Archive for the ‘Drums’ Category

The Lasting Benefits of Percussion Study

May 4, 2017

by Chris Eagles

Drum and Percussion Instructor at The Lesson Studio

As a music educator, it is unreasonable for me to expect each of my students to pursue music as a career. However, through regular drum lessons and a good practice routine, I fully expect to equip each student with a skill set desirable in every industry. Music serves as a practical means to learn these skills in a fun, and challenging environment.

Each of my students will learn music fundamentals, rudiments and practical knowledge when it comes to percussion, this goes without saying. However, problem solving is inherent to each of these topics. It is the single most valuable aspect of percussion study, and maybe of music studies in general. Students who learn to flex their problem solving muscle will inherently  have a great deal of perseverance. In an age where “googling” can solve most any problem, it is easy for students to get discouraged when faced with a difficult issue. In music study, there is no easy solution. It seems strange to say, but the study of music is a great way of realizing just how much of an effect hard work, and persistence, with this comes a boost in confidence.


Playing percussion is a physical endeavor, possibly the most physically demanding of any instrument (of course this could be debated). Percussion forces students to be mindful of their physicality, many lessons will start with light stretching, or simply by checking in to see if the student (or the teacher) is holding any unwanted tension. This often forces the student to be aware how they are using their bodies in their daily routine, not just while playing percussion. Bad physical habits that arise while playing, can often be traced to something that is non music related giving further insight into a better, more effective use of our bodies.

Compiling a full list of extra musical benefits to taking private lessons (with any instructor on any instrument) is a task far too great for a short blog post, these were only a couple. I encourage you all to ponder them and consider enrolling your child, or yourselves in lessons to reap the lifetime of benefits. You won’t regret it.


A Guide to Picking & Buying Your First Drum Set

October 28, 2013


By Will Smith Drum and Percussion Instructor at The Lesson Studio,

            Congratulations! You are just beginning the great adventure of learning to play the drums. It is my hope that after you’ve finished reading this you will feel more comfortable making a purchase of an instrument that fits you and your budget. If you have any questions please notify us so we can help you with any additional needs.

            Let’s start with how to read the following pages. You’ll be looking for a few important key words. The term hardware refers specifically to any part of the drum set that holds the drums, cymbals and hi-hats. When buying your first drum set you should aim to find a package that includes the hardware, this will be cheaper and easier. Keep in mind many higher end drum sets will not be sold with hardware.Drum sets are another one of those investments where you “get what you pay for”. If you choose to find a set that costs more or less than you’ve budgeted, make sure you investigate the reasoning behind the change in price and what you may be gaining or loosing as a result.

            Now let’s discuss the eternal battle of electronic vs. acoustic drum sets. Each has its strengths. Pick the option that suits you as an individual, if you struggle with turning a computer on/off you should probably not go the electronic route. I have an affinity for acoustic drum sets because the instrument makes the sound that I hear…not a computer. There’s just something about the good ol’ fashioned way that makes sitting behind an acoustic set more comfortable. The electronic set will save room and takes up much less surface area, it can also keep parents from having to wear ear plugs or talk down crazy neighbors. Choose wisely!

            On the note of noise, many products exist to muffle or eliminate the majority of sound coming from both electronic and acoustic drum sets. For electronic drum set simply plug in a pair of headphones, for acoustic drum sets you can purchase “SoundOff” mutes to completely eliminate the majority of sounds or “Moongel” damper gels to prevent excessive resonance.

            Remember the process of learning the drums is half muscle memory & half muscle memory…that is, your arms/feet & your brain as a muscle. Often times having a drum set in front of you helps to remind you that practicing the proper motions and techniques can be rewarding. Think of your practice time as time at the gym and your playing as lifting weights…the more you lift, the stronger you’ll be. They make heavier sticks if you plan to take that statement literally 😉

            After working closely with Billy from The Drum Shop (303-402-0122) in Boulder, CO we were able to put together a few packages that will make this process even easier. But don’t take my word for it, DO YOUR RESEARCH! It will only help you feel more at ease after making a purchase. The packages that follow this guide vary with what they offer please ask questions to make sure you are getting everything you need.

