So last year in September my family and I relocated from Honolulu, HI to Osaka, Japan and that’s why it’s taken me a while to post another blog. Sorry for the delay and thanks for taking the time to read this one!
Since my first trip to Japan to perform at the Imperial Hotel Jazz Festival in 2009, I have felt a longing to return and live here. Now that we have made the move, we are pleased with the quality of life, healthcare, cost-of-living and most of all, the music scene.
Below are gig posters highlighting the wonderfully gifted musicians I have the honor of performing with on a regular basis. Each day, I feel incredibly grateful that the Kansai (Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto) music scene (And recently Hiroshima scene) have welcomed me with open arms and invited me to me be a part of the rich musical tapestry of this great country.
Last week I was so very fortunate to have my online drumming school DRUMMING4LIFE.COM chosen for a feature in Hawaii’s largest and most respected newspaper The Honolulu Star Advertiser. Many thanks to Donica Kaneshiro – Editor and Steven Mark – Reporter for the awesome opportunity to share with Hawaii and the world!
In my early years of drumming I had the great fortune to work with some incredible drummers who also happened to be great teachers. I have been spending the month of August in Seattle and practicing at The Seattle Drum School owned by Steve Smith (not the one you’re thinking of).
While there, I noticed a bunch of great quotes throughout his school that highlight the teaching philosophy of both himself and his other instructors. Needless to say, I am very impressed with both how wonderful a person he is and the positive vibe in his drumming space.
Here are some photos from my visits. Thanks Steve!
For fun and fabulous online drum lessons please visit my DRUMING4LIFE.COM and have a super day! –Von
When I started out playing drums at the later age of 15, I really had no idea what it would take to be a professional drummer but I knew that I wanted to be one.
I had a lot more hair in those days and since then, I have figured out 5 things that directed my path toward becoming a successful professional drummer and I want to share these with you.
1. A deep passion for drumming and all things rhythmic
I think from a young age in the Midwestern US, I really did want to play the drums. I tried violin and saxophone but actually grew to hate both instruments and used the instruments in their cases as sleds during the winter time. I always wanted to be a drummer plain and simple. I thought they were the coolest sounding instrument and just loved rhythm. Starting off as a breakdancer, I think also strengthened my timing and sense of rhythm.
In the beginning, I had a thought that if I wanted to learn drums, I would learn the fastest if I could find someone who would show me how to play.
2. Find a good teacher
I sometimes hear drummers or other musicians say “I was self-taught” or “I learned on my own” and I really want to say to them, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” I know it’s a badge of courage in the Music Scouts to learn on your own and it certainly shows a real dedication to your instrument. It is though, a whole lot more difficult than just asking someone who’s already done it, to share with you a tested method to help you play the music you want to play. After all, that’s the point, yes? To play music and have FUN!
I recommend finding a pro drummer who loves to teach. He or she needs to also have a comprehensive drum method encompassing all of the fundamentals you need to know to play any style of music. This is so you will have choices to play new music as your tastes interests change over time. The idea is to learn the coordination, patterns, reading and listening abilities that will enable you to ultimately focus on the music and not on what your right hand or left foot are doing.
I mentioned “reading” above also because so many drummers have figured out these elaborate systems for not using musical notation and the problem with these is that they will only take you so far until someday you will come into contact with the “real world” and you’ll have to look at a music chart or lead sheet.
Not reading music is like getting to the top of a mountain and only being able to enjoy 1/2 of the view. Just like reading text or words to communicate in your daily life, reading music allows you to interact fully with the music and other musicians.
3. Develop a sincere love for practicing
When I ask my students or even other music teachers, “What does practice make?” you know what they say? Of course you do! We have all been trained to fill in the blank with the most unattainable, unrealistic and misused word in the world of instrument practice and performance, “PERFECT!” The REAL aim of practicing or getting good at drumming is to be able to do more on the drums because the more you can do, the more opportunities you will have to enjoy playing music and have more F-U-N! So what does practice make? FUN!
If you have this mindset going into your practice sessions, you will be more likely to relax, retain more, enjoy your time and know that every little bit that you do contributes toward your ability to increase the “Fun Factor” in your life. You’ll be so excited to practice again that you will truly look forward to your sacred time connecting with your drums. Students ask me all time, how much they should practice. My response is, “How much fun do you want to have?” One of my 13 year old students, Ian Wacksman practices 3 hours a day and is now playing with all adult Jazz combos and big bands as well as his own rock band. Think he’s having fun? Heck yeah!!!!
4. Get “mileage” in your playing
In a lesson once in the early 90’s, Jeff Hamilton told me that I was playing good but I needed more “mileage.” He meant, I wasn’t playing enough with others. I wasn’t gigging enough and didn’t really have a consistency in my playing that you hear in drummers who gig a lot.
