Learning Curve... Line... S... Plateau... to Physical Proficiency.

As a tech and a future music educator focusing on percussion overall, but for now the battery, I was curious as to everyones thoughts on the learning curve. To be a bit more specific I was curious about the muscle memory relating to tempo curve. I want to explain the best I can, but also don't want to bore those that might actually be able to contribute. So here goes for the sake of brevity, but ask questions if need be.

Given only physical proficiency in mind, what do you think the curve or line would look like for a beginning student learning a new exercise.

Do you just try to bump things up 3, 8, or 12 (consistently) clicks a week?
Do you push bigger tempos at the beginning and taper at the end knowing that there are physical limits?
Do you start small, make sure they have it, bigger increments when solid, then tapper when they are reaching physical limits?

I already have some of my own thoughts (which may be very visible), but I'm curious as to everyones thoughts. This is really only the beginning of my questions as well.

Gaining new knowledge through classes and experience, I've realized that though experience is key, keeping actual records and asking others in the process can get you further faster. Doing some R&D if you know what I mean.

Thank you all and I hope to keep this going and maybe even deepen the discussion with everyones thoughts.

Peace...
Ralph, thanks for that post. Definitely a lot of great knowledge that us less experienced instructors can use. I don't come from an extremely competitive circuit like Texas, but it's definitely a lot I can use in helping my kids achieve that next level.
[quote author=TuoPohc link=topic=3108.msg16510#msg16510 date=1244163819]
How much time do you spend on warmups (% of rehearsal progressively through the season...) (ok so 3 parts...)?
[/quote]

Down here in Houston, the general rule (as far as band goes) is to spend 20-25% of your rehearsals on nothing but technique. The better directors follow that rule all the way up until the day of the big contest. Your basic concert F, Remington Exercises, Lip Slurs, Scales, whatever. Then you would spend a short time on the bridge material like a chorale (or for us, a cadence). It's not the contest music of a particular season, but it's also not an exercise that the kids will check out on like you said earlier. From there, you spend the rest of the time on your contest music. The percentage would be weighted differently in June camps, since most programs only have their opener if anything.

[quote author=TuoPohc link=topic=3108.msg16510#msg16510 date=1244163819]
How much time do you spend on one exercise?
How many exercises do you play consistently?
[/quote]
I treat this as the same question, actually. You always have to keep in mind the mentality of your age group. It's sad to see the direction today's youth are going with shortening attention spans and demand for instant gratification.

With the younger kids, I have found it to be pretty effective to have yourself a core group of exercises that cover all of your basics (and maybe a few that go beyond) and hit them everyday. You would be surprised how many higher level concepts you can cover with an 11 year old when you don't spend half the class on them and you keep them varying. I prefer the exact same order everyday, but I know several people that have a few different exercises that they switch in and out depending on what day.

With the older kids you can spend more time on a particular exercise/concept and they will be alright. It's really up to you to keep them interested. ";That was bad, do it again";, or ";You're doing it wrong, do it again"; just SCREAMS bad teacher to me if they are said without explaining WHY it is bad or WHAT they are doing wrong:)

[quote author=TuoPohc link=topic=3108.msg16510#msg16510 date=1244163819]
I've noticed that if they aren't DELIBERATELY playing the exercise it's a waste of reps. How crucial do each of you think attention is in reps? If after 10 minutes of 8's you notice they aren't paying attention... do you move on seeing a point of no gain?
[/quote]
If you give them a certain thing to look or listen for, you can rep any exercise for an hour, even 8's! When you leave it up to them to diagnose themselves, that's when they get bored and it starts to suck.

Quick example...

I'm teaching a camp right now in Magnolia, TX with Justin Arenas (Cavie age out, don't know him very well but so far am VERY impressed!). Justin Arenas is explaining technique he uses, he called it a take on the North Texas style. It's quite different than the Legato Flow that they use right now, but Justin is explaining it in a way that has these kids completely focused on making it look, feel, and sound right. Today, they rehearsed for two and a half hours on TWO exercises and never even took a break. The coolest thing was that NOT ONE KID GRIPED, and at the end they were even saying ";It's been HOW long? Already?";

We can't all teach the [insert favorite corps], where every member is 100% dedicated to their craft and know how to improve themselves. Most high school kids need to be told what to do until they have the maturity to do it themselves, which for most of them probably won't be until Senior year, if ever. You'll be in good shape if you are constantly reminding/telling/showing your kids what SOUNDS good, what LOOKS good, how to do it, and most importantly, how to identify quality. You might be the only person in this kids life that is demanding ANYTHING of them above the status quo. That kind of kid needs you to show them how to set and meet a high standard, and those skills they will take with them everywhere (college, sports, workforce, parenting, prison, etc.).

