Music & Technology

Playing drums looks so easy until you start learning it. Yes, the beats are easy to catch when you listen to a song, but when you actually learn how to hit the other instruments to a song, it turns out to be difficult.

 

Like other musical instruments, playing with beats is easy to learn when you are a child. If you have a child that wants to learn this, then encourage them to learn it now than later. In that way, they can master the skills needed for playing with beats over time.

 

Techniques In Learning Drums

 

When it comes to kids, it’s important that they learn kid-friendly techniques so that they can learn a musical instrument easily. Here are some of the tips and reminders you should remember if you or your child is starting to learn how to play with beats.

 

  1. Pick a set your size.

 

Except for pianos, you can find a size that fits you or your child. Since children have shorter arms and a shorter height, buying a set that will accommodate their height is a must. This will help them move better because all the pieces of the set will be within their reach as compared to if they learned from an adult set.

 

You can buy sets for kids in department stores or on online websites of the brand of your choice. However, it is highly recommended that you view the set in person so that your child can check if it’s the right fit for them.

 

  1. Know how to grip the drumsticks properly.

 

One of the first lessons they will learn is how to hold the drumsticks properly. The right way to hold it is to start placing the stick on your palm when your palm is facing up. The stick should be in a 45-degree angle so a side of it should touch your thumb and the rest of the stick is slanted towards your chest. Then, curl your thumb and your other fingers to the stick and face your hand downward. This way, your child will have a firm grip on the sticks and they won’t be flying around when they start hitting the set.

 

  1. Take note of your posture.

 

Before your child even starts spending so much time practicing, make sure that they got their posture right. The right posture in playing percussion instruments is to sit up straight, without your back curling or slouching. Your neck should also follow and your shoulders. Even if you will be reaching out to different pieces of the set, your shoulders should be thrown back and not crouched forward.

 

Why is posture important? It may not be obvious but bad posture can affect the quality of your practice and your health in the long run. Bad posture can lead to back and neck pains which will make it uncomfortable to practice. At the same time, some joint problems can occur if you continue practicing with bad posture. These things might just discourage your child from practice.

 

  1. Develop a listening ear.

 

Some people claim that they don’t have an ear for music, but this does not mean that it remains like that. Yes, there are kids who are born to play with beats or are considered natural in playing this musical instrument. However, this should not be a reason for those who aren’t “a natural” should give up.

 

If you notice your child having a problem, encourage them to learn how to listen to the beats carefully and to apply it step-by-step. Since they are children, it is only natural that they think they have followed a certain pattern of beats even if in reality, they haven’t. What you or their teacher should teach them is to learn how to listen carefully and to pick up the beat in every song.

 

  1. Familiarize themselves with musical notes and symbols.

 

Last but not the least is that they should familiarize (or better yet, memorize!) musical notes and notations when it comes to playing with this musical instrument. This is a must because it will be hard for your kid to keep up if they can’t read notes and musical sheets. This can also be a cause of delay for when your child is learning a song.

 

 

About Darren (the author):

Darren Perkins is a drummer, teacher, and the owner of Red Drum Music Studio, a studio in Melbourne that teaches kids – and kids at heart – how to play drums. His fascination of everything related to drums, music, and education has led him to share his own experiences and ideas online through guest blogging.

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Most recording software allows you to see and edit the midi notes you have recorded with the “piano roll” editor. This is a simple and logical method of visualizing sound and adjusting it to the desired outcome.

The name piano roll comes from a technology developed in the late nineteenth century. Originally, a piano roll was used to trigger the playback of a pianola or player piano by using a series of cutout dashes on a cardboard roll which would tell the mechanism what keys on the piano should be triggered.

How to Read the “Piano Roll” Editor

Back to the twenty-first century. When some midi data has been recorded on a keyboard connected to a computer, the recording software normally allows the data to be edited in the piano roll editor. (Shown in the diagram is the piano roll editor from Cubase, a recording software product from a company called Steinberg).

On the “y” axis is the pitch. Logically, the higher the position of the recorded event, the higher the pitch. You can see that the octaves are numbered starting from C to B.

