Monthly Archives: August 2013

So You Want To Play The Drums: The “Entrance Exam” Coordination Test

So you want to play the drums, eh? Well, good for you. It’s the most physically demanding of the rock instruments for sure, but it’s also a lot of fun. As a bonus, somebody you know is probably looking for a drummer, so you could be in a band within weeks (Note: This sentence may sound sarcastic, but it really isn’t. In fact, it also applies to bass players)! How awesome is that?!

Before we get started on the drums, I must administer a sort of “entrance exam”. Playing the drums takes quite a bit of coordination, so we need to check that first. If you pass this test, though, then you have the basic foundation from which every 4/4-time rock beat is derived. This test is so simple that you don’t even need sticks, let alone a drum set. All you need is the chair you’re currently sitting in and your lap.

Here it is! The bottom space is the bass drum and the other space with notes in it is the snare drum.

Entry Exam

When you see the bass drum notes, tap your right foot. When you see the snare drum notes, tap your left hand. Counting-wise, you should be tapping your foot on “1” and “3” and tapping your hand on “2” and “4”. Repeat this measure as many times as you like. I recommend starting slowly then picking up speed as you go.

If you can play the two limbs separately (your foot and hand don’t play at the same time), then congratulations! You have passed the test. It’s that easy. Now go have some fun.

Coming soon: More tests, beats, fills, and some extra weird stuff. Stay tuned!

Note: The limbs given are for a right-handed drummer. If you want to set up your drums left-handed, use the opposite limbs (left foot, right hand). And, even if that doesn’t feel right, it’s okay – many drummers don’t use the traditional setup. That doesn’t explain this guy, though…

Guitar Block System: Block 4

This week, we reach the final two-note Block of the system: Block 4. This block also covers the most ground, spanning a major third (HINT: concerning “major” and “minor” intervals, “minor” is closer to your starting point). OR, if you’d rather, the second note is four half-steps away. For instance, if you were to start on fret 6, you would go up to fret 10 or down to fret 2.

As an aside, there is another way to hear the interval without using the block. Strings 2 (B) and 3 (G) are tuned a major third apart, so play those two strings open or fretted at the same spot. Elsewhere on the neck: Make sure the higher string is one fret behind the lower one (Are you on fret 5, string 5 (A)? Then go to fret 4, string 4 (D)!) and you’ll achieve that major third sound.

Block 4 doesn’t seem to have as much use as the last two blocks, but it’s still worthwhile. Its greatest asset as a technical exercise is the fact that it forces the player to use his pinky finger on the fretboard. Let’s face it – we all could use a little help with that, couldn’t we?

As with the preceding blocks, there are four ways to play this block as a simple exercise, all of which are written to start on fret 5. If you need a bit of direction on how to read these, see the Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide at the end of this post.

First, go from string 6 (low E) to string 1 (high E):

Block 4 Example 1

Next, you start at the string 1 (high E) and return to string 6 (low E):

Block 4 Example 2

Now, head back up to string 1, but this time start on the block’s higher note:

Block 4 Example 3

Finally, return to string 6 while playing the higher note first in each block.

Block 4 Example 4

There are three ways to pick these exercises, if you so choose. First, down-pick every note. After that, try alternate picking – down then up. Lastly, as a real test of your fretting abilities, only pick the first note of each block then either hammer-on (first two examples) or pull-off (last two) to the other note.

Exercises are great, but feel free to have some fun with these, too. Experimentation is highly encouraged. And above all, pay attention to what you’re doing – sometimes the best ideas emerge from mistakes and accidents. See you next week for the first three-note block!

Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide: String 1 = E, 2 = B, 3 = G, 4 = D, 5 = A, 6 = E. In tablature, string 6 is at the bottom of the staff while string 1 is at the top. The numbers on the lines tell you what fret to play and the lines themselves tell you what string to play.

Penta-what?!

