zen drum

music mindfulness

what is the sound you are meant to play?
what is the song you are meant to play?

drum

Be aware of the drum in front of you. Does this instrument draw you to make a sound?

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player, become open to a new way of making your sound. The drum is now new to you whether you’ve never played it or you’ve been playing it for many years.

“Welcome to the Zen Guitar Dojo. Please leave the door open.” -Phil Sudo

Phil Sudo wrote the book “Zen Guitar.” The following five lessons are inspired by his writing and teaching. I try to blend my own experience in teaching and performing with a personal interpretation of the Zen Guitar philosophy. These are only suggestions. You may find your own interpretation suits your playing better. I’ve included more information on the book after the lessons.

Beginner Materials :
A snare drum in good repair or a rubber drum pad,
A pair of drumsticks size 5B or 2B
A method book with photographs of posture and hand placement.
You also might want a teacher or more experienced drummer ready to help you.

Preparation:
Adjust Your Mindset

Be open during each session to know just one thing.

If you prefer a schedule, I would suggest at least 15 minutes a day for about a week before you go to the next lesson in the series. Never rush though a lesson; take the time. If it takes a week to do just a small part of a lesson; that’s fine.

Now, hold an empty cup (refer to Zen Guitar page 26).

d_cup

(The following lessons are a total revamping of lessons I wrote for the Zen Guitar Dojo. All the content on this page is mine. http://www.maui.net/~zen_gtr/lesson16.html

Each session begins the same way.

wear the white belt

pick up your sticks

play

Lesson One: Make a Sound
Week 1

Hold an empty cup

1 Place the drum or pad in front of you at waist level. Hold the drumstick with your left hand- then place it into your right hand. Follow the photograph in your book. Wave the stick up and down with your wrist, the stick should feel like a lever with the hinge being between your second knuckle on your index finger and the pad of your thumb.

2 The rest of the fingers should cradle the rest of the stick.
Now rotate your hand so that the back of your hand is facing up (the picture in Lesson One continued shows this position). When both hands are like this, it’s called matched grip.

3 Make a sound with the right hand. Strike the drum with a snapping motion; almost like cracking a whip. Try playing steadily. Make sure the stick snaps away from the drum; you don’t want it to thud and remain on the head (at least not at this time). Sometimes a beginner’s stick will bounce more than once when you strike. That’s normal. Don’t get tense when it happens, just keep listening, observe when that happens and when it doesn’t. That bouncing will be an asset later when you start to play rolls.

d_openclose

4 Repeat with the left hand. You may notice one hand is stronger than the other. Listen, feel and observe. You strike by bending the wrist, your elbows should be relaxed and your upper arms stationary.

Lesson One continued
Week 1

5 Now play with both hands alternating or together. The sound of the drum is its most characteristic away from the center of the drum head. Try hitting around until you find the ‘sweet spot.’ Remember the tip of the stick should always hit off center.

Pour your heart and soul into the sound. Don’t worry about the steps, just live in the moment.

d_match

Lesson Two: Sound and Silence
Week 2

Hold an empty cup.

1 Review the previous lesson. Play the right stick, play the left stick, now alternate LRLR, etc. Listen to the sound or listen to the no sound.

2 Go to the first lesson page of your book. Each quarter note is one hit with a stick. Most method books start with 4 beats to each “measure”. The “L”s and “R”s tell you which hand to use when striking. The symbol that looks like a fancy E is the quarter rest. When you start an exercise, say out loud, “One, Two, Ready, Go.” Or you can replace those words with your own words. Count out loud the numbers of each beat as you play each note. When you come to a rest, say the number but don’t play. Eventually you won’t be counting out loud during a rest but it’s good to do it now. It helps you keep your place in the music. More advanced players can count silently if they choose.

3 Know one thing: Play an exercise and focus on just that exercise. Don’t worry about anything else. Don’t worry about “Am I learning this fast enough?” Let each note sound, let it make its space in the air.

The placing of the silence is just as important as the sound. They are equal partners.

Lesson Three: Rhythms
Week 3

Hold an empty cup.

1 Review the previous lessons. It’s always good to start with the previous lesson at this beginning stage, but eventually (especially with more advanced players) you may want to do your warmup studies instead.

2 The next page should be introducing eighth notes. Count outloud and feel the sound of your voice “One-and two-and three-and four-and.” Start on the exercises, keep it slow and steady.

