The Drum Duel: Acoustic vs Electric kits

Everything, it seems, has gone digital these days: music, games, keyboards – even how we pay for our morning coffee. While everything is evolving into the digital era, can electronic versions truly make the original product better? Looking at this from the perspective of a percussion student, performer or teacher, we ask: Do electronic drum kits really measure up to its acoustic predecessors?

yamaha-drums

One of Yamaha’s electric kits.

Electronic drum kits have come a long way since their introduction to the music industry in 1976. In recent years, newer drum kits have addressed many of the shortcomings of early electronic drums. Basic entry-level units aside, the more professional kits, built from brands like Yamaha and Roland, have been geared toward creating a sound and playing experience that is nearly indistinguishable from the traditional acoustic kit. With focus on high quality digital sounds (these kits can simulate effects like muffling, microphone position and ambient acoustic), multiple triggers, realistic hi-hats and multiple outputs, these features go a long way in making these sets more enjoyable to play.

So what are the advantages of playing and learning on an electronic kit?

  • Little noise, if desired – the drummer can adjust the volume to fit their surroundings, or use headphones for nearly silent practice. No more need for pads or mesh heads to dull the sound of acoustic drums.
  • More compact design which makes these kits an ideal solution for small rooms and not a nightmare to move once assembled.
  • Most electronic kits have the ability to simulate the sound of different kits, like a vintage jazz, powerful rock or spunky Latin.
  • They create easy wirings for performances and gigs, by using a line-out or MIDI connection. No complicated microphone set ups required! Same benefit applies for recording sessions as well.
  • Most include a built-in metronome and practice tracks, which is great for students.
  • For band rehearsals, electronic drums can be lowered to a volume to match the rest of the group, which helps a great deal in cramped practice spaces or small groups.
  • No risk of electronic drums becoming scratched or warped in if treated badly or left somewhere damp.
  • No need to tune an electronic kit!

Next, we’ll take a look at the electronic kit’s disadvantages:

  • Most drummers will agree that electronic kits lack the authentic feel or sound the same as an acoustic one. While technology continues to improve on this, it’s difficult to replicate the sound and feel of real drums, cymbals and hi-hats, even with a top-of-the-line electronic kit.
  • Some electric drum kits (though usually basic models) do not include pedals, but supplied with trigger pads which are hard to play at fast tempos and insensitive to the light touch.
  • Electronic kits do require external amplification from a specialized drum amplifier/monitor, which is an added cost.
  • Some electric drum kits have very limited positioning options, making it difficult for all ages and sizes to play comfortably.

In the end, which is better? The answer likely lies in your situation and ultimate goal as a percussionist. For students learning the ropes, an electronic kit provides all the necessary staples to get started, and parents won’t have the headache of constant noise during practice hours. Professional musicians may favor acoustic kits because of their sound, feel and visual appeal, especially if this is what they are used to!

‘We need to be strong for each other’

Ottawa Citizen – September 21, 2013

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Families came out to the vigil held at the Fallowfield Transitway station following the fatal bus/train collision which took place earlier on Wednesday, September 18, 2013.
Photograph by: James Park, Ottawa CitizenRe: Candles, prayers on offer, Sept. 19.

I extend my deepest condolences to those families who lost loved ones in the tragic bustrain accident that shook our city this week. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering they now endure, and the hole in their hearts that will forever remain unfilled.

I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the first responders, emergency personnel, paramedics, police officers, doctors and nursing staff for quickly taking care of our city during those hours of need. We rely so heavily on these individuals when these terrible things happen, and I’m grateful for their bravery and professionalism in the wake of such a tragedy. A heartfelt thank you to Mayor Jim Watson for his staunch leadership, councillors Jan Harder and Steve Desroches for their dedication and communication, Premier Kathleen Wynne for providing support all the way from Queen’s Park, and all our local MPs and MPPs for stepping in and being there for constituents.

