Fill Of The Week #1

Here’s fill of the week #1:

I’ve always like fill with flams in them. They add a lot of power to a fill and are great for making a statement. The challenge of course is to get your flams sounding consistent across the fill.

Taking it further

As with any fill you learn, you want to experiment with it and make it your own. This fill is an easy one to change up. The first change is to the drums we hit. Here’s two examples of that:

Fill of the week #1 - Variation 1
Variation 1 – Changing The Drums
Variation 2 – Changing More Drums

You can experiment by changing the drums up as much as you like. Move the flams to a tom-tom, see how that sounds. Find the sound that you like.

When I have a 16th note fill with some space in it, I like to experiment with putting the bass drum in the space. Here’s two examples of that:

Fill of the week 1 - variation 3
Variation 3 – A Little Bass Drum Added
Fill of the week 1 - variation 4
Variation 4 – More Bass Drum Added

Adding the bass drum like this makes the fill sound more complex but also more complete. Variation 3 just adds a bass drum to help set up the flams and variation 4 fills in the space before and after the flam to keep the 16th notes flowing.

By changing which drums you hit and being able to add in bass drums you’ll be able to create lots of new fills from this one idea.

If you’re in Singapore and you’d like a free trial drum lesson, you can arrange for one on our contact us page.

Groove Of The Week #1

Here’s Groove of the Week #1:

It’s the first beat most people learn to play when they start playing drums. It’s been used in some of the biggest songs of all time such as Another One Bites The Dust, Billy Jean, Like a Virgin, Back in Black, Manic Monday, Raspberry Beret and many many more. This is groove deserves a lot of attention for that reason. Can you make it feel as good as the drummers on those songs could? The intro to Billy Jean is easily recognizable and instantly makes you want to dance.

Spend time with the beat and make it sound as good as you can. Make sure there are no flams between the hi-hat and bass drum or hi-hat and snare drum. Check you volumes… how loud is your hi-hat? Does it seem annoyingly loud? Is it overpowering the snare and bass? It shouldn’t, but a lot of beginners will play it that way.

Experiment with where and how you hit the hi-hat. Use the tip or the shoulder of the stick to get different sounds from your hi-hat. Try playing on the ride cymbal or crash instead. Experiment with getting different sounds from the those cymbals by playing on the edge, the body or on the bell. Practice the groove by playing it with rim shots or rim clicks.

Don’t forget to work with a metronome at different tempos, can you make it feel good at 60, 80, 100, 120, 140 & 160bpm? How’s your note spacing at 60bpm? Are you tensing up at 160bpm? Keep those hands relaxed. Get working on it!

If you’re in Singapore and you’d like a free trial drum lesson, contact us via the contact us page and we’ll arrange one for you.

Learning & Practicing Drum Beats – A Beginners Guide

Let’s say your teacher has assigned you a page of drum beats to practice & you’re having some problems with them. You’re not sure if you’re playing them correctly, or they just don’t sound good. What can you do? Here’s some strategies to help you learn the beat, and some tips on practicing them so you can make them sound good and make them available to you when you’re jamming with your favourite songs or rocking out with your band.

Learning Beats

Imagine you’re having trouble learning this beat:

Troublesome Beat #1

Let’s look at 3 methods that may help you to learn this beat (I’m assuming you can read it)

Method 1: Write & Count!

Write the counting underneath the troublesome beat, then count out loud while playing the beat.

Troublesome Beat #1 + Counting

I find that for a lot of students this is all they need to do to realize where they are going wrong & to be able to correct themselves. Counting out loud reinforces the connection between the limbs and the brain and makes it more obvious where you are going wrong.

Method 2: Divide & Conquer

Let’s isolate the hi-hat part and play it and count out loud while doing it.

Just the Hi-Hat

Now add in the bass drum. Make sure to count while playing it

Hi-Hat + Bass

Now drop out the bass drum and practice the hi-hat & snare drum. Keep the counting going!

Hi-Hat + Snare

Our final combination is the bass drum & snare drum together. Are you still counting?

Bass + Snare

Finally, try to combine it all together. I hope you’re still counting!

Can you play it now?

Method 3: One Note At A Time

This idea is quite simple – you just build the groove up one note at a time. I find this really helpful for more advanced beats.

Play the first note – but be sure to count them all.

Great grooves start with a single note

Now add another – keep counting.

Two notes are better than one.

Add one more – still counting?

Starting to feel the beat?

Keep adding them one by one – here’s your next five steps. Count.

You’ll be grooving in no time.

Practice each step until you find it easy before moving onto the next one.

Hopefully one of these steps will help you to learn the groove. If you’re still having trouble learning the beat, I suggest you message your teacher and ask them to send you a video or audio clip of them playing it. Sometimes you just need to hear it played correctly. Also you can just highlight the groove and be sure to ask your teacher about it on your next lesson.

