Bill Powelson's School of Drums

Knowledge Assessment

Free Lesson Menus

spacerx img Knowledge Assessment

In the early days of this course, there was once a form the students filled-out and submitted. As a free service I would analyze the student input, then e-mail a specific set of lessons that each individual student should pursue, depending on their level of ability.

It was a great service, but as time passes there may not be anyone available to do those assessments for you. As a way to handle all the immense numbers of submissions, I eventually prepared a response that sufficed in 90% of the cases. What follows here, is that most likely response you would have probably received, had you filled-out the form. It covers all levels in a blanket sort of way.

Hopefully, this little pep-talk will encourage you to follow the most direct path of lessons leading to your speediest individual success at the drum set . . .

spacerx img ALL Students! Listen-up!


The basic beats are really the WHOLE BALL OF WAX! Many long-time, working pro-drummers (and too many teachers) do not know this . . . but it's true . . . You'll come to realize it too . . . over-time, as you play along with more and more music and as you gain more experience working with other musicians.

Memorize ALL those basic beats . . . push them ALL to the limit (tempo wise), as you do your routine jams . . . Just bang on anything, if you aren't behind a drumset. Get into the flow of the music . . .

Keep doing those routine jams . . . Jam with all your fav recordings . . . relate ALL the music you hear, to those basic beats . . . You'll be using all of them (and more advanced variations of them), as you continually play along with ALL the music that's out there.

You'll get to where you can hear those patterns instinctively as any song begins to play, no matter how complex the song may be . By by the 2nd, 3rd or 4th bar of the song . . . you'll be playing along . . . even though it may be the first time you've ever heard the song in your life.

Then; as you discover the zillions of beat variations, syncs and fills (within the more advanced lessons) it will only be NATURAL to use them 'as needed' within each of the various songs that you will eventually play.

This is the way we operate onstage. It OFTEN occurs onstage, that a song will come up that we've NEVER heard before. This system of Basic Dance Beats will come to the rescue every time . . . and so will the more complex beat variations and fills as you add them to your trick-bag, in future lessons.

With those beats (and other, more advanced techniques) . . . you'll gain the ability to 'feel' your way through ANY song quickly and 'naturally', because the music follows specific patterns as a general rule . . .

FOR EXAMPLE: As (most) songs come to the ending of the verses or as they build a little going into the choruses, we know we can usually EXPECT a fill, about the time the vocalist breaks away from singing, (to take a breath). That's our clue to jump-in and 'FILL-up' that short little 'dead-spot' or 'lull' in the song.

Drummers who consistently follow this 'generally accepted pattern' of playing (habitually) usually end-up on the 'most preferred' and 'most respected' drummers-list. In other words, most seasoned and experienced musicians prefer their drummer to follow that PREDICTABLE pattern of playing-style (above). When the drummer habitually plays that way, it makes it MUCH easier for the other players to express themselves WITHOUT being 'crowded' by the drummer and/or without 'getting into the drummer's way'.

It's the (generally unspoken) MARK of 'seasoned and experienced' players'! Those who tend to make the most money and enjoy the most reliable SUCCESS in the rough-and-tumble World of playing music professionally, ALL tend to play with that simple pattern in mind.

They tend to play that way because it so often occurs, (with all the millions of tunes that might come-up onstage); very often NONE OF THE BAND-MEMBERS has ever played the song before. Many times they may never have even heard it! This little organizational (unspoken) pattern-style of playing makes it easier for everyone onstage to FUNCTION AS A TEAM.

By following the above patterned-style of playing, we make it easier for everyone onstage to execute the song and sound good 'live' in front of an audience, though the song has never been rehearsed or possibly, never even been heard by at least 'some' of the players on the stage. It's a way of keeping the music organized in spite of the fact that the whole band may be 'winging' their way through a specific song.

(Remember the above tip always! It can lead to increased success and a more revered status and reputation, amongst 'other' professional musicians.)

This is the way all the seasoned-pro and 'NATURAL' drummers do it, whether they know the theory and notation or not. Many times, the 'natural' drummer may not know the name of the basic pattern they are playing . . . but they'll be playing some form of it, just the same.  (It's an unavoidable math thing.)  The 'gear ratios' are numerical . . . and that's that!

We can study it . . . and see it visually . . . or we can grope in the dark for 20 years by 'feel' . . . before we realize it.  The numbers don't lie and they ARE there, whether we see them or not.

Visually inspect all the basic beats . . . slowest to fastest . . .

See the way the cymbal notes are ordered from the top beat (16th rock) down to the bottom (4th rock), . . . 4 + 4, 3 + 3, 2 + 2, and 1 + 1. Dancebeat #4 seems to upset the theory . . . but in reality . . . it DOES fit into the tempo patterns . . . and it's a VERY common . . . BASIC beat structure.


DON'T be overly concerned about the sight-reading thing. These courses are stair-stepped in a way that will (hopefully) have you reading like an old-timer by the time you finish the lessons. 

  1. MEMORIZE all the Basic Dance Beats first . . .
  2. Begin jamming with recordings asap (I know you are already doing this.)  Keep at that, ALWAYS . . .
  3. You may want to get into the standardized fills at "Rudiments, Rolls & Fills". Study them and try to pick up on the idea of 'HALF BAR' fills, beginning here:

Half Bar fills: Just follow the links at the bottom of each of the early lesson, to the next lesson. Take each lesson, one-at-a-time, very slowly if necessary.