3 Say the rhythm outloud; for example– 2 eighths, 1 quarter, 2 eighths, 1 quarter– would be counted like: one-and twooo three-and fouuur. Or it could be counted: short short looong, short short, looong. Tap your foot to the steady beat if you can.

4 Say and clap; Say and clap the rhythm simultaneously.

5 Say and play; Say the rhythm while playing the rhythm with your sticks. Along with playing the rhythms accurately, pay attention to the sound your sticks make. You want them clear and crisp.

6 Check your hand position and posture.

One thing at a time, if it sounds good it is good.

Lesson Four: Pulse
Week 4

Hold an empty cup.

Record your teacher playing the exercises. If a CD comes with your method book, listen to it. Close your eyes and feel the pulse. Move your body or pat your legs or play with your sticks on a pillow while listening. The more comfortable you feel with a variety of rhythms, the more of a ‘palette’ you’ll have to create your own grooves.

Know one thing: Your hands and mind are being trained though the exercises. Instead of focusing on your ‘spirit’, focus on the playing and how the sticks are becoming more and more natural feeling. This will eventually set your spirit free to express itself through the music. Just as the steering wheel and pedals in a car gradually become comfortable, so will the playing.

Listen3

Lesson Five: Songs
Week 5

Hold an empty cup.

Continue with your lessons in the book if that’s your direction. Pick a song or study on a page or create a song with the rhythms you know. If you find expression in a song or piece, your spirit will guide you to practice the technique you need to play the piece well. Each song has its right tempo and some even say its right key. Each moment of the song is its own moment. Listen to a piece of music you like on a CD. Put on a favorite song or musical selection.

Play along with the groove (even if you’re just doing a steady beat). Doing a groove is playing the rhythms in a way that’s right for the piece. For example a song may require the bass drum to be very slightly pushing the beat while the snare drags the backbeat. You have to be adept enough in your playing for this to feel natural. Over-thinking it makes it stiff and false.

Just think of a school of fish in sync with their own personal body rhythm and in sync with the group rhythm. Every song is unique that way. The key is to be so well versed in the mechanics of playing that it goes automatically while you search for the spark in the music.

Tuning: As opposed to melodic instruments, tuning your drum is a separate event. You do a major tuning when you first get the drum or are replacing the head; then you tweak it periodically. Once the drum head stops speaking, you need to totally retune or replace the head.

Drumset: I rarely recommend a total beginner to start on drumset. There are too many limbs to worry about. Your teacher will know the right time for you to expand to that. If you’re doing this on your own, I advise starting on drumset when you can play about 30 pages into a beginner snare drum method book. You should be able to tap a steady beat while you play most of the exercises on those pages. Your playing should be strong, confident and accurate.

For advanced players who are already playing drumset, please take some of the suggestions I have on practicing snare drum with a Zen philosophy and apply them to your own practice.

-photo by Kim Milai

“One sound, one song.” – Phil Sudo
Tokyo Mon Amour 1992

Phil

Kim Milai drums, Phil Sudo guitar, Patrick Derivaz bass
-photo by Bob Johnson with Kim Milai’s camera

I met Phil while living in New York City and together with Patrick Derivaz we created a punk trio. After we disbanded we kept in contact and and then we still kept in contact after he moved with his family to Maui to write “Zen Guitar.”

Some Final Tips:



In these first lessons you are training (or retraining) your muscles to do the physical actions of playing music. Doing this with regularity will let your spirit naturally speak through your playing. Do not strive, just do in the moment. Listen to yourself. Observe what is good in your playing and also on how you want to improve.

If you find yourself stuggling and are too self conscious, step back to what you were previously playing well and live in that sound. Then experiment with the new thing you want to do. I use a lot of imagery in my teaching i.e.: “Hand the phrase over to someone on a silver platter,” “Hit the back of the auditorium with your airstream,” “Think of each phrase as a sentence in a story,” “Strike the drum like your stick is your finger and the drum like a hot potato.” Imagery can be a valuable tool in your practice.

If you find yourself getting too self conscious while performing, think of a runner running through the finish line (Zen Guitar, page 64). If you concentrate too much on aiming towards the final moments of the piece, you may make mistakes along the way. Using follow through lets you finish the piece without putting too much undue importance and weight on its final moments.