Practicing Beats

So hopefully you can play your beats now, but that is just the start of the journey. Now we need to really master the beat.

Step 1: Play it a lot!

The more you play a beat, the easier it will become to play. Once it becomes easy to play, then you can start to adjust it to make it sound better. Play each beat you learn for long periods of time. Find a song that you like and play your beats along with that song to make it more enjoyable. Practice your new beats every day & soon you’ll be playing them with ease and at higher tempos.

Step 2: Make it sound better!

Does the way you play a beat sound the same as the way your teacher or favourite drummer plays it? Probably not. What’s the difference? Normally these two things – dynamics and precision.

Dynamics – how loud or soft is each individual voice you are playing? A lot of beginners playing rock/pop beats play the hi-hat too loud and the snare / bass drum not loud enough.

Imagine each of your limbs has it’s own volume control and has 2 settings – loud and soft. Now play your groove with the hi-hat loud, and bass and snare soft. Now make the hi-hat & bass soft but the snare loud. Now lets drop the snare & hi-hat down low but bring the bass drum up loud. Now lets try the favourite, hi-hat soft, snare & bass loud. You can work other combinations.

Getting dynamic control of your limbs will give you more control over each groove you play and will enable you to sculpt the sound of your beats.

Precision – hitting two or more things together at exactly the same (and right) time requires more practice than you’d think. Think you’re playing all your notes perfectly in sync without any unintentional flams? Try recording yourself playing (you just need one mic – you can probably use your phone) and then open the audio file in something such as Pro-Tools Lite or Audacity and then use the zoom function to zoom in on the beat… Does the wave form look nice and clean? Can you hear the beat just from looking at the wave form? Do you see the hi-hat on beat 2 just before or after the snare? Or do you only see the snare because the hi-hat is perfectly aligned with it and is hidden by the snare? Are your 8th note hi-hats evenly spaced or do they look uneven? What about the bass & hi-hat… and if you play a four-on-the-floor disco groove, are your bass, snare and hats all hitting perfectly together?

Playing things perfectly together at the perfect time is a critical skill for anyone who wants to be a recording drummer, but even if you don’t, it’ll just make your grooves sound cleaner and crisper.

To practice this skill, you just need to slow way down (40bpm), concentrate on each beat and listen. Use a metronome. Record yourself doing it. I found that intently watching the stick hit the hi-hat helped me to get the bass and snare in sync with it. Once you can get everything together 100% of the time then you can start speeding up. Can you bury the metronome each time? You should find that a bit of time spent working on this with just one beat will impact all your other grooves too because it’ll become a habit. As you learn more styles and beats, record them too and see if they create any issues with precision.

If you can record directly to something like Audacity while you’re practicing, then you’ll be able to get real time feedback while you’re playing and make adjustments more easily. I use a zoom microphone (I’ve got the H1, H4n, and H6 – they are all great) together with Audacity to help me work on this.

Step 3: Add Fills!

You need to be able to play drum fills with every beat you can play. And you need to be able play fills that start in different parts of the bar – on beat 3 or beat 4 for example – and not just beat 1. To practice this, just play simple 8th or 16th note fills on the snare drum starting on the beat 1, then beat 2, then beat 3, then beat 4. Here’s what it looks like with simple 8th note fills:

Rock beat with simple 8th note fills starting on each beat

Once you have mastered the groove with simple fills, then you can move on to more complex fill ideas and try starting on the offbeats as well.

Hopefully this blog post has helped you to overcome problems in learning grooves and given you some idea on what to work on when practicing your grooves. If you’re in Singapore and would like a free trial lesson with one of our teachers then please fill in the contact form on the contact us page.

AC/DC – Riff Raff – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 5

It’s noise making time! Here’s AC/DC’s Riff Raff from the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 5 exam syllabus.

AC/DC – Riff Raff – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 5 Drums

Time To Crash!

The first challenge this song presents is crashes during the introduction. The crashes are on the & of 2, & of 3 and the & of 4. Getting these tight with guitars is essential. At 182 BPM that’s no easy task though. Work with a metronome that counts 8th notes and start slow.

All Tied Up

The crashes continue throughout the main guitar riff and are played in sync with the guitar. Be careful with the tied notes during this section; It looks as though the crash and and bass drum are playing the same rhythm but sometimes both the crash and bass drum are tied over the bar line, other times it’s just the crash that is tied, so you’ll have to play the bass drum without a crash.

You Will Be Syncopated

In addition to all the syncopated crashes with the main riff, the verse also features a 2 bar syncopated groove. The unusual part of this groove is that hi-hat and snare drum play the syncopated hits together on the & of 3 and & of 4 every two bars and then there is no hi-hat on the following beat 1. It’s not so hard to execute but if you’re used to keeping a steady quarter note pulse on your hi-hats while playing this kind of groove, it may throw you off a little.