OK, I think Tapspace has become like crack to me, I need to stop posting for a little while:)
Thank you all for the great input!

I completely understand and actually use the ";boil the frog"; method. I guess I was more curious as to specifics... though I think that ends up being different with individual students and different groups. In other words... How fast can you boil a frog without him jumping out? I guess that's why there are battery techs... it's our job to be the watchful eye for those that are about to jump out and slow the process of boiling the frog instead of simply handing a student a technique book. I guess my goal was to create a better sense of structure in my method to get better results faster.

I agree with all of this advice and really am thankful for input. If anyone wants to contribute more to this I would always be welcome.

My next question is in two parts and I think you'll understand why I put them together.

How much time do you spend on one exercise?
How many exercises do you play consistently?
How much time do you spend on warmups (% of rehearsal progressively through the season...) (ok so 3 parts...)?

I guess I've always found myself and many other instructors stuck in 'perfectionist world' and don't move on to other exercises besides an 8's, huck, dub, and timing. Then they wonder why the students can't handle something more difficult.

I've noticed that if they aren't DELIBERATELY playing the exercise it's a waste of reps. How crucial do each of you think attention is in reps? If after 10 minutes of 8's you notice they aren't paying attention... do you move on seeing a point of no gain?

For those of you that are still with me after our 'eharmony.com' adventures... please give feedback and much of it. It is greatly appreciated and I am taking a great deal from it.

I will be sure to pick up the book mentioned. If anyone has any other material like this I would most definitely pursue it. So far my library is fairly extensive, but I always enjoying picking up on small new items that could make a huge impact on progress.

Thanks Again!!! Peace...
[quote author=Lydian9 link=topic=3108.msg16488#msg16488 date=1244087986]
Ok this got weird and quick, I'm out.[/quote]

Weird?

Out?

I haven't even shown you my Barbie doll collection yet.
Ok this got weird and quick, I'm out.

Way to go Eric:)
[quote author=erath link=topic=3108.msg16485#msg16485 date=1244079659]This just got awfully ";eharmony.com"; all of the sudden![/quote]

lol...

Well, I suppose I'm broke enough to do some curling up on the couch to Sleepless in Seattle, eating frozen yogurt and crying, but for the right price.

And I only pitch.
[quote author=Marsha N. Mambo link=topic=3108.msg16481#msg16481 date=1244073581]
[quote author=Lydian9 link=topic=3108.msg16478#msg16478 date=1244062736]
Glad you liked the post, homey! Now if I could just figure out who you are:)[/quote]

I did like it.

And my name is Ryan Cox. I'm 32 and I'm a marching percussion enthusiast from Oregon. I have no significant credentials, but I am a big fan of DCI, WGI and pretty much any other rudimental drumming that gets done well and with balls.

This is what I look like:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjX8Pk588V8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8VT0Z75v8c

[/quote]

This just got awfully ";eharmony.com"; all of the sudden!

BTW, I'm a libra and like long walks on the beach and clean beats.

Besides, Ralph you're a married man!!
[quote author=Lydian9 link=topic=3108.msg16478#msg16478 date=1244062736]
Glad you liked the post, homey! Now if I could just figure out who you are:)[/quote]

I did like it.

And my name is Ryan Cox. I'm 32 and I'm a marching percussion enthusiast from Oregon. I have no significant credentials, but I am a big fan of DCI, WGI and pretty much any other rudimental drumming that gets done well and with balls.

