Blog Post #8, Two New Songs?!

As you may notice there is no blog post #7 and that is because we were allowed to choose between blog post #7 and #8. I picked #8 solely because I preferred the suggested topics and I found it wrapped up the project better. Now, before I jump into this weeks topics of interruptions and attitude, I would like to share with you the completed covers of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana, and ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran. The piece are listed pieces are linked below in the order listed above.

We will be playing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, as well as ‘Today’ (linked in a previous blog post) at In-Depth night.

Moving along to this weeks topics of interruptions and attitude. For myself, this is something I struggle with. Many times I will either fill in what the other person will say in my head and want to reply right away or have something to add, but it may not be necessary at that point in time. I find, sometimes, it takes a lot of concentration to not constantly interrupt someones sentence/ train of thought because I have a response that may not be relevant once they finish speaking. Looking back on some conversations with my mentor, I remember when he was explaining how to read drum rudiments. I had many questions and comments about how it related to other instruments I play and I found myself speaking before it was my turn in the stream of the conversation. A lot of our conversations were fairly casual, so this did not seem to greatly affect our flow of conversation. However, I could see how this could potentially be an annoyance to be constantly be interrupted, so once I noticed it, I focused on letting him finish his train of thought before I spoke. For many who have spoken to me in class, they would know I continue to struggle with this daily, but I do try and wait my turn when I realize what I’m doing.

Much of what I said above directly relates to my attitude, or the attitude of the conversation. When I say that, I am referring to how my mentor and I react and act while listening in speaking in the conversation. A persons attitude can set the mood and the flow of the conversation. When it came to talking to my mentor boredom was never something I experienced. I was always eager to learn more, and of course jump in to the conversation whenever I could. However, there were days where one of us would be more tired than the other and I found that would affect the attitude of the conversation. For example, there was one day where my mentor had woken up at 5am and he had a rugby game right after our lesson and he appeared much more under the weather then I had ever seem him before. He was still attentive, but he was less enthusiastic, and kept his points short and concise. Another attitude I observed in our conversations was equality. By that I mean, each person had equal respect for the other and neither my mentor or I talked down to the other. I appreciate when adults speak to me as a person and not as a child. I find it adds a better flow in there conversation and it made learning the drums much more enjoyable. One conversation I remember was when we were re-setting up my drums and he had me moving different drums/cymbals to different areas, but he also allowed me to have a say and mention if I felt he was wrong or if, for example, the snare drum needed to be moved closer to my body.

In conclusion, interruptions and attitude are a clear part of every conversation. They are definitely things I struggle to balance when speaking to others, and I will continue to work on finding a happy-medium. Aside from that I am really glad to have had the opportunity to  do this project and learn how to play the drums. It has been an instrument I’ve wanted to learn for years now and this project opened the door. I do plan on continuing on playing and banging at my drums for fun and as a hobby, but I’m not sure whether I will continue it next year as I have so many interests and so many skills I would love to try. I want to finish off by saying this has been an amazing experience and Im looking forward to doing it again next year!

In-Depth Post #6, First SoundCloud Upload

Given that my previous most was approximately one week ago, I can’t say much has really changed. However, we did move our band practice to Friday so that there would be something new to discuss for this weeks theme of concepts and alternatives. But before I get into that, I have an exciting announcement! We have officially posted our first song on SoundCloud! It is not yet perfect, and I will admit the sound quality is lacking, but we have put in a lot of effort to get to where we are and we hope you will enjoy our rendition of Today by The Smashing Pumpkins.

As a band it has taken us quite a while to get to a level at which we are fully comfortable on our instruments. But now that we have found the rhythm and the feel for our instruments, as well as playing in a band, we will have our 5 songs done in no time. Next weekend I will be posting a follow up blog post with our second recording of ‘Today’ with our vocalist Anika Venkatesh, who as unfortunately unable to make it to our last rehearsal. Fingers crossed that by then we will be able to figure out a better balance for our playing, so the recording won’t sound as heavy on the drums :)

Moving along to concepts and alternatives, which is actually a harder topic for me to write about. I still haven’t met with my mentor in a while, so I will have to refer back to meetings we have had before spring break, as well as things I have learned from my bandmates. These are also two very broad topics, so I have chosen to focus as equally on both as I can and provide a couple examples to give you a bigger understanding and insight on my learning.

