Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let's Talk Drums

I'm trying something new...if you're wanting to hang with me on a daily basis and talk drums, then you should go "like" this Facebook page.  It's where we'll be talking shop...drumming, practice, lessons, and anything else to do the drums or The Shed.  As always, you guys are awesome.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Best Way To Get More Practice Time

This is the biggest issue I deal with on a daily basis.  Sure, I teach and play for a living...but that doesn't mean I have it any easier when it comes to juggling home/work/practice time.  It's a constant push and pull to get those precious few moments to sit at the drums and improve myself as a player and musician.  But there is one tip that I give everyone that will guarantee you will get your practice time in everyday.  That is, if you're willing to pay the price.  I received a question about it the other day and this was my answer

"How can I work in more practice time with a busy professional career, wife, and two kids?"

 and my response...

"Man...I feel you with that issue. I teach and play for a living...and I STILL have trouble with the same thing. I've got two awesome kids and a great wife myself that I love spending time with.  And it's healthy to want to spend time with them.  But it's a constant juggle. You know what I've found that helps the most?  It's simple and requires some discipline, but I've been doing it for years.  Getting up half an hour to an hour earlier than anyone else. This is a great time for me to get in some practice pad time.  When I was in college, my wife woke up at 5:30 am to go to her teaching job. I would get up with her and be on the kit by 6 am. I could get 3 hours of practice time in before my first class (my neighbors weren't as excited as I was that I was getting that extra practice in at that time of the morning). I've found that no matter how busy I get, I can always set that early time aside.  That is, if I'm disciplined enough to get out of bed!  And for some it's after the family goes to bed.  I've also found that keeping a practice log or journal helps me stay focused and get the absolute most out of my limited time.  I actually have a whole section of the members area on my website set aside to talk about practice, how to organize it, and how to get the most out of your limited time.  And if you want to read some other short posts I've written on practice, you can go here.
I wish I had an easy answer!   Lol, I would use it myself.  But this one thing has enabled me to get more practice time in on a daily basis.  As a matter of fact, I woke up at 5 am this morning, got some practice time in, and am now writing this.  On second thought, maybe I need to get a life..."

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Question on Soloing

Got an email question earlier this week about soloing.

"The drumming problem I'd need help with the most is soloing. Particularly, more smoothly putting the licks together and changing rythmic scope solo to solo. I play regular w/ a jazz trio and my solos are about a 50/50 proposition. Half the time they come out nice, others it's are more rickety and stuck in re-tread licks. I feel like I could pre-conceive 2 or 3 'go to' solos. but going between ideas improvisationally makes me stumble sometimes."

"That's a tough problem. One I struggled with myself in the past, especially my senior year in college. It's actually the reason I made a whole section of the members area on the site called "The Art of Soloing".  I'm able to take students step by step through the process of working on their soloing skills.

For me, revolving the solo around a recurring theme, especially in a jazz setting, seemed to help me the most. It gave me a logical beginning and ending. I would also take smaller chunks of that theme and rearrange/morph them into other ideas during the solo. This is called Theme and Variation and is a very common practice in both the jazz world as well as the classical world.

In your practice time, try to set aside a solo practice time. Come up with a theme. Then work on incorporating ideas that you already know into that theme. Hum the tune of a familiar standard and try to outline the melody using snippets from that theme. In other words, don't focus on impressive chops...focus on dynamics, melodies, tension and release, etc. That's what will improve your soloing. Learning impressive licks and fast fills is cool...but in the end, it's about how much you make people sing what you play. How memorable your solo is.  When I'm listening to jazz, I want melodies, music, memorable lines. Not chops. Art Blakey? You can hum all of his solos. And they're impressive to boot. I think you've nailed what the issue is, now it's just working through the mechanics of stringing your ideas together more thoroughly."

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Drumming In Church But Want To Do More

Every day my inbox is filled with questions from drummers around the world.  I'm not saying that to brag or make me seem important...because I'm not.  But I do believe that there are a lot of drummers out there that are looking for a little direction, need a kick in the pants, are stuck on a question, or just need to find a teacher.  I don't mind helping out.  Seeing as I have a back log of literally hundreds of questions from drummers like yourself, I thought I would post some of those questions here in hopes that they would help you out too.  And as always, if you have any thoughts or questions on the subject at hand, throw them in the comments section.

