursts of multiple exercises work best.
Whatever way you prefer, I’m sure you’ve had a moment here are there where you’ve hit a wall and felt like you’ll never be able to play the piece of music sitting in front of you well enough to pass your grade.
I’ve had it plenty of times, and I’ve come to accept that I probably always will. But I’ve recently found that the best way I can help myself get past that barrier is to take a little time out to just have fun.
You’re playing the drums because you want to. You decided to have lessons because you enjoy playing the instrument – that's what I remind myself of.
There are many moments I can think back to where I sat down at a kit and just had an amazing time playing. But sometimes, when you’re too focused on learning, you forget to spend time just enjoying the act of drumming.
It sounds incredibly obvious, but in between work, home life and your lessons, it can sometimes be far too easy to slip into the habit of only finding time for drumming when you’re practicing for your grades or your next lesson.
Personally, I stick on a couple of my favourite tracks from when I first started playing the drums and pretend I’m 17 again!
Laura Barnes - Planet drum student
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.
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:
“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
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!
I’ve been playing the drums for 13 years now
And for a very large portion of that time, I would always practice on my own drum kit.
Everything was set up exactly how I liked it and I’d know if a single drum or cymbal had shifted a millimetre.
When I first got the drumming bug, I convinced my dad to build an extra shed in the garden and made it my musical home. I playing on the same drum kit, set up in exactly the same way for a good few years before I even thought about doing a gig.
When I finally started practicing with a band, we had a rehearsal place that a family member had built. Eventually, I moved my drum kit in, and with few other people using the place, I was still able to fulfil my slightly OCD tendencies of having everything exactly how I wanted it.
When the time came to start gigging,
I realised something very important: drummers need to learn to be comfortable playing on unfamiliar drum kits.
You can’t always take your own kit with you, especially when you’ve just started out and you’re playing support slots in dingy London bars.
Other people’s bass pedals are weird. Tall drummers have incredibly low seats. Some long-armed musicians have cymbal stands locked in place at a higher altitude than Mount Everest.
Before a gig, I would get really, really nervous. Not so much about getting on stage and playing in front of people, but nervous about what the equipment is going to be like.
I quickly learnt that you’ve just gotta suck it up and get on with it.There was one time where there were not enough stands for the amount of cymbals I use. I only had one crash where I would usually have two. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but because some of the songs were so engrained in my muscle memory, I tried to hit a non-existent cymbal on a few occasions during that gig!
I learnt to get over the fear of the unfamiliar drum kit by making myself play the same drum beats to my band’s songs on different parts of the kit. I would play the song using less cymbals and think about the pattern of drum fills rather than the actual drums that were being hit. That way I knew if all else failed, I could play them just on the snare and not put any other band members off.
Once I let go of having my cymbals in a certain place, and putting up with it if my seat was an inch lower than I usually had it, I realised I could get through any gig regardless.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.