Now, starting with concepts, a lot of concepts with drumming have to do with technique, timing, and rhythm, and less to do with the actually patterns and drums played at each given time. Some of the main concepts I try to focus on and remember while Im playing is to relax, count in my head (feel the music), and keep my heal up. Unlike piano and other instruments I have played, drums isn’t about perfection its about feeling the music and keeping a tempo for your band to follow. If you slip up or hit the wrong drum, just keep going, the likely hood of the audience noticing is very slim. That is, as long as you don’t lose the tempo/beat. As I have said before you are keeping the tempo that the whole band will follow, which brings me to my second concept of counting in my head. I have discovered that the easiest way for me to keep the beat is to hear the song in my head and follow the beat I think it would have. As crazy as it sounds, it has really helped me, and I think my progress has shown in the recording above. Lastly, I said to keep your heal up. Obviously that isn’t as big as the other ones, but when playing the drums you want power over the drum kit. Especially with the rock songs we have chosen to play. And because I don’t have a ton of muscle in my legs, it helps to keep my heal off the ground when hitting the bass drum, so I can control and give as much force as necessary. I remember the first day when my mentor reminded me almost 6 times to lift my heal up.

Alternatives are a bit less straight forward. I can’t list alternatives, as there hasn’t been a set rule or rules that I follow. Alternatives just arise here and there during my mentor and band sessions. A lot of drumming is coming up with alternatives. In other words, ways to make it easier on yourself and/or the band. This comes up especially often when reading other peoples drum notation because everyone’s is different. When I read over drum notation written by someone else it will generally work with the music, but there have been many times with the music unclear, or to hard for the level I am at, which is where alternatives come into play. During band practices I can’t say to my band, “Oh, sorry, I won’t be able to play today, as I can’t play this music.” It is disrespectful to the band and puts us all in a position where we can’t get anything done. Instead, I need to come up with alternatives and ways to adjust the piece to fit my ability. Some alternatives might be simplifying the music by taking out some sixteenth beats and replacing them with eighth and/or quarter beats, as well as changing a rhythm to something more suitable to the rhythm the rest of the band is playing at the time. I do believe it is becoming easier for me to come up with my own alternatives without my mentor. And it excites me to see the progress.

In-Depth Post #5, Slow But Steady Wins The Race

The past weeks have been slow moving, but thats not to say that nothing has happened. It has just been rather uninteresting, or bland for a lack of a better word. I have not been able to meet with my mentor recently because he lives out in Vancouver and it is hard for him to find the time to drive out here for drum sessions. Fortunately he is the rugby coach at our school and the rugby practices are conveniently at the same time as theatre production. On these days he would give me a lift home and we would have our session. But during the last week before spring break theatre production ran late and I wasn’t able to meet one last time before our two weeks off. And this brings me to today. I had decided to wait on this blog post so I would have the chance to reflect on our most recent band practices instead of my mentor sessions.

Over the break we have had two band practices. One with Kody, but without Tim, and the other with Tim, but without Kody. We wanted to make sure that each member of our band could attend at least one band practice so they wouldn’t miss out on to much. As far as the band practices go these have definitely been a big improvement. Our first piece, Today, is almost complete and our second piece, Smells Like Teen Spirit, is not far behind. With the amount of progress we made, we decided to add a third song that will either be Demons by Imagine Dragons or Perfect by Pink. We tried playing both songs by improvising and playing along to the songs to our best ability. Neither song was particularly difficult, so it looks like Kody will have the deciding vote when he gets back from Europe.