I’ve lived in Barrhaven for nearly 27 years; it is the only home I’ve ever known. I was born here, raised here and have now built a life of my own here, including co-owning and operating a local business, which allows my staff and I the opportunity to serve our amazing community. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s collision, the first thing clients asked upon arrival was, “Are you and your family okay?” I was almost taken aback by the outpouring of support, not only for those directly affected by what happened, but towards everyone. This tragedy has affected us all, as Barrhavenites, as Ottawans, as neighbours and as friends.

I travel aboard OC Transpo, towards our downtown core every morning. I was, thankfully and luckily, not on that 76 Express bus that collided with the Via Rail train. But its impact has been felt by the entire city. As I returned to Barrhaven that night, I couldn’t help but think of those families who wouldn’t have their loved ones return home, as they used to do every day.

There were 14 people – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children – at my bus stop on Thursday morning. The mood was unmistakably sombre, and an air of hesitation hung over us as the doubledecker bus rolled up and the automatic doors swung open before our eyes. We all climbed in, one by one, and took our seats. Fears aside, we all knew, silently, that we need to be strong for each other, for those families who mourn, and for our beloved Barrhaven.

Ashley Martyn, Owner
Barrhaven Music Academy

Grownups love music lessons as much as the kids do

BMA was featured as a business profile in the Barrhaven Independent on May 17, 2013. Read the wonderfully written article by reporter Bev Mcrae below, or pick up a copy at the UPS Store in Barrhaven (900 Greenbank Rd) or Ross’ Independent Grocer (Greenbank Dr & Strandherd Ave).

Barrhaven Music Academy opened its doors in July, 2012 and already is as popular with parents as it is with kids. Left to right, Tashi Bernard (voice), Kendra Mathers (piano), Nadia Zaid (voice and piano), Ashley Martyn (acoustic, electric and bass guitar), Corey Taylor (guitar, voice) and Ria Aikat (piano) love teaching music to all ages - from preschoolers to adults.

Barrhaven Music Academy opened its doors in July, 2012 and already is as popular with parents as it is with kids. Left to right, Tashi Bernard (voice), Kendra Mathers (piano), Nadia Zaid (voice and piano), Ashley Martyn (acoustic, electric and bass guitar), Corey Taylor (guitar, voice) and Ria Aikat (piano) love teaching music to all ages – from preschoolers to adults.

Grownups love music lessons as much as the kids do

By Bev McRae

On any given evening you will see adults sitting in the waiting room at Barrhaven Music Academy in the Mulligan Centre on Woodroffe Ave. at Longfields Dr. The thing is, they’re not all waiting for their kids. They may be waiting with their kids.

“We have tons of adult students,” said Ashley Martyn, co-owner of the music school. “We have many in piano, guitar and voice who just love it. In a lot of our families, the mom or the dad will take a lesson while the kid is taking a lesson. It’s really fun. The adults enjoy it as much, if not more than the kids.”

Martyn and her friend Nadia Zaid, who both grew up in Old Barrhaven, opened Barrhaven Music Academy in July 2012, and now, along with seven other music teachers, offer lessons in piano, guitar, bass guitar, voice, violin and drums for students of all ages, even preschoolers.

“The Tuneful Tots program is a music education program designed for three to five year olds, that age where parents may not be sure they want to jump them right into private lessons,” said Martyn. “The students don’t specialize in any one instrument in Tuneful Tots, they get used to rhythms and beats, learning lyrics, learning songs – just getting them excited about music.”

Tuneful Tots is taught by Kendra Mathers, one 45-minute lesson a week of singing, clapping, ear training, making music and moving to it. “We have a box of instruments with maracas, tambourines, shakers, rain sticks,” said Martyn. “Everyone takes an instrument and they create simple rhythm first and then it gets more complex and they learn how to keep a beat together and how the different instruments sound like when they’re played all together. It’s a lot of fun, just hilarious. It’s like playtime for them, but they’re having the love of music instilled in them while they’re playing the song.”

At what age are children ready for private lessons on their favorite instrument is a question Martyn often has to answer. “It really depends on the student,” she said. “If they’re super-motivated and willing to understand the practice that it takes to progress at a steady pace; I’ve had students as young as four.”