"Hello Stephen,

My name is William and I'm an intermediate drummer (or so I say). I've been playing for over two years with "some" but not great advancement due to time constrains. I usually take classes at my church. I enjoy watching your videos and the way you teach although I find some of the lessons harder than others. I would like to continue growing my drumming practical and intellectual knowledge and for this reason I would like your advice on what type of program do you offer or recommend in order for me to achieve this goal. 

My apologies if my request seems too technical or somewhat robotic. I really like and enjoy playing drums,  it grows out of passion and when I mix it with worship I  sort of go crazy and unfortunately tend to go all over the place. So if you can guide me towards the right direction I would really appreciate it.

Thanks a lot,


Hey W,

Thanks so much for the email!

I love your attitude towards the drums.  And I love that you play in church (I regularly play at my church here in Nashville).  Regardless of who/where you take lessons and learn, you need to find some.  You also need to be hyper organized about your practice time.  Especially if you have limited time to practice.  It's not about how much time you put in on the drums, it's how productive that time is.  I actually have a two part series talking specifically about how to organize your practice time to be most effective.  Marking out a goal, setting markers to achieve it, tracking your progress...that's what it is all about.

As far as what programs I offer...well, to be honest, the live lessons on my site are going to be the best bang for your buck.  There is a 7 day 100% money back guarantee, so you can try them out at no risk to see if it's what you need.  There are over 300 lessons with sheet music for you to look through...everything from linear fills to song breakdowns to rudiments to technical advice.  If you miss the live times, you can simply catch up later in the vault.  They're able to be viewed on any mobile device or home computer.  If you're looking for a plan to follow, there are over 20 student tracks in the members area that take you through a specific topic and give you a test at when you're done to let you know that you've mastered that topic.  New additions to the site: The Art of Soloing (we talk about the specifics of how to solo and the skills involved), a playalongs section, and a lot more.  There is also a student YouTube channel where students regularly upload videos of themselves playing so that I can critique and help them improve.  It's as interactive as you want it to be.  If you do decide to take me up on the free trial, I would be happy to make you out a lesson plan for you to go through.  I would just need to know what level of a player you are, what you need to work on, and what you want to work on.  We can then devise a plan that works specifically for you.  Once you finish that one, I would be happy to make you another.  

I'm simply giving you the info about that because you asked what I offer/suggest.  You can go here to see everything that a membership offers.

Whatever you do, seek out some instruction.  You'll grow much faster!

-Stephen T.
Organized, fun, and goal oriented online drum lessons at

"Hi Stephen,

I'm going take upon your offer. However, I am also interested in setting a program like you said and join the live session (even though I'll most likely review them from the vault). My hope is for this investment to bear fruit at its due time. I believe I'm choosing correctly and thank you for helping me and others reach not only great musician levels but worshipers. 

Moreover, how would you asses my level in drumming? ( since you mentioned you'd need to know my level), video? Or only sound?. To give you heads up, my drums are set in a room with poor acoustics. 



Hey W,

Excited to have you be a part of things!  To answer your questions...either an audio or video are fine.  If it's a video, just make sure that it is a clean shot of your torso so that I can see your posture, hand positioning, etc.  The sound quality doesn't matter ;^)

Just sign up, send me a video or upload one to the student YouTube channel (you get the username and password when you sign up), and then let me know what you feel you need to work on and what you want to work on.  Give me a couple of days and I will have one out to you. 

Let me know if you have any other questions!  Looking forward to making you a lesson plan and getting you started on your way to becoming the best you can be on the drums!