Thank you for your time in looking through these lessons. I welcome any thoughts you have about them and welcome your sharing of your practicing and playing experiences.
KM

PRODUCT
zenguitarbook Learn more from Amazon: Zen Guitar This book has literally struck a chord- not only with musicians, but with anybody seeking to find their center of creativity. Read the reviews and decide if this is the direction you need to go.

amazonglennie Learn more from Amazon: Touch the Sound Evelyn Glennie is a Scottish percussionist that happens to be profoundly deaf. She is classically trained and plays barefoot so she can feel the vibrations. This is a great documentary; very inspiring. Well forth renting or purchasing.

zen anecdote
Have Drum Will Travel

havedrum3

The Background: In 1992, I used to play in a group with Phil. The group was called “Tokyo Mon Amour.” While packing my drums into a taxi to go to a “Tokyo Mon Amour” show at a club in NYC, I mistakenly left my primary snare drum in its case on the curb. When I realized it was left behind, I frantically grabbed a taxi back but it was long gone. I regretted losing it, but chalked it up to fate. It was a Ludwig steel drum in a black case with my old address stenciled on it and a little sign taped on it that’s been on it since high school that read “Have Drum Will Travel.” Luckily I had an extra snare so I could do the show without a hitch.

A year or so later, “Tokyo Mon Amour” was no longer together but I was still friends with Phil and we kept each other informed of any projects we were doing and other goings on in our lives. At that time Phil had told me he was jamming with some different musicians in someone else’s studio; It was for his solo project that would eventually evolve into the accompanying CD for “Zen Guitar.” I think we had been hanging out one evening and in Phil’s casual way he sort of looked at me quizzically and said, ” Did you lose a snare drum a while back?”. I said “Yes” and described to him the drum and case I had lost. He kind of paused a little and cautiously said something roughly like this, “I think I saw it in the studio where I’ve been rehearsing. I can’t promise you I can get it, but I’ll see what I can find out.” I thanked him and told him if he couldn’t get it, not to worry.

Later on in the week Phil told me (sort of mysteriously) that whoever had the snare was willing to give it back but I had to go to this specific address and pick it up by a third party. It was sort of a “no questions asked” thing. I’m not sure if this was because the person with the drum was afraid of me being angry or what. I’m not sure if it was the person Phil was jamming with or if it belonged to another band using the same studio. For some reason I was so enthralled in the mystery of it all I didn’t want to ask any questions.

I went to the address at the arranged time and a girl opened the door. I wasn’t allowed in but she gave me the snare in its case. I can’t remember if it was she or Phil that told me the drum and case had been in Boston for a year before coming back to NYC.

It was a little beat up but in great playing condition. I still have it although I no longer play drums live (at least right now). I was amazed to have the drum come back to me full circle. I was amazed that it was Phil that got it back to me when I had lost it at one of our past shows. In addition, I feel that Phil had a hand in encouraging the person to give the drum back.

He inspired them to do the right thing. The energy that flows around our spirits and around music is a small particle of the worlds beyond this world. Phil both consciously and unconsciously tapped into that energy. I am so honored and grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know Phil and to have played music with him.

-photo by Kim Milai
The Zen Guitar Dojo
Phil Sudo’s biography including his cancer journal.

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zen flute

music mindfulness

what is the sound you are meant to play?
what is the song you are meant to play?

flutebig

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player, become open to a new way of making your sound. The drum is now new to you whether you’ve never played it or you’ve been playing it for many years.

“Welcome to the Zen Guitar Dojo. Please leave the door open.” -Phil Sudo

Phil Sudo wrote the book “Zen Guitar.” The following five lessons are inspired by his writing and teaching. I try to blend my own experience in teaching and performing with a personal interpretation of the Zen Guitar philosophy. These are only suggestions. You may find your own interpretation suits your playing better. I’ve included more information on the book after the lessons.

d_bowl

Beginner Materials :

A flute in good repair

A method book with photographs of posture and mouth placement

Possibly a teacher or more experienced player ready to help you

Preparation

Adjust Your Mindset

If you prefer a schedule, I would suggest at least 15 minutes a day for about a week before you go to the next lesson in the series. Never rush though a lesson; take the time. If it takes a week to do just a small part of a lesson; that’s fine.

Be open during each session to know just one thing.

Now, hold an empty cup (refer to Zen Guitar page 26).

d_cup

Each session begins the same way:

Wear the white belt

Pick up your flute (or head joint)

Tune 

Play

Table of Contents

Lesson One: Make a Sound

Week 1

Be aware of the instrument in front of you.