Before we move on to the next block, I want to stop and talk about pentatonic scales for a second. I touched on them last time, telling you which blocks are used to play them. I’ll get to that, but first: What in the world does “pentatonic” mean?! Let’s break it down. “Penta-” means “five” – like, say, a pentagon. Or perhaps The Pentagon, if you prefer. SO: “Penta-” is “five”, “-tonic” is “tone” (sorry, not like “gin and tonic” this time. Go to the bar for that). Therefore, a pentatonic scale consists of five tones. The sixth note you play on one of these scales is the octave.

Today, I’ll give you both pentatonic scales and a melodic example based solely on Block 2. First, the minor pentatonic scale. Why the minor first? Because it’s ridiculously easy to play and practically a rock guitarist’s best buddy. It’s played entirely with blocks 2 and 3 and no position changes are required. Observe:

Minor Pentatonic

Now, the major pentatonic. Like the minor, this one uses just blocks 2 and 3, but two position changes are required. Note how strings 2-4 all start on fret 4 while the other three strings start on fret 5.

Major Pentatonic

As promised, the melodic example. Heavily inspired by the great Tony Iommi, this example is based off of the minor pentatonic and strictly uses Block 2. Click to big-ify:

Minor Pentatonic Example

Wait, what are those curve and line thingies? Glad you asked. The curve thingy is a slur, meaning the note on the other side of that mark is not picked. The line thingy denotes a slide – meaning you play and pick that note, then take your hand and slide it up two frets. IMPORTANT: leave your finger pressed down on the fretboard in order to get that second note.

And there you have it. Have fun with these and I’ll see you next time for Block 4.

Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide: String 1 = E, 2 = B, 3 = G, 4 = D, 5 = A, 6 = E. In tablature, string 6 is at the bottom of the staff while string 1 is at the top. The numbers on the lines tell you what fret to play and the lines themselves tell you what string to play.

Guitar Block System: Block 3

This week, we’re on to the third block. This one spans a minor third, though. Done with the normal steps – now we’re dealing with bigger intervals! If you forgot what a minor third is, don’t worry – this interval can be found by traveling three half steps. For example, if you were to start on fret 4, you would go up to 7 or down to 1 in order to find the minor thirds.

Like Block 2, Block 3 is widely used. In fact, Block 3 and Block 2 go together quite well – you can combine those two blocks together and find both Pentatonic scales. In addition, Block 3 is heavily involved in playing the blues scale. I’ll discuss the pentatonic scales later this week and will get to the blues scale in the very near future.

As with the preceding blocks, there are four ways to play this block as a simple exercise, all of which are written to start on fret 5. If you need a bit of direction on how to read these, see the Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide at the end of this post.

First, go from string 6 (low E) to string 1 (high E):

Block 3 Example 1

Next, you start at the string 1 (high E) and return to string 6 (low E):

Block 3 Example 2

Now, head back up to string 1, but this time start on the block’s higher note:

Block 3 Example 3

Finally, return to string 6 while playing the higher note first in each block.

Block 3 Example 4

Before now, I haven’t talked about what fingers to use on the fretboard. The reason is the fretting is pretty clear-cut in the first two blocks. However, this one isn’t so clear-cut. Some people might not like that, but I actually like the fact that we have options on fretting this one. Ultimately, you have two choices here: You can either stay fully locked in position and play fret 8 with your pinky finger OR you can stretch out a bit and play fret 8 with your ring finger. Take your pick… or try both!

There are three ways to pick these exercises, if you so choose. First, down-pick every note. After that, try alternate picking – down then up. Lastly, as a real test of your fretting abilities, only pick the first note of each block then either hammer-on (first two examples) or pull-off (last two) to the other note.

Exercises are great, but feel free to have some fun with these, too. Experimentation is highly encouraged. And above all, pay attention to what you’re doing – sometimes the best ideas emerge from mistakes and accidents. See you next week for Block 4… and later this week for our first actual scales.

Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide: String 1 = E, 2 = B, 3 = G, 4 = D, 5 = A, 6 = E. In tablature, string 6 is at the bottom of the staff while string 1 is at the top. The numbers on the lines tell you what fret to play and the lines themselves tell you what string to play.