This is what I look like:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjX8Pk588V8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8VT0Z75v8c




Glad you liked the post, homey! Now if I could just figure out who you are:)

[quote author=Marsha N. Mambo link=topic=3108.msg16476#msg16476 date=1244060346]
[quote author=Lydian9 link=topic=3108.msg16471#msg16471 date=1244040422]*Re: Lydian's post above.*[/quote]

I've taken a swing at teaching drum lines before and really haven't liked it. I found myself overly pasionate, pushing too hard and expecting the kids I was teaching to be as passionate as me and, I'm ashamed to say, to catch on to things quicker than I did (or can).
[/quote]

";You have to remember that to about 90% of all the kids you will ever teach, band is just another hobby of theirs.";

An old band director I used to work with once said that, pretty profound!
[quote author=Lydian9 link=topic=3108.msg16471#msg16471 date=1244040422]*Re: Lydian's post above.*[/quote]

Now [i]THAT[/i] is one of the most effective, constructive, helpful posts I've ever seen on a discussion forum for drummers.

I've taken a swing at teaching drum lines before and really haven't liked it. I found myself overly pasionate, pushing too hard and expecting the kids I was teaching to be as passionate as me and, I'm ashamed to say, to catch on to things quicker than I did (or can). But having seen a more scientific approach, like Lydian9's, I can visualize the process being much less painful.

I hope more instructors contribute to this thread, because this is legitimately helpful information.
[quote author=Lydian9 link=topic=3108.msg16471#msg16471 date=1244040422]
I didn't mean to ramble on so much, I'm bored out of my skull watching ";Jungle Book"; for the 15th time this week!
[/quote]

Ralph - you aren't done writing for the summer, are you?!?

I wanna watch the Jungle Book, too!

Here's my quick, I-have-to-get-back-to-writing-or-an-angry-band-director-is-going-to-show-up-at-my-house response:

Without going into too much detail, grab a copy of Kennan Wylie's beginning percussion book, Simple Steps for Beginning Percussion. His warm-up sequence is masterful. It not only is masterful in the introduction of different skills (starts with 8's, yada yada, progresses through rolls, accent/taps, flams yada, yada) but also masterful in the tempos that he prescribes each exercise be played at progressively through the book.

It's also great to say, ";Students, we're on Step #18, so make sure you are doing the warm-up exercises that accompany Step #18 and at the correct tempos."; I don't have to write anything but ";Warm-ups from Step #18"; on the board. The book has it there for the students to see, and they know what they are supposed to do...

Now, that was chasing a rabbit a little, but I think if you pick up a copy of that book, you'll see why it was worth the chase.

Whether anyone else says it this way, I'll gather that this is the prevailing notion of the percussion teachers on this board: boil a frog, slowly. Drop the frog into boiling water and they jump out. Drop a frog into lukewarm water and they don't. Progressively, gradually and slowly turn up the heat and you'll eventually boil the frog.

If I didn't think PETA would end up on my front porch, I'd try this in my own home... Maybe, if they sent Pam Anderson it would be worth it.

This is what I tell my kids percussionists and non-percussionists alike: ";boil the frog."; They know what I mean because they hear the stupid analogy like twice a month.

P.S. - If you really want to hear some sage advice, email Bill Bachman. When it comes to this, he's an old school slow-fast-slow guy. But, I would guess he'd tell you that you are always wanting to make the fast faster, not outdoing yourself early on, causing physical problems.

Now, back to your opener...
As we all know (and all kids want to deny), kids love, need, and feel safe within STRUCTURE. We have a procedure in place to learn anything whether it be an exercise, a piece of music, whatever. The kids will feel confident if they know EVERYDAY as soon as I walk in the room we're gonna do A, when that's finished we'll move onto B, and then we will do either C or D, etc.

This is the system I have found to work for my 5th and 6th grade classes (I teach to the ";top middle";):

1. Write in the counts together as a class. That assures that everyone is developing their reading skills. Even if they are just copying off their neighbor, the physical act of them writing the count on the paper is getting it into their brain (much like writing out vocabulary lists). With kids this age (or even some high school's unfortunately) you have to make them do it. You can't just say ";I expect you to do this";, and just assume they will. I have them all turn their stand around and show me that it is finished before we move on. It only takes an extra minute or so, but at least then you KNOW they all will be looking at the counts as they play:)

2. Say it as a class with a metronome, one measure at a time. No hands moving yet, just counting it out loud. We don't move on until the majority of the class can do it confidently on pulse.

