Becoming a musician doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re learning to play an instrument, it takes months even years to perfect your skills. Luckily for you, some of our favourite artistes shed light on the basic know-hows of the instruments they’ve mastered. listen on.
Getting the right beat
Legendary drummer for Watson Brothers, Arafat Kazi gives you a trick or two on playing the drum
How should a learner prepare themselves before getting accustomed to a drum kit?
If you’re a beginner and you don’t have access to a kit, the best thing to do is get yourself a pair of sticks. Get a nice pair like Vic Firth or Vater and familiarise yourself with the way they feel. Since everything’s on YouTube now, you can learn how to hold a stick properly and practise rudiments on your pillow. If you have a kit and the opportunity to play it, then play as much as you can. The more time you spend with your drums the better you’ll be. We have a custom drum building company in Bangladesh now, Beshi Joss Drums. They craft their instruments to international standards. Their owner is Nafeez Al Amin, Arbovirus’ drummer and he really loves what he does. So when you’re upgrading your drums, don’t look to DW or Pearl, do consult him.
According to you, what are the top five things that one needs to consider when buying a set of drums?
Always keep two pairs of nice sticks. Although they are expensive, it’s key to have two pairs, one for use and another for backup since they tend to break. I have dozens of pairs lying around these days. But even when I was a student I would always go to shows with my own sticks. Get a nice pair because they have some weight and they stay straight.
Get the best kit that you can afford. This means that, unless you’re wealthy, you shouldn’t spend your money on something new just because it’s shiny. Get an old kit and buy new heads; you can get a complete set for remarkably low price if you look long enough on the Facebook groups etc.
Once you have a solid basic kit, upgrade your snare, then your hi-hats and finally your ride cymbal. Don’t fall for looks. A 10 year old A Custom is better than a new ZBT.
Create your own sound. You may find something that’s cheap or broken that complements your playing style. I’ve been asking people to send me a Bangladeshi cymbal from Melody for years. I have a lot of fancy cymbals now but one of the mainstays in my setup is a 12” Wuhan Mini China that cost me $10 like 15 years ago.
What practices should a beginner refrain from, when playing the drums? Why do you say so?
Too much double bass. Don’t worry about playing sixteenth notes on your feet. Get it all together first, ignoring your left foot on the hi-hats. If you’re able to keep time with your left foot, it opens up a lot of possibilities. Hi-hats are the most expressive instrument on your drum kit. Play them! Worrying about beats and not melody; at the end of the day, nobody cares how tough your piece is to play. One thing I often do is sing a melody out loud when I’m playing. If I can replicate the melody on my drums I’m good. Also, try not to develop an ego (although I have often been guilty of this). And don’t forget to listen to what the bass players are doing!
What basic beats should one start with if they are learning without guidance?
You can go on YouTube and learn anything! Get a metronome app and play your heart out to the basic subdivisions like 4/4 and 6/8 and all that stuff. You will learn independence and melody as long as you’re listening to music and practising. And seriously, the internet is the greatest resource out there. You can learn from the greatest drummers in the world.
Owning the Axe
Shaik Salekin, founder and guitarist of the band 12AM and teacher at Da Capo, lists a few points for guitar enthusiasts.
What kind of guitar should a beginner get accustomed with?
Normally beginners have a tendency to start with an acoustic guitar but I think it can either be an acoustic or electric depending on one’s own choice. However, acoustic instruments have an advantage over electric, for example, it doesn’t need an amplifier and it’s comparatively cheaper.
What are the top five things that one needs to consider when buying a guitar?
First of all it’s important to set a goal. One needs to know whether they want to pursue a profession as a guitarist or just play it for fun. Secondly, allocating your budget is also essential; how much you can spend is directly related with the quality of the guitar. It is also key to factor in the balance between demand and desire. Alongside these, it’s best to keep in mind the choice of musical styles you’d like to dabble in. While you’re at it, do consider personal preferences such as guitar colour, body type and consulting an expert before buying.
What practices should a beginner refrain from, when playing an acoustic guitar? Why do you say so?
