Instruction

Professional level instruction for the serious musician



Technique and Body Mechanics

My goal as an instructor is to help students gain far-greater technical efficiency and utilize the body’s natural motion to their advantage.  To help them achieve a more relaxed body and mind and natural flow.  This leads to a more effective use of energy, achieving a stronger result with less effort and tension.

I observe students closely for encumbrances in their position and motion (i.e. posture, balance, grip, fulcrum, stroke, rebound, etc.).  Any obstructions to their natural expression, large or small, can be eliminated at the source.

Practice Habits

Effective practicing is like meditation. It is slow, methodical and deliberate. It is a mental process, in that you’re engaging your mind more than your hands and feet.

“Practice fast, learn slow.  Practice slow, learn fast.”

A special emphasis is put on the value of slow practice and the application of the Open-Closed-Open approach, as well as the effective use of a metronome.

Also of great importance is the observation of habits, with the intention of helping the student to break old, less-effective habits and build new, more-efficient ones.

Classic Fundamentals, Modern Context

I use lots of time-honored content and material, such as rudiments, the Stick Control book and many others, and utilize various permutations and interpretations of those texts for the development of a solid, versatile technical approach.  I also utilize more recent method books, such as Gary Chester’s The New Breed, to aid in the development of time, feel, independence, and of course, reading skills.  I work with students to help them find the center of the time and deepen their internal pulse so that they play from a more mentally (and physically) relaxed standpoint.  I have a deep catalog of charts, transcriptions and play-along materials for students to use in the development of musical styles.

I like to think of it as “old-school foundation meets a contemporary musical approach”, blending tried-and-true principals with today’s musical language.


Private Lessons

I offer private instruction out of my studio in the Chicago area. Lessons are typically 90 minutes in length, or if you prefer, sometimes a full 2-hour lesson is appropriate.  Lessons are spaced 2 to 3 weeks apart.  I find this format advantageous over the more typical half-hour, once-a-week format offered by many music stores.  I prefer more instruction time per lesson to cover a wide variety of subjects and concepts, and more time in between lessons for the student to digest and develop the material in their practice.  Each lesson is recorded on a high-quality Zoom audio/video recorder so that the student can recall and reinforce the instruction they received.


Pricing:

90-minute lesson: $110
2-hour lesson: $150

Although it can be somewhat difficult to fully demonstrate the art of ensemble playing in a one-on-one lesson (see the "Performance Coaching" section below for that), my teaching studio is set up complete with a mixer, high-quality isolation headphones (you're also encouraged to bring your own headphones or earbuds if you have a pair you like), a click track and many different types of play-along materials.  I even use a talk-back microphone in order to communicate with students in their headphones while they play.

The materials I use in my instruction (i.e. books, recordings) are materials I use currently or have worked out of extensively in my own playing (see below).  The first and most fundamental is a two-page Percussive Arts Society rudiment sheet:

PAS Rudiments

Instruction books

You can download a list of books I use most often in lessons here:

Instruction books

This is by no means a comprehensive list; just a few examples of some materials that have worked well for me and my students.  If you have specific areas in which you want to work, odds are there's something in my list that will fit the bill.  You may bring in other materials not listed here as well if you so wish.

Lesson materials

  • Please get a Spiral-bound notebook for me to write instructions in (8.5x11" standard)
  • I always recommend getting a pair of sticks that is thicker and heavier than you typically use on the kit; a Vic Firth 5B or 2B works well for me.  This is for snare drum rudiments, Stick Control, and other "hands only" practice, in order to help facilitate development of the drum stroke.
  • Some sort of digital metronome; in fact, these days, I use metronome apps for the iPad, iPod touch or iPhone.  I use both Tempo and Tempo Advance (Frozen Ape), but there are also many free apps that work just fine.
  • SD card, at least 4GB capacity (higher capacity is readily available and recommended: 16 or 32GB), for use with a stereo digital recording device.  I use a Zoom Q3HD to record every lesson I teach and give the video file to the student at the end for their use.



