A new approach and new methods in drum teaching

The two head teachers of the Schmidt studio, András Schmidt and Szabolcs Bánó, are widely known in the circles of domestic drum teaching for a long time. In 2004 they founded the SUN DRUM drum school, where pupils are trained in a completely novel approach. This approach is fundamentally different from the former ones and opens new possibilities in the field of teaching and skill development. First we asked András Schmidt to introduce the theoretical features and objectives of their method.

– The symmetrical-linear drum teaching method we have been using for several years in the teaching of our students differs in many aspects from the traditional methods. Actually it is unique in the world, if we are not mistaken. Starting from a new aspect, we created a completely new base for drum teaching. We do not focus only on the fact that our students would play drum well after a while, but it is also important for us that by playing the drum our students experience a change in their point of view. By the help of this, later they can also utilize their special skills in completely different fields.

– What kind of special skills do you think of?

– Well, I mean for example the stable balance state, the proportionate utilization and harmonization of the two cerebral hemispheres, the versatile thinking and action. I must point out that the left hemisphere is responsible for the rationale, male, while the right hemisphere for the intuitive, female, creative characteristics. By harmonizing these hemispheres, problem solving ability can be greatly improved. A part of our artistic credo is that we should live in the greatest possible harmony with ourselves and our environment. This is essential for a creative person.

– How came the idea to change the method of teaching?

– Primarily the fact that in the traditional drum teaching students are forced to make a great deal of substitute actions. In classic drum schools they use alternating hands on a single snare drum which can be considered as a symmetrical mode of movement. However, this is going to change later when students use traditional sets of drums because either right or left-sided dominance will prevail. What happens here is that the symmetry is broken and the balance disturbed.

– As far as I know, there has been a geometrical form, namely the circle that played an important role in the development of the new system.

– For us, the circle is the symbol of symmetry, unity and completeness. In a very simple form, it represents all what we think of balance, harmony and consonance.

– And how is the circle transformed into a symmetrical-linear drum teaching method?

– You don’t have anything to add to or detract from the circle. It is perfect as it is. We put the question to ourselves: can we add something to the traditional training? Do we utilize all our possibilities? Just recently I mentioned the cerebral hemispheres because it is widely known that the right hemisphere controls our left side and vice versa. This means that if someone is right-handed, then he/she primarily uses this side, concentrates more on this side and consequently the left hemisphere is used. This was the way we revealed that something is missing, something is not perfect here. We tried to fill this hiatus and we developed such a symmetrical coordination movement system that is based on kinaesthetic education, teaching by movement.

The next question is directed towards Szabolcs Bánó, who – besides drum teaching – is the drummer of the rock band Kiss World Hungary and started learning drums as a left-handed student many years ago.

– Let’s continue this train of thoughts. Symbolically, how is circle related to your method and the traditional method?

– To give you a geometrical analogy of the traditional method, it is the simplest to imagine that only the third or a quarter part of the whole circle is used, since a drummer plays on this narrow angle most of the time. In our method, this angle is approximately doubled while the drummer can avoid uncomfortable situations and don’t have to face hardly manageable tasks.

– There are many places and schools where drummers are trained. What about the skills mentioned by András Schmidt; can these skills be developed in these schools as well?

– Actually they can be developed since drumming in itself is an activity that develops skills, but there is a difference related to the difference between the methods. We recognized that by applying the principles of symmetry, we can develop a new teaching system. If you look at the traditionally structured drumsets, you can see that these can be deployed based on the hand preference of the drummer, i. e. the drummer is either left- or right handed. Sometimes you can also see drumsets which are similar to those of ours but the extensions do not follow the principles of symmetry.

– Traditionally the ride cymbal is positioned on the right side of the drumset in case of a right-handed drummer and the hi-hat is on the left side of the drumkit. The other parts of the drumkit are adjusted to this setting.

– Exactly. The core element of our method is that by symmetrically doubling the elements of the drumkit we place them in a semi-circle and train the drum students to use the cymbals and the equally tuned drums by symmetrical movement of hands and feet. Usually two kick drums or a double-bass pedal is used. By this method, we make the students to equally use their limbs and use both cerebral hemispheres. This significantly improves the skills related to movement coordination, gives a different sounding and provides an easier to perform beat sequence. Technical difficulties, related to very complicated beat combinations (like crossing the sticks) are eliminated.

– And a practical question. Originally, you are left-handed. Does it cause any problem to you if you sit to a right-handed drumkit?

– No it absolutely does not. I play like I was right-handed.

– It can be heard quite often that it is improper to force left-handed children to write with their right hand. Does your method raises such worries?

– Not at all since we do not force anyone to use one hand instead of the other. Left-handed students remain left-handed but they also learn to use their right hand to the extent they can use their left. This way the skills are mirrored and new mental and physical perspectives will be opened for the student not only in the field of drumming but in many other areas of life.

B. Gábor Attila