Share with #PractiseMore
Gideon Waxman runs the ever-popular drumming resource Drum Helper. Gideon’s aim is to help you work at being the best drummer you can be. It’s with that aim in mind that we sit down with Gideon – albeit over ZOOM whilst we’re in lockdown 3.0 – and get his insight into all things drums and what his website Drum Helper is all about.
And if you’ve not checked out Drum Helper, you really should. It’s rammed full of information for both beginners and professionals alike. But in the meantime…
Drum Helper drumming resource
Hi Gideon, thanks for taking the time to speak to us! You’re the founder of the excellent drumming resource website Drum Helper. Can you tell me a bit more about how your site came about?
Thanks for having me! And absolutely – I set up the Drum Helper site in 2018 with the ambition to create an insightful and helpful drumming resource. I saw a lack of quality drumming-focused content online. A lot of the information I could find was actually misinformed. So I wanted to just create a hub of free and practical information to help drummers of all ability levels.
Well you’ve definitely done that!
As a drum tutor myself, I always received lots of requests for gear recommendations and I’ve always been obsessed with the equipment side of things. So I also found Drum Helper to be a great way to share my recommendations too.
Was this inspired by your own musical upbringing?
Most definitely. It was the visual appearance of the drum set that drew me in from a young age. I just loved how exciting the instrument looked and the idea of being able to play a drum set with a whole bunch of different components.
When I eventually managed to convince my parents to let me have a drum set, I spent a lot of time playing! I progressed through to grade 8 by the time I was 16. I achieved a music scholarship for the final years of high school and also went on to study music at university. I’ve always been very interested and involved with music and that’s been the real driving factor behind Drum Helper.
Buying a drum kit in a city
We’re always asked for advice on buying a first drum kit. Especially given the perils of trying to learn on a drum kit in a vastly populated city. What advice can you offer?
Same here! I’m always asked what the best beginner drum set is by my students, and what to look out for. I’m also frequently asked whether it’s better to buy an electronic drum set or a beginner drum set. And I have written guides on Drum Helper to provide some recommendations for each.
Personally, I would always prefer to play on an acoustic drum set. But it’s not always practical. I currently live in an apartment and because of issues regarding noise levels and space, I have to play an electronic drum set. But when I was growing up, fortunately, I had no issues playing on my Pearl Export drum kit in my detached family home.
When looking for an entry-level drum set people are often drawn in by cheap un-named brands, but it’s worth spending a little more for a complete package from a reputable brand like the Pearl Roadshow (follow the link for a review on Drum Helper). I think that’s without a doubt the best complete entry-level drum set on the market right now.
When it comes to intermediate level drum set shell packs, there is a wide range of quality kits out there. They’re all either 100% Maple or Birch nowadays which is incredible at this price point. If I had to choose it would be the Yamaha Stage Custom drum set (follow the link for a review on Drum Helper) – it easily wins in this bracket.
Cymbals can either be split into beginner level cymbals or professional level cymbals. Cheaper cymbals are made from sheet metal of brass or B8 bronze, while pro-level cymbals are cast from a lump of bronze (generally B20), and it’s a much more labour-intensive process. I generally advise beginners to start off with basic brass cymbals such as the Meinl HCS line because it’s a smaller, low-risk investment. But there are some good mid-range offerings such as the Paiste PST7 line or the Meinl Classics Custom too.
So you’ve got your kit, you’re getting good, and you’re thinking of going pro. What is the most common question you’re asked by aspiring professionals?
Most aspiring musicians want to know how to get noticed or to be called upon for gigs. I’d suggest simply getting yourself out there as best as possible in person and online. Go to gigs – when they return – do as much networking as you can, and showcase your ability online.
Making a living from music is difficult so it’s important to diversify into as many revenue streams as possible. Think about getting involved with teaching or offering your services for remote recording online. You can even set up a blog or YouTube channel that you can monetise and showcase yourself too!
What is the biggest mistake you see aspiring professional drummers make?
A lot of aspiring professional drummers tend to compare themselves to other drummers – it’s something we are all guilty of to some degree. This is a big mistake and it’s unhealthy to draw comparisons to other musicians. Every musician is unique and it’s a wonderful form of self-expression. So think of it that way and remember to share your creativity with the world – not make it a competition.
There is SO much information packed into Drum Helper. But is there one particular area you feel really passionate about?
I’m passionate about all things drums but most importantly about having fun. I hope Drum Helper can inspire just as much as it can provide guidance. I’m more interested in helping people enjoy themselves while playing the drums than just improving. I found I made the most progress on the drums through sheer enjoyment and having fun rather than practicing with a goal in mind.
If you were to pick one resource on Drum Helper to recommend, what would it be?
There’s a hugely comprehensive guide to drum recording on Drum Helper. I cover all aspects of the recording process as well as the mixing side of things. There’s also a section with my top tips for performances in the studio and overall I’m really proud of this resource.
Learning with purpose
Speaking of which, how do you feel about drum exams?
I think drum exams are a good benchmark for a level of ability, especially for kids. But in the real world, they don’t mean much at all. Nobody’s going to ask what grade you are in order to land a gig. And I tend not to do grades with adult students.
One of the first blogs I put up on Drum Helper was a short piece on tips for taking a drum exam.
What is the biggest lesson you took from taking lessons from a teacher?
I learned a lot from my drum tutor throughout school but probably more through my own experimentation and online research.
I remember being in awe at the incredible sound he achieved from behind the kit when I would ask him to play a section of a song that I found challenging. He played with consistency, confidence and authority but was also very relaxed at the same time. This is what I try to instill in my students.
And finally, we’re always looking for recommendations! Who should we be listening to at the moment?
There are a huge number of phenomenal drummers out there. Every drummer and their drum kit set up is totally unique, and this is what helps to make drumming so exciting.
If love the sound of a great groove, then you have got to check out Steve Gadd, Gavin Harrison and Ash Soan. If you’re into heavy styles of music with fast, technical playing then I’d recommend checking out Alex Rudinger, Matt Garstka, and Chris Turner.
Gideon, thanks so much for both your time. Keep us up to date with everything Drum Helper!
Thanks so much guys!
Check out Gideon’s drum cover of Gojira’s Another World below!
Stoke Newington drummer Az Khan has years of experience teaching, recording and playing live. Here we speak on how came to play and thoughts on online learning.
Getting into music college without A-levels may seem impossible, but there’s no need to give up just yet! One student, Harry, and his teacher Jack, are here to tell us about how they did just that – from a plan of action, right to getting into college.