New Student Guide: Drums

Modified on Tue, 20 Jun 2023 at 12:51 PM

Thank you for choosing Octopus Music School for your or your child’s musical education! Learning to play music can be a fulfilling lifelong journey and we couldn’t be happier that you have chosen us to be your guide!


TABLE OF CONTENTS


What to expect

The drum set is a great instrument which builds strength in rhythm and coordination. A drummer is expected to repeat rhythms at a steady tempo to support music. Lessons will focus on strengthening the student’s abilities to read and play rhythms as well as keeping a steady beat. In order to obtain a smooth rhythmic flow the student must repeat a drum beat many times so regular practice is the key to success!


First song

Most students can learn their first song within a few weeks of lessons. The fundamentals must be in place first: regular practice habits, proper grip, and relaxed stroke. Beginning songs can be practiced even without a drum set. All the student will need is a few designated surfaces where they can play along to music.


OPUS curriculum

Students studying at OMS will benefit from our proprietary curriculum and assessment system, OPUS (Octopus Poly-instrumental Units of Study). OPUS comprises ten grade levels, each with an accompanying assessment. Our voice curriculum emphasizes key skills that are crucial to students’ proper development. From the beginning, we emphasize safe vocal practices, sight-singing, aural training, proper breath control techniques, and overall musicianship to ensure vocal students are not just learning to use their voices, but developing skills that will translate to other musical ventures.


Ensembles

Ensembles at OMS are an integral part of our OPUS curriculum and are designed to provide students with a collaborative environment to experience the joys of making music in an intimate group with their peers. Students may begin signing up for ensembles the moment they begin studying at OMS! Barnacle Band (OPUS grade 1) is designed for complete beginners  with absolutely no experience whatsoever! Tentacle Band (OPUS grades 2-4) is for students who have completed grade 1 and have more experience than complete beginners, while OctoRock (OPUS grades 5+) is for advancing students who are very proficient at their instruments.


Advancing grade levels

Our curriculum features a 10-tiered program of advancement wherein graduation from each level is increasingly difficult. For reference, we expect students on the traditional track to graduate from Level 1 in 3-5 months. In contrast, students in Levels 8-10 who practice regularly are expected to advance in a year, or perhaps even longer, depending on the challenges presented in their studies.  In order to advance to Grades 2, 5, and 7, students must complete an ensemble class; Barnacle Band (for grade 2), Tentacle Band (for grade 5), and OctoRock (for grade 7) are our OPUS curriculum ensembles that are open to any currently enrolled students.


Practice, practice, practice!

The absolute most important aspect of learning any musical instrument is consistent daily practice. Students should aim to practice each day for the same amount of time they spend in their weekly lessons. If a student is taking a 30-minute lesson, the daily practice goal should be 30 minutes. Of course, that is the goal, and students shouldn’t aim too high in the beginning!


Tips for practice success

Try to help facilitate success by setting a time each day that the student should practice. In the beginning, it can be just a few minutes, with the intention of eventually building up to the full daily goal. It helps to set a timer and have a “practice space” where all their materials and instrument are easily accessible.


If your child has trouble making practice part of their daily routine, we recommend starting small and making goals to increase time as your child’s attention span and interest is cultivated.


How can I help my child?

The amount of adult help students need varies by age; very young students may need 15-30 minutes of parents’ daily, hands-on attention. Students should become increasingly independent in their practice over their months and years of study. If your child has trouble making practice part of their daily routine, we recommend starting small and making goals to increase time as your child’s attention span and interest is cultivated.


Listen, watch, repeat

Encourage your child to listen to music that prominently features the instrument they are learning. This can be done by simply listening to music in the car or at home, or, taking your child to live music events so they can see first-hand where all of the hard work they are putting in can lead.


Instrument selection & care

For our instrument recommendations, please consult our drum purchasing guide in our Purchasing Your First Instrument article.


Electronic vs. acoustic

At OMS we use electronic drum sets for lessons due to sound constraints but it is always recommended to have an acoustic set at home if possible. Although acoustic drums are louder it is important for a student to learn how to manage volume by adjusting how hard they hit the drums. If noise is a concern with acoustic there are pads that can be placed on the set to muffle the sound. If noise is still a major concern then buying an electronic drum set is recommended. When choosing an electronic kit make sure it has a bass drum pedal with a mallet that strikes a pad rather than just a pedal.


Lefty vs. righty

ANY drum set can be set up righty or lefty but is important to look at a chart to make sure it is done properly. OMS is one of few schools that accommodates left handed students by having them play on fully left handed drum sets. It is important to know whether the student is a left handed or right handed when assembling a drum set.


Tools of the trade


Tuner & metronome

Tuners and metronomes are on our required materials list for enrollment at OMS. That is because they are absolutely vital tools for progress! Tuner apps, such as the recommended InsTuner, are available for free on your smart device. Our recommended metronome app is called Pro Metronome. It requires a one-time fee of $2.99 and is available on Android and iOS. A physical tuner/metronome device can be generally between $15-$30.


Drum sticks

We recommend Vic Firth 7A for students 5 and under or Vic Firth 5A for students 6 and older.


Practice pad

The Evans RealFeel 6 inch practice pad is a great way for students to work on rudiments and other exercises. They can be purchased online or in a retail store and generally cost around $20.

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