Let’s Go Solo

At the end of the guitar solo we get the chance to throw in a short drum solo. However, we’re not free to play exactly as we want, we need to hit some crashes every 2 bars. If you haven’t attempted this kind of solo before, I suggest starting with some simple 8th note rhythms & getting used to hitting the crashes in time with the band. Then orchestrate those simple rhythms around the kit. Once comfortable with the simple rhythms then try it with more complex rhythms.

Riff Raff Solo Ideas
Create your solo here!

Finally try stringing your ideas together. Here’s some examples, start slow, work with a metronome until you can hit the target tempo of 182 (or even a little faster).

As directed in the score, don’t make your solo too busy, make sure to leave some space – you don’t need to play anything faster than 8th notes really, but a few 16th notes sprinkled here and there can add a bit more excitement. Also, note that on last bar of the solo there is a rest on beat 3 & no crash on the & of 3.

Rock till you drop!

The rest of the song is just a repeat of things you’ve already played and shouldn’t present any problems. Just make sure you can keep your energy up throughout the whole song.

This song is very satisfying to play & offers a chance to really rock out whilst working on your syncopation. Learning how to solo while hitting crashes with the rest of the band is a really valuable skill that you can develop while playing this track.

The 2018 version of the Trinity Grade 5 Rock & Pop book is great to work through if you’re around 3 years into your drumming career. You don’t have to take the exam to benefit from the book. The songs are great to work on & fun to play and will help to improve your drumming. In Singapore you can find the book at Robert Piano – Paragon Shopping Centre (and probably their other outlets). It’s also available from Amazon if you’re happy to pay the shipping!

Don’t forget to check out our youtube channel & subscribe for more videos!

If you’re in Singapore &  haven’t had a free trial lesson with us, sign up for one here!




A Guide To Buying Your First Drum Kit

So, you’ve started taking drum lessons – hopefully with Rhythm House if you’re in Singapore – and you’ve decided it’s time to buy your first drum kit. Pots & pans, cushions & pillows, practice pads & the occasional trip to a jamming studio no longer sate your desire to make noise. But… where to start?  It comes down to two main questions:

Do you want Acoustic or Electronic drums?

What’s your Budget?

Let’s get on with it!

Acoustic or Electronic?

Ask any drummer and the answer will always be acoustic. The main reason is the feel. Electronic kits just don’t feel as good to play; The sticks bounce differently, the pads are too small, you can’t hit it as hard etc…

However, Acoustic kits are highly impractical, especially in a densely populated country like Singapore. The sound from a drum kit travels a long way & you’ll get a lot of complaints from your neighbours.

Of course, there are solutions for the noise, you can build a sound proof room – it’s gonna cost you quite a lot of money though & making it totally soundproof is almost impossible. Cheaper solutions include things such as rubber pads, mesh heads, volume reduced cymbals  etc, but they all change the feel (which was our main reason for going acoustic) & you don’t get to enjoy the sound of the kit.

That’s the main reason why I would choose to go for an electronic kit, you get to enjoy the sound of the kit & don’t have to worry so much about neighbours complaining all the time.

That doesn’t mean that electronic kits are totally silent though, you’ll still be hitting a rubber pad with a wooden stick, but the noise is more manageable and doesn’t travel as far. Pro-tip: Place your electronic kit on these 1m x 1m x 4cm rubber martial arts mats to prevent vibration from the bass drum travelling through the floor (the link takes you to a Singapore based sports shop – it’s where I got my rubber mats from).

Additional bonus points for electronic kits also include:

  1. They are generally smaller in size & therefore take up less space in your home.
  2. The electronic modules often come with lots of helpful tools such as metronomes, rhythmic training games and songs in a range of styles for you to play along with.
  3. The ability to connect to other devices so you can play along with your favourite songs.
  4. The ability to record your practice so you can listen back to your performance – do you really sound as good as you think? Hopefully even better!

Onto our second question:

What’s your budget?

Less than $1000?

Here’s where acoustic kits have the advantage. If your budget is tight , you can pick up a cheap acoustic kit (SGD $500 – $700) & then slowly upgrade it.

How to upgrade it?

1. Buy some good drum heads. The heads that come with budget kits are normally not so good. Changing out the batter head (that’s the one you hit) for something good will make a big difference to the sound. It’ll cost you around SGD $120 – $150 to change all the batter heads. You may also wish to change the resonant head (the one on the bottom) too, but that’s not so essential. If you can’t change them all, I’d start with the snare & the bass as these are the drums you’ll be hitting the most.

2. Change the cymbals. If your budget kit comes with cymbals they will probably sound awful. All the top cymbal manufacturers (Zildjian, Paiste, Sabian, Meinl) have budget cymbal ranges that will sound better than the ones that came with your kit. You can often find these in complete sets (Hi-hat, ride & crash) that’ll be cheaper than buying them individually (available from around SGD $300).