And of course, whatever instrument the little one plays has to fit. “There are half size guitars, three-quarter size and full size,” Martyn explained. “A little four year old would play a half size guitar. As long as their fingers can reach the four frets, they can play it.”

Other instruments are too big for little beginners, which is why many parents choose to enrol their children in piano lessons.

“With the piano, you just have to be able to press down a key and that doesn’t take much physical effort, so a lot of our students start on the piano because it’s easier and you can get the sound out right away,” Martyn said.

Piano is the most popular class at Barrhaven Music Academy, and the school has teachers available for all levels from beginner to advanced. The average time for a lesson in one of the school’s five classrooms is 30 minutes for a flat fee of $22. Adults or more advanced students may prefer a 45-minute or one hour session.

The music school also has a Youth Choir for singers age seven to 12, led by I.iz Wardhaugh that rehearses one hour a week on Thursday nights, at a cost of $15 per session.

“Most of the members are our students who are taking voice lessons, but we do have some outside kids who have joined just that program,” Martyn said. “It started in January and their debut performance will be at our summer concert in June. Eventually we’ll get them into competitions like the Kiwanis Music Festival.”

Barrhaven Music Academy presents two concerts a year, one in June, another in December, but last September students and teachers also held a special fundraiser for a young Barrhaven woman, Brynn Mclennan, who needs stem cell treatment for her muscular dystrophy.

“It was an outdoor show in the parking lot where the school is, then we had our big holiday concert in December so we’ve had two shows already,” said Martyn. “It was a lot of fun. The students love it. Performing in a concert inspire them, gives them motivation – and they love to see their teachers on stage.”

Getting a child to practice a music lesson and to enjoy music isn’t as difficult as many parents fear, said Martyn. It’s a combined effort on the part of the teachers and the parents.

“We’ve designed the program for every instrument to keep it fresh, keep it interesting, to make sure they’re not always playing the same kind of piece from the same book,” said Martyn. “We like to change it up, maybe throw in not just practical stuff, but some theory, ear training or games just to liven it up and keep their minds going.”

It’s important for parents to understand that a rigorous, hourly marathon of scales every day is not mandatory, a good five minutes is plenty for a beginner. “When they start, that’s all they really need. Just to get into the routine of doing it,” said Martyn.

“It’s quality over quantity when it comes to practicing. A good quality five or ten minutes every day is better than forcing them to practice for two hours on a Saturday when they really want to be playing outside.”

Both owners of the Barrhaven Music Academy have loved music since they were little, growing up in Old Barrhaven and attending John McCrae Secondary School, although Nadia is three years older than Ashley.

“I think I pretty much stole the guitar my mother had lying around the house,” laughed Ashley. “We always had music going on in our house. I did piano when I was growing up and I did trumpet in middle school so I always had music going on in my life. It was never very far out of reach.” Martyn has studied a world of genres and styles, including rock, pop, blues, jazz & classical, most notably under the Canadian guitar guru Anders Drerup.

Zaid has a Bachelor of Music degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Education from Ottawa University. Martyn has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Music with honours (2008) from University of Ottawa. Zaid has been teaching for ten years, Martyn for seven, both privately and at another music school. Both love music, and love teaching.

“We actually met working at another music school,” said Martyn, “but we wanted to teach music differently, to put our own stamp on it. In some schools it’s all about exam marks or how fast they can get through a method book. We want the students to really love music. We really want them to succeed so they will love music.”

The Barrhaven Music Academy is located in the Mulligan Centre at 2900 Woodroffe Ave. in Barrhaven The school is open Monday to Friday from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Phone (613) 459-6027, e-mail info@barrhavenmusicacademy.com or visit the website at www.barrhavenmusicacademy.com for more information.

What’s the point of music lessons if my child won’t practice?

From time to time, parents of beginner (and more often than not, young) music students face a tough challenge: their child’s motivation to learn wanes to a gradual standstill. They no longer want to practice and it becomes a daily struggle just to get them to open up their music book that sits atop the piano collecting dust. Alas, dragging them to their weekly music lessons is as easy as drawing blood from a stone.

