Sunday, January 23, 2011


Picture this: I'm sitting in a chair (somewhat comfortable, with black cushy stuff on my butt... but that's not really the point. Or is it? THE CHAIR IS TECHNOLOGY!!! But I digress...). From my quasi-comfortable perch on this chair, I'm watching a young student (13ish years old) being reduced to tears because he's having trouble with his bass drum foot. Yes, I'm teaching this lil' youngster drums, and for whatever reason he finds the pedal on the bass drum to be an insurmountable obstacle. So there I sit, with my padded butt, trying to decide how to best calm this little guy down. I figure we should do some foot exercises to build up his skills... so I grabbed a snare drum exercise book, my double kick bass drum pedal, and a can of Pepsi for good measure. We did snare drum exercises with our feet (I say "we", but really it was all him) until we had rebuilt some confidence. The student then asked me a curious question: "do professionals do this stuff too"?

Here's where the technology bit comes in. There was a time (not long ago) when I would say "yes" and that would be it. The student would have to take me at my word, with no proof whatsoever. In this case however, it was Dr. iPod to the rescue. I connected to the wireless connection in my house, pulled up YouTube, searched a gent named "Grant Collins" (who happens to be one of the most fantastic foot-artists behind the drums that I know of) and there he was on the screen, doing EXACTLY what we were doing. The video is of Collins performing a rudimental snare solo written by Wilcoxon (complete with rolls, drags, ornamentation, etc) ON HIS FEET! My student was blown away. Seeing as we had an extra 5 minutes left in our lesson, I pulled up another one of my favourite drummers. Akira Jimbo is an absolutely phenomenal musician who not only plays drum kit, but also has electronic triggers placed around his kit programmed to play different sounds. He programs these triggers to play different notes from the melodies of famous tunes (Mission Impossible and the James Bond theme are the two he performed on this particular video) and plays the whole darn thing - drums and all. Long story short, it's incredible. My student went home super inspired and excited. I can't wait to see what he comes back with next week (part of his "practice" was to find a drum video he thought was cool, and show me).

YouTube is a fantastic resource. You can pull up a visual example of virtually anything, at any time. Not only can you find professionals "doing their thing", but you can also find students who have posted videos of their own performances. This means that my students have access to both professional, and more "age appropriate" role models for their development. Often when I use a YouTube video of an amateur musician in my lessons, my student gets all fired up and committed to playing whatever it is better than the student they just saw. Healthy competition is fun to watch - and with serious performers it usually yields good results. Projectors in the band room provide teachers with an opportunity to get the best role models, from anywhere, doing virtually anything (playing instruments, orchestral performance, conductors, etc), at anytime, for free. People used to pay big bucks to get a group of professionals to perform in the school - now you can get them in your classroom on demand without spending a dime, provided we ignore the cost of the technology itself. Virtually everything we need for teaching is at our fingertips... we just need to know where to look.


  1. Way to use technology to inspire your students. I was inspired just reading your post.

    I think that YouTube is the best tool we as teachers have to connect with our students - you just need to know what you're looking for (as well as what's hot on the internet at that time).

    -Matt N.

  2. I really enjoyed reading about how you incorporated all this 'education stuff' in your private teaching as well. Personally, I find it so easy to get wrapped up in teaching such highly refined skills. The little bitty kid who can't even reach the pedals is my STUDENT. I am still a TEACHER. I try to challenge myself to remember that it is still educating and I should afford my private student no less attention than I would a class of students.

    Great inspiration! I love the discourse surrounding private teaching.

  3. Great use of teachnological resources to enhance teaching- and I loved the reference to the chair as technology.

    Could you link the two videos? I'd like to see them.