Echolab Drum Workshop

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I’ve always been a bit of a frustrated musician, I’ve played guitar off and on since I was a teenager (usually more off than on) and even started a music degree with bass as my first instrument.  I eventually abandoned it when I realised I just didn’t have time to become a rock star!  One instrument I’ve never really tried though is the drums.  Although, sometimes when the music teacher would leave the room when I was a pupil at Perth High School, we would stop playing ‘Oh When the Saints’ on our Yamaha keyboards and take turns at trying to play the intro to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on the drum kit.  It never lasted though, someone would always get carried away and play too loud and he would come back and shout at us.

ECHOLAB REVIEW- WELCOME TO ECHOLAB!So when a post about a taster drum workshop in Perth popped up on my Facebook feed, I found myself applying.  A drum kit isn’t the sort of instrument that's easy to try out.  You can’t really borrow your mates drum kit for a couple of days to see if it suits you, and even if you could, how would you know what to do with it?  I mean, I know you’re meant to hit them with sticks, but how often and in what order?  This upcoming workshop was the ideal way to try out the instrument in a supportive environment with fellow beginners - who weren’t going to judge my initial clumsiness or lack of musicality - plus, expert support was going to be on hand from a qualified drum tutor and we were going to learn a song and play along with a guitarist.

The workshop was being held at the Student link building at Perth College UHI. When I arrived, tutors Charlotte and Kerr explained that this was the second workshop they had held after setting up their company Echolab.  Today there was going to be both aspiring drummers and guitarists in attendance and if there was time, we would get a chance to jam together. 

As the attendees filtered in I began to fill a little old.  So far they were all teenagers or children, and I was a little nervous about been shown up as kids often pick up things quicker than old rock and roll dinosaurs like me. I was a little nervous about been shown up as kids often pick up things quicker than old rock and roll dinosaurs like me.  When fellow oldie and aspiring drummer Simon turned up, I have to admit I felt pretty relieved.

Proceedings began with a little ice-breaker built around a game called ‘stump the drummer’.  It involved forming a semi circle with the person in the middle standing at a snare drum.  We then took turns at clapping out a rhythm that the person in the middle would try and replicate on the snare.  It was a great way to gain a little bit of confidence and to demystify the process of playing music, you basically just play what you hear!  We then took things up a gear by splitting into two groups, one to learn the guitar part of the chosen song and the other the drums.

When we listened to the original recording of the chosen song, ‘I Predict a Riot’ by The Kaiser Chiefs, it felt like I’d never be able to play anything sounding even remotely near to the song, but our tutor Charlotte broke it down into smaller parts.  We started by just playing the verse.  Initially just playing the hi-hat on every beat until we had it sounding steady, then adding in the bass drum on the first beat of every bar before finally adding the snare on beats two and four.  Then, we practiced the fills at the end of every 8 bars and had a shot at playing the intro, which was 8 bars of ride cymbal on its own. 

ECHOLAB REVIEW- RINGO STAR IN THE MAKINGIt was starting to all really come together and everyone was starting to play a pretty recognisable version of the intro, the verse, the fills and the chorus.  When the time came to string them together, things - at least for me - got a little bit trickier.  I would find myself concentrating so much on the bar I was playing that I lost track of where I was in the song as a whole, often thinking I was further ahead in the piece than I actually was.  With a little bit of practice I began to improve. When we got a chance to play along with the guitar tutor, I managed to get a reasonable way into the song before the wheels came off and I started playing on the off-beat by subconsciously trying to reggae it up! 

Check Out Colin's Skills!

There was a bit of time left over at the end so that we could pair up with the guitarists to get the feel of what it’s like to play with another novice musician.  Turns out it’s not so easy.  You have to remember what to play but also keep an ear out to ensure you're playing in time with someone whose tempo might vary from bar to bar. This is definitely a good lesson for a young  player to learn, more valuable than sitting in your bedroom playing along to a backing track. 

After the workshop we got to take home a copy of the drum notation to practice at home (a set of drum sticks and a pillow make a good start, although I fancy testing the durability of my pots and pans).  I also snagged a copy of the guitar tab to give that a try too. Needless to say, suitably psyched up, I later found myself scouring Ebay and Gumtree looking for a cheap second hand Midi drum kit with dreams of ‘Whiplash’ style drum solos in my head!


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