-Stephen T.
Organized, fun, and goal oriented online drum lessons at

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Incorporating Left Handed Hi-Hat Patterns Into a Groove

I asked everyone on Facebook what they would like a lesson on. Well, I got a TON of requests so I had to pick one. One suggestion was how to incorporate left hand patterns on the hi-hat into ride cymbal grooves (ala Carter Beauford and Ray Luzier). I thought that would be a fun one. It was something that I sought to incorporate into my playing when I was coming up. Here's a simple groove that will help you begin to master this concept. Be sure and stop by the website to see what all of the new buzz is about! And if you haven't signed up for the free email lessons that I offer, well, you should. 'Cause it's free. And they don't suck. And did I mention they're free??? Enough said...GO PRACTICE!!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sextuplet Accent Patterns - Full half hour lesson

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Wow! The response to the new format of the lessons has totally blown me away. As a thank you, I wanted to send a special lesson out this week. This is a full half hour lesson taken from a series I did on sextuplet accent patterns. I sent it out to the email subscribers last week, but I wanted to share it with my blogging buddies as well.

Go here to see the lesson.

For those of you that I got to see at PASIC last week, you don't know how much it means to have time to hang and talk drums.  Thanks so much for the support.

As always, email me with any questions you may have. And if you haven't read about the changes we made last week, you can do that here.

-Stephen T.
Organized, goal oriented, and fun online drum lessons

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Suck

It's been a while.  Hope this one motivates ya.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Bass Drum Boot Camp

 I'm pretty pumped about this downloadable lesson series. 5 videos on nothing but kick drum exercises...that's over two hours of instruction.  The whole workout takes only 25 minutes. Watch the video, see what it's all about, accept the challenge. Your foot will thank you later. Go here to snag it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Watch The Guajira Series

To thank you guys for all of your support, I thought I would give you a bonus this week.  I'm making The Guajira Series available to anyone with the please SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FRIENDS!!!  Don't be stingy with the drum knowledge.  Both lessons are half an hour long, both are available to watch in either HD or standard definition, and both come with downloadable sheet music.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How To Make Money As A Musician

Number one question I get asked. I go into the things that have allowed me to make a living in the music world for the past 15 years. Whether you're a drummer, piano player, guitarist, bassist, saxophonist...these things will help.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kill Your Foot

Just a little lesson to help your kick foot get in shape.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Simple Sticking, Complex Groove

This is a really simple sticking that I love.  When applied in the right way, it really comes alive!  Hope you get something out of the lesson.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Amazing Is The New Cool

Yea, you heard me right.  Amazing is the new cool.  It's the new L.A.  It's your new agenda.  Because I'm giving it to you.  I think you're capable of it.

This video gives you a look at what I do on my site.  And hopefully it will encourage you to live your amazing.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Being Average Sucks

Check out Gaping Void for more cool artwork like this pic
I was sitting at a live book release event the other night in this refurbished old theatre in downtown Franklin, TN. While the author was speaking, it hit me. I finally, after years of trying to put my finger on it, was able to clearly express my biggest fear.

I'm afraid of being average.

If you ask most people about death and what their biggest fear about death is, many of them (at least the ones I've spoken with) will tell you,"I just don't want to be forgotten when I'm gone. I don't want it to be like I never lived." Wow. That's huge. Like you never lived. Back to average. I'm literally terrified of being considered average. Unmemorable. Forgettable. Not just in drumming, but in every part of life.

Average is easy. Just wake up, make a cup of normal run-of-the-mill coffee, take a lukewarm shower, leave with just enough time to get to work/school, arrive right on time (not early or late), clock in, do your 8 hours of mindless work, clock out, go home, watch some TV, hit the sack, and repeat for 40-50 years. That's easy. People do it everyday. There's no challenge there. No risk of failure. No chance for embarrassment. It's the safest way to go through life. And it scares me to death.

Why? Because I don't believe ANYONE is average, myself included. I believe we're all amazing in our own ways, we just have to realize find our own patches of brilliance.  What if you started practicing consistently every day?  Normal people don't do that.  What if you started a fundraiser online and raised $1,000 for a local shelter for the homeless?  Average is scared of that.  What if you decided that you actually COULD do anything in life that you set your mind to?  You're nuts.

Ok.  So you're a bit off your rocker.  I am too.