3. Change the snare drum. A good snare drum helps you to find your signature sound. Maybe you want a warmer sound, or perhaps a tighter funkier sound, or maybe you need more volume. A good snare will help you find that sound, most professional drummers have several snare drums for use in different musical situations.

Electronic kits start around SGD $599 and are harder to upgrade – especially in Singapore because often the parts aren’t available –  you’re pretty much stuck with what you get & you’ll have to buy a whole new kit in order to upgrade.

For electronic kits there are 3 main brands I recommend, Yamaha, Roland & Alesis. All three offer budget kits and more expensive options.

Alesis tend to be cheaper and offer more bang for your buck – they have features such as mesh heads at a much lower price point than the other two brands.

Yamaha & Roland have a higher pedigree, they are the brands the professionals use.

There are other brands that are cheaper but most don’t sound or feel anywhere as good & you’ll probably not enjoy playing them.

My advice would be to do your due diligence and go & play a few different kits that are within your budget & check out reviews on YouTube. If you are on a budget, my main recommendation for buying a kit is to make sure you get a kit that has a proper bass drum pedal. Some of the budget kits (such as the Yamaha DTX 400) have just a simple electronic pedal for the bass drum & not a proper bass drum pad/pedal combination. The simple electronic pedal may be quieter, but it’s not going to help you develop proper bass drum technique.

$1000 – $2500

If you’re buying an acoustic kit in this range, you need to choose between the kit & the cymbals. Do you want a better drum kit with budget cymbals (which you can upgrade later)  or a budget drum kit with better cymbals? I would more than likely go for the better drum kit & then upgrade the cymbals at a later date. If I had $2000 to spend, I’d spend around $1500 on the kit and then $500 on the cymbals.

When you’re buying an acoustic kit, check what comes with it. Some kits are shell packs only – meaning you have to buy the hardware – snare stand, cymbal stands, bass drum pedal etc – separately. That can massively inflate the cost – the shop will probably have a pre-packaged hardware pack that goes with the kit available for SGD $300-$400. You may wish to source your own hardware & you may be able to do it cheaper. You might need to buy a stool too – good ones start around $200.

For an electronic kit in this range, at the lower end ($1200 – 1400) I’d look at the Alesis Kits as they offer more bang for the buck (the Crimson II model has had good reviews).

At the higher end of this range, I’d look at the Roland TD17KV (or KVX). It’s a new kit this year & it seems to have a set a new standard. I’ve played it, I liked it and I’ve only seen glowing reviews of it. If I was buying an electronic kit this year, that’s what I’d get

Yamaha also have offerings in this price range – the DTX 502 series – these are worth checking out, you may prefer the feel of the Yamaha DTX pads.

Again, when buying an electronic kit, check if it comes with the stool and bass drum pedal. If not you need to budget SGD $250 – $500 to get both these items.

I’m not going to consider more expensive options for kits because most people buying their first kit won’t be looking to spend that much money.

So… What would you buy?

In Singapore, it’s more than likely that you’ll be buying an electronic kit because of the noise constraints. My advice would be to save up your money and stretch your budget as much as you can to buy one of the mid-range electronic kits. As stated above, right now (November 2018) I would buy the Roland TD17KV or KVX. I’ve played it, and I thought it was great. If I didn’t have the money for that, I’d look at the Alesis kits in the $1200-$1400 range.

I personally wouldn’t buy an electronic kit under $1000 because often they lack the ability to do things a real kit can do such as cross sticks, rim shots & cymbal choking; and the cymbals often only make one sound no matter where you hit them. Also often they just don’t feel that good to play. I’ve had students tell me they don’t practice as much as they should because they don’t like their cheap electronic drum kits. I’d rather you spend more money and get something you enjoy playing on.

A good electronic drum kit isn’t cheap but if you take care of it, it should last. I bought a Yamaha DTX Express II in 2003 (for around $2000) and in 2018 it’s still working fine. I’ve used it to practice on, to teach on in my  studio & to rehearse with my band. It’s now with one of my students & getting used regularly.

The best thing you can do is go and try a range of kits that are within your budget (and maybe one or two that are just outside it) and see which one you enjoy playing the most.





The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 Drums

She Sells Sanctuary by the Cult is now part of the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 Drums syllabus. Here’s my attempt at it:

The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 drums

Let’s Rock!

This is a fairly straight ahead rock song, the key thing in performing this song is to get the feel correct. It’s time to hit hard. The bass and snare want to provide a solid, steady, unrelenting groove throughout the song. The dynamic for this song only slips below forte (loud) for the breakdown section of the song.

This is a good song to practice playing heel up on the bass drum; it’ll help to get more weight into your groove. Switch to heel down during the quieter breakdown section to help control your dynamics.

Hopefully you’ve been playing your basic rock beats with a metronome and can absolutely nail this song. There isn’t too much about this song that is  challenging, but you need to really commit to the beat & make it rock.