As a music teacher, I admit my bias when I say that quitting lessons, no matter the age, instrument or level of the student, is probably the last thing you’d want to encourage. Like anything worth achieving in life, it is important to keep children, or even teenagers, in music through the good times and the bad.

But, as some parents say, what if my child is just too young? Surely it would be better to wait until they are older, so they understand the importance of practicing and a good work ethic.  The answer may surprise you – it’s actually better if children start music at an early age.  In fact, the younger the student, the easier it is: “You can put the study of science on hold, but not with piano,” says renowned musician and instructor Ernesto Lejano, who teaches one of Canada’s best known pianists, Angela Cheng. Not to mention the cognitive and developmental benefits that has been attributed to learning music early on in life.

Even still, parents are often anxious to keep their children in music out of fear they may kill their child’s love for the art forever. Not true, says psychologist and author Dr. Susan Bartell of New York.  “Children often give up quickly when success isn’t easy or immediate,” Dr. Bartell explains. And, because music is just like any other academic subject, some students won’t be successful right from the start. Like in math or science class, children should learn to push past the frustration of not being instantaneously good at something – the reward of success will be much more appreciated once they accomplish their goal!

Dr. Bartell continues: “If you allow your child to give in to uncomfortable feelings that make him want to quit, you communicate that hard work and perseverance aren’t important. In fact, by not pushing your child, you deny him the opportunity to learn to cope with frustration, and eventually he will stop trying at anything.”

In other words, to allow a child to quit is to communicate to them that they are not capable of succeeding. Dr. Bartell suggests that if quitting is imminent, parents should continue with the activity until it reaches a “natural conclusion”, such as the end of a school year or term.

So, you’ve decided it may not be time to end lessons just yet. How can you encourage your child to keep going without forcing their interest?

Be patient

Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day, and Mozart didn’t become a virtuoso overnight! It may take some time for kids understand what practicing is and how it will make them a better player,  so don’t be too quick to assume that your child isn’t fit for music if they start losing interest after 4 or 5 weeks. The ebb and flow of enthusiasm will vary week by week; it’s important for parents to stay positive and encouraging even during those times where the student’s progress has stalled or hit a plateau.

Music students, especially young beginners, will need to gradually get into the routine of practicing their instrument. It may take 3 to 6 months for them to get settled into lessons. Don’t overwhelm them by asking for too much practicing – even 5 minutes a day is enough to build a good foundation of musical knowledge.

Be encouraging

Parents need to keep in mind that their positivity will inspire their children to be positive themselves. Be sure to use encouraging words and phrases during your child’s home practices. If you are sitting alongside them, avoid criticizing or giving negative feedback. If you feel your child just isn’t getting one part of a certain piece, scale or riff, explain to them the benefit of trying again and how they will become better after repetition.  Never assume or say they can’t do it.

Create the right environment

Along with creating a positive music education experience, it’s important to help create a supportive environment of inspiring peers and mentors where this student can turn to if they need help. If that environment or support network is not there, one doesn’t have much of a chance of getting through the (potentially tough) first months of learning the fundamentals! Additionally, make sure the physical setting where the student practices at home is warm, inviting and well-lit. Students will be more encouraged to practice at a piano that lives around a main part of the house (like a family room or living room) then one that hides in a dark basement or is tucked away in a spare bedroom.

Talk to your teacher

To get the most of music lessons, communication with the student’s teacher is key. If you find it’s a struggle to get your child to practice, mention it in the next lesson, and ask for advice on how to best motivate them. Chances are the teacher will be more than happy to offer a handful of tools – practice charts, games, prizes, etc. – that will help encourage practice time at home. Letting your teacher know of a student’s struggles at home will allow them to tweak their approach to how they instruct so they can get the most out of each lesson.

Great job Keeley!

One of our students, Keeley Baizana, 11, had the opportunity this week to sing the national anthem at a City of Ottawa council meeting. 