As you study any of the lessons. Get the basic idea, then put on a medium tempo 'related song', and try to do what you have learned in the lesson. Technically speaking, you may place fills of any length, anywhere you choose, inside of ANY song.

You do NOT need to copy the recorded drummer unless you wish to make such a rule. Such a rule does NOT exist in music theory. People often impose rules that do NOT exist. Don't fall victim to that sort if thinking. Keep your creative channels open. It's important! I always strive to out-play the drummer on the recording as I practice at home. What could be wrong with that idea? ('Plenty', once we enter the profession, but 'NOTHING' if we are at home, in the bedroom or garage . . . studying and learning.)

NOTE: We DO gravitate towards the 'patterned-style' mentioned earlier as we enter the profession, but as you are learning, it's okay to ignore that 'common-courtesy' style of playing. The patterned-style exists as a matter of organizing music onstage. It eliminates the need for sheet-music on stage and it eliminates the need for anyone to 'direct' the music. It helps all the musicians avoid stepping on each other's toes, (ie; their individual ideas and creativity).

As you are learning, just play the fills anywhere and anytime! The more we toss fills into the music, the sooner our 'chops' (speed and coordination) will develop.


We can do ANYTHING as a fill. We needn't do the "classic' or 'standard' fills. It's BETTER to just use your own 'good ear' and creative imagination. Play what you feel . . . try to do things that fit the music you are playing . . . Listen to the fills on the recordings and do something similar (if you wish) . . . or do anything you like.

There's really only one rule.

As you emerge from a fill . . . be certain that you are still connected in-time with the song. Your BACKBEAT FLOW should still match the BACKBEAT FLOW of the song.

The Standard or Classic Fills are good for developing coordination. They're good for getting the 'chops' (hands and feet) up to speed . . . but there's nothing better than the ad-lib, improvised fills that come from within your own spirit and imagination.

Just let it flow . . . and ALWAYS strive to stay in-time with the drummers on the recordings.

Once you've completely conquered the basic beats and the basics of fills . . . you can randomly JUMP AROUND within the course without too much confusion. I think it's best to do that. Study what you are 'into' at the time you are 'into' it.

That's exactly the way I teach all this in the private classes. First, I figure out what the student is most interested in . . . then we study that! Each week, we do a new and different lesson . . . but we are ALWAYS trying to target the students specific goals and interests.

It's sorta hard to shove 'Waltz Beats' down a students throat . . . if all their CDs are blasting away with blazing-fast, 8th and 4th rock.

HAVE A BALL with all this! The ability you are seeking will come from PLAYING THE MUSIC itself! The more you jam, the more I can guarantee the lessons will be fruitful and productive.

I'm an old seat-of-the-pants (ear) drummer myself. All these lessons have been taken directly from bandstand experience with the 1,000+ bands I've worked with over the years . . . This is the stuff you'll need in your heart, mind, and soul, as you get with a band and play 'off-the-top of your head'. That's the way we tend to play, 99% of the time.

spacerx img Intermediate to Advanced Students

Feel free to cruise ALL FOUR of the free lesson menus. If you see lessons that interest you, study them. If they seem too difficult, back away to something easier and go back at a later time. The complex techniques have a tendency to become easier, the more we play. Each new technique we learn makes it a little easier to learn the next.

Master 16th rock . . . You'll need it!
There are 4.3 billion possible variations, of this pattern, Those patterns end-up as staples for nearly every form of music, but they are (currently 2014) extremely popular with Rap and Hip-Hop. If you can confidently play 20 to 30 of those (potential 4.3 billion) variations, you will soon learn to love playing all songs that fall into this very important beat structure.

Many beginning students often ignore this beat structure because it seems slow and boring. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As we develop skills with this beat structure plus it's potential variations and fills, it literally catches fire, just like 8th rock or almost any other beat structure.

ADDITIONAL LESSONS: For the more advanced students.

This lesson below, is designed to help get you smoking even hotter with 8th rock . . . Don't be happy until you can play ALL these in your sleep. The bass syncs in the middle of the lesson are VERY difficult. Once you can repeat each of them comfortably at rapid tempos, your playing will go ballistic.  There's a LOT of work, here . . .

8th 4/4 (rock) variations and bass syncopations.

Have fun! 
For every 15 minutes of study with the lessons, you should jam with recordings for an hour or more.  This formula can put you in 'killer mode', within just a few weeks.

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[Caveat or disclaimer: There are technically a LOT more potential Basic Beat Patterns, (more than just 5). At this time (2014) they aren't currently in vogue with 20th Century and early 21st Century music styles. This fact may soon change as YOU and other movers-and-shakers (of the future) read and fully understand my e-book, "Musical Time: Finite to Infinity".

"Finite to Infinity" will spell-out (in layman terms), the FUTURE of pop-music-styles mathematically, as it WILL occur over the next several hundred to 1000 years. It will obviously and eventually occur as the e-book suggests, because the proof is in the numbers. Numbers do not lie! The numbers (more often) just take their sweet time, being recognized and accepted, by the masses.

The FUTURE of pop-music is in those numbers that have existed since the Big-Bang. It's an obvious inevitability, once the music community becomes fully aware of: WHAT'S NEXT IN POP MUSIC?!

You NEED to study that e-book! It holds the secrets that could help you become the NEXT big mover or shaker.]

It is free to all donating members.

spacerx img Copyright Bill Powelson 1965-1994-2008-2014 @ all rights reserved.

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