Hi Alain, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into playing drums?
I started playing piano as a kid but switched to drums age 17. I thought drums and drum lessons were easier, which is maybe true at the very beginning, but really they're a lot of work!
What made you want to go into teaching?
I started teaching drum lessons professionally after completing a CTMA music teaching course in Goldsmith college many years ago. Teaching drums was always a lot of fun for me, and a good way to supplement my income between recordings and tours.
Who is your biggest musical inspiration and why?
My main inspirations are John Coltrane, early blues and Bob Marley for the soul in their music. The Beatles are a great inspiration for the wonderful songwriting. Traditional percussion music is also very important because rhythm is where all music comes from.
What is your favourite style to play?
I love Jazz, Latin, and African styles mostly.
I have been informed that you have a drum book coming out! Can you tell us what people can expect from this book?
Yes, I've been writing the new drum book for two years now. It is a synthesis of all the teachings I've received and transmitted since I started playing. The book incorporates snare drum technique and coordination studies as well as play alongs in all styles, with over 100 audio tracks! My friend Mark Fletcher is a featured guest drummer in the second part of the book.
What made you decide to write this drum book?
When teaching, I've always been using a multitude of books with my students, and I really wanted to condense all this important information into one book.
When can people expect to buy your book/when roughly can we get our hands on it?
Expect to be able to buy the drum book by late 2021 or early 2022.
Finally, what advice would you give to students just starting to learn the drums/students who want to start to learn drums?
Get yourself a good drum teacher you have a good relationship with, and listen to as much music as possible. Go to gigs, learn the history of drumming, and ... practice!
Tips for beginner drummers
Always go into a practice session with a plan
Practicing is the key to improving your drum skills, but it is important to pre-plan what you are going to practice. Making time to practice is hard enough in everybody's busy day-to-day lives. Pre-thinking about what you will recap and study will help to maximize and get the most out of your practice session, even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes!
Practice with a metronome
There is a common misconception that having a steady pulse and solid sense of time is something that’s innate and can’t be taught. This is of course absolutely not true, and while some people do have a more natural sense of pulse than others, time is something that everybody should devote a large portion of time to practicing, no matter how natural a player they might be.
Go back to basics
Drummers often try to run before they can walk, which can lead to bad habits and gaps appearing in ability. Mastering the drumming basics is the best way to build a solid foundation upon which to develop your playing. We recommend focussing at least some of your practice time on improving single and double strokes, and polishing key rudiments like the paradiddle and five-stroke roll. Once you can execute these drumming fundamentals with consistency, dynamics and solid time, you will be fully prepared to take your playing to the next level.
Play with Other People
Despite the fact that there are tons of videos of drummers alone in their practice rooms on the internet, you should go find some like-minded people to play music with. Music is a team sport for the most part, and you’ll learn a lot by getting yourself into bands early on in your development. Don’t skip this step; it’s crucial.
Look for role models
They will shape your playing, as their drumming style and ability level helps you to measure progress in your own performance. If you need some inspiration, you can check out our Legendary Drummers playlist on YouTube.
Don’t Hold Your Drum Sticks Too Tight
The most common and grip technique is called ‘matched grip,’ and this is what I teach to my students. You will use your left and right hands to hold the drum sticks in the same way. The main area of grip is between the thumb and the second knuckle of the index finger, and the remaining fingers wrap around the stick.It’s key that you don’t hold the drum sticks too tight. The drum sticks should be allowed to bounce after striking a drum head, and this rebound will help you out significantly to achieve fast speeds. This rebound is a pivotal part of drumming and becomes a large part of your ‘playing feel’ as you develop as a drummer. You will naturally learn to feel when to begin the motion of striking a drum head and anticipate the rebound.
Realize that skill takes a long time to build. Becoming a great musician can take years. Be patient, do the work and you’ll become good. Focused practice under good guidance will take you there.