I was a little surprised when my son asked me if he could learn to play the drums. Sure, I had seen JazzEdge on the Schoolhouse Review Crew vendor list. I had even known that DrumsWithWillie was one of the things that they were offering to let members of the Review Crew try out. I had even reviewed (and enjoyed) HomeSchoolPiano last year. However, I had not counted on my son’s unbridled enthusiasm for the idea of learning to play drums. We didn’t even have any drums!
As a mom who wants to let her son try out new things that he’s interested in, I found myself signing up for the review team, purchasing a used set of drums from a church friend, and letting my house get a whole lot louder as we both learned more about the world of drums and the music you can make with them.
The Layout of the Program
This program is one where you can stream videos online or download the lesson videos, so you’ll need a good internet connection to be able to complete the lessons. There are also a few downloadable sheet music components that you can download and print out for your young musician to practice with.
You’ll also need drums, of course. Your drum set will need to include at least a kick drum, snare drum, hi-hat cymbal, and at least one other cymbal. The instructor, Mike, also includes one of the high toms and a low tom on his drum setup on the lessons, so we set our drum set up exactly like his. You can also use an electric drum set to complete these lessons.
There are three levels to DrumsWithWillie plus a unit of CoreDrums. In core drums, you’ll learn how to hold a drum stick, how to set up your drums, how to change and tune a drumhead as well as choosing the perfect location in your house for your drums. There are only six CoreDrum lessons, and all are incredibly practical, especially if you’re the Mom wondering where to put your son’s new drum set and whether or not his drum heads need changing.
The other three levels are from the complete beginner all the way through becoming a well-rounded and basically proficient drummer. No worries if you can’t read music because your instructor is going to teach you all the rhythm and music reading that you will need to know to complete the lessons. Each level is divided into six units, and those six units are further subdivided into five lessons per unit. These lessons encompass:
- Rhythm (with a quiz)
- Reading Music
- Playing a Song
This breakdown and technique replicates the six-step cycle that we learned when we were reviewing HomeSchoolPiano, and you can read more about JazzEdge’s 6-step cycle and how they comply with the National Standards for Music Education on their website.
How We Used This Program
We very quickly went through CoreDrums over the course of a week or so, got his drums set up and were ready to get started learning. Then, he began with the technique lesson of unit one on level one. He needed a two weeks to practice and get the technique lesson down before he could move on the next part of the lesson. After that, he tended to move through the material at the pace of 1-2 lesson pieces per week, and he practiced 4-5 times per week. I would sit with him as he practiced to remind him of things on the video, and to occasionally replay sections of the videos as we needed to reference them.
As long time readers will know, we’re slow workers curriculum wise, and I’m going to be budgeting 4 weeks per unit as we continue through the program depending on the difficulty level of the material and how much practice time Firecracker gets in. Some pieces of the lesson like rhythm have been easier for him, but other sections like technique and reading music have required a good bit of practice before he’s ready to come back and learn something new.
My Thoughts on DrumsWithWillie
DrumsWithWillie really keeps it’s promise of being for the beginner from the very beginning. The instructor, Mike, is warm and personable. He doesn’t over-explain, and he allows the beginning drummer to progress slowly, step-by-step. I tended to stay by Firecracker’s side, and we both really enjoyed listening to the lesson and learning.
If you choose to take a less hands-on approach with your student, you can go to your record keeping section of DrumsWithWillie to see which sections of which units your child is completed and when they completed them. That will be useful for us as Firecracker gets more proficient at the drums and more independent in his completion of the program. I can go into each level and print off his completion records for his permanent records for the year, making it easy for me.
I never realized until we tried this program that drums and drummers have some complicated patterns, rhythms and musical reading of their own to accomplish, and I should have. I have a completely new appreciation for drummers. I also have loved being able to see my son channel some of his energy and focus into making his rhythms and patterns perfect, and learning how to apply himself towards being a good drummer. This is the first curriculum we’ve ever had in the house that he’s asked for more lessons on, and I’m excited about all that he’s learning. If you have a child who is interested in the drums, this is a great low-pressure way to learn.