Learning the drums takes some beating

VIDEO Playing the drums is all about feeling the right rhythm and getting into the groove.But is that something you can learn?

Naomi Cassidy

PLAYING the drums is all about feeling the right rhythm and getting into the groove.

But is that something you can learn?

Today NAOMI CASSIDY takes a closer look.

RHYTHM is not my forte- which is why I didn't have high hopes for my first ever drum lesson.

Drumming is one of those skills that looks easier than it is.

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When on stage playing in bands, drummers tend to fall into two categories-those that shrink into the background and those that have a bit more of a wild repetition.

Long-time drummer for the Who, Keith Moon, was known for being rather outrageous on stage, destroying more drum kits is his lifetime than most musicians have the opportunity to play on.

Though I cannot admit I've ever had a burning passion to play the drums or follow in Keith's wild footsteps, I was sort of looking forward to a half hour lesson with accomplished Ipswich drummer Dan Jacobs.

Dan, 33, has just started teaching lessons at his studio in Purdis Farm Lane. I went along to find out if someone as in coordinated as me could be injected with some groove.

Dan always loved tapping objects to a beat when he was a child but did not get his first drum kit until he was 21.

As a shipping clerk in his early 20s, he would practise on his drums religiously at the weekends, and after eight years of saving, he decided to take the plunge and pursue his dream of drumming full time.

When I arrived at his studio, which is a small extension at the back of a farmhouse in Purdis Farm Lane, he handed me a pair of ear defenders, warning that without them drums can be deafening experience.

He began by identifying the various types of drums, before showing me how to hold the sticks in the correct way to produce the best sound.

The basic groove consisted of me crossing my arms and using my right stick to hit the 'hi-hat' and my left one to tap the 'snare drum', while keeping left foot on the 'hi-hat' to keep the two cymbals together. This I could handle but the complex part came when I had to use my right foot to hit the base drum for every second beat. Still with me?

Once I had got the idea of what I was supposed to be doing, it was just a case of practising. When one way of teaching me the rhythm did not work, Mr Jacobs tried two or three other ways until it was something I felt comfortable with. One of the most difficult things is actually having the ability to 'feel' the song, which comes more naturally to some than others.

I got the feeling that had he left me in that small studio to practise to my hearts content, I would have got there….eventually.

Unsurprisingly Dan spends hours practising and said it is a case of developing one's muscle memory, where you train your mind to think in a certain way.

He says: “People are used to doing two things at once but drumming is like doing three or four things at once. I have performed a set which means you have to do six things at once. It does not come naturally.

“You get out of drums what you put in. So many people do not have self-discipline to do it but it is just about finding a happy medium.

“I have been known to get sick of it-it is very repetitious. You can practise loads and do not feel you are getting any better but then someone will come along and say how much you have improved. Sometimes you wake up and it just clicks into place.

“Muscle memory is when you repeat a pattern for a long time so that your body absorbs it.”

Dan undertook a one-year diploma course at a drum and percussion school, DrumTech, in London focusing on drum kit performance, which he completed in 2001.

He began performing in bands and touring the country and eventually took up teaching.

He said: “I went to London to teach but it was too expensive. I could not afford to rent a space to practise and missed playing the drums regularly.”

He decided to go back to his roots and recently returned to Suffolk, where he now teaches students, plays in a band with Ipswich singer Asa Jennings, and contributes tuition articles to a drumming magazine.

As well as teaching individuals, Dan has started going in to show students at Kesgrave High School how to play drums, and is qualified to teach London Guildhall exams from grade one to eight.

He is currently working on a solo album.

Having virtually written myself off as a drumming failure before I had even started, in the end I came away feeling uplifted about the possibility that one day, with enough willpower and practise, I could get to grips with the instrument.

Dan says that you usually know if drumming is for you after three or four lessons so it may be too premature to predict whether I would take it up but it is certainly gave me food for thought.

If you are interested in giving it a go and want to find out more, call Dan Jacobs on 07917 874468.

Do you play a musical instrument? Are the drums just noisy or a finely tuned tool? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The drum is a member of the percussion group, technically classified as a membranophone. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell.

Drums are the world's oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.

In the past drums have been used as a means of communication, especially through signals. The talking drums of Africa can imitate the inflections and pitch variations of a spoken language.

Several factors determine the sound a drum produces, including the type of shell the drum has, the type of drumheads it has, and the tension of the drumheads. Each type of drumhead serves its own musical purpose and has its own unique sound.

William F. Ludwig made the bass drum pedal system workable in 1909, which paved the way for the modern drum kit.

In 1964 drumming became more popular when Ringo Starr of The Beatles played his Ludwig kit on American television.

The oldest known drums are from 6000 BC.