Watch the clip here:  http://app05.ottawa.ca/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=2474&doctype=AGENDA

Keeley’s performance also received some rave reviews on Twitter that morning:

Harder introduces the anthem singer, an exceptionally adorable moppet from Barrhaven. She’s excellent.” – David Reevely (@ReevelyLive)

“@BaizanaIns @BarrhavenJan @AlisonBaizana Great job! Keeley is a star!” – City Councillor Steve Desroches (@SteveDesroches)

“She was awesome!…” – City Councillor Jan Harder (@BarrhavenJan)

Way to go, Keeley!

Some Kind of (Wonderful) Spark

Documentaries about music education are a rare find – though when you stumble across one, they have a way of tugging on your heartstrings.

Music, unlike other academic subjects (I’m thinking of you, mathematics), has such a universal, emotional appeal. Anyone and everyone can sense a connection to music. You don’t need formal training or years on the road or in the studio to have such deep appreciation for the world’s most beautiful language.

Enter Director and Producer Ben Niles, creator of ‘Some Kind of Spark’, a film documenting the lives of seven inner-city children attending a special music program at Julliard in New York City. (Mr Niles is no stranger to making movies – his latest film, ‘Note By Note (The Making of Steinway L1037)’ won top honors at the Sarasota Film Festival and was screened in over 30 countries in 5 different languages.)

‘Some Kind of Spark’  features the personal stories of these children and their teachers, shot over a two year period, beginning in 2010. It shows the powerful impact music can create, regardless of who you are and where you come from. It follows these kids inside the classroom, in their homes, and on stage.

The film also acts as a chilling reminder about the decline of money invested in music education in US schools over the past quarter century.  (It’s not much different here in Canada, unfortunately) This trend, Niles notes, is not looking good for future generations:

[It’s] compromising our children’s education and jeopardizing our culture. Low-income children-children who also tend to be from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the performing arts-are missing out on the immense value of music training on a child’s development. Children who study music do better on standardized tests in both math and reading and are more likely to go to college. And music programs are proven to be an effective tool in keeping kids off the streets and preventing teen violence. Through music study they learn many life skills such as problem-solving, self-discipline, creativity, empathy, compassion, and the value of hard work. Not to mention that many students-including the poor, the disadvantaged, and the emotionally disturbed-who might otherwise be unreachable can often be taught through the inspiring power of music. (http://www.somekindofspark.com/)

As an independent film, the film’s producers will not take money from Julliard to help fund post-production costs, citing that it is not meant to be a promotional tool for the world-renowned school. It’s aim is to squarely raise awareness about the powerful influence music can have on our children’s lives.

To raise money for this project, Niles’ team has put in place a few online campaigns to garner support. One is backed by Women Make Movies, which allows any donation to be tax-deductible. There’s also an online campaigned featured on  Kickstarter.com.

So, music friends, if you are in a position to donate, please do! Any amount is appreciated. It’s a project we can all feel good about.

Congrats to the 2013 Greely Idol winners!

9 year old Anna West, first place winner for the Junior Division in this year’s Greely Idol vocal competition.

A very special shout out to two wonderful young singers, Anna West and Gillian Fenwick, for each capturing a win at Greely Idol 2013!

The vocal competition, which was held January 26-27, 2013, was a chance for young singers across the city to come showcase their stuff in front of a live audience and panel of judges, including Stephanie LaRochelle, the runner-up from CBC’s Over The Rainbow.

Gillian Fenwick was crowned the winner of the Senior Division after her acoustic rendition of David Guetta’s “Titanium”. At just 13 years old, Gillian was the youngest participant in her catergory.

Anna West, 9, was given first place honours after tying for the top spot in the Junior Division for her cover of Adele “One & Only”, along with vocalist Jake Hamilton.

Anna’s been studying voice for a few years now, and Gillian started in lessons this past September. Both currenly study with vocal teacher Tashi Bernard at Barrhaven Music Academy in Ottawa.

Congrats again girls on a job well done!

Catch their winning performances here: