Got a Lab? Get a Drum

Students 1

Students on the RMP-5 Rhythm Coach and KR- Piano

Located in Boise, Idaho, the studio is a group piano studio offering piano, guitar, and young child classes. Competition with after-school activities in a busy community encouraged the change. “I didn’t know anything about drums at first,” said Serena Mackey, Owner, Program Director, and teacher, “I just knew they were fun, and our music education business will only sustain if we offer fun.” Mackey purchased four RMP 5 Rhythm Coaches and a HPD-10 Handsonic after plugging in her iPod and drumming to her favorite songs. She knew if the drums were popular in her own house, with her husband and kids, music students wouldn’t be able to say no.

At first, the studio hired a professional drum teacher to offer summer camps and short, 6-week introductory classes when school started in the fall. School age and adult students signed up so fast the studio had to offer two more sessions.

Students 2

Students focus in the ensemble setting

Interest continued, with current piano students asking each week if they could play the drums, so Mackey connected four RMP-5 drums to her RCS 848 Conferencing System already set up in one classroom. She wrote a special curriculum for rhythm training and included lesson for all ages and levels, including adults. “Students don’t hear that they are behind or after the beat,” Mackey said, “Often they are too distracted with reading notes or fingering that they don’t listen carefully.”

Mackey’s rhythm curriculum included four lessons that began with simple stick technique and included note value study and ensemble drumming. Using the Rhythm Coach activities in the RMP-5, students played games that evaluated stroke balance and timing check, essential skills for any musician. The teaching module concluded with piano students creating rhythm patterns best suited for piano pieces they could comfortably play. Students then wrote drum patterns, selected sounds from the 50 instrument tones offered on the RMP-5, and rehearsed and played with a partner, all during class piano lessons.

“Students learned more about accurate rhythm and pulse in a few weeks at the drums than most of them have learned in years at the piano,” Mackey asserts, “because they were using and applying skills to a new situation.”

Students 3

“If students are happy; students are learning.”

Why force a bridge between instruments? Mackey believes a well-rounded musician will be a musician for life, will support the arts, creating a culture of music lovers, “I see smiles each time we drum. If students are happy; students are learning.”

One surprised studio parent recently heard from the principal at her son’s school. The 8 year old was found putting up posters calling for auditions for singers and guitar players in the school cafeteria. He was so excited to make music he decided to start a band! After just 8 weeks of piano lessons, that’s the kind of “trouble” we want to see!

Serena Mackey is Owner, Program Director and Teacher at the studio. She also serves as Education Consultant to Roland Corporation, US.

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