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The Value of Taking Lessons (Again!)


sidereal

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I'm curious what you all feel about taking lessons when you're already a regularly working drummer. Here's my situation (hope you'll bear with me)...

 

Lots of offers for sessions are starting to come my way, so much so that I'm having to turn offers down for lack of time. I'm also gigging regularly in a few different bands. Between live gigs and sessions, I'm playing about 4 days/nights out of the week. So I'm starting to think I may be able to start making a real living out of this. I want to - finally - completely take the plunge.

 

The idea's very exciting and a bit scary too. I took lessons when I first started 16 some odd years ago. But I only learned the basics and then my family moved away. If I want to do this right, I'm going to have to expand into jazz and latin kit technique and improve my reading skills. So, not long ago I started taking lessons again. My teacher correctly pointed out my weaknesses from bad habits and such things. So he basically had me go back to the *very beginning* and tried to change the way I'd been holding the sticks for a decade and a half, and started me on very basic rudiments. No kit study, no jazz technique.

 

Now, I understand the value of learning the basics. But I'm not 13 years old anymore. I need to learn to play in a variety of styles quickly, and get a crash course in reading that's not going to take a year and a half to get there. So I got weary of being grilled on the stick slipping down my index finger. God bless my teacher, he had only the best intentions, but I had to quit after 5 months. I simply don't have the time to relearn everything.

 

Is it unrealistic to think that I could get a quick 6-month course in jazz technique, independence, latin technique and sight reading (I know the basics of reading)? Are there teachers who will offer this? If not, I'l have to take my chances with the skills I have.

 

Thanks for any insight you may have....

Just for the record.
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Hey, Sidereal:

I like you am guilty of not taking lessons for some time. I do continue my education with some other means ... lots and lots of personal lessons with books and videos. This helps some.

I will say this ... I recently did a review on MusicPlayer of the new Dave Weckl video series ... Video I. In the video, the mighty Weckl explains that after 15 years of professional playing, he started taking lessons with Freddie Gruber. Freddie took one year with Weckl and in that time Dave totally change his stick technique, stick design, stroke, release, rebound, etc. You may be doing something that with a short amount of instruction ... dawn may break over "marble-head" and you will suddenly see your technique or understanding shoot to an entirely new plateau!

Other greats that I know constantly take lessons ... Steve Smith, Gregg Bissonette, to name a few.

 

It can only help ... never hurt. Explain your fears to the instructor, and perhaps he may bowl you over with some explanation as to his methods that you never thought about.

 

I am glad that your playing opportunities are growing. Keep us posted as to your progress. It is a nice thing to make a living doing something you enjoy. Never take that for granted!

DJ

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For me, I always slid back for awhile after changing a technique before I get better. Just ask yourself if you like your drum instructors playing? Cause you won't sound like him but you will be adopting techniques that he or she believes in and probably uses from time to time.

 

I would like to take lessons from Gary Chafee and Ralph Humphrey, and maybe a few others. But since they are so expensive or hard to get too I'm just going to do my own thing for awhile. I'm sick of lessons actually...I think a little sloppy technique combined with some attitude gives a performer some style. I actually hate lessons anymore. Give me a damn metronome, study material, mirror, a piece of paper and pencil and most importantly TIME-I will figure out some hip stuff.

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Good thoughts. I did get the feeling that I was entering my teacher's "school of thought" when I was taking lessons. I think each teacher has a unique way of teaching hoping the "Bob Smith" method will take off. Their own little way of making drum history, I suppose.

 

This guy studied with Chaffee and Tony Williams. He's really a great drummer and a good guy. And I did learn more about stick control from those 5 months. But it wasn't the accellerated course I wanted. It happened recently in the studio (couple days ago) where the bass player was playing this wicked fast jazz pattern and I just couldn't hang. If someone was going to ask for a latin groove I'd have to fess up that I couldn't do it. Of course the producer would find someone who could. This is why I was hoping that, even with "improper" stick handling, I could get some schooling in jazz and latin on the kit right from the start.

 

Hmmmm, maybe I should modify my question a bit: Are teachers willing to let the student decide the course of instruction, or is it exclusively up to the teacher?

Just for the record.
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Sidereal:

This guy's got the credential! Man! Wish there was someone local that would teach with those creds!

 

I think you should recall this guy and explain what you are exactly looking for. I would explain that you are open to learning some new techniques, but that you need some crash course stuff in the mean-time.