I encourage all of my students to play with friends, family, at their respective houses of worship, in school music and theater programs and anywhere else they can to gain experience performing. Practicing in isolation is important to work out the nuts and bolts of of things like coordination or reading but you need to play outside of the practice room with other human beings to really develop your voice on the drums and iron out the little wrinkles in your playing.
The two most important qualities in solid drumming are good time (staying in tempo) and good feel (making the groove and music feel good). Both of these will develop as you play gigs. Be on the lookout for opportunities to play the music you enjoy and also any other music that comes your way. This again comes back to having a solid drumming foundation with the help of your teacher so you can embrace new musical opportunities.
5. Have a good attitude
People like to work with people they like. Treat others as you would like to be treated and have a positive can-do attitude when rehearsing or performing. Show up on time to your rehearsals, gigs, recording sessions, have an open mind and a willingness to work with others. Remember, as a drummer our job 95% of the time, is to make everyone else feel and sound great. We occasionally get that 5% to strut our stuff but most of what we do is geared toward making the music sound great. That will in turn make us sound great and lead to more opportunities for musical fun!
I hope this blog gives you some ideas about what you will need to find your path in drumming and music. Even if you are not pro drummer bound and your goal is just to enjoy playing music with friends, the 5 Essentials apply. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com and if you are looking for a FUN, tested and successful method for learning the drums please check out my instruction site www.drumming4life.com. I hope you have a super day! –Von
Happy 2016 and I hope your year is off to a superb beginning! I was marinating on the concept of Social Media today and had this revelation (I’m sure I’m not the first) that the once widely held premise that everyone person on Earth is separated only by 6 other people might have actually been transformed by Social Media.
As of January 2016, at least 2 billion of us (currently using some form of Social Media), are probably only separated by 3-4 people and this number is likely to drop further as Social Media grows in both use and influence.
Well that’s a lot of fancy words to say, WE ARE GETTING CONNECTED! I recently fired up all of my Social Media platforms in hopes of better reaching my fan friends, aspiring drummers, drum hobbyists and appreciators of drumming throughout the world. My hope is that my posts will entertain and inspire you and maybe even get you excited about DRUMMING!
Thanks in advance for the opportunity to connect and please feel free to contact me at any (Or even ALL!) of the profile links below. Looking forward to seeing you at other Social Media neighborhoods! I hope you have a wonderful day! –Von
Aloha my friend! I wanted to share some really neat photos from my recent trip to Hirsoshima, Japan. I just love what they were able to do with Christmas lights. It’s called the Hiroshima Illumination. I hope you enjoy and most of all hope you enjoy your holiday season surrounded by those you love. –Von
I hope as you read this, you are having a terrific day wherever you are in the World. In 15 + years of teaching hundreds of drum students, I have learned much about the human spirit and will to persevere. My drum students inspire me everyday when they show up to drum lessons ready to grow both mentally and physically (drumming is a little bit coordination intensive :)) to levels they previously thought they couldn’t. It’s kind of like blindly going to do something and not knowing how you’re going to get there other than with the instructor guiding your path. I have students from all ages and walks of life and they all share a common purpose in taking drum lessons, to have fun playing drums!
In the past couple of years, I have learned a lot about our brains and how we best acquire new information. It seems the key to learning, is being relaxed and enjoying the experience. I sometimes encounter new students who are nervous at lessons because they are afraid to make mistakes or students who have had past negative music instruction experiences. Whether we set out to learn drums, to drive a car, learn a new math formula or learn how to cook pasta with Alfredo sauce, we will learn it much faster if we are enjoying ourselves. When we are relaxed, all of the learning centers in your brains open up allowing us full access to the the world’s most awesome computing power between our ears.
So how can drumming change your life? I’ll tell you. I have seen my students grow their confidence so much that they overcome enormous personal struggles replacing depression, anxiety and unhappiness with unprecedented joy, confidence and excitement for life. Students, who when they came to me, had a low self-image and didn’t believe in themselves, their ability to play drums or that they could take control of their lives. After about a year of lessons, big things began to shift and they were back in the driver seat of their life calling the shots and heading in a direction that made them happy.
Please know I’m not tooting my horn here or saying that I’m some kind of psychotherapist drum instructor. I don’t think my instruction experience is exclusive as other music instructors have witnessed these same results in their students. What I simply want to share, is that when we provide a learning environment for our students whether we are a music or Math teacher or a driving or cooking instructor, our students will grow at exponential speeds if we are kind, nurturing and supportive of them on their learning journey. If we can provide lots of laughs, smiles, goofy moments and embrace the “perfect” imperfections of learning, students’ confidence and self-esteem will have a chance to grow. After all, isn’t that why we teach? That’s why I love it so much!