Aside from our band practices, the rest of my progress was solo progress. As I mentioned above, I did not meet with my mentor, so instead I have been chugging along slowly on my own. I have developed a couple strategies while practicing that help me keep the beat, as well as create new rhythms/patterns while playing. The first strategy has been playing along with our pieces on Rock Band and concentrating on feeling the rhythm and keeping the beat. I don’t try to play complicated patterns. My goal is to feel the beat and keep the same tempo for the whole song without losing it. The other strategy has been picking random songs and improvising. I try to come of with new rhythms and patterns that mesh with the music. Looking at De Bonos six hats, I feel that in following these strategies I have had to put on the red hat. A lot of drumming is about feeling the music, as well as the beats and emotions. Drumming is a lot less strict of an instrument and it requires you to let your body tell you whats right and whats wrong. It is all based on intuition and what you feel is the best at that moment. The other hat I feel I have been wearing in following these strategies is the green hat. This may seem like an interesting pair, but the green hat is what sparks creativity and thinks up all the alternate possibilities, or in this case new rhythms. Together the red hat and green hat are what I believe is the key to improvising and playing the drums.

In conclusion, the progress in the past couple weeks has clearly been slow and steady. Emphasis on the slow. Next week I will be meeting up with my mentor again to show him my progress and fingers-crossed he is impressed. If he isn’t them that probably means I have been practicing my parts wrong these past couple weeks and I really hope that isn’t the case. Nevertheless, I am excited to have another session and see what ups and downs the next two weeks bring.

In-Depth Post #4, A New Singer!?

In my opinion, these past few weeks have been very successful, busy and at some points hectic, but still successful. So much has happened that frankly I’m not even sure where to start. Since the last time I blogged, I have met with my mentor twice, almost mastered the rhythms for “Today’, and found a new lead singer for the band.

As I mentioned above, my mentor and I have now met for a total of two practices. Mike (my mentor) and I have been solely working on ‘Today’ by the Smashing Pumpkins for the time being until I can play all the rhythms at the tempo of the song. There is one particular line in the music that I have been struggling with, but Mike has been teaching me techniques to break down the rhythms and make them easier to play. For next week he said he would have ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ written in drum notation for me to attempt with the assumption that I will have ‘Today’ down pat. I think I am definitely growing as drummer and slowly but surely developing my own style. I don’t think I could have found a better mentor.

When it comes to playing as a band I can hear difference in the quality of our music. We have become more confident with our instruments and much stronger at our parts. ‘Today’ is starting to sound pretty good, and thankfully we have reached a point where Rock Band isn’t leading the band anymore. On top of that, our band also found a new lead singer this week to help us out at our performance at In-Depth Night. Her name is Anika Venkatesh. She is a future grade 9 TALONS’ student with a phenomenal voice. She has been singing for quite a few years and has had solos in many of our choir pieces throughout middle school. Anika came to our most recent band practice this past weekend and I don’t think things could have gone any better. She meshed really well with everyone and she has become a great asset to our band.

Going back to my practices alone with my mentor, in this past session I tried to incorporate some of the skills from de Bonos book. I asked many questions to further my knowledge on drumming and get an insight on the different techniques that Mike uses while he is playing. Many of the general knowledge questions were shooting questions with a straightforward answer, but I tried to also ask some fishing questions to not only gain knowledge, but also bond with my mentor through something we both enjoy. One of the main questions I was really curious about was, how did his band start? This question obviously isn’t directly related to drumming, but it allowed me to learn something new about my mentor and get to know him that much more. A key component to asking questions is listening and paying attention. Even if you are multitasking it is important to listen to the other person and let them know that what they are saying is valuable to you. It’s pointless to ask a questions if you aren’t planning on listing to the answer. Next week I will continue asking questions and hopefully developing some more fishing questions once I feel I have a very solid foundation of vernal knowledge.

In conclusion I am proud of the progress I have made so far, both alone and as a band and I excited to have the chance to share all of our hard work at In-Depth night. Somehow it seems to be coming up so fast!

