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Teacher/student:

by Dave Hassell

My first comment to most new students who want to study with me is, "Sorry, I can’t teach you! But I will attempt to teach you to teach yourself." The reason for this statement is that I want the student to develop an acute awareness of what they are doing and also for them to try to understand why they are doing it, all whilst trying to get them to think for themselves from the very beginning. I believe there are learning skills which are common to all types of the ‘learning process’, be it playing drums or digging a hole! We must encourage students to develop the will to embark on the endless learning process and be prepared to accept that they will never truly master the skills in this lifetime or, in fact, several lifetimes!

I am very much against the ‘monkey see – monkey do’ approach to teaching, because this rarely addresses the ‘Why?’: why am I playing it? why am I sat here? why should I play it this way? Etc… It should be our primary objective to encourage students to think for themselves in an inquisitive, though not an arrogant, manner. I have had contact with many players who have their Grade 8 in drum-kit playing but do not have a clue to the concept of musicality of the music that they are trying to play. In fact, some do not even know why they are sat behind the drums! They learn the pieces parrot fashion and thus when asked to play something creative or improvise with the given material they are at a loss. To sum up, they have not developed any sort of musical awareness or ability to think for themselves. The myth that if you get your rudiments together and learn to read music then everything else will fall into place is just that, a myth. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!

The skills of the drum-kit player are very different from the requirements of the rudimental or orchestral player. To quote Barry Green (author of the Inner Game of Music)

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