Hey guys! Before we get started, let me tell you a little about myself and where I'm coming from.

My Name is Justin Pohlmann. I've been playing drums for over 11 years and have had the honor of sharing the stage with some great musicians! I've had the opportunity to play hundreds of shows, open up for national acts, and record three different albums with my former band Considered Rubbish (you can download the last album for free here: www.consideredrubbish.bandcamp.com).

I currently play drums for a band called "The Trust Project", play at my church on Sunday mornings, and fill in with some different bands whenever they need me. 

These blogs will hopefully be able to shed some perspective on what it's like to be a gigging drummer (how to prepare for gigs, how to get gigs, etc...). I will also post lessons and things I've been working on from time to time and try to answer any questions you guys have about being a working drummer.

Ok, enough about me...on with the show...

So, you've been practicing your butt off, gotten your chops up, driven your parents and neighbors completely crazy practicing for hours on end, practiced your best rock-n-roll face in the mirror (you know you have!),  and maybe even gotten a band together. Now that you think your ready for the world of being a gigging drummer, let's take a look at what that looks like. It's going to sound scary so get ready.







OUR GEAR COSTS THE MOST TO UPKEEP (sticks and heads cost way more the guitar strings!)



Add all of this together with hours of practice time, little to no pay, and constantly getting asked to learn new songs at the last minute and you've just about got the idea of what it's like to be a gigging drummer.

Then why do it?

Because we get to play drums!!!! Drumming is fun! When you lock into a groove, the band syncs up and everything is rocking you will know that, despite all of the hard work and long hours, it is totally worth it!!

This is just a sample of what you guys can expect while being a gigging drummer hope you guys found this helpful. Next time we start talking about the importance of groove!!
                                                                                                                                                     Thanks for reading!

Justin and I have been friends for over twenty years. We met in kindergarten and became rock stars together before heading separate ways after high school. While I became a teacher and live a life in the suburbs, I secretly live out my rock star fantasies vicariously through him. I am glad to have him on board as a guest blogger at stickandstrum and know that he will teach and give insight into areas that I lack.  Feel free to post comments below and ask any questions that you have about gigging, recording, or life as a professional drummer. 
(the song playing is "With Me" by Considered Rubbish featuring Justin Pohlmann on drums. You can download the entire album for free here)
Last year I really stepped up my drum curriculum. I went from one outdated lesson book and supplementing with Groove Essentials for a few advanced students to a more thorough and modern lesson book, lots of great supplemental material, videos, and weekly playalongs. We've focussed on rudimental studies and relied heavily on technique. The focus hasn't been as much on WHAT you play, but HOW you play it. 

This is natural and healthy for a teacher. As I grow as a player and educator, my methods and curriculum may change. As new books are made available, they will be worked into the curriculum. Please do not read that I am flip-flopping methods and ditching everything for something new and shiny. 

For drum students, it all comes down to rudiments, technique, and coordination. From the most simple task to the most complex, everything relies on the above three things. 

Which brings me to guitar...For some reason, there is a real lack of resources for guitar education. Don't get me wrong, there are TONS of method books and songbooks. But most of these are pretty awful. They focus on strange methodologies, are overly simplified or overly difficult, and there aren't many that focus on technique. I'm not sure why this is as there is a wealth of resources available for other private instrument lessons (piano and drums, for instance). 

For years, I have been using Mel Bay's Modern Guitar Method for beginners and I still think it is the best place for beginners to learn the fundamentals of music, gain finger dexterity, and learn the basics of the instrument. I have supplemented with other books for different genres when students reach a certain level of mastery (for example, Christopher Parkening's Classical Guitar books for those interested in classical/fingerstyle guitar). 

I think that variety is the key but, especially with my teenage students, I need to have something systematic and methodical to work through. Teaching random songs and techniques is fun, but it leaves a lot of holes in one's playing and is difficult with the attention span of most teens. I need something concrete that we can work through and accomplish. 

So, I've been researching for a few weeks and have narrowed down the list to a few books that I'll be trying out this semester. I'm fairly confident that one of them (Total Rock Guitar) will become the new lesson book for my intermediate students interested in rock guitar, while the others will be great supplemental material. 

So, here is the list of books that I'll be working through for the first few weeks until lessons begin. You can expect to see brief reviews of my initial thoughts on each book soon. 

In no particular order...
Guitar Fretboard Workbook 
Guitar Aerobics 
Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar 
Total Rock Guitar 
Chord Tone Soloing 
Rhythmic Lead Guitar The Advancing Guitarist

Feel free to check these out on Amazon and let me know what you think. Reviews coming soon! 