Due to availability of internet one can easily access a lot of lessons online. So a beginner guitarist might lose track in this haze of lessons. So, I would suggest finding a good instructor first. Learn the basics and then when your basics are strong indulge yourself in the ocean of information. You must practice with a metronome.
How does changing the strings improve the quality of sound? When should a learner change the strings of his/her guitar?
Good strings work like magic. Changing guitar strings depend on a couple of parameters.
One is the level of expertise and another is the frequency of playing. If you are a beginner change your strings every two or three months provided you clean your strings regularly.
Which types of learners should use: a finger pick, flat pick or a thumb pick?
Maybe all of them, but then again, it’s a question of personal choice. A lot of Country, Rockabilly style guitar players uses thumb pick, some prefers flat pick. I suggest a beginner should learn how to use fingers as well as flat pick.
Hitting the right notes
Raisul Islam Rimon, 12AM’s keyboardist gives a few pointers on playing the right tune
What three things should a learner know before learning the keyboard?
Before starting to learn the keyboard/piano or any other instrument, these are the three things which are prerequisites for becoming a musician.
Patience is key; no instrument can be learnt overnight.
Listening is power; to pick up a song, good listening skills does 70% of the job.
Having a fixed goal; ask yourself, where do you want to see yourself in 5-10 years?
How long does it take to read sheet music? How important is it for a keyboardist?
If learnt methodically, learning the basics of sheet music should not take more than 15 days. But then again there are different difficulty levels. Some tracks are more complicated than others. The skill develops overtime.
Sheet music is important especially for classical music. But this is a bonus if learnt when the player is a beginner. I was not fortunate enough to learn sheet music since I am a self-taught musician. By the time I was an intermediate player, I felt that I should go back and learn to read sheet music. I learnt but didn’t have to apply much.
How long should a learner practice chord inversions in order to strengthen their skills as a keyboardist?
Chord inversions are very important. I always liked players who apply nearest inversions and I followed them. For example I am a direct student of Jordan Rudess, through YouTube of course! Though he is one of the fastest keyboardists in the world, I always liked him for his melodies and unique application of inversions. A subsequent amount of time should be invested at the beginning level to learn inversions. It’s better to learn inversions when a player learns chords. Simultaneous learning will really help in the long run.
What are the basic practice routines for a keyboardist?
20 minutes a day at least, 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes before going to sleep. But I still remember those days when I woke up beside my keyboard and went to sleep with it. Practise as long as you enjoy it. Don’t push yourself when something you want is not happening. Take a break. Come back. There is nothing in the world that cannot be played.
“Don’t push yourself when something you want is not happening. Take a break. Come back. There is nothing in the world that cannot be played.”
What top five things should a beginner consider before buying keyboard? Which brands would you suggest?
From my point of view, at the beginner level brand it does not matter much. Buying a keyboard is a heavy investment. There are thousands of examples where people bought keyboards and didn’t feel like continuing. So I suggest beginners to start with a minimum investment. Go for a newer/better one when you know 100% of your current machine and it fails to deliver what you need.
Our local music vendors have limited collection of keyboard brands when compared to other instruments like guitars and basses. I would suggest a Yamaha branded amateur/semi-professional keyboard from their collection. But it needs to contain –
A good piano patch
A pitch bend wheel
A sustain pedal. (In most cases it is not included with the keyboard)
What habits should beginners steer clear from?
From my experience I would suggest players to refrain from playing fast at the beginning. While it’s cool to be Usain Bolt on your machine, it’s best to refrain from doing so in the learning stage. Set a metronome at as low as 40 BPM. Practise on it and only increase the metronome by 10/20 BPM when you are comfortable playing it. Move on to the next level only after completing the current one. Lessons are arranged in such a manner that the previous lesson is important to master the later.
Don’t try to compete with other players; instead, challenge yourself. Don’t try to pick a song unless you have listened to it 20 times. If the song plays in your head it’s much easier to pick up the song. Avoid frustration. Time hes everything, trust me ‘everything.’