Does this instrument draw you to make a sound?

Hold an empty cup.

Hold the head joint with two hands and place your lower lip on the edge of the lip plate as per the picture in your book. Your lower lip should be flush with the closest edge of the hole. Make a sound. Breathe from the diaphragm, blow an airstream across the lip plate trying to hit the opposite edge of the hole and aiming across the room.

Stand in front of a mirror to play. When your sound comes out clearly, observe what your mouth looks like. Lower the head joint, bring it back up and try to replicate the sound you just did. It doesn’t matter if the sound is high or low. Let the sound come out naturally, if you’re having trouble, a teacher can guide you. Pour your heart and soul into the sound. Don’t worry about the next steps, just live in the moment.

Bird call: Once you’re creating a smooth, clear sound, hold the head joint with the left hand and place the palm of your right hand over the head joint opening (the tube not the mouthpiece hole). Make a sound through the mouthpiece while covering and uncovering the head joint opening. Try it fast or slow; make it sound like a bird.

Slide whistle: place your right index finger into the headjoint and slowly pull out while making a sound. This exercise helps increase stamina.

Lesson Two: Expand the Sound

Week 2

Hold an empty cup

Review previous lesson

Hold the head joint with two hands, try to create a low sound; the lips are more relaxed, the air hole bigger. See image.

lownote

Try to create a high sound; the lips are closer together, firm but not tight, the air hole is flatter, narrower. The air spins out faster. Play high and low long tones, separately and also blended together slurring up and down. Make sure to take time to breathe between each effort.

highnote

Focus on the moment. Try playing various rhythms on the low and high notes, try long tones and short tones

Focus on your sound, hear when it’s the sound you want or when it’s not. Now put the whole flute together using the diagram in your book or by the direction of your teacher.

Lift the flute as if you’ve never seen one before. Lift with your fingertips cradling the flute from underneath. Do NOT put your fingers to the keys in the proper way just yet.

Bring the flute mouthpiece to your mouth and blow a sound that fills the whole flute, it can be high or low.

Lesson Three: Three Notes

Week 3

Hold an empty cup

Briefly review previous lessons.

Check the diagram that shows the placement of your fingers. Place your fingers, cradle the flute, but do not press down on any keys yet. Play a sound, making sure no fingers are pressing down on any keys. The weight of the flute should be on the left hand index finger bottom knuckle and the right hand thumb.

Press down the right pinky key (Eflat key) if you need help balancing the flute. Check your posture, shoulders down, arms poised but relaxed, head level

Experiment with different rhythms and sounds In your book find the fingering for B, play the note, if it doesn’t sound correct, look at the keys and check your fingering. Make sure that an errant finger isn’t accidentally pressing down. Play B low or high.

Do the same with notes A and G. Focus on the clarity of the sound. Read through the music on the pages of your book that introduce these notes or try playing a simple song like “Hot Cross Buns” or “Merrily We Roll Along.”

One thing at a time. If it sounds good, it is good.

HCBKM

Lesson Four: Scale

Week 4

Hold an empty cup.

Review the previous lessons. It’s always good to start a practice or lesson with just the head joint at this beginning stage, but eventually (especially with more advanced players) you may want to do your warmup playing scales and studies with the whole flute instead. Use your tongue to make a “ta” or “tu” sound in front of each note. This is called “tonguing”. Play a simple song using tonguing.

Learn the fingering and play the following notes; low G, A, B, C, D, E, F sharp, middle G. This is the G major scale. Practice the scale in various ways for example:
1. Moderate speed notes (quarter notes) tonguing (that’s using ta) or slurring (blending the sounds) up and down the scale. Breathe after every four notes or eight notes.
2. Slow notes (half or whole notes) up and down using tonguing or slurring. Breathe after every two notes.
3. Fast notes (eighth notes) up and down using tonguing or slurring. Breathe after every eight or sixteen notes. You may also want to try some other scales. Some suggestions: F major, C major, A minor, D minor. Gravitate towards the ones that fit you naturally.

Lesson Five: Rhythms 

Week 5

Look over the beginning of your book. Usually the first note is the quarter note. It make one sound. The symbol that looks like a fancy E is the quarter rest. This symbol means one no sound. The placing of the silence is just as important as the sound. They are equal partners.

