Newburgh Ear Academy

Newburgh, Fife

Nae dots:

Beginners Only

Rhythm is arguably the most important aspect of any music making. Some drumming is incorporated into most academy workshops because it’s so important, whatever instrument you’re playing. When playing with others rhythm is critical. One can get notes, chords, harmonies wrong, and get away with it, possibly because the moment is fleeting, but if the rhythm goes wrong, it often stays wrong. For a band it’s the most scary because if you can’t pull it back again a song can collapse.

A split second of time keeping is all that’s required to turn ‘tight’ into ‘loose’. ‘Tight’ is the holy grail of many musicians & many bands. A band is only as tight as it’s loosest band member.

Hugh Martin of Floosie Soo

Hugh Martin of Floosie Soo

It all starts with the drums. The drummer takes the stick first if the time keeping goes pear shaped – a song speeds up so the singer can no-longer get her words out or the dancers start to fall over themselves. But everyone else has a hand in it too.

If the bass player or guitarist has a tendency to speed things up, it’ very difficult even for the drummer to hold things back. Slowing down live music is very difficult. Being solid on rhythm is a skill highly rated for any member of the rhythm section. In the end it’s all about listening to the other musicians & coordinating yourself to a split second. It’s also about being ready to change. A rhythm section who can ‘track’ a jazz singers mood as she subtly speeds up, slows down or pauses is at the top of their game. The singer will gain valuable freedom when she knows the band are literally right behind her.

More important though is for everyone in the band to be striking the beats on the button. Everyone needs to know when the intro is finishing & the 1st verse starts. Everyone should be aware of the moment the Chorus or Bridge comes along.

set of bongos
Drum kit cymbals

In a workshop situation, the kit will be split up so everyone can get a shot at each aspect. Though there are countless variations, the usual would be the Bass drum hitting the 1st & 3rd beat of every bar. The Snare would be holding the important off-beat. The Hi-hat – (closed), would be hitting every beat or doubling – striking 8 beats in a 4 beat bar. The Crash Cymbal is reserved for important changes of direction in the music. You’ll of-course get to play the full kit towards the end of the workshop after building up you're coordination.

First whoever’s on the bass drum will find the ‘1’ , next the snare would come in an so on. Whoever’s on Crash cymbal has a lot of counting to do, as it’ll usually be 32 bars of 4 beats before the crash marks the new chunk of song – the beginning of the chorus etc. This can be one of the hardest jobs but eventually you’ll find you instinctively know where this moment is without counting at all.


Lastly toms are introduced to provide ‘fills’ just before this important cymbal and change in direction of the music. You’ll benefit from experiencing the full sound of the kit at an early stage in your drumming. As soon as it starts to sound coherent, you’ll be asked to swap round!

We’ll be doing a lot of counting & establishing how ‘square’ a particular song is. The ‘squarest’ will have a 4 bar intro, maybe 3 verses & a couple of choruses all 32 bars long & a faded out-tro. You’ll be surprised how many songs don’t quite fit this mould. With a double verse or half chorus here, a bridge added there,or even a beat added or taken away somewhere, without close analysis you’d struggle to understand exactly what’s happening. But these subtle differences break the mould & make your song special.

We’ll listen to music brought in by participants & play along with some. As usual, YOUR music will be used to work from & we’ll be playing along with a lot of it. Please bring along 3 – 8 favourite tracks preferably on a CD.


Dave is a self taught drummer. If you want to learn really high end stuff, you may have to look elsewhere. However, he has an instinctive idea of what is required by many different aspects of music making, rhythm being one of the most important to Dave.

You will learn how music is structured & how the drums mark the various changes. For beginners this workshop will teach you to listen to music more closely & be more in tune with the music around you.


Weavers Hall, Bank Close, Newburgh, Fife
KY14 6EG

email: james James email

mobile: 07970 744986
landline:01337 842434

Dave J Ford peering through  ice sculpture