Hard Hitting Hats

To help drive a song forward & make the groove feel heavier and rock solid, rock drummers often accent the quarter note pulse on the hi-hat whilst playing eighth notes. This is achieved by using a whipping motion to generate the strokes that play the downbeats (1,2,3,4) and then hitting the upbeat strokes (the “&s”) as you reset the motion for the next downbeat.

Watch powerful rock drummers such as Phil Rudd (AC/DC), Matt Sorum (Guns n’ Roses, The Cult, Velvet Revolver), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) or Tico Torres (Bon Jovi) and observe the motion of their arms; you’ll see all of them accenting the quarter note down beat in this manner. Try and copy their arm motion and you should hear more dynamics in your hi-hat playing that’ll help to solidify the pulse of the song and power it forward.

Flams & Fills

The song, like many a great rock song, starts with a flam. It’s a strong statement to make at the start of a song and tells the listener it’s time to rock. Make sure you really nail the timing and get it perfectly on beat four to give a secure & powerful start to the song.

All the fills in the song are performed solely on  the snare drum. As a rock drummer I’ve always loved snare drum fills, they have an aggression to them that you can’t get through hitting tom toms. They may be simple to play and don’t look so flashy, but musically they really make an impact.

The big fill at bar 48 – the end of the breakdown section – is a classic rock fill that you want to have in your vocabulary. It’s been featured in songs by AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Meatloaf, Queen, Poison, Guns n’Roses and countless others. Flams are used again to make it more powerful and to make more of a statement, focus on getting all 3 flams sounding the same.

Did You Find Sanctuary?

Hopefully you enjoy yourself rocking out to this track, it’s one of the simpler songs to play on the grade 2 syllabus, but it’s needs commitment to making the beat feel as good as possible & providing a solid back bone for the rest of the band to sit on.

The 2018 version of the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 Drums book is great to work through if you’re around 6 months to a year into your drumming career. You don’t have to take the exam to benefit from the book. The songs are great to work on & fun to play and will help to improve your drumming. In Singapore you can find the book at Robert Piano – Paragon Shopping Centre (and probably their other outlets). It’s also available from Amazon if you’re happy to pay the shipping!

Check out other Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 songs such as:

Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Knock On Wood – Eddie Floyd

Don’t forget to check out our youtube channel & subscribe for more videos!

If you’re in Singapore &  haven’t had a free trial drum lesson with us, contact us & we’ll arrange one for you.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 Drums

Here’s a demonstration of Red Hot Chili Peppers Under The Bridge from the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 Drums Syllabus.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 Drums

As always with the early grades on the trinity rock & pop drum syllabus, we get a cut down version of the song here, but it’s still enough for us to enjoy playing it. Let’s have a look at some of the trickier bits of this song.

A Bridge Too Far?

There are couple of points in the song where the drums act as a bridge between parts of the song. The first one is where the drums first enter the song;  there are 8 bars of guitar intro & then it’s 2 bars of just drums while the guitar sustains it’s last note. There is nothing to lock in with & nothing to help us with the timing. If you use the version of the song with the drums or the click, then it’s obviously easier; but to get a good idea of how your timing is, try the version without the click. Counting may be necessary!

The other time the drums act as a bridge is at the end of the first verse. At this point we’ve been playing for 10 bars and have a good idea of the tempo and how it feels, but the pattern features a slightly more complex left hand part… don’t speed up! Again, while working with the click this shouldn’t be too hard to nail, but try it with the version without a click to get a better sense of how well developed your internal clock is.

Rim Click, Upside Down Stick

One of the areas being assessed for this song is the quality of the rim click sound. To get the best sound from your rim clicks, hold your stick upside down (near the tip) and put the butt end of the stick over the rim of the drum. This will give you a fatter, meatier, fuller sound than if you hold the stick in the normal manner.

Once you’ve finished with the rim clicks you can continue to hold the stick upside down for rest of the song, or you can flip it back over – but you may not want to increase the risk of dropping your stick on exam day. I know many drummers that play with the left stick almost permanently upside down so they can get more power into the back beat on the snare in loud playing situations.

Did You Cross The Bridge?

Most of this song is fairly straight forward, just make sure to focus on playing the rim click & bass drum together on beat 3 during the second verse. I don’t want to hear any flams.

The fills during the finale of the song are not difficult, but again, practice them with a metronome to make sure you don’t rush.

The 2018 version of the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 Drums book is great to work through if you’re around 6 months to a year into your drumming career. You don’t have to take the exam to benefit from the book. The songs are great to work on & fun to play and will help to improve your drumming. In Singapore you can find the book at Robert Piano – Paragon Shopping Centre (and probably their other outlets). It’s also available from Amazon if you’re happy to pay the shipping!

Don’t forget to check out our youtube channel & subscribe for more videos!

If you’re in Singapore &  haven’t had a free trial drum lesson with us, contact us & we’ll arrange one for you.




