Open – Closed – Open

Rudiments are essentially scales for drummers. They are the basic beats that were developed by military snare drummers as early as the eighteenth century.

Are you practicing your rudiments? If not, get started here.

We like to have our students practice rudiments from “open to closed to open.” When we’re talking about rudiments, “open” means slow and “closed” means fast. We like to have our students practice rudiments this way initially because:

  1. It builds muscle. – Beginning slowly and working up to as fast as the student can comfortably play is a good way to get used to the physical exertion necessary to play the drums. However, don’t go too fast too soon; as with weight lifting, it is possible to injure yourself doing this–especially you’re not using proper technique. Don’t try this at home until you’ve consulted with a reputable teacher first.
  2. It allows beginning drummers to experiment with a variety of tempos – Although it is important to practice rudiments with a metronome, we like to introduce students to the open-closed-open practice technique first. When using a metronome, it’s easy to get comfortable and complacent with one tempo range; open-closed-open takes the student through the gamut of tempo ranges. Although the “open-closed” portion of the exercise does tend to mirror the tendency to rush, the “closed-open” section gives the student the opportunity to fight that tendency. We always tell our students that anyone can play “open-closed,” but it takes a mature musician to master “closed-open.”
  3. It connects us to the past. – A few years back we visited Colonial Williamsburg and attended a fife and drum demonstration. The drummers there told us that in colonial times, drummers would have to play rudiments open to close to open in order to prove to their drum sergeant that they had mastered them. It’s exciting to think that we are part of a tradition that extends back to before this country even existed and that we’re still using some of the same practice techniques.

How do you like to practice your rudiments? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Colonial drummer - courtesy of Google Image Search

RIP Levon Helm

Drummer Levon Helm passed away today. He is best known as the drummer for the Band and before that for Bob Dylan. His obituary in the LA Times goes into more detail about his career and Bob Dylan’s response to his death.

Check out this fantastic video of Helm singing lead vocals AND playing the drums. This is something one doesn’t see very often, and it’s a great reminder that as drummers, we are capable of a lot more than “just hitting things.”

Teaching “Swing”

With the prevalence of straight eighth notes in popular music these days, it can be tough to teach students how to “swing.”

Here are some songs we’ve used to help introduce students to the concept of “swung” eighth notes:

Well You Needn’t

Take the A Train

A Night in Tunisia

– This is a great one because it moves back and forth between straight time and “swung” time.

We’re always looking for more material to introduce students to this concept, so please let us know if you have a favorite song you like to use to teach students to swing!

What motivates YOU?

Check out this fantastic article on It discusses the “inner critic” and the consequences of using it as your primary motivator. As musicians, I’m sure this is one we all know very well:

“You don’t practice enough.”
“You don’t practice correctly.”
“You sound terrible!”
“You’re a lousy musician!”

…and so on, and so forth.

As this article points out, these negative thoughts will certainly motivate us, but at a tremendous cost both physically and energetically. Thinking this way also impedes creativity; it’s impossible to take creative risks with the inner critic constantly criticizing everything we do.

Tara Mohr suggests looking for a different source of motivation, such as love, dreams, values or service. I suggest expanding the definition of what is “good.” Decide that every time you hit the drum, it sounds good. Every second that you practice is productive no matter how difficult or pointless it seems. Every sound you make is musical no matter how “bad” it may sound to you.

Here is one of my favorite YouTube videos that I use to remind myself that in music, the possibilities for what sounds “good” are endless:

Great Resources for Musicians

While we’re getting our site up and running, please check out our favorite two sites for those interested in a career in music:

The Musician’s Way – Practice tips, career development suggestions, and ideas for how to stay creative…we’ve subscribed to the newsletter and enjoy following the blog!

Musician Wages – A website devoted to how to make a living as a musician. Features blog posts by cruise ship musicians, military band musicians, and Broadway musicians.

Did we miss a site you love? Please leave us a comment and let us know what YOUR favorite Internet resources for musicians are!