Most beginning pages have ‘measures’ with 4 beats to each measure. Thus, when you start an exercise, say out loud, “One, Two, Ready, Go.” Or you can replace those words with your own words.

Count out loud and feel the sound of your voice  “One, two, three, four” or “One-and two-and three-and four-and.” Start on the exercises if the rhythm confuses you, just play one note. Keep it slow and steady.

For example, say this rhythm out loud: 2 eighths, 1 quarter, 2 eighths, 1 quarter– would be counted like: one-and twooo three-and fouuur. Or it could be counted: short short looong, short short, looong. Tap your foot to the steady beat if you can.

Say and clap; Put the flute down and pay and clap the rhythm simultaneously.

Now go back and play the rhythm with your flute.

Lesson Six: Songs

Week 6

Hold an empty cup.

l

Warmup on previous lessons or scales Continue with the songs in your book or try to create songs by ear using the notes you know.

Record yourself with a handheld tape recorder, a computer, or write down your songs. You don’t have to use music notation, you can just write the note letters and make your own code to show their timing.

You and your teacher can evaluate your instrument. If your flute has leaks or if you don’t feel at one with your instrument, you may need to find out about repairing or even replacing it.

Eventually as you feel more connected to your instrument, you will want to make sure each of your notes is “in tune”. Borrow or buy a tuner and follow the directions on how to understand the readings it gives for each of your notes. If you’re out of tune, sometimes the flute itself needs to be readjusted, sometimes the angle you’re playing needs adjustment. Remember: Rolling in the mouthpiece makes the note flatter, rolling out makes it sharper. The word embouchure means the position of your lips on the mouthpiece. If a flute is in good repair and in tune, you shouldn’t have to make any extreme adjustments on your embouchure by rolling.

On uplifting of spirit: If you find expression in a song or piece, your spirit will guide you to practice the technique you need to play the piece well. Each moment of the song is its own moment.

Practice purposefully. If a long phrase remains difficult, then break it up into sections. Strive to perfect the small sections and then combine them later.

Each song has its right tempo and some even say its right key. Find the joy in the song you make with your flute.

“One sound, one song.” – Phil Sudo

Tokyo Mon Amour 1992

Phil

Kim Milai drums, Phil Sudo guitar, Patrick Derivaz bass
-photo by Bob Johnson with Kim Milai’s camera

I met Phil while living in New York City and together with Patrick Derivaz we created a punk trio. After we disbanded we kept in contact and and then we still kept in contact after he moved with his family to Maui to write “Zen Guitar.”

Final Tips:

In these first lessons you are training (or retraining) your muscles to do the physical actions of playing music. Doing this with regularity will let your spirit naturally speak through your playing. Do not strive, just do in the moment. Listen to yourself. Observe what is good in your playing and also on how you want to improve. If you find yourself struggling and are too self conscious, step back to what you were previously playing well and live in that sound. Then experiment with the new thing you want to do.

I use a lot of imagery in my teaching i.e.: “Hand the phrase over to someone on a silver platter,” “Hit the back of the auditorium with your airstream,” “Think of each phrase as a sentence in a story,” “Strike the drum like your stick is your finger and the drum like a hot potato.” Imagery can be a valuable tool in your practice.

If you find yourself getting too self conscious while performing, think of a runner running through the finish line (Zen Guitar, page 64). If you concentrate too much on the final moments of the piece, you may make mistakes along the way. Using follow through lets you finish the piece without putting too much undue importance and weight on its final moments.

Thank you for your time in looking through these lessons. I welcome any thoughts you have about them and welcome your sharing of your teaching and playing experiences.

Kim Milai

Zen Flute Anecdotes: Know One Thing

My grandfather used to play tenor banjo in a band in the 1920’s called “The Sunshine Serenaders”. They played primarily songs with “sunshine” lyrics. I have a reel to reel from the 50’s with him singing and playing “The World is Waiting for a Sunrise.” He only knew a few songs on the banjo but in that recording he played the most beautiful and heartfelt version of the song. It may not have been the most technically perfect rendition but it was full of spirit and feeling. I believe he was playing the song he was meant to play.

zenguitarbook
Learn more from Amazon: Zen Guitar

This book has literally struck a chord- not only with musicians, but with anybody seeking to find their center of creativity. Read the reviews and decide if this is the direction you need to go.

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