Pearl Jam – Alive – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 5

Oh I, oh, I’m still alive… and playing drums…. let’s play Alive by Pearl Jam from the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 5 Syllabus.

Pearl Jam – Alive – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 5 drums

Full disclosure is necessary here… I love this song! The first Pearl Jam Album, Ten, totally blew my mind & I spent many hours, days, weeks, years doing my best impersonation of original Pearl Jam drummer Dave Krushen. If I ever want to remind myself of why I love playing drums, I just put this song on and jam along… nothing beats drumming along to your favourite songs!

Is Your Bass Drum Alive?

One of the main areas under examination with this song is the bass drum. Specifically playing the bass drum cleanly and consistently on the 16th notes in between the 8th note hi-hat. Hopefully you’ve been working on this in the lead up to grade 5 & should be comfortable with it before approaching this song. There was a little bit of 16th note bass drum at grade 4, but this is the first time where it’s happening all the way through a song. As always, if you’re in any doubt, slow down the tempo to around 50bpm and work on the grooves slowly until you find them easy to play & then bring them up to speed & beyond.

It’s always good to learn to play things  faster than you actually need to play them so that you are relaxed when you playing them at the necessary speed… playing at your top speed all the time is really taxing!

Are Complex Fills Keeping You Awake At Night?

A number of more complex fills are featured throughout the song. These fills include items such as the drag rudiment, the bass drum,  8th & 16th note rests & 32nd notes. Let’s not panic….

The drags… you’ve been playing drags in songs since grade 3, back then they were mostly stand alone, now we’re just putting them on the front of 16th note fills. All of these can be played using your preferred sticking; for right handed drummers, that probably means your left hand will play the 2 grace notes and your right hand will land the main note on the beat. Make sure that your timing of the 16th notes is accurate, the first note after the 2 grace notes must be smack on time, don’t delay it to make room for the grace notes.

The 32nd notes… there is only one fill with 32nd notes – unless you decide to add an extra one as I did. Moving up & down the subdivisions from 8ths to 32nd notes & from 16th notes to 32nd notes takes a bit of getting used to. Here’s three exercises, to be performed with a metronome, to help out with your timing. Count the 16th note throughout & try with both stickings (left handed drummers can reverse the sticking… and right handed drummers should try that too… work that weaker hand!)

pearl jam - alive - trinity rock & pop
Oh I, Oh, I love playing 32nd notes

Note that I prefer to count 16th notes when I’m playing 32nd notes… you can count all the 32nd notes if you want, but at higher speeds it’s not practical.  I prefer to count the 16th note & feel the 32nd notes between them… if it’s a more complicated 32nd note pattern then I may count all the 32nd notes while learning it & I’d be going really slowly.

The Complexity… When I’m learning a complex fill the first thing I learn to do is play the rhythm of the fill on one surface, normally the snare drum. When I can count it & play it accurately then I’ll start worrying about any sticking patterns or flams & drags or bass drums that need to be applied & then moving it around the kit.

If we break down the big 32nd note fill from the end of the 2nd verse in this manner, then it looks like this:

pearl jam - alive - trinity rock & pop grade 5
Oh I, Oh, I can play this fill!

Step 1:  Just play the rhythm of the fill on the snare and count it out. I don’t tend to count beat 2 when I play this fill, which is why I indicated it in parentheses. You may want to count it. Don’t move on until you’ve nailed this step!

Step 2: Add in the drag at the start. Make sure beat one stays on beat one.

Step 3: Substitute the snare drum on the e of 2 for a bass drum and add the crash to the snare on the & of 2.

Step 4: Add in the Tom-Toms to beats 3 & 4.

Wasn’t so bad was it?

Is It 7/8 O’Clock Yet?

The instrumental portion of the song features 3 bars in 7/8 interspersed with bars of 4/4. You can choose to count these bars either in 7/8 or continute your regular 4/4 counting as follows.

Pearl Jam = Alive - Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 5
Oh I, Oh, I can play 7/8!

If you decide to keep counting in 4/4, don’t venture past the e of 4! If I am going to count this in 7/8, then I will usually count the 4/4 bars surrounding the measure as bars of 8/8. I find this helps smooth the transition to the 7/8 bars. Rather than counting:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 2 3 4 5 6 sev

I count:

1 2 3 4 5 6 sev 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 sev

You might find it helps you to make that move smoother too.

When I was practicing this song, I noticed that I was rushing on the last 2 notes of this figure. I think it was because we play a similar figure just before hand as a bar of 4/4. The rest between the last 2 groups of notes is only a 16th note in that figure and not an 8th note.

To remedy this problem of rushing, I start bouncing the heel of my left foot up and down on the hi-hat stand in time with the 8th notes on the bar before the 7/8 figure starts. I then used the physical feedback from my foot to help me keep my timing while playing this figure; hitting the first of the last 2 sixteenth notes at the same time as my left foot heel hits the floor on beat 7 (or 4, if you’re counting that way). It actually helps with the spacing of all 3 groups of 16th notes as you’ll have 1 heel hit between each group & the next group starts on the next heel hit. Try it, you may find it a useful time keeping tool.