In-Depth Post #3, Our First Song

In these past couple weeks I have seen a huge improvement in my drumming. In this past week in particular, I think I have taken a big leap in skill level from when I first started off banging away at Tim’s drum set. I have finally reached a point in my practicing where I much more confident on comfortable with the drum set and I look forward to playing it, or, as some would say, “making loud rhythms for the whole world to hear on it.” I’m afraid my garage doesn’t have very good insulation.

My progress on our first piece, ‘Today’ by The Smashing Pumpkins, has been going very smoothly. I have now upped the tempo a bit more, and while I would still say I am playing slowly, I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am playing “VERY slowly” like I did in my last post. I am also starting to get the rhythms in ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana; however, that piece I am playing EXTREMELY slowly. Not only does it consist of harder rhythms and patterns than ‘Today’, but I’m also singing that song which adds another level of difficulty to the peice. Overall the hardest part of both the pieces has definitely been reading the sheet music. Drum notation is the most inconsistent component in drumming, each artist and composer uses their own methods of writing the music, which causes a lot of difficulty to beginners like myself. I have spent countless hours googling different drum notation and watching YouTube videos to make sure I am playing the correct drum and/or symbol at the correct time. I have been writing down all my questions and anything I was unsure about, mainly with drum notation, so that I can bring it up at my first meeting with my mentor.

I guess I kind of spoiled the biggest plus of this past week in the last sentence of the paragraph above, but I finally found a mentor! As I mentioned in my last post, my sister’s piano teach had contacted a drummer she knew to see if he would be available to be my mentor and he wrote back this week and agreed to meet with me for the first time this upcoming Monday (Feb. 9th). His name is Mike Edin and he was the drummer in the band Amusia. They post all their music on Sound Cloud (https://soundcloud.com/amusiamusic) and I have already had the opportunity to listen to most of it. I really started to feel the beat of their music and hear the drumming, which has made me even more excited to finally meet and learn from Mike. I also found their lead singer very impressive. He has amazing vocals and I think my favourite pieces would have to be ‘War Machine’ and ‘The Final Cry’. I have now downloaded the Sound Cloud app specifically for their music.

In the end, I think these past few weeks have been very productive and I proud of what I have accomplished. Hopefully, in my next post, two weeks from now, I will have more to say about my mentor and I will be able to share the details of our first meeting. I’m also hoping to be able to make more connections to the part from How to Have a Beautiful Mind in my last post about agreeing, disagreeing, and differing and how those really did occur in our sessions, rather than what I assume will happen. I’m really stoked about what is still to come and also I can’t wait to finally complete our first piece as a band.

In-Depth Post #2, Bonding as a Band

On Saturday the 24th of January, Tim, Kody, Nicole and I met at my house for the first our first band practice. It wasn’t so much of a practice as it was a bonding experience, because we were all still trying to understand and learn the basics of our instruments. We each took turns playing for each other and demonstrating what we had learned so far. Aside from that, we did a lot of planning. The main issue was choosing a singer, which is still a little up in the air, but I think we have it narrowed down to two options. Either, all of us will sing a song, or tim will pose as our lead singer. As it turns out, Rock Band proved to be very useful in choosing a singer. We had each person sing one of the songs from our list which the others attempted to play along on their instruments. This also really helped with team bonding, which I think will be very good as we delve further into this project.

Band Practice

As for myself, I think I am grasping onto the basics of drumming pretty well. I have started to get the feel for the drum kit and I can now play ‘Today’ by the Smashing pumpkins at a VERY slow tempo. My parents still run upstairs and hide in their bedroom while I practice, but for the first time my sister stayed downstairs, so I think that means I must be improving. I’m still working out the rhythms of the other four pieces. Who knew Green Day would end up being the hardest piece to play? From the start I was under the impression that it wold be Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ that would the trickiest for me to play, not that I can play that one yet either. Unfortunately, I still don’t have a mentor. However, my younger sister’s piano instructor knows a drummer that she thinks would be a great mentor. His band isn’t super popular, but I was able to listen to his music on his band’s sound cloud page and I really like their pieces. My sister’s piano teacher has contacted him and she said she will get back to me shortly. Fingers crossed he says yes.

