Can you really learn to drum online?
BY: Matthew Rusk
03 August 2021
One of the more positive aspects to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic is the adaptability and determination demonstrated by music teachers. Ensuring that they continue to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to enjoy lessons and to keep some normality amongst so much disruption.
Matthew Rusk, founder of mgrmusic.com, and MusicTeacher.com had the opportunity to chat with a member of his teaching community – Mike Keane, about how as a drum teacher, Mike made the transition to online teaching and what impact he has experienced with the change.
There are certain subjects, instruments and activities that were well suited to the switch online that took place in 2020. Language classes, for example, seamlessly made the transition, followed by relatively compact instruments like guitar, bass and ukulele, all of which can fit a sizeable part of the instrument in frame when using online video platforms.
Yet, for other instruments learning online might be at best challenging and at worst impossible. The question is, what can drummers expect from online learning and is it even possible when learning to play the drums?
Professional drum teacher Mike Keane shared with me his experiences in moving his tuition online and the experiences of his drum students. For him and his students it is clear, that with a bit of work and the right set-up, it is entirely possible for students to learn to play the drums online.
As Mike reflects, “although it takes some time getting used to not being next to someone”, online tuition unlocks a whole range of new opportunities for teachers and students. One of his favourites is that his is able to record the lesson, indeed “as soon as the lesson is over they can rewatch it, this means that you can get through more stuff and I will often catch myself saying during a lesson ‘refer back to this bit in the recording’”.
The lesson itself is transformed from a single event in time to a persistent resource for the student to refer to, enabling them to rewind, review and reabsorb the information that was shared during the session.
The increased accessibility has also been something that Mike has noticed, with parents enjoying that they no longer need to travel to a studio to drop their child off for lessons. Though this accessibility is limited by an individual’s ability to get a good internet connection and the right equipment, which at times either isn’t financially or technical possible.
Indeed, all aspects of the online drum lesson set-up intrigued me after hearing 'horror stories' from other drum teachers of students holding a mobile in one hand to film and hitting the drums with the other, all while the drum sound itself overloaded the mobile mic. Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case for Mike, with “the majority of time people being really understanding when the internet isn’t working” and very open to getting a phone/tablet holder to enable them to focus on drumming during the lessons.
Teaching the drums online has also distinct differences to in-person lessons, for example, Mike shared that he is “doing a lot more demonstrating, with not being in the room it is a little bit more tricky of how to develop that side”, this changed approach is summarised by his thought that in online lessons a teacher is “not playing so much, but having an impact”.
The lesson content itself is “more exercise based, not playing to music as much”, backed up with home exercises that encourage playing with music and ultimately playing with other musicians when the situation allows. Most significantly, from a teaching point of view, Mike highlighted that he believes that online lessons and graded exams are now here to stay, so that having had the experience to "figure teaching online out" his teaching is now “a bit more future-proof”. Ultimately, Mike feels teaching online “is just another skill set for a music teacher - you have to be keen on evolving”.
Having spoken with other drum teachers, students and parents, it is clear that learning to play the drums online is certainly a possibility for families and drummers who are able to acquire a good internet connection and few key items of equipment to make it happen. With a small adjustment period, a bit of patience and an acknowledgement from both sides that the learning process is going to be different in approach, but with the same end goals, learning to play the drums online is a possibility that all drummers can consider as a viable option.
A special thanks to Mike Keane for being interviewed about his drum lessons and to Matthew Rusk for doing the interview.
You can find out more about Mike’s tuition by visiting his Skype Drum Lessons page and reading about how you can book your first online lesson with him. Mike is part of MusicTeacher.com, an international community of music teachers able to help you succeed on your chosen instrument.