A Bridge Too Far?

Now to the part of the song I don’t like… but only for the Trinity version.

The suggested groove for the bridge just feels wrong to me and clashes with what the rest of the band are playing. Now in my video. I played it as suggested and how it’s played in the demo version of the song that trinity supply. I struggled with it though, it just didn’t feel right to me, my body just wanted to play something different.

What should it be?

Alive - Pearl Jam - Trinity
Oh I, Oh, think this groove is better for the bridge!

This is similar to the groove that Dave Krushen played on the original & it meshes much better with the backing track. I don’t know how strict Trinity are when marking the exams. Will you lose points if you ignore their grooves and play something more suitable? During the bridge section you are told to continue in a similar fashion, hopefully this is similar enough that you don’t lose marks for it… if in doubt, force yourself to play the wrong sounding groove they suggested.

Are You Still Alive?

Hopefully you’ll enjoy playing this song as much as I do. For the guitar solo at the end of this song I decided to let go and enjoy myself. Lots of bass drum, crashes, & that extra 32nd note fill – yours  big fill doesn’t have to be 32nd notes. I was just feeding off the energy of the song and I know the original version gets real noisy at the end with lots of crashes, snare drums on all four beats and bass drums on all the 16ths in between… I didn’t go that far… if I record it again I might!

The 2018 version of the Trinity Grade 5 Rock & Pop book is great to work through if you’re around 3 years into your drumming career. You don’t have to take the exam to benefit from the book. The songs are great to work on & fun to play and will help to improve your drumming. In Singapore you can find the book at Robert Piano – Paragon Shopping Centre (and probably their other outlets). It’s also available from Amazon if you’re happy to pay the shipping!

Don’t forget to check out our youtube channel & subscribe for more videos!

If you’re in Singapore &  haven’t had a free trial lesson with us, sign up for one here!

The Specials – Ghost Town – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 6

What’s so special about this song? Well… it’s about my home town: Coventry, England. Not the most positive song ever written about Coventry I must admit; inspired by rising unemployment, bars and clubs closing down, times of economic hardship… it’s not exactly uplifting! It is however part of the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 6 syllabus, so lets take a look at it.

The Specials – Ghost Town – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 6 Drums

Make That Groove Smooth

The main focus of this song is the groove. It features one handed 16th notes played at 74bpm with some 16th note bass drums thrown in to make it sound funky. The tips given in the book for this song indicate that the 16th notes on the hi-hat should be played evenly yet with a bouncy feel. Normally when I think bouncy I think of a shuffle, but this song is not a shuffle. So how do we play evenly yet bouncy?

I believe that evenly refers to the spacing of the 16th notes – they need to be a perfectly spaced  1 e & ah 2 e & ah 3 e & ah 4 e & ah – all notes equidistant apart. To add the bouncy element, I decided to accent the &s on the hi-hat. If you watch my right hand on the hi-hat, you’ll notice that I allow my right hand to drop down a little bit on the &s so the shoulder of the stick catches the edge of the hi-hat a little more and produces a slightly louder, thicker sound than the other three 16th notes. You can experiment with this, you might want to accent all of the 8th notes which another common way of adding movement to a 16th note hi-hat pattern. Whatever you do, just make sure it doesn’t interfere with the even spacing of the notes.

By accenting the offbeat in this manner you also tie in rhythmically with the guitar for most of the song. You may want to experiment with just accenting the offbeats when the guitar is playing the same rhythm.

Woof Woof – Is That A Barking Hi-Hat?

Most of the fills in this song feature hi-hat barks. It’s something you often hear funk drummers doing & we previously encountered in grade 5 with Prince’s Musicology. Working on speed exercises with your feet will help with the execution of this fill. Practice playing 16th notes between your feet until you can get them clean & even.

hi-hat barks - drum lessons in singapore - rhythm house
Prepare to bark

Once you can play clean 16ths between your feet, then you can introduce your right hand hitting the hi-hat hi-hat together with the bass drum.

Hi-hat barks exercise 2

If you have been playing clean 16 notes between your feet, then you should now get consistent sounding open hi-hats barking on the es & ahs. Try altering how much you open the hi-hat by controlling it with your foot. Opening it different amounts will give very different results. Normally you don’t want to open it very much at all as you want the hi-hats to sizzle together. The less you open the hi-hats, the easier it will be to do it at faster tempos as your foot doesn’t have to go up  down so far.

Keep working on this until you can get a consistent sound for all the open hi-hats. You can cheat on this by setting your hi-hats to be open just a little bit when your foot isn’t on the pedal. However, I recommend learning to control your left foot though & being able to choose how open the hi-hat is so you have full control of the sound you get.

