Friday, September 20, 2019

Inspiration From The Stars

I picked up a copy of the Sabian publication “Create: 2017 Cymbals & Sounds”. It’s a 40-page full colour magazine provided free by Sabian and distributed through music equipment outlets. It’s really just a catalogue of their various products, but it delivers quite a bit more. The book is filled with information about cymbals: how they’re made, how they’re used, how designs came about, what different features mean. There’s lots of cymbal lore and history too. If someone wanted to quickly learn about cymbals, this edition would be a great place to start. And it’s free! 
 When I was still saving up for my first cymbals, I cherished similar books from Zildjian called “Cymbal Setups of Famous Drummers”. While these publications may be thinly disguised sales tools, they give us is an intimate look into the personal sound choices of the premier drummers of the day. I found it helpful to know what cymbals my favourite players were using to make the sounds I heard on recordings. It helped me to develop a short list of cymbals to investigate. (My current cymbal set-up is very much like the set Joe Morello used on "Take 5", which I find quite interesting.)

But there’s an even bigger dividend that these books can deliver: enthusiasm. I find it hard to not be pumped when leafing through the Sabian book, just as I did with the Zildjian books years ago. I read about the history of the company, the different methods used and how methods have changed over the centuries. I learned about the different sound options that new designs give us, often with commentary from the artist who helped create the cymbal or series.

What I value most about these books is that they make cymbals and cymbal history interesting, and that can lead to enthusiasm. The stories invite us to join the cymbal community and to cherish the rich culture of cymbals -- and that's an exciting prospect. 

My hope for young and new drummers is that they find a vehicle that can help them get excited about cymbals and cymbal lore. And for those of us who are teachers and mentors, perhaps we can help foster and sustain this enthusiasm. 

You can download a PDF copy of the 2017 edition from Sabian: https://www.sabian.com/pdf/SABIAN-BandOrchestraCatalog17.pdf

Friday, September 6, 2019

Today I'm going to teach you ...

I see a lot of instructional videos these days that take the approach that if I demonstrate something and throw in a little (or a lot of) explanation and serve it up online, then I’m teaching. Well, I’ve been a teacher for too long to think that a one-time demonstration on a computer screen will get the job done, no matter how good the demonstration and explanation might be.

Over the millennia, teaching has evolved to accommodate numbers, sometimes to the detriment of the individual. My first-year sociology class is a perfect example: 700+ students in one room. It's impossible to 'teach' a class of 700 people! Yes, you can get the material out there, and most will pick up enough of it to pass an exam. But is this teaching? Taken to the next level, it’s a lot easier, and a lot cheaper, to reach students over the internet.
Great artists study with great teachers, and not in a class room or by video. Always have; always will. It’s one-on-one ...  no exceptions. Teaching is -- or should be -- coaching. I show you, you try it. I explain the philosophy and purpose behind what I’m showing you. I present the material that needs to be mastered and in an order that’s right for you. I reframe it if my explanation didn’t work for you, and reframe it again and again until you get it. I monitor your progress. And I’ll only introduce new material when the student is ready. Too often new material is given as a matter of course, or as a reward for simply showing up,
I've spent a lot of money on lessons and musical education for myself. I've also spent a lot of time figuring things out on my own. And I've been in classrooms and I've sat thru DVD and on-line lessons. What I remember most is the time I spent with a skilled teacher. And while the lessons may have seemed expensive at the time, they paid for themselves over and over because the lessons kicked off an entire chain of insights and accomplishments. I cannot say the same about DVDs and online videos.
I'm not saying that formal lessons are the only way to go, but in my experience, one-on-mentoring and coaching will bring far greater long-term rewards than any other method. It's a gift that keeps on giving.