Ron Tierno - Beginner Instruction
Many music instructors can be intimidating by giving difficult assignments, or using teaching techniques that are not appropriate for you. As a professional musician with over 30 years of teaching and performance experience, I customize my lessons to suit the needs and abilities of each student!
Children of the 21st century are inundated with information. Before television, a piano was the first family home entertainment center. The 1950s and '60s brought rock n’ roll music into the hearts and minds of a generation. Today, learning an instrument must compete with hundreds of TV channels, video games, computers, and overlapping combinations of stimuli that provide instant gratification.
Why would a child want to spend hours every week practicing something that can’t be mastered with a few mouse clicks or keystrokes? This is a question I grapple with everyday. I feel today’s music educators need a fresh approach.
In recent years I have instructed more adults who never touched an instrument before in their lives, though they have always wanted to learn how to play. For whatever reason, they never tried music lessons. Perhaps they were too busy pursuing a career or raising a family or didn’t know how to locate a teacher, or worried that it would be intimidating to approach a large music school. Times have changed! I take a slightly different approach with my introductory adult lessons. An adult often wants faster results than a child. Children are able to absorb new languages easier than the hard-wired adult brain. I accentuate the advantages of adulthood: a fully developed body and a longer attention span. Adults tend to have better stick control, more agile movement around the drums and facility operating the foot pedals. It is especially gratifying to see the joy on the face of an adult who is playing drums to a song they could only tap their foot along with before. For a kid, learning something new is an everyday event, but an adult really appreciates the feeling and this is a joy that shows.
THE FIRST LESSON
I begin by introducing each element of the drum set, explaining how each component contributes to a song. Then the child will learn how to grip the sticks, though I don’t dwell on this at the outset because it takes time to get the proper feel for a stick in your hand. It is similar to learning how to hold a pen or pencil for the first time. I have the student try various combinations of stick strokes to demonstrate how the fingers, wrist, and forearm interact to control the bounce of the stick off the drum. By teaching the student to do stick combinations in groups of four (RLRL, RRLL, RRRL LLLR), I introduce the concept of meter that requires the student to count to four in an even cadence while looking at four quarter notes. Then the bass drum is added on all four beats, or the 1st and third beat, followed by the hi-hat on the 2nd and fourth beat. At some point I will evaluate their innate sense of time (hearing the beat in music) by having him or her tap out those four quarter notes to a song. We might not get all four limbs coordinated right away, but ultimately my goal is to have the student play to a recording by the end of the first lesson.