Shape Beats For Kids: A Simple And Fun Approach To Learning The Drums
We recently sat down with drummer, instructor, and author Tim Carman to discuss his new instruction book, Shape Beats For Kids: A Simple and Fun Approach To Learning Drums, published by Alfred Music. Tim has been teaching with SoundLife Music Academy for the last few years, incorporating many of the book’s concepts into his lessons. So, naturally, we thought it was an important achievement worth sharing with the SoundLife family.
Tim, can you give our readers a little insight into your educational background?
I started early on with jazz studies in high school. Then I received my Bachelor’s degree in music history from Hamilton College in New York. After that I went on to receive a certificate in drum performance from Berklee College Of Music in Boston, MA. This certificate program is two-years long, and during that time I studied with world-renowned drummers including Dave Dicenso, Kim Plainfield, Gary Chaffee, Steve Langone, Jackie Santos, and Bob Gullotti.
And after schooling, how have you used your education professionally?
I started working in the Boston area while still studying at Berklee. I taught private lessons through a company called At Your Door Music. This company was very similar to SoundLife in the sense that I was teaching in-home lessons and traveling all around Boston. I continued studying after school, playing locally in the Boston area, and touring nationally. My wife (then fiancé) was accepted into a pre-med program in Los Angeles, and having always wanted to live there, we made the move from Boston. Berklee’s networking opportunities helped me to start working fairly quickly. I know both you and Mike (SoundLife co-owner) also went to Berklee as well. I started playing locally in the Los Angeles area, covering many styles of music. Berklee prepared me well. I am currently working in a jazz quartet, a jam band, an alternative rock band, and a southern rock soul band. I’m also working consistently in the studio with various original projects.
It sounds like you have your hands full. What gave you the idea for a book like this?
I started teaching drum lessons at seventeen years old, and I was seeing younger and younger kids playing instruments. I was also seeing many kids with disabilities studying. It was out of necessity that I started looking at different ways to view written music. I wanted to find something that anyone could recognize and interpret quickly. Eventually I decided to use shapes for the different drums. A triangle became the hit-hat. A circle became the bass drum. And a square became the snare drum. I perfected this system over time.
I was fortunate enough to study under world-renowned author and jazz drummer, Gary Chaffee, while living in Boston. Gary taught Vinnie Colaiuta, JR Robinson, Joey Kramer, Steve Smith, and many other drum legends. He is also the former head of the percussion department at Berklee College of Music. While studying with Gary, his six-year-old grandson took interest in the drums and wanted to take lessons. Gary, who was very busy at the time, asked if I would teach his young grandson. This is where the book was really born. Gary encouraged me to develop the shape concept, and he put me in touch with Dave Black, the president of the drum department at Alfred Publishing. After six months of lessons with Gary, I moved to Los Angeles, but the ball had already started rolling. I worked on the book from August of 2015 until its release in February of 2017.
The Shape Concept seems like an interesting learning tool. Could you explain it a bit for our readers?
The book starts with an introduction to the hi-hat, snare drum, and bass drum, having the student play each drum alone while saying the corresponding shape out loud. As the book progresses, the student learns how to play two drums at the same time while counting out loud, learns about the concept of a rest, and, in the last chapter, is introduced to standard drum notation. Each chapter of the book contains coordination exercises and play-along suggestions for the newly learned beats. Shape Beats is intended to be a fun introduction to the drums that will allow the students to read their first drum beats and play along to popular songs of the last few decades almost immediately.
This method could certainly be beneficial to our readers and drum students. What type of student is the book intended for?
Originally the book was intended for children and students with disabilities, but I have found that adults enjoy using the same mechanism as well. It truly is a great method to get students of any age to start playing the drums right away. I would recommend ages 4 and up.
Where can people find Shape Beats For Kids?
You can get it on Alfred’s website and on Amazon. It sells for $15.99 and comes with an audio CD.
And what are your personal goals for this book?
My aim is to make drumming accessible to anyone who wants to learn, especially young children. I want to help them play immediately and help them play with music in time so that they are participating in the experience of music from a young age. They learn to play a beat from the book and then connect it with something real. I also hope to inspire students with learning disabilities to engage in music education, and I hope this book provides students and teachers with a system that is helpful and fun.
Those are great goals, and SoundLife is on board with all of it! Do you have plans to continue creating educational literature for young students?
I have plenty more material for a second Shape Beats book, a Volume II if you will. Recently I also started working on a drum book for more advanced students using systems to develop coordination and vocabulary in various styles of music.
Other than those books that you’re working on, what else is up next for Tim Carman?
I plan to continue teaching, performing, writing, and sharing music with as many people as possible.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Tim. We can’t wait to get ourselves a copy of Shape Beats For Kids.
Director / Co-Owner