Short story warning...
The first semester of my sophomore year in college, I did something nuts.  I had just begun to learn how to play the vibraphone the year before...we're talking, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" with a lot of mistakes.  I had to pick a piece to prepare for jury (that's where the professors make you get up in front of all of your peers and risk making a complete fool of yourself by playing something that you had been working on.  Seems like those profs know a little something...).  Now, if you've just learned an instrument, chances are you want something safe.  Something doable.  Something that you can breeze through and not risk embarrassment...shame...death by hanging (lots of things go through your mind in a practice room late at night).  So that's exactly what I didn't do.  I chose a classical piano piece entitled "Moonlight Sonata".  A breathtakingly beautiful Beethoven composition.  I had always loved it.  And I wanted to play it.  Not for anyone else.  I just wanted to hear it.  Problem was, I couldn't find any transcriptions of the piece for the vibes.  No worries.  I would just transcribe it myself and make adjustments as needed (vibes are a four mallet instrument.  Last time I checked, piano pieces were played with 10 fingers).  I would need to adjust chord voicings, stickings, switch octaves...did I mention that until a year prior I had ZERO experience with a chordal instrument, save a few failed piano lessons when I was about 10.  I was perfectly and completely out of my mind to attempt it.  But I just loved it.  And no one would remember a stock vibe piece...everyone would be playing those.  That was safe.  Average.

I practiced my butt off.  Hours and hours of transcribing (remember, I sucked at that too), practicing, memorizing.  It was daunting.  And I felt alive every minute of every day.  Alive with for the music...feelings of success...feelings of failure.  I lived them all, everyday, in the moment.

Jury day came.  I'll be honest, it was sloppy.  But I could play it all of the way through.  And it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.  It was go time.  I started...flying over the notes, hitting wrong ones, hitting lots of right ones, freaking out...I was on cloud 9.  Then it happened.  There's a triplet run in the middle of the piece...all the way up the keyboard and back down.  I made it up.  Down...down...hmmmm...I had stopped playing.  I had the piece memorized, or so I thought.  No music to refer to.  I stood there staring at the instrument.  Praying that a hole would open up and a large worm would swallow me whole.  No such luck.  After 3 hours (probably a few seconds...but this is my story...) I looked up at my professor and said, "I'm sorry, I don't know where I am."  Surely this kind gentleman would simply say, "Bravo...wonderful work.  Mistakes happen.  Have a seat."  But instead I heard, "Is there somewhere that you can start again?"  Crap.  If I threw up maybe he would let me off the hook.  I certainly felt sick enough.  It was then that I made the cardinal mistake.  I started RIGHT BEFORE my mistake.  Common sense says start right after.  Skip that part.  But that would be average, right?  No, that would have been smart.  I said I feared average, I didn't say I was smart about it.

So right before the triplet run...up the keyboard...and...and...nothing.  Son of a.....

Ok.  Surely at this point I look so pitiful that he's going to have mercy on me.  Just shoot me and kick me to the side.  Repeat the whole discussion... "I'm sorry, I don't know where I am" I said.  Silence.  And then...that's when it happened.  One of the other percussionists thought I was done.  He was having the same thoughts,"Surely we should spare this man."  He issued a single, solitary, and extremely loud clap.  He then realized I wasn't done and awkwardly held his hands as if to clap again, then he dropped them.  "Is there somewhere that you can start again?" the professor asked.  "Maybe somewhere after that point?"  he suggested.  He was evil.  Vindictive even.

So I did.  I blundered through the rest of the piece, my ears ringing with the sound of blood rushing to my head and the screams of my inner pride being murdered.  I didn't go back into that building for weeks.  I avoided every other percussionist at all costs.  For weeks.  I had completely, utterly, and miserably failed.  I was not average...I was not great...I was embarrassed.

A few days after it happened I was telling a friend of mine, a film major, about what had happened.  He listened.  And when I was done, he said the strangest thing.  He said,"That's awesome man.  What a great life experience."

Did this guy even hear me explain how I had been brutally ax murdered in broad daylight with friends watching?

