Posts Tagged ‘boulder drum lessons’

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.


Accented notes versus unaccented notes

October 25, 2014

By Ryan Sapp – Drum Set Instructor at The Lesson Studio.

Ryan Sapp

Ryan Sapp, Percussion Instructor at the Lesson Studio

In drumming, there should be a major difference in volume between accented notes and unaccented notes. Unaccented notes can be thought of as “the normal notes at the normal volume” or “just cruising along”. Accented notes are much louder and should really stick out and be discernable by even the casual music listener. Accented notes are frequently used as the backbeat (2 and 4) in rock music. They are also used to highlight accents in songs and other instruments. Accented notes are frequently used in fills and can also create a counter rhythm within a flow of notes.

Creating solid accents within the flow of the music and in a stream of notes is a worthwhile pursuit. It requires consistent practice over the course of time. The rewards of this practice are numerous and include superior hand and muscular control, increased dynamic awareness, and a musical sophistication that is noticeable amongst musicians and listeners alike. A qualified instructor will help you use the correct technique and guide you in your pursuit of musical excellence.

To begin with unaccented notes, you must place the sticks just above the drum in the “neutral position”. The tips of the drumsticks must be very near each other and be approximately 1/2 inch over the drumhead. Both sticks must be at the same height. This position allows you to drop each tip onto the drumhead at a lower volume. After either hand strikes the drum, remember to return it to the “neutral position” of 1/2 inch above the drumhead. Using a metronome and playing a steady stream of either 8th or 16th notes is highly recommended to help achieve evenness.

To play an accented note, you must also begin at the “neutral position”. This position allows for the easy use of playing either an unaccented note (which you just drop the stick to the head) or an accented note (which you simply lift the stick approximately 6 – 12 inches above the drumhead). Lift the stick with the wrist using a good pivot. When playing an accented note, do not lift the stick past a 90-degree angle or the straight up and down position. Using your wrist with a good pivot, bring the stick back toward the drumhead. After bringing the stick down and striking the drumhead, return your hand and the tip of the stick to the neutral position.

When bringing the stick down from the high, accented position, you only have to use enough power to bring the stick in motion while letting gravity take care of the rest. Think of it like dribbling a basketball: Once the ball is in motion, you just have to lightly flick it with your wrist to keep it going. The ball is doing the work for you. Thus, you do not have to be heavy handed while doing accents.

Stick height controls volume. Thus, the softer unaccented notes are only a 1/2 inch above the drumhead while the louder accented notes are approximately 6 – 12 inches above the drumhead. This significant difference in height between unaccented notes and accented notes should be at noticeably different volumes. In written dynamics, the unaccented notes should sound piano (soft) and the accented notes should sound fortissimo (very loud).

There are several drum method books that feature exercises and usable patterns to practice. There are also hundreds of songs that feature excellent use of accented versus unaccented notes. Notable famous beats within songs include The Red Hot Chili Peppers “Under The Bridge”, Tower Of Power’s “Soul Vaccination”, Toto’s “Rosanna”, and “Funky Drummer” by James Brown.

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

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.”

The Benefits to Children Engaging in Music-Making

March 9, 2010

By Faith Halverson, Music Therapist at The Lesson Studio

Faith Halverson, Music Therapist at The Lesson Studio

Faith Halverson

Music has long played a special and varied role in childhood development. Universally, lullabies are sung as a way to soothe infants and young children to sleep. Music can also be used to convey information, and songs such as “The Alphabet Song” (or the “Schoolhouse Rock” series for those of us kids of the 70‘s) have been used to teach children academic concepts. As their children grow older, many parents also see the value of their children studying music by having them take private music lessons. However, while older children can benefit from becoming musically active, young children as well can benefit from engaging in musical activities. The fields of music therapy and neurology have shown that music has a physical, emotional, and psychological effect on a person. Recent neurological studies have shown that music activates multiple areas of the brain, including those involved in motor function, speech, language, cognition and executive functioning, memory, and emotions.  Through neurological research specific to music, it is now becoming understood that the brain is physically changed through engaging in music-making and that music can
actually help build the brain.

How might your child benefit from engaging in music-making? By providing opportunities for your child to participate in music-making, you are:

• allowing them to engage in rhythm and movement activities that can help them to synchronize their brains and bodies, thereby helping them to further develop motor coordination.

• providing opportunities for your child to use and develop their voices in ways different than in speaking, allowing the ability for greater self-expression.

• helping them to increase their ability to maintain focus and sustain attention to tasks at hand, while simultaneously developing problem-solving strategies and the
ability to think creatively and critically.

What is music therapy and how does it differ from music instruction? While engaging in music-making can have beneficial, therapeutic effect, a difference
exists between music instruction and music therapy. Music therapy is a recognized healthcare profession in which music is used as the primary means of addressing the
physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of an individual or group. A Board-Certified Music Therapist is trained to assess individuals in multiple areas of
functioning and to then use that information in devising therapeutic goals and objectives.

To find out more about music therapy, go to the website for SoundWell Music Therapy:, or you can contact me, Faith Halverson-Ramos, MA, MT-BC, NMT, directly at