Lit­tle old drum­mer boy, barumpa-bum-bum

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION - By Sam Byrnes

I don’t have an ac­tual bucket list of things I would like to do writ­ten down, per se, but there are a few things that, if given the time, I would like to pur­sue. And learn­ing to play drums has long been one of the items on my todo list. So, af­ter my broth­ers and I re­turned home from our va­ca­tion in Colorado and Utah (around the mid­dle of June), I got in con­tact with Matt Fincher at Arkansas Mu­sic­works in Bentonville and ar­ranged to have a ses­sion with him to see if I had the ap­ti­tude to learn drums.

Drums, like any other mu­si­cal in­stru­ment, is gov­erned by tim­ing, and the mantra among drum­mers is that the ABCs of drum­ming stand for “al­ways be count­ing.” Since I have pretty much been im­per­vi­ous to learn­ing how to read mu­sic from lit­tle on up, I was some­what ap­pre­hen­sive about my abil­ity to learn the rudi­ments of mu­sic, such as the tim­ing of var­i­ous notes and how to count time.

Matt taught me how to use a metronome to beat time and, since most of the mu­sic I am likely to learn, is based on 4/4 tim­ing, I have, for the most part, con­cen­trated on learn­ing the tim­ing of whole notes, half notes, quar­ter notes, eighth notes and six­teenth notes. I tend to get a lit­tle con­fused when I am sup­posed to beat on the “and” be­tween notes in­stead of beat­ing on the num­ber — or hav­ing to go from beat­ing on the notes to beat­ing on the “and” be­tween the numbers. But Matt says, if you can count the mea­sure, you can prob­a­bly play it; and, so far, I have found that to be true. The first thing he has me do is to count the prac­tice mea­sure and then play it.

An­other prob­lem I have had to con­tend with is the fact that I am a strong right-handed per­son, so I have very lit­tle con­trol when it comes to us­ing my left hand. This can be a prob­lem with us­ing drum­sticks since you have to use both hands equally well. So Matt has me do prac­tice drills where I beat eight beats with my left hand, then al­ter­nate hands for eight beats and then back to the left hand and so on. When I started this drill, I set the metronome for maybe 60 beats per minute. As the weeks passed, I in­creased the beats to where I have no prob­lem keep­ing time with the metronome at 200 beats per minute. Just as an aside, the world record for drum­ming beats per minute is over 1,200. But that wouldn’t be try­ing to play along to a metronome. I will say that beat­ing the prac­tice pad with my drum­sticks is a re­ally neat way to re­lieve stress. Some­times, I just walk around the house beat­ing time on what­ever I come to — the stair rail, the gran­ite top on the is­land in Linda’s kitchen, the din­ing ta­ble or what­ever. Some­times Linda has to tell me to be quiet and go prac­tice down­stairs but, gen­er­ally, she leaves me to my own de­vices.

Soon I will need to find a set of drums but, so far, I have used a prac­tice pad which is a stand with a small drum head on it that you use while you are learn­ing stick con­trol.

Proper stick con­trol in­cludes how you hold the sticks and how you wield them. The sticks need to be held in such a way that they will re­bound when struck on the pad. And they should be gripped lightly be­tween the index fin­ger and thumb. The other fin­gers should wrap loosely around the stick with­out af­fect­ing the swing of the stick. The base of the stick should bounce against the fleshy part of your palm as it bounces off the pad.

There are two ways to hold drum­sticks. In the “tra­di­tional” way, the left hand is usu­ally turned up while hold­ing the stick. In the “par­al­lel” method, the sticks are both gripped with your knuck­les turned up­ward. With the par­al­lel method, the proper way to beat the drum looks ex­actly like you are knock­ing on a door with your knuck­les. All the ac­tion should be in your wrists in­stead of your arms. I only use the par­al­lel method.

So, last week, I took my first gui­tar les­son, which went well enough that I signed up for those too. Now I am busily prac­tic­ing drums and acous­tic gui­tar.

That should keep me out of trou­ble for at least a lit­tle while.

Sam Byrnes is a Gen­tr­yarea res­i­dent and weekly con­trib­u­tor to the Ea­gle Ob­server. He may be con­tacted by email at sam­byrnes57@gmail.com. Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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