I slowly mumbled something and got out of his car.  It took me years to understand what he had meant.  And now I get it.  What he was saying was,"Congratulations, you're not average!  You tried, you failed, you lived, and next time you'll do better."  I faced my biggest fear, the fear of being average.  I looked it in the eye and I chose to defy average.  And I failed miserably.  But I can still ask friends,"hey, do you remember that time I played "Moonlight Sonata" for juries?".  They do.  And you know what they don't remember?  My mistake.  They say,"Yea, I remember you working on that.  I couldn't believe you were trying to play it."  The mistake wasn't what they remembered.  They remembered the attempt.

It still blows my mind to think about it today.

What's my point?  My point is this...please, be anything but average.  You ARE anything but average.  I know, it's cheesy.  But it's true.  You have music in have life yet to be have experiences not yet had...and they will all die inside of you unless you make the choice to not be average.  To go for it.  Whatever "it" may be.

And if it helps, I totally believe in you.  Not that you'll succeed every time.  That's not the point.  I believe that you can do can not be average.  You can be memorable.

Now...get to it.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Best Drum Tuning App

I've been waiting for this app for months.  By the way...I don't make a dime if you download this.  I'm not in this for money...I'm in it to help you on your road to awesome drumming.  And I promised years ago to tell you about the best apps and drum gear available.  This is THE BEST TUNING app I've ever seen.  You can even add your own kit...and it's got a built in flashlight for those dark gigs.  Do yourself a favor, download it now.  

"Drum Tuner - iDrumTech"

Download iDrumTech

Video on how to use iDrumTech

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Friday, February 8, 2013

A Little Groove I Call "Hot Sauce"

 Also, The Drum Sessions have been OFF THE HOOK this past month! Songo, song breakdowns, linear phrasing, the Guajira, the triple paradiddle...literally, the most fun I've ever had teaching. Check out the schedule here. The price will be going up in the next month, but right now you can lock your monthly subscription in for only $18.99 a month PLUS you get a 7 day FREE trial to make sure you dig the lessons. It's a win/win! If you're still not sure what all a subscription includes, just check out this short video (that includes a student testimonial) and all of your questions will be answered. In addition to everything you already get, I'm now offering personalized lesson plans upon request with every subscription. You can't beat that with a stick.

 I hope this simple groove finds its way into your playing. I understand how you feel about your road to awesome. Learning the drums is a constant battle. I have felt and still feel the same way about my road to awesome (because we're all on a personal journey towards being the most awesome version of ourselves). I've found that the quickest way to get there is to take from a knowledgeable instructor and to avoid bad habits. I can help you with all of that. Start your awesome today, join The Drum Sessions and get your free 7 day trial. Watch as you improve beyond your wildest dreams...all while being a part of an out of this world drumming community.

 Here's to your personal awesome.

Need drum lessons? Become a full member of The Drum Sessions today and get instant access to over 300 lessons plus 6 weekly live lessons. 7 DAY FREE TRIAL.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

30 Second Drum Lesson - Funk Groove

Hope this is a nice little snack for you to start your day with.  Cheers

Only 3 FREE books left to give away.  Snag yours by clicking below.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

30 Second Drum Lesson and 10 FREE Copies of My Book

 The next 10 subscribers to the live lessons get a FREE downloadable copy of my method book on beat displacement and permutation called "Functioning In Time". Cheers.

Need drum lessons? Become a full member of The Drum Sessions today and get instant access to over 300 lessons plus 6 weekly live lessons. 7 DAY FREE TRIAL.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Fastest Way To Improve Your Single Stroke Roll

Everyone wants a faster single stroke roll, right? Well, here's an exercise that has really helped me over the years.

Need drum lessons? Become a full member of The Drum Sessions today and get instant access to over 300 lessons plus 6 weekly live lessons. 7 DAY FREE TRIAL.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How To Hit A Cymbal Properly

I've been getting a ton of requests and questions on how to properly hit a cymbal.  Ask and you shall receive.  Here's a short tutorial on how to hit a cymbal properly, proper care of the cymbal while it's on the stand, and proper care of the cymbal when it's off of the stand and being transported.