Don't Wanna be an Idiot.
December 11, 2009 4:59 AM   Subscribe

I have an interview at a "school of rock"-esque institution, which will require me to teach the song "American Idiot" by Green Day to a group of children. I have been playing guitar for years and years, and will be able to easily teach basslines. But drums is the problem. What's the best way to teach a drumline with no previous drum experience?

Further info: The drummer that I have been assigned has been described as "advanced" (on a 1 - 3 scale). I am aware of "drum tabs"; would it be fine for me to print something like this off for him?

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
posted by jhighmore to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not the expert you're looking for. I neither teach music nor play drums. However, I've taken several workshop-style group music classes, and the absolute best one was focused on how to play together, making the leap from helping each person play their part to the best of their ability, to assuming they'll play it well enough to get by at least, and spending hte teaching energy on the interactions. In this case, the main communication was the teacher basically singing what he wanted to have happen. (Okay, so we just played "duhda dum da dum dada daaa-da daaaaa" so how about try that again, but if you add on the piano here a chord progression, A7 then resolve, bum, bum, BUM, bum, we can play off that in the melody, duhda dum da DUM dada daaDA daaaa" right? ) Basically just saying that he didn't pretend he could teach us how to play our instruments, but knew a lot about turning individual music into group music, and had no fear of looking goofy.

If you don't play or teach drumming, you can't realiztically expect to teach the drum line to the drummer, you're going to give him the tabs and assume he can read them, and/or play the song for them (I don't know if you're focusing on sheet-music playing or by-ear playing, or a combinaiton). Then your lesson could be focused on turning the drummer's part into the best contribution to the group. Maybe you could be prepared to talk about learning what to cut out (frills) to keep the contribution to the group positive/solid.

About whether to expect a child of unspecified age to know how to read drum tabs, heck if I know. Maybe you could ask the school whether the drum classes teach off of tabs.
posted by aimedwander at 7:22 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a former young drummer, I don't think you've got it too bad if the kid is indeed advanced. Give him the sheet music: and go over it with him also tell him to practice at home, to the music, via headphones.

If the notation is too tough, dumb it down and rewrite the hard parts/solos with the words "fill" or cut the notes down to what's playable.

Give the kid a 'lesson' by playing through the song beats slower without or without drums. Then have he/her practice at home before playing with everybody else. Stress that it is an important part of the song and you have faith in their ability to learn! Also, help them with some of the fills if they need help. I'm sure there are clips on Youtube.

It's Green Day, they'll like it!
posted by mymanb at 10:02 AM on December 11, 2009

In my experience, drum tabs are of little use. They are not designed to communicate rhythms, so you must listen closely to the song recording over and over to figure out what the tab says. Just like guitar tabs, different tab writers try to do this in different ways, so you can't just pick up a tab and play it. You can't learn a song quickly this way.

Can you just write out the drum beats for the kid in regular music staff notation? I imagine a Green Day song only has 2-3 different beats which you could easily write down by ear or transcribe from a drum tab. If the student is an advanced drummer, he or she should be able to keep a steady beat and switch from one to another at the chorus, verse, bridge, etc. That way you can simplify the beat as much or as little as you see fit and focus on teaching the kids to play as a group.

The only other thing you would need to communicate is exactly where you want fills played and what type are appropriate. If the student is experienced with playing in a group, he or she may already be able to do this.
posted by AtomicBee at 10:07 AM on December 11, 2009

Also, the above was for drum set. If there are multiple drummers then just write simple snare, bass, cymbal notation and get close. Also, I'd skip the drum tabs as this is an academic program.
posted by mymanb at 10:08 AM on December 11, 2009

Thank you for all your answers so far; mymanb, thanks for the link to the drum sheet music - I can actually sort of understand it so that will be helpful!

The main problem is that I can't tell the kid to "go away and practise it" because at the end of the interview/observation the kids will have to play the song there and then. And I only have an hour.
posted by jhighmore at 12:19 PM on December 11, 2009

My partner the professional drummer offers:

"mymanb has it about right. But I would concentrate on LISTENING first. Not only will it teach the student how to pick out certain parts, but the lesson can also be taught that playing in ensembles requires LISTENING to each of the other members of the ensemble."
posted by houseofdanie at 8:26 PM on December 11, 2009

By the way, this sounds kind of impossible. An hour? Geesh.
posted by houseofdanie at 8:32 PM on December 11, 2009

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