Hey kids, have you ever wanted to be like Superman???

March 17, 2013

by Kevin Kern, Drum instructor at The Lesson Studio

The question all of my students have been asking lately is “Mr. Kern… How do I play faster?!?!?” While I personally stress the importance of practicing slowly and deliberately to better comprehend the mechanics involved in playing music, it is equally necessary to spend time developing endurance and stamina to improve your technique. The exercise I use to build speed is very simple and has never failed to help me strengthen my technique provided that I practice diligently and follow a precise routine.

I imagine everyone has heard this at some point in time and if not they are truly words to live by… “It does not matter how many times you repeat something, but how well you make each repetition that helps you improve.” This is very pertinent information for those trying to learn anything new. Practicing halfheartedly with poor technique in an unfocused frame of mind is not a beneficial way of rehearsing music. Below (Figure 1) is the exercise that helps me build speed, and with it comes a list of specific instructions that must be followed if you want this exercise to benefit you!

Figure 1: Single Stroke – Endurance Builder

The exercise works by playing a group of comfortable slow notes (in this case eighth notes), followed by a group of notes exactly twice as fast over the same number of beats. It is super important that you can play these rhythms accurately to a metronome before you attempt to use this to develop technique. Follow this list of instructions very closely to properly utilize this exercise…

  1.   WITHOUT SACRIFICING ANY CLARITY OR CONTROL, find the FASTEST metronome marking that you can play the exercise at.
  2.   RECORD this metronome number and keep it with your practice materials.
  3. PRACTICE the exercise WITHOUT STOPPING for 2 to 3 minutes or until you feel a slight burning sensation in your forearm muscles. This should be repeated a second time with the “L” hand leading the exercise to keep balance in the mind and body.
  4.   SPEED IT UP by increasing the metronome 2 bpms every day you practice. Note: It is advised by most musicians that one practices 4 to 5 days per week.
  5.   REPEAT STEPS 3 and 4 until you completely maximize your metronome’s potential and then fly to Germany and compete for the WFD like this shining young drummer… (fast forward to 6:30 to see the action!)

Remember that you can use this rehearsal method to help build endurance and stamina on whatever musical challenge you might be dealing with. The exercise in this blog will particularly help build single stroke or open stroke rolls, a very important skill for every drummer to refine. If you have any questions or want to talk more about the “Ins and Outs” of drumming, please don’t hesitate to write. I hope this helps in your most recent drumming endeavors and the best of luck to you!!

Kevin Kern, Drum Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Kevin Kern

Using Audiation as a Key to Successful Musical Learning

March 12, 2013

by Will Smith, Drum instructor at The Lesson Studio

As a young man my father taught me an important lesson that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “Think before you speak.” These words were simply my dad’s way of preparing me for the real world. Lucky for us musicians a parallel exists in the music world so I can share with you a derivative of my dad’s advice. I’ll say to you “Think before you play.” I’d like to expand a concept called audiation to help you do just that, “Think before you play”.

Audiation is a musical tactic often overlooked by a vast majority of musicians even though they use it every day. Let me clear things up for you! Audiation is defined as a high level thought process involving mentally hearing and comprehending music even when no physical sound is present. Let’s give it a shot together, sing in your head, without making any physical sounds, the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Amazing! You have just used audiation. This is an excellent habit to begin using during your practice times because the beauty of audiation is that we can sing and move all in our brain without ever having to sing or move physically.

What does this mean to us as music educators?

1) We should first acknowledge the pioneer of audiation, Edwin E. Gordon who identified the key concepts behind the process of audiation and encouraged the adoption of this process into every music educators’ tool belt. Gordon suggests that in order to audiate while musicians perform music through imitation, they must be able to do the following: sing what they have played; play a variation of the originally melody; play the melody in a different keyality, tonality, or with alternative fingerings; or to demonstrate with body movements the phrases of the melody.

2) We should incorporate these strategies into our lessons even if at a minimal level to help our students become stronger musicians. I like use the old elementary P.E. basketball example. “Imagine the basketball going into the hoop when you let go of it.” This is exactly audiation in sports form… tell your students to “think the first phrase through from m.1 to m.9” then to play exactly what they were able to audiate. I promise you will notice an immediate difference in the confidence a student has in their ability to play that certain phrase.

3) We should use this process as a key for improvisation skills. As a music educator, I am always striving to teach my students to think on their own and on their feet! Improvisation is a great strategy to use with students especially when accompanied by audiation. Using audiation helps the students get to a level of achievement where they feel comfortable looking away from sheet music, but then remind them that the sheet music also exists in their mind, and audiation can unlock that musical manuscript.

I’ll conclude with a note from Gordon’s website ( “Through development of audiation students learn to understand music. Understanding is the foundation of music appreciation, the ultimate goal of music teaching.”

Will Smith, Drum Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Will Smith

Ernst Bacon’s Notes on the Piano: The relevance of piano to percussion and drum set

August 28, 2011

by Aaron Bagby, Drum Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Aaron Bagby, Drum Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Aaron Bagby






          “Branch out; take another approach; expand your horizons.”  These are several common idioms we hear from our teachers as they encourage us to grow musically.  Myself, having recently graduated and no longer in the regimen of weekly music lessons, I now find myself drawing inspiration from non-percussion / drum set-related resources to improve my musicianship as a performer and educator.  Ernst Bacon’s Notes on the Piano is one resource I have found particularly valuable as Bacon’s work easily relates to many aspects of playing percussion and drum set.  In this blog, I hope to share my thoughts on ways to apply Bacon’s theories in order to help Lesson Studio students in their own rehearsals and performances.

            One of the most important sections of Notes on the Piano focuses on studying etudes, exercises, and solos.  As we begin studying a piece, we should commence in the same manner a painter begins his work on an oil portrait: first, sketch the main outlines; second, add particular color tones for effect and emphasis; third, lay the paint on the canvas; and fourth, critically appraise the work.  While musicians may not concern themselves with paint and canvas, Bacon’s message is clear – progress from the general, to the particular, to the general.  General aspects of music may include elements such as tempo, climax, and dynamics, while the particular could involve stickings/fingerings, examining the form, and so on.  As you begin studying, rehearsal space cleanliness is another vital aspect to productive music making.  A clear mind is reflective of a clean, efficient work area.  As we consider the analogy to the oil portrait and importance of a clean work area, it is also important to remember that the quickest way to learning new pieces is to take your time and wait for your own realization.  The more you rehearse, you will begin to enjoy the passages and play with pleasure, not from necessity.  However, there are some pieces which want to be devoured quickly.  If a piece is particularly enjoyable or challenging from the beginning, console yourself in the thought of acquired knowledge and skill.

            Choosing the proper stickings (or fingerings for pianists) for certain passages is an aspect of rehearsal which presents a challenge to many young drummers and percussionists.  Frequently, the physical motion involved in the music we create can drastically impact the resultant sound.  Therefore, it is important to make as few changes as possible from your first decision.  This requires careful editing at the beginning as our muscles will begin to “learn” or remember particular movements associated with certain passages.  However, there are still some sticking patterns that need to be altered for an individual.  This is testament to the unique individuality of each musician, no matter the level of expertise.  With this thought in mind, it is important to consider the second best sticking may be better if the first (or printed) fights the habit of another.

            While Bacon’s work is comprised of many more useful techniques and thoughts for rehearsing, the incorporation of a mirror into practicing is the last theory I will discuss.  For the pianist, Bacon suggests the mirror be placed at the right of the piano, but I believe percussionists and drummers should have two mirrors: one in front and one on either side.  Not only does this vision of ourselves create an audience viewpoint, but it creates an illusion of self-detachment.  By using a mirror, we are able to escape the immediacy of our instrument just as a painter removes himself from his work by taking a step back after the last stroke.  Speaking more in a physical manner, using a mirror during rehearsal can also help to correct certain mannerisms which may be either distracting to an audience, detrimental to our sound production, or it may help reveal errors in technique.  If a mirror is too hard to come by, taking videos are a perfect substitute.  With the advent of the iPhone, built-in laptop cameras, and handheld cameras, musicians of the 21st century are now more equipped than ever to use technology in order to improve.

