88. How To Play The Drums (Describing Music)

Learn how to be a rock star in this episode. I’ll teach you a bit about music and about how to play the drums. Also you can listen to various famous drummers talking about their technique. See below for some vocabulary.

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Vocabulary & Notes
Here are some notes containing some of the words and expressions used in this episode.
People sometimes say that one of the best ways to learn English is to learn how to do something else in English, like flower arranging or a new sport. So that’s why in this episode I’m going to teach you how to play the drums. I’m going to teach you about the drums too. This is quite an ambitious episode because I’ve never taught someone how to play the drums before.

I’ve been playing drums since I was 13, so about 22 years now. I was lucky because we got a drum kit for Christmas. We had a garage separate from the house and we put the drum kit there. We lived in the countryside and our neighbours were not too close so they didn’t hear the noise. That’s the advantage of the countryside. My Dad used to play the drums. It was the best gift ever. I had learned the piano and I played bass later. My brother learned the drums because he loved punk rock music. Then I played the drums too. I used to play for an hour a day at least. I’d try to copy other drummers that I liked such as Mitch Mitchell, Stewart Copeland and Ringo (yes, Ringo).

I played in a lot of bands. I was in a band in Liverpool and 2 bands in Japan. I had a CD in the shops in Japan. I basically taught myself to play drums.

Music basically has 3 elements: rhythm, melody and harmony. Rhythm is the first element. It’s the foundation. We all have rhythm inside us because of our heartbeat. There are other rhythms too like the days, the years, walking, repetitive tasks, the sound of a train or a horse. African music used rhythm. The drum was the first instrument. It was used as a communication tool.

English has a rhythm. All languages do. A sentence can be like a drum beat.

So, how do you play drums? It’s just a series of objects to hit in the right order to get a beat. You punctuate the beats with rolls. Most music has a time signature. Usually 4/4. That’s 4 beats in a bar. 1 2 3 4. That’s what you count when you play. You place beats on different numbers. There are sub beats too. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.

We’ll come back to beats. Let me tell you about the kit. You have drums and cymbals, and sticks. The big drum on the floor is the bass drum. It has a deep sound. Attached to the top of that there are two tom-toms. You have another tom-tom on the floor and that makes three. Just in front of you, between your legs is the snare. It’s high pitched and it has a metal coil under the bottom skin. This gives it a sharp sound. Then, cymbals. On the left with a pedal you have the hi-hat. This is two cymbals, one up one down. Press the pedal and the top one comes down. Hold your foot down and you close the hi-hats. Then hit it with the stick on the 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and beats. Bass drum on 1  3 Snare on 2   4 That’s a basic rock beat!