32nd Note Fills

Unlike most other Trinity rock & pop songs, all the fills for this song are spelt out for us. Most of the fills occur after the hi-hat barks on the & of four and are played as 32nd notes on the snare. The song is at 74bpm, so playing 32nd notes is the same as playing 16th notes at 148bpm. Hopefully you’ve been working on your single stroke roll speed! We only need short bursts of speed for these fills so they should be achievable. Work with a metronome to lock in your timing.

Did You Get Spooked?

This is probably one of the easier grade 6 songs to play as the groove stays consistent throughout the song and the fills are quite repetitive. However, you need to commit to making that groove sound good and to keep it sounding the same throughout the song. Work on playing the hi-hat in a relaxed manner so you’re hand doesn’t get fatigued playing all those 16th notes. Make those hi-hat barks as consistent as possible too.

The 2018 version of the Trinity Grade 6 Rock & Pop book is great to work through if you’re around 3.5 – 4 years into your drumming career. You don’t have to take the exam to benefit from the book. The songs are great to work on & fun to play and will help to improve your drumming. In Singapore you can find the book at Robert Piano – Paragon Shopping Centre (and probably their other outlets). It’s also available from Amazon if you’re happy to pay the shipping!

Don’t forget to check out our youtube channel & subscribe for more videos!

If you’re in Singapore &  haven’t had a free trial lesson with us, sign up for one here!

The Alabama Shakes – Hold On – Trinity Rock & Pop Initial Grade

Have you got the shakes? The Alabama Shakes? Just Hold On for a minute, this video will cure them!

The Alabama Shakes – Hold On – Trinity Rock & Pop Initial Grade Drums

Feeling better now?

Lock It In

This song appears simple on paper, there are no drum fills, no tricky grooves, no open hi-hats… only 2 crashes… just a simple 2-bar pattern… easy. The test here is in locking in with the band.

At the start of the song the acoustic guitar and  the bass guitar are playing the same pattern as our bass drum. We need to try and make it sound like it’s all being played by one person at exactly the same time.

When the verse starts, the acoustic guitar drops out and we’re left to lock in with just the bass guitar. In the middle of the verse the electric guitar starts playing on beats 2 and 4. Your snare drum should be locking in with the rhythm guitar part while your bass drum is still following the bass line.

Are you recording  yourself? Are you listening to yourself? Are you really locked in? Could you get a bit tighter? Try!

Ignorance Is Bliss

Sometimes in songs, some of the instruments play rhythms that may be a counter to ours – slotting in between our main beats on our bass drum or snare. Or they may just give more or less energy to a song. It’s easy to get distracted by these parts, lose our focus, and speed up or slow down with this new energy the part is bringing to the song. You need to learn to ignore these distractions and focus on locking in with the band members that are playing the main rhythm with you.

A good example of where you need to ignore another player is the busy electric guitar part in the chorus of this song. The electric guitar is now playing a busier 8th note pattern over the top of the bass guitar and acoustic guitar. The bass guitar and acoustic guitar are still playing the same pattern as your bass drum as they did in the beginning. However, the busier, louder, more energetic electric guitar gives a new energy to the song and you may find yourself wanting to speed up here. DON’T! Try actively listening to the acoustic guitar and bass guitar rhythm instead and focus on keeping your bass drum together with them.

Take It To The Stage

In live shows, drummers often use monitor speakers, or in ear monitors to hear what the rest of the band (and sometimes themselves) are playing. Often when setting up the monitors, the drummer will have the rest of the rhythm section mixed in louder than the lead instruments to help them focus on locking in with the band. It varies from drummer to drummer and on the playing situation.

To start with you may not have that luxury playing live & I’ve been in situations where the sound engineers have forgotten to turn on my monitors at the start of the show or have forgotten my monitor mix totally & given me a mix where all I can hear is my kick drum or the lead singer… not very helpful when you’re trying to hold down a busy groove with your bassist!

Learning how to listen through the noise to hear the players you need to lock in with is an essential skill to develop. Being able to play one handed and make gestures with the other hand, rude or otherwise, at sound engineers is a skill you’ll also want to develop.

The 2018 version of the Trinity Rock & Pop Initial Grade book is great to work through if you’re just starting your drumming journey. You don’t have to take the exam to benefit from the book. The songs are great to work on & fun to play and will help to improve your drumming. In Singapore you can find the book at Robert Piano – Paragon Shopping Centre (and probably their other outlets). It’s also available from Amazon if you’re happy to pay the shipping!

Don’t forget to check out our youtube channel & subscribe for more videos! We’re adding more videos all the time so don’t forget to check back regularly.

Have you seen our demonstration of all of the songs at the initial grade in our Trinty Rock & Pop Drums Initial Grade Youtube Playlist?

If you’re in Singapore &  haven’t had a free trial lesson with us, sign up for one here!