You are booking studio sessions now, but as soon as you are asked to play latin and cannot ... hang ... you may not get the next call! You do not need this to happen.

You can be open to learning for the long haul, but the instructor should be open to your needs in the short haul!

 

Give him another shot. I have found that folks put their pants on the same way. We are all human, take the route of honesty and let him know what you are looking for ... afterall ... it is your money!

DJ

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I think teachers on the average will let more advanced students dictate what they want to learn, but when it comes to actually learning how to read, play jazz and latin(all at the same time) there is no real FAST way of getting these skills to an acceptable level without some SERIOUS practising and work. The biggest thing I learned from my drum teachers in the past was not only how to hold the sticks, play time etc. but was how to actually practise, meaning if you spend 6 hours a day working on your technique make the most of it. One way of doing this is to combine excercises, if you are playing stick control practise it while playing a samba pattern on the bass drum and hi-hat, also try Gary Chester's New Breed book, working on that improves your independence and reading simultaneously. The direction of a good teacher is always a positive thing but in the end you have to sit down and just do the work.
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Originally posted by felix stein:

Just ask yourself if you like your drum instructors playing? Cause you won't sound like him but you will be adopting techniques that he or she believes in and probably uses from time to time.

 

 

I just want to clarify this a little bit ...

 

Freddie Gruber doesn't even play anymore. He's an incredible teacher but doesn't play a lick; yet, I would LOVE to study with him. If you hold the standard of "liking your instructor's playing", not one person would EVER study with Gruber! There are a lot of drummers out there who are incredible teachers and players; there's even more who are good players but BAD teachers, and good teachers but BAD players. So with all of this, I would have to say that a better question to ask is ... "do you like the RESULTS this teacher gets?"

 

There are a lot of great players out there that you couldn't get me to study with, even if the lesson was free. I would learn more just by watching them live with a band or hiding out in the studio while they're in a session. Rather than name names ... we'll leave it at that.

 

Equally, there are teachers out there who are incredible educators, but aren't really up to snuff when it comes to playing with a group or in the studio.

 

The point being ... find someone who is doing what you want to do and glean from that. If they are known to be good teachers, study with them. If not, go hear them play live and glean from that. If you can find someone has the best of both worlds, an incredible teacher and player ... jump on it!

 

I have a life philosophy ... I want to learn till I leave this world. The day I stop learning is the day I die musically.

 

 

------------------

Bart Elliott

http://bartelliott.com

Drummer Cafe - community drum & percussion forum
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If you can find someone has the best of both worlds, an incredible teacher and player ... jump on it!

 

And that is what it would take for me.

 

Please don't take this as a rationalization because I have had HUNDREDS of lessons from many many different kinds of teachers but I pose these questions:

 

I agree that one should keep "learning" but after the "fundamentals" are learned whatever the hell those are, say one is a competant reader/musician and has an extensive library of educational material. Isn't there a time to cut the umbilical cord, and pursue individual visions/musical goals? Or am I lucky cause I don't get into ruts/I feel I can solve most of my problems musically...except the biggest ones, anyways-

 

I mean, what is so scary about not listening to someone else. I don't give a hoot how great a drum god plays actually. I don't really even care how he got there or to look inside his bag of tricks. I'll write my own indepence book if I have to...get my drift?

 

I wonder what the big deal is about Freddie Gruber's method? Anyone know?

 

Thanks.

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Hey, Felix:

Check out my review of the Dave Weckl video. I think I put a vid clip in there of a short explaination from Dave regarding his lessons Freddie and the approach.

Buy this video series! You will not be dissappointed!

DJ

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Freddie Gruber's method is not really one of playing but of the ergonomics of playing. The set-up of the drumkit, the flow from instrument to instrument, the nature movement of the players body (which is different from individual to individual).

 

You'll notice that all these "kats" who study with Gruber REALLY change the drumkit set-up. Dave Weckl, Peter Erskine and Steve Smith are just a few of Gruber's former students. Steve Smith is freakin' amazing now, the way he moves around the kit ... it's poetry in motion. He was a great drummer before ... but now ... he's an incredible musician!!!

 

Probably the best way to see the difference in one's playing is to try and catch BEFORE and AFTER video footage of his former students.

 

 

 

------------------

Bart Elliott

http://bartelliott.com

Drummer Cafe - community drum & percussion forum
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