Throughout the pandemic, we have been busy speaking to hobbyists, enthusiasts and teachers of music who have all had to adapt to the new world we find ourselves living in. One such example is drum teacher Dave Major, who has spent the past year not only investing in a new online business, but has been able to keep almost all of his existing students and connect with them in an entirely new way.
Dave also runs a regular feature on his Youtube channel to help offer people tips and techniques on improving their drumming. We caught up with Dave in his incredible looking studio to tell us not only about his own musical journey, but how he has adapted to the new world.
“So I’m lucky that my career is my hobby, I’m a drum teacher primarily and I’ve been doing that for about 13-14 years. I got into drums by chance really. My dad was a really keen wannabe drummer so one Christmas, he got a drum kit for himself, before that there was no desire to even be musical stuff in my family, but as soon as I saw the drums, I thought they’re shiny, they’re noisy, I love it! It’s funny because if my dad wouldn’t have got them, I would never have asked for them and I probably wouldn't be here in this space had it not been for that!”
Something that Dave has managed to do incredibly well is utilise his space to still engage with his students, whether it be from his home, or a studio space. Whilst there are still difficulties that come with teaching drums online, Dave notes that if there’s a will, there’s a way!
“During the first one, I basically just shifted all of my students online, I was very fortunate that all of my students kept with me and they were all cool to practice and learn online, even if it’s just an ipad or a phone. I’ve got one student who even props his phone up on a broom handle just to make it work. So I basically just camped at home, after the second lockdown though, my baby started up and walking so I couldn’t do teaching at home as easily, so I now come to the studio. The strident response has been fine, I’m fortunate that a lot of my students are quite serious hobbyists or professionals themselves so they’ve been totally fine to stick with me, but for them I think it’s been great to just have something that feels normal.
If you’re working at home 9-5 and you can’t leave the house, or there’s nowhere to go, at least you’ve still got that hobby that allows them to escape so I think people really benefit from that. But no one has dropped off or said they don’t want to do it online, so it’s been cool and I’m keen to keep it going.
Sure, there are things you can’t really do as a teacher, physically looking at someone hitting a bass drum pedal or how they hold a stick, but there are ways around it, moving the camera or asking a parent to hold the phone or something like that.”
Across the past year, more and more people have turned to creating music as a way of dealing with the stresses of the pandemic or lockdown life. Dave notes the importance of music education and what he feels it can bring those looking to get involved in music.
“It depends on what you want to get out of it more than anything else. If you’re a beginner or someone who just has a passion for music, i just think it’s a great creative outlet. We are all inherently creative beings and we like to be creative. So whether that is just thrashing through their favourite songs or playing what’s in their head or practicing an album or drum videos or something like that.
I think having that creative outlet is good for the soul and gets the juices flowing in your head. Beyond that, obviously drums are way cooler than any other instrument, but I think if you have a ‘normal’ job, then it’s an entire mindflip to play and learn an instrument to access your mind in different ways, which in turn will hopefully help you be a more balanced and productive human being.
Even if it’s just playing your favorite songs, that’s what I used to do, I used to pretend I was in Queen or Muse just imagining you’re in there, it’s a great escape from what's going on, which at the moment is more important than ever!
It’s whenever you need it, you don’t have to practice every day or for 10 hours every day to be any good, it’s just there and it’s your thing. It’s that ownership that I really like, learning an instrument is usually a solo endeavour above everything else, so you have that ownership and feedback to yourself of “Wow I love this” or “I couldn’t do that a week ago”, that’s positive feedback to yourself that you can just get into.”
Drums in particular however is an interesting one and something that many parents are sometimes a little hesitant of at first. Dave’s goal is to help parents understand that the drums is actually an incredibly accessible instrument and there are various technologies and schemes such as rental, available to new drum players!
“There are so many ways and means to get into drums. What I recommend is using silent symbols and drum heads over an electric kit. Because weirdly I don’t like loud noises, as a drummer I don’t actually like loud or obnoxious noises, so when you’re practicing something if it’s too loud it won’t sound good anyway. That’s why for years I’ve always practiced on electric silent kits. I’m not joking, I would recommend silent drums over an expensive electric kit.
Symbols specifically are quieter than a hairdryer. We’ve really seen it in the last 2-3 years that silent systems have become more popular. They just drill thousands of tiny tiny holes into the symbol to make it quieter than a hoover, than a hairdryer which is you’re playing in a flat is great.
Even that, you can just use a practice pad and there are places that are usually open to practice in drum rooms. You don’t have to have full access to the whole thing.
If someone is passionate about learning, you’ll find the way! The great thing about drums is that it’s not tactile, so you can actually do it on your hands and legs for all of your co-ordination and stuff unlike a guitar or a piano that you need to touch to learn it. There are ways and means around it, even just playing on a bed or pillows. Musicians are very resourceful people so there are ways.”
Being a gigging musician as well as a drum teacher, Dave continues to speak about his plans for the future and what he thinks the pandemic will have on smaller music venues.
“Hard to predict anything at the moment, but I think people will be more receptive to going to It’s gigs and enjoying live music to be in a room with other humans. I hope that maybe we’ll see a resurgence in people enjoying live music so when you play a gig, instead of 1 or 2 people in the audience, it’ll be 20, 40, 50, 100 people who turn up to original bands play.
Teaching wise, I think a lot of people will stick online. I have a fair few students who travel like an hour here and back for me, so I think they’re quite relieved to stay online, and it’s no skin off my nose either so I can definitely still teach online. It’s actually really easy and works well so I think more people will stick online, which means teachers won’t be restricted to their local areas anymore which is great. I’m just excited to get back out there and see people again!”