Performance Coaching

This is a wonderful new instructional project!

I designed this format for working musicians, for anyone who might feel stuck or stagnated at times, or for anyone who is simply looking to reach the next level in their playing.  I loosely call it Performance Coaching and I am super excited about it.

This program is intended to help those who are active performers, whether high-level college or working professionals.  It is focused towards the mental and psychological aspects of musical performance.

I observe client-supplied video and audio recordings and look for subtle obstructions, habits or difficulties in my clients’ performance so they can release them and work towards their optimal performance level.

I draw upon decades of experience as a performer and educator as well as extensive research in performance psychology and skill development to offer a unique type of consultation to professionals and aspiring performers.

Here are a few things I look for:

  • Physical relaxation/tension level and posture
  • Ergonomics and ease/naturalness of motion
  • Possible mental tendencies or physical habits, about which you might not be aware
  • Musical habits, like overusing a specific phrase, groove or fill, favoring a certain part of the kit (say a particular cymbal or tom)
  • Level of awareness or, if applicable, exact focus of awareness in ones playing
  • Overall sense of flow when playing, and at what point(s) the flow gets disrupted
  • Sense of intention with the music: does it seem like you're connecting, or going through the motions?  And finding perhaps what needs to be done in order to connect more deeply with what you're playing
  • Possible cognitive biases that might come through in playing, or with discussion
In general, I look for things the client might not concentrate on in their personal practice or during a lesson.  Thus, a general focus on mindset, habits and tendencies.

The process is enhanced with discussion and a comprehensive questionnaire which I have the client complete prior to the evaluation.



Clinics/Masterclasses

I am available for clinics and/or masterclasses at schools, colleges, festivals or other events.

Clinic:

A clinic, or workshop, is a combination of performance, demonstration and discussion of various topics related to music and drumming, usually combined with a fair amount of interaction and involvement with the audience.  I usually start with a couple performances from recent projects which would consist of a couple songs from Hamilton and/or possible recent recording projects with which I’ve been involved.  I then begin with discussion about various topics related to drumming (especially if there’s a specific area of focus at the particular event), and open things up for questions and some interaction with members of the audience.

Masterclass:

A masterclass is a group lesson or intensive session, wherein a group of people get together with an instructor and work together on various exercises or concepts.  Relative to a clinic, it’s more of (you guessed it, haha) a class, with heavy involvement from the attendees.  All students typically bring materials such as sticks, brushes or other things (depending on the topic(s) covered) and sit in front of a practice pad.  I provide handouts and other materials pertinent to the subject, and we all practice together as a group.

Overall attendance for a masterclass is usually smaller (around 20 or fewer) than that of a clinic.  A masterclass is excellent for an appearance at a school and can range anywhere from middle school to college or university.  Topics can be similar to that of clinics, but might lean a bit towards the technical side of playing.

Specific topics or areas of focus for a clinic or masterclass might include, but are not limited to, examples below (possibly more than one if time permits):

  • The development of a strong and flexible sense of time
  • Technique to leave technique: Building a strong foundation
  • Improvisation, melody and creativity on the drums
  • Building a solid and resilient career as a musician
  • Practice habits and making more effective use of practice time
  • Listening, ensemble playing and musicality
  • Reading: Notation, charts, lead sheets and reading without reading
  • Playing brushes
  • Playing in odd time signatures and mixed meters
  • Posture, ergonomics and optimal kit setup

If interested, please contact me for information.  I’d love to discuss what might be best for your school or organization!



Skype Lessons

If you live outside of the Chicago area and are interested in studying, I offer lessons via Skype. Contact me to schedule one.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A Skype account
  • A PayPal account for payment
  • A high-speed internet connection
  • A desktop or laptop computer, or device with a front-facing camera
  • Camera should be aimed at full drum kit, and having a practice pad helps, placed on snare or on a stand