            Bacon’s Notes on the Piano is just one example of a resource we can use to draw inspiration from in order to better ourselves as percussionists and drummers.  Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis and Quantz’s On Playing the Flute are two other works which have been invaluable to me as a working musician.  However, not to discredit the previously mentioned works, the influence of great drummers, percussionists, bands, and ensembles such as John Bonham, Max Roach, Arthur Press, The Doors, Steve Reich, JS Bach, and Ethos Group have been monumental to my playing as well. 

            Take advantage of all the opportunities we have afforded to us!  Music lessons, YouTube,, Pandora on-line radio, and attending live music concerts are all great resources we can use to learn from and to increase our enjoyment of making music.

Percussion Instructor – Luke Emig

July 2, 2010
Luke Emig, Percussion Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Luke Emig

By Elizabeth Gold, Correspondent of The Lesson studio

Although Luke Emig started playing the saxophone in second grade band class, when he heard a friend playing drums at age 12, he got hooked on the beat.

“I like the groove and feel and rhythm of drums,” he says.  “Plus playing the drums uses all limbs and gives instant gratification.”

Luke’s early challenges with drums stemmed from the conflict between counting and just playing.  “I didn’t know it at the time but timing was my biggest challenge,” he says.  “At 12, using a metronome can be tedious and nerve racking – especially since I was more interested in just having fun rather than being a professional.

“The way to get the right sound, however, is to use the metronome – it doesn’t lie.”

When Luke started playing drums in Roswell, Georgia, he began with heavy metal and then moved into regae, ska, punk rock, jazz, jazz fusion, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian music.

What kept him interested and continuing to study the instrument?

“Playing them has always given me a strong creative release,” he says.  “The coordination aspect came easy to me, and I started playing with other musicians early on – that kept me going and learning.”

Luke says he’s liked teachers along the way for different reasons.  One for hanging out, being personable and not pressuring him too much.  And then at age 16, he hooked up with a teacher who “whipped me into shape and taught me theory.”

He credits that push and demand as what got him ready to go to University of California, Berkley to study music.

Today Luke plays with two groups.  “Playing music is such a rewarding experience.”

Can You See What You’re Playing? And I’m not talking about the notes on the page.

March 9, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

You know you’re a true music nerd when you start finding all the similarities between everything you do or see and how it could relate to music. And you know you’re especially bad when you just see something and bam! Now that you watched that special on the Discovery channel about outer space, you know how you can explain vibrato to the twelve year old. But really, finding those parallels between, let’s just call it this for fun, the “real world” and the “music world” can help you understand exactly what you’re doing even more than before.

Imagery is such a staple part in music, at least for me. Hearing a piece of music that really attaches itself to me makes me feel in colors, imagine stories and truly understand the emotion that the composer or performer was trying to convey. Part of me thinks that as a musician that is your true purpose in life is to tell the story, show the audience what is happening, even if you don’t know, you need to show that you do. Sometimes doing crazy things like pulling out your box of 64 Crayola crayons that you haven’t used since the fourth grade and literally coloring your music the color that you thinks conveys each part of your piece can do wonders. Even making up words to go along with what you’re playing or seeing a story that can play out in your head can get the emotional and expressive side to connect with the technical of your playing.

One of my favorite topics to bring up to students is the Olympics. I’ve probably been driving my students crazy trying to convince them to watch everything from figure skating to the super-g to curling. The parallels between musicians and athletes are really interesting to me. How much work each party puts into perfecting their own craft is mind blowing: hours in practice versus hours on the ice or snow. You can find so many similarities. Figure skating spins and trills is one of my own teacher’s favorite analogies. You can also think of the idea of balancing between technique and musicality as the way a speed skater like Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski balance around their turns with speed skating. So go out and try to find those parallels and start imagining them will you play. It might just help even more than you’d think!