I love camp. There's something about getting away from everything for a few days that really changes your perspective on things. This was my first opportunity to play at a kids retreat (as opposed to standard youth/college retreats), and it was TONS of fun. There is an intensity with a bunch of kids in the room singing, dancing, and screaming that simply cannot be matched. 
Outfitters is the 1-4 grade ministry at Hunter Street. I lead worship on Sundays for Route56, the 5-6 grade ministry, so this gave me the opportunity to hang out with the up and coming route56 kids. Being that I lead on Sundays for route56 I don't get much hangout time with the students. It was great to be able to just have fun with these kids. Whether it was challenging them to races in the inflatable obstacle course (those kids are fast!), nailing them in the face with soaked sponges for Splash Dodgeball, or just getting to goof around during our downtime it was a great experience to get some real interaction with students. 

I've got another camp coming up in a few weeks at Lakeside Baptist church. Looking forward to being able to worship with middle school and high school students this time around!
I can admit it. "Hi, my name is Shane...and I'm a ukulele addict." 

I have not been able to put this thing down lately! I don't know if it's the small size or the fact that it's super quiet compared to the other instruments that I play but I find myself playing it all the time. Yesterday I was playing through some material for lessons and got stuck on the sesame street theme. It's catchy, and not too hard to play. I've been playing around with it since yesterday evening and I've gotten it to an arrangement that I'm pretty happy with for now. I may tweak it some in the future, but this song has been a great tool to help me learn notes and chord shapes on the ukulele. 

I've also been in a really good mood lately. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to be in a bad mood or depressed when you play the ukulele. 
With the advent of ukulele lessons, I've been watching a lot of videos of some really talented uke players. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order...   
                                   (Note: I'm not including IZ, as he was the feature of the previous uke post)

james hill

jake shimabukuro

blue dean carcione

sungha jung

(if possible, jung is an even better guitarist than ukulele player. Check out all of his videos. You won't be disappointed. )
So, that's a random sampling of what I've been listening to. What are some of your favorites? 
You get an hour for lunch, right? Why not come in for a 30 minute music lesson during your lunch break?It's a great way to get out of the office, focus on something other than work, and practice a fun, new hobby. I always have spots available before 3pm. If it is impractical for you to bring your guitar in to work, I have spare guitars that you can use during your lesson. There are lots of great restaurants in the area so you can grab a quick bite to eat before or after your lesson. Contact me for availability and more information. 
Meet Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, or "IZ" as he was affectionately nicknamed...probably by westerners that can't pronounce that super cool Hawaiian last name. Even if you've never seen this guy, I can almost guarantee that you've heard his version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World (featured below). Although recorded almost 20 years ago it has really come into prominence in the last few years as it gets featured in movies and TV shows. Though I admittedly know quite little about ukulele and ukulele history, I think we can credit this guy for taking it from a 'toy' instrument and bringing it back into the mainstream. Although he died at a young age in the late 90s (he weighed almost 800lbs!), his legacy still lives on. 

This year I will add a ukulele section to stickandstrum and private lessons. I have been asked a few times about teaching ukulele over the last few years and was recently approached to teach a sibling of one of my current guitar students. She's already got some musical experience under her belt (years of piano lessons) and it's summer, so I'm open to trying new things. 

I have been pleased at how simple the transition from guitar to uke can be and plan to offer it as an 'elective' to my current guitar students as a way to see how knowledge from one instrument can be transferred to another. While there is definitely a place for ukulele players in their own rite (check out Jake Shimabukuro), the initial focus will be on much simpler songs and chord changes (like IZ's video below). 

If you're interested in incorporating ukulele into your lessons, let me know! I may even offer full-blown ukulele lessons at some point, but definitely want to spend some more time studying the instrument and gauging interest first. On a related note, I may also add the mandolin as an 'elective' if there is any interest among my current students. 

Look for chord charts and some basic songs here in the future, but for now I can't recommend UkuleleHunt enough! This website is THE resource for ukulele. In closing, I leave you with IZ's Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World...
Kids love writing on the board. I don't know what it is about it, but when I ask a student to write on the board it's as if I just offered them a trip to Disney World. We can do the most boring exercises and it's a bazillion times more fun on the board. 

In the picture above, I wrote in the first four strings on the guitar in the staff (in black) and had my student write out the rest of the notes in green. (Different color markers are also really exciting for some reason!) He, like many of my beginner students, has been having a hard time identifying notes on the staff and the guitar. I find with young students (under age 10) that they often guess instead of taking a few seconds to think about what the note is. 

Before having him write on the board we played the yet unnamed Game 2 to let him work on notes on the fretboard. A new issue for me with younger students is having them excel at the games that we play, but struggling to make the application to guitar. I hope that after a few weeks of games that they will be able to transfer the knowledge over to actual playing situations. It's great to see the light go on when they play games and finally understand a concept, but I'm really looking forward to seeing them make the transition within the normal lessons and at home. 