3. Say it again, but add air drum with a metronome. I've done this with and without sticks in the hands, they both work pretty well. We don't move on until the majority of the class has their hands moving correctly.

4. FINALLY we play it. If the exercise is complicated (with an unusual pattern), we break it down on measure at a time.

After that, we will mix it up. Loop with 4 counts in between, say it only, then air drum and say, then play, rinse and repeat.

I remember my first year at UK, they called the metronome a ";Texas Band Director";. I used a metronome for a conducting exam once and got points taken off, ";Now Ralph, a good conductor should KNOW what 120 feels like";. I was like DUDE, IT'S NOT FOR ME. But of course I didn't say that:)

NOW,TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS!


[quote author=TuoPohc link=topic=3108.msg16429#msg16429 date=1243725084]
Do you just try to bump things up 3, 8, or 12 (consistently) clicks a week?
[/quote]

Some exercises will stay the same tempo for a month, while some can gain 20 beats in a day. I just keep monitoring the progress, and once it seems like the majority of the class (again, top middle) seems to get it we kick it up 5-10 beats. In the corner of one of my greaseboards, I have a chart with the name of the exercise and the tempo each class can play it at. The kids love trying to be the fastest! It takes some training, but they do eventually understand that we can't kick it up until they can play it WELL.

I have a unique situation in where I basically have my kids as beginners for two years (sorta), so time is really no issue at all for me. We take our sweet time:)

[quote author=TuoPohc link=topic=3108.msg16429#msg16429 date=1243725084]
Do you push bigger tempos at the beginning and taper at the end knowing that there are physical limits?
[/quote]

One of the class mantra's is ";Speed is last";. We normally start out in the mid 80's. Any slower than that and the momentum of the stroke gets lost. Once the grip and stroke start to fade away, we know we have hit the class limit. For the first few months, we won't just hang out at the limit, we start over at the slower tempos and slowly climb our way back up everday.

[quote author=TuoPohc link=topic=3108.msg16429#msg16429 date=1243725084]
Do you start small, make sure they have it, bigger increments when solid, then tapper when they are reaching physical limits?
[/quote]

I assume you're referring to tempo? If so, then absolutely. If you're referring to heights, we do all of our exercises at the 3 different ones. Piano (3'), Mezzo Forte (around 6";), and Forte (around 12";). We also do most of them (or at least try) both Right hand lead and Left hand lead.

I didn't mean to ramble on so much, I'm bored out of my skull watching ";Jungle Book"; for the 15th time this week!
[quote author=Marsha N. Mambo link=topic=3108.msg16462#msg16462 date=1243980003]
So, in essence, don't hold your breath until drum corps elite start charting out the learning curves of their students. :)
[/quote]

Yea... I guess I was just hopeful that for the better of all, those that could contribute would. Call me an optimist.

Any takers? Bueller?
Well, the unfortunate reality is that, unless pay checks are directly influenced by introducing superior teaching tools and techniques to the marching percussion community, those tools and techniques will probably seem conveniently irrelevant to Joe Super-Instructor; in fact, though some may propose that the inclusion of the metronome, for example, into the typical instructional regimen, and the subsequent homogenization of drum corps' sound, is an example of the instructor community's striving for superior instructional techniques in the name of improving education, the truth, in my opinion, is that the metronome was included to increase cleanliness, which satisfied boxes on a judge's sheet, which led to higher scores, which led to bigger pay checks.

So, in essence, don't hold your breath until drum corps elite start charting out the learning curves of their students. :)

$.02
[quote author=Marsha N. Mambo link=topic=3108.msg16459#msg16459 date=1243978596]
When I first read this post, I was tempted to disregard it as superfluous - as one man's taking an excessively clinical approach to what, at the end of the day, is teaching a bunch of kids how to beat on drums - but you have some excellent questions there.
[/quote]

I could completely see and understand what you mean. Really I guess the goal in the end is to create some sort of method to go about achieving physical proficiency as efficiently and mindlessly as possible in order to focus on the more important aspects of music: Literacy and Appreciation.

Obviously being a thread I started, I'm curious to see what comes about.

Peace...
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