Gift Ideas for the Drummer

December 10, 2009

drum instructor Brian Loftus, The Lesson Studio

By Brian Loftus, Drum Instructor

It’s that time of year again and if you plan on giving your favorite drummer a gift for the holidays, this blog has some ideas to consider. If she or he needs a set of drums, there has never been a better time to invest in a kit. There are so many choices and options; it can be overwhelming when trying to decide on the right kit. Here are some tips I have for choosing the right drum kit:

Sizes of the drums themselves is the first thing to consider. Drums that are too big for the particular player’s size can be difficult to use, will affect overall comfort level and in turn have an effect on growth. The right sizes are critical and I suggest smaller sizes for most drummers as they are easier to control physically and tonally. For the aspiring performer, microphones can make small drums sound huge but cannot make big drums sound small. Also, smaller sized drums re-act (or play) faster, giving more rebound to the sticks. In essence, they’re bouncier, and much easier to play. Some examples of smaller size drums are: (Diameter x depth)

Kick                  16″ or 18″ x 16″

Rack Tom:       10″ x 8″

Floor:               14″ or 16″ x 14″

Snare:              13″ or 14″ x 5″ or 5.5″

 If he or she has drums already but would like to add to it, here are some other thoughts. A pair of quality hi hats and/or cymbals is an excellent choice when building a drum kit. All brands make levels of cymbals ranging from beginner level to professional levels, the latter being the most expensive and best quality of tone. Cheaper cymbals can be noisy and may secretly create a reluctance to play them, hindering growth while annoying everyone else!

A metronome is a great gift! All musicians should have one. A very effective tool in developing a good “sense of time”. Price ranges of metronomes vary from $20 or so to $100. I would suggest going cheap first.

Stick bags are sure to please. Sticks break, and a bag full of your favorite size stick is a comforting feeling. Be sure to include a pair of brushes in the drum bag as well.

Of course, your drummer friend may want to expand her or his knowledge of playing the drums, in which case purchasing a gift certificate package of drum lessons is a superb decision to please your drummer!

One more item every drummer I’ve ever met has is one Zildjian t-shirt!  Happy Holidays!

For more information about Boulder drum lessons or Brian Loftus, please call 303-543-3777 or contact us via e-mail.

Winter/Spring Semester Registration Begins

November 12, 2009

On Monday, November 16, 2009, The Lesson Studio (TLS) will begin its Winter/Spring Semester registration!

The dates for our Winter/Spring Semester 2010 are: January 9 – May 21, 2010

TLS has instructors for guitar, piano, voice, drums, bass, violin, viola, saxophone, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, tuba, euphonium, ukelele, oboe, cello, flute, mandolin and banjo! We also offer music therapy, a free workshop series, and summer music camp. We have an in-store drop-off/pickup for instrument repair. Included with your semester tuition are weekly instruction with the teacher of your choice; supplies including weekly goal sheets, staff paper, CDs, and music charts; assistance from three administrative staff people; free Wi-Fi in the reception area; 10% off coupon for a local music store; and best of all, an end-of-semester recital! Our Fall recital is held at the Old Main Chapel at CU and our Spring recital is held ON STAGE at the Boulder Creek Festival!

If you are a current student, be sure to let our staff know if you prefer the same day/time or a new time slot for your music lesson. If you are new to The Lesson Studio, please call 303-543-3777 for your FREE CONSULTATION today!

As always, please visit for more information.The Lesson Studio logo

Drum Practice vs. Rehearsal

October 21, 2009

Our drum studio is headed up by drum instructor Brian Loftus. Brian comes to The Lesson Studio with an education from Berklee College of Music.  Brian has toured nationally and internationally and has performed with many different artists in various genres, such as:  John Lee Hooker, Babatunde Olatunji, Huey Lewis, Glen Frey, Nicollette Larson, Jojo Herman, Eric Lindell and many others.

Tonight, Brian and I had a discussion about the difference between practicing drums and having a band rehearsal. Practicing drums involves working on your sticking patterns and independence skills.  While doing that on your own, Brian advises to start at slow tempos and then work up to comfortable speeds.  Rehearsal, on the other hand, is putting all of these ideas together in a musical sense that works with what other folks around you are playing. When you are practicing, break it up and do stickings for ten minutes, phrases for ten minutes, and then put them together for ten minutes. Your half hour is up before you know it! Concentrating on dynamics is critical in the practice routine especially. Bottom line is:  Practice at home, and bring your skills to rehearsal. Want to know more? E-mail Brian at

To learn more about Brian’s teaching methods and philosophies, visit his bio at