So far I'm really enjoying incorporating games into lesson times. I'm using our short 6 week summer term as practice so that I can work out some of the kinks before jumping into our full semester in August. I'm in the process of buying a small rug (5'x7') to make into a giant guitar fretboard. Stay tuned. 
I'm starting to learn that with students sometimes the most simple things are the most affective. One of the key problems with late beginner guitarists and bassists is knowing the notes on the fretboard. There isn't any magical way to learn the notes. It just takes a little time and dedication. I'm sure I'll come up with some games that are more involved in the future, but for now this gets kids out of their seats and gets them thinking. 
Walk the Line
  1. Benefit: Learning notes on the fretboard, playing from a standing position
  2. Items Needed: Guitar or Bass, Guitar Strap
  3. Setup: Have student stand in the middle of the room. 
  4. Game Play: Student faces teacher. Teacher calls out a note and student plays it. If student is correct, she takes one step to the right. If student is wrong, she takes one step to the left. Play until she runs into one of the walls!

I used this game yesterday with a bass guitar student and we worked on one string at a time. We started with simple notes, then used sharps and flats. Next I would call out a sharp or flat and she would have to play it and then tell me the enharmonic name of the note (F#/Gb). Lastly, we worked on octaves. 

I have no delusions that she went home and told all of her friends that this was the best game that she had ever played in her life. She probably didn't call her brother or parents into her room so that they could all play as a family. But, after 10 minutes playing the game she's got a good grasp of the notes on two strings of her guitar, understands octaves, and seemed to enjoy it more than sitting in the chair and looking at a music stand. That's a win in my book. 
Aren't music lessons supposed to be fun? One of the hardest parts of learning (or teaching!) an instrument is getting past the initial learning curve. Once students develop skills on an instrument, playing the instrument well becomes the reward. It's fun to learn new songs and challenge yourself. But, it's a hard road when you begin learning an instrument. 

Piano teachers are great. There are websites, blogs, books, and conferences all dedicated to how to be a better piano teacher, how to incorporate new ideas, how to make old things fun, and how to work games into the curriculum. While the drum education world has made a few strides in this direction I have yet to find any guitar educators that are doing anything like what was previously mentioned. 

In all my years of teaching, I have never incorporated games. I have always believed that learning to play an instrument well should be reward in itself. While I still think this is true for older students (teenagers and older), younger students can definitely benefit from some extra motivation. Beginner lessons for students under 10 can be pretty boring for the student and the teacher while working on a lot of the foundational material. With this in mind, I have started incorporating games into my guitar lessons, and will work them into piano lessons in the fall. 

There are endless resources for piano games and activities, so I won't go into detail here but my favorite websites thus far are: Susan Paradis' website, Discoveries Piano Studio, and probably my favorite so far, MusicMatters. Some have great resources and other times it's just really good to hear someone else sharing the same experiences that you are. 

Here are two guitar games that I have begun using with my students. I need help naming them!

Game 1
  1. Benefit: Learning treble clef note names, note types and symbols
  2. Items Needed: Flash Cards with notes on treble clef and note types/symbols    (quarter note, treble clef, etc)
  3. Setup: Mix up flash cards and spread them on a table on one side of the room. 
  4. Game Play: Stand on the other side of the room (opposite the flash card table) with your student. Call out a note name or note symbol. They have to run to the table find it and bring it to you. If they get it right, give them a new note/symbol to find. If they get it wrong, they have to go back and try again. When they get to the last card they have to tell you the name of the note/symbol. I time this game so that it's a race. Students compete against each other and their previous times. 

Game 2 (pictured above)
  1. Benefit: Learning notes on the fretboard
  2. Items Needed: Paper Plates, Paper, Marker, Tiled floor
  3. Setup: Write note names on paper plates.  Write fret numbers on small sheets of paper. Use tiled floor  (like a grid) as fretboard and place fret numbers accordingly. Scatter plates across the room. 
  4. Student has to grab the paper plates and put them in the correct location on the 'fretboard'. Time them so that they can compete against each other and themselves. 

So, what do you think? I have found that these games (though they seem simplistic) really help students to grasp the ideas, give us a few minutes out of our chairs (great exercise running around the room!), and have a fun new way to look at the instrument. I'll post more of these as I think of them and use them. 

Now I need YOUR help! What do I name these games? Fellow teachers, what are games that you use? I've seen that a lot of games work for all instruments, or can be adapted to fit. 

P.S. Stay tuned for an awesome iPad game that I have gotten the privilege to beta test. Coming soon!