*Photo by Selian Hebald* In the end all things remain flexible, bending toward what feels right for your situation. But please give the items below some thought. These are the agreements I present to all of my students. They are the materials, commitments and tools you need to get started. If you are a reading this as the parent of a student please go over these guidelines with your child.
Students should come on time and prepared for each lesson with the items below. Parents often ask what age is appropriate to begin lessons. This varies widely and depends on the teacher as much as it does the child. My rule of thumb, is if a child is able to keep track of her lesson book, then she is old enough to begin. This is a good first step in taking ownership of one’s musical life.
blank lesson book to record the lesson
digital music player
other lesson materials like handouts or method books
Cancellations require at least 24 hours notice. I realize that things come up, they do for me as well, and I try to be as flexible as I can. But my schedule is such that I often don’t have available times for makeups. With proper notice, and if a makeup isn’t possible, the lesson can be credited toward the following month.
Creating a space and making time to practice can be challenging, but it is the only way to make meaningful progress on the instrument. Playing with other musicians is just as important, but it's also practice. Please take the time to make your practice space inviting and convenient. If you must put the drums in the basement or garage, make sure the space is clean, uncluttered and well lit. It’s usually best to face the drums into the wall. The kit takes up less space that way, and rather than climb around the drums into a tight corner you can just walk right up and sit down. Removing that small obstacle can make a difference. Don't underestimate the power of creating an esthetic space for making music.
Not every week will be a model practice week, and sometimes it’s not possible to get behind a kit at all, but time with the instrument is an expected part of the work we do. If there are questions about how or what to practice, don't be afraid to get in touch with me. I am happy to help or clarify things between lessons.
For children I recommend at least 20 minutes of practice, four times per week. It seems to work best if this time is scheduled. I highlyrecommend setting a timer in 5 or 10 minute increments and organizing the practice in that way. When the timer dings, you move on. Drumming requires LOTS of repetition. Playing one idea consistently for five minutes can be a challenge, but it is such an important skill for a young drummer to master. As an example for children:
5 min - Warm Up/rudiments
10 min - Beats/Exercises
5 min - Improvising
For parents it is important to help plan and encourage this time. Rather than diminish a child's inspiration it places value on the work we do together, reduces frustration, and the success it fosters quickly builds confidence. If practice isn't your thing, likely lessons won't be the best choice for improving on the instrument.
A drum set can be a serious investment for a family - they are expensive, bulky and loud. But every musician needs an instrument. A drum pad is not enough. You wouldn’t provide a young violin student with a slab of wood with painted-on strings and expect her to learn to play. Within the first month of lessons, students should have a functional drum set and the accessories listed below. Please look for the suggested brands and models, although for the drums themselves there are many fine options other than the ones listed. It’s very important, for example, that the headphones have sound isolation and proper db protection. The links will guide you to suggested outlets for purchase though there are many local options as well - Starving Musician in Berkeley is my favorite. Online I like Musicians Friend and Amazon because they are reliable, carry most things I am looking for, and Musician's Friend will match any advertised price online or in print. Drum sets can often be found used for as little as $100 on Craig’s List. I am happy to help with the selection of a kit that falls within your budget. If finances are an issue, I understand completely, but please let me know at the start. Otherwise I will expect these things to be in hand.
Inexpensive Entry Level Drum Sets:
Blank Lesson Book (Spiral Bound):
Sticks (2 pairs):
Slow Down Apps
Digital Music Player
There are so many options here I leave it up to you, but it’s important that the player is portable and has a headphone output. This is an often overlooked but critical addition to any musician’s tool bag. Without a connection to music and songs, a drummer is lost in the water. Songs can be had in many places online for free and on iTunes for about $1 each - a tiny investment in your or your child’s musical life. If we are working on a song, it should be downloaded onto the player and brought to the lesson.
These items are not necessarily required but they can add some dimension to a drummer's sound, and especially the drum mutes make everyone's life better.