On the “x” axis is time. At the top of the diagram, you can see the bar (measure) numbers. In this instance, each bar is subdivided  into 4 parts which represent crotchet (quarter-note) beats. It is easy to see whether a note has been played early, on time or late. These notes can be recorded using a click track, which is a metronome that runs in perfect synchronisation with the recording to aid the performer to stay in time, vital if other instruments are added later. It’s an interesting exercise to see how well a student can synchronize to the click track to assess their timing skills. Of course, if the timing needs improving, all recording software will allow you to snap each note to the nearest rhythm line using a feature called “quantise” or by manually adjusting the start of the note with the mouse. As well as adjusting the “note-on,” you can also adjust the “note-off” either by “quantisation” or again, manually. As you can see in the above diagram, some notes are overlapping. I find it useful to show a student the piano roll, whilst listening back, so they can see where they need to improve. This has always been a very effective method of motivating improvement in their technique because they can not only hear but see where they are going wrong.

The final area I want to share with you in this article is the velocity lane. Put simply, it represents the volume of each note as shown by the bar graph at the bottom of the diagram. Notice how the volume of each note is color coordinated with red being loud, blue being quiet and the middle shades representing volumes between these two extremes. Again, listening back to a student’s performance will quickly help them to hear and see whether they have control of their fingers and a mastery of dynamics. If needed, it is easy to adjust the volume of individual notes or draw in crescendos and diminuendos.

Only Pianos?

Piano rolls are not just for piano and keyboard players! Midi drum kits and guitars are available to buy which will connect to a computer running recording software. The piano roll editor can then be used on these instruments too to see and edit note events.

2 Great Applications

Using the piano roll is a great teaching tool to help students hear and see where they are going wrong in their technique and a way to assess whether they are improving. Also, it provides a powerful way to perfect a recording that can later be converted into an mp3 file to share with family and friends which acts as a great motivator to students.

 

 

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Love ’em or hate ’em, computers are here to stay and are rapidly permeating most areas of our lives. Music is no exception.

There’s music software ranging from humble metronome and tuning duties, right through to sophisticated composition and recording, and everything in-between! In preparing the next generation of musicians, integrating music technology into our lessons is therefore an important aspect of our student’s development.

But where to start? What software should students use? Will it be expensive? What skills need to be taught?

Over the next few months I will looking at some of the basic concepts of music technology that I teach in my music lessons as well as sharing some advanced techniques learnt from my experiences as a freelance composer and producer.

So why incorporate music technology in lessons?

  • It brings exciting variety into the lessons for both us as teachers and for our students
  • Particularly good for engaging teenage boys but I’m equally pleased to see the enthusiasm of my female students too
  • Helps give us a “USP (unique selling point)” when students are looking for a new teacher
  • Playing back to students what they written or recorded and allowing them to “see” their music is a very powerful method of learning
  • Helps us stay relevant as teachers
  • Gives students skills that they will be need in the future

What software is available?

For simplicity, I would divide music software into three basic roles:

  1. Software for notating sheet music
  2. Software for recording
  3. Utility software for tuning, metronome duties, guitar pedal software, drum machines, soft synths, etc.

How much?!

The good news is you don’t have to spend a penny! There is much legitimate, free software out there and some of it is exceptional. Beware that there is a lot of illegal, cracked software that may be very tempting. As teachers, we need to set a good moral/ethical example to our students and their parents. Software developers rely on sales to fund future releases and cracked software often contains bugs that can cause serious problems.

Notation software

NoteFlight is a fantastic free web based product and has provided a very good starting point for lots of my students. As their skills develop, some students have upgraded to Sibelius First, which can later be upgraded to the industry standard Sibelius. It is worth mentioning Finale which is another highly respected notation package in the music industry.

Recording software

There are many great products available for recording. You many hear of them referred to as DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations).

Apple provide their free entry level product GarageBand on their iPhones, iPads and MacBooks which is simple to use and can later be updated to their flagship product Logic (available on Macs but not the iPhones or iPads). With the Apple Camera Kit and a USB cable (same as a USB printer cable), you can connect a midi keyboard to record music. Bluetooth keyboards are now available so that you don’t need to use cables anymore! Guitars and microphones can also be connected for use. IK Multimedia provide some great products for singers, guitarists and keyboard players to interface with their mobile devices for recording.

Cubase is a long respected DAW which has the benefit of being cross-platform (I run it on both my PCs and Macs) and has been my weapon of choice since I was 14! It comes in three flavours, Elements (entry-level), Artist and then the full version.

Finally, I would like to mention a website called MusicRadar which is a fantastic resource for learning about software products and learning about how to use music technology.

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