Moving along to the ‘How to Have a Beautiful Mind’ portion of the blog post. As I said above, I still have yet to meet my mentor, but I do believe that I can make some assumptions as to what will happen.

How To Agree:
I believe that it will be very easy for my mentor and I to agree, as we share the same interest (drums) and hopefully will want to hear what each person has to say. As the student I also really want to understand his point of view on drumming and be a teachable student, which requires me to be agreeable. At this point, I also lack the knowledge to really disagree with anything my mentor says unless it is something opinion based and not a cold, hard fact. I think, in the end, the real key to agreeing with someone is listening with them and and being open minded and not being condescending or negative about their opinions. Its easy to be agreeable, you just have to stay positive.

How To Disagree:
I don’t believe that there will be many disputes or disagreements between me and my future mentor because, as I said above, I really want to put an effort into being a teachable student. I strongly believe that being a teachable student will allow me to learn and gain the most out of this experience. However, if or when a disagreement occurs it’s always good to approach the topic delicately. It is unnecessary to cause an argument over something that can be solved by talking through it and sharing both sides of the story till you can come to a compromise, or simply agree to disagree. In other words, stay calm, you don’t always have to agree.

How To Differ:
I am an opinionated person and there are times where my opinion may differ from my mentors, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. If we always had the same opinion our conversations would be very bland and, frankly, it would be kind of weird. Its good to share your different opinions with each other and show the different methods to gain a deeper understanding. I think that talking about our different opinions in particular, will help me truly understand the drums from multiple perspectives. If I ever reach a point where my opinion is completely different from my mentors then sometimes I may also keep it to myself because sharing it may cause  more harm than good.

 

 

 

The Beginnings of a Band

Since last years In-Depth night, this has been my most looked forward too project of the year. Approximately one week after seeing everyones projects I knew I wanted to do something that had to do with filmmaking/editing. I didn’t know what or even how, just that it was something I already loved and wanted to get a better understanding of. Funny enough, when it came time to start my in-Depth project I completely switch gears, looks like Im playing drums. Tim, Jackson and I have decided to form a band ‘Dysfunctional Eagles’, each one of us playing different instruments and still having completely different in-Depth projects. But, I never completely abandoned filmmaking, in fact I will be producing our music videos as a component to show our work over the next 5 months.

To keep ourselves organized and a bit more functional, we decided to start a general timeline, with some goals set for all three of us. I have added some of my own goals into the timeline that I, myself wish to achieve during the duration of the project.

Sunday Jan. 4 to Saturday Jan. 24:
We will be practicing our instruments and learning the basics as preparation for our first piece together as a band. During this time, I hope to learn and memorize all the basic and necessary rudiments for alternative rock and punk rock as well as get a feel for the drums and gain some comfort while playing them.

Sunday Jan. 25 to Saturday Feb 6:
As a group, we will meet for first Wednesday practice of many in my garage for our first song: Holiday by Green Day. We picked this song due to its simplicity and repetition in beats as a simple started song after our previous weeks of practice.

Over the course of the 5 months the 3 of us are aiming to learn and master 5 pieces. As of now, we have decided on 4 songs (the fifth song has yet to be determined) that are listed below:
1. Holiday by Green Day
2. Basket Case by Green Day
3. Today by Smashing Pumpkins
4. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

The last song ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana, was my choice as a good goal and end piece for not only our group, but for myself. The drummer for Nirvana, Dave Grohl was one of the best drummers and I am setting my standards high and aiming to learn his drum part in that piece (I can also play piano, flute and alto saxophone, so I have an advantage, which was my reason behind the high standards).

I still have yet to find a mentor, but I hope to have found somebody over the course of the upcoming weekend. I’m planning on sending out an array of emails to a list of possible mentors that I have listed from most preferable – least preferable. Obviously I still have quite a ways to go with this project, but as of this moment, this is where I am at. Overall I am quite excited for this project and I can’t wait to see what other opportunities it brings.