Let’s talk about percussion, drums and teaching!

Percussionist 2.0 – Part 5: Podcasts and LMS

Percussion podcastI really like listening to percussion podcasts while I ride my bike to work. I hate realizing that, unfortunately, there are very few podcasts actually related to percussion.

I also like learning on the internet. And I like doing this even more when I can learn in a virtual setting, which has been exquisitely designed around learning, like a Learning Management System.

This is the last episode of my “Percussionist 2.0” series, where I described the most useful technological resources for percussionists. Today I’ll complete this series by describing podcasts (which, as you could understand, I’ll not have much to talk about) and LMS, which stands for Learning Management System.

The podcasts I’ll talk about are:

  • The Vic firth podcast;
  • Drumchattr Podcast;
  • Marching Round Table Podcast;
  • The Throne Podcast.

Regarding LMS instead, today I’ll briefly describe my experiences on:

  • Coursera and a course by Gary Burton;
  • Udemy and the lessons on how to mix a drum set;
  • Curious and the earning chances that we (poor) teachers have.

Let’s start with podcasts.



Podcasts are technological instruments which enable users to download files from a source to a feed reader. To cut the chase: instead of going to the Vic Firth website and watching the new episode about percussion instruments, you can open iTunes, download the files (or stream them) and watch everything there. Alternatively, you can program iTunes and it can automatically download the new contents.

The Vic Firth Podcast simply revisits all the videos published on the Vic Firth website, organizing them in 3 sections: drums, marching percussion and classic percussion.

Even more interesting than that is the Drumchattr audio podcast (I talked about the related blog in the previous post of this series). Here you can find interviews to “VIP” percussionists who tell their own professional experiences. Otherwise, you can simply listen to Tom Burrit, Dave Gerhart and Shane Grifin, the main authors of this project, while they chat about “percussively” interesting topics.

I came across the Drumchattr podcast only lately and I’m listening to all the episodes available in the archive. Unfortunately, the last updated episode was in June 2012, it’s really a shame. Tom, Dave, Shane: if by any chance you read this post, please, resume this project!

To give you an idea about the contents of the Drumchattr podcast, I’ll say that just before writing this post, I was listening to an episode where the most famous portuguese percussionist, Pedro Carneiro, gave an interview. He discussed, among many other things, about the introduction of percussion instruments inside Portuguese Conservatories, which is quite recent, and about the importance of internet marketing for percussionists. Two very interesting topics, I think!

Another percussion-focussed podcast is the “Marching Round Table Podcast”. Now, as an Italian percussionist, I don’t know much about marching bands. Here in Italy we all study the technique for rudimental snare drum, we all have at home our nice copy of Wilcoxon’s 150 marches, but we cannot get any real experience of marching bands.

Nonetheless, if I was by any chance into marching bands, the Round Table Podcast would be my favourite recording. The content consists of interviews set up by 4 professionists of the field. The main subject is how to design these great shows in the American Universities football fields and the authors suggest different strategies on how to get ready for possible competitions. This is a really exceptional resource for those who deal with Marching Bands.

To finish off, I thank Dave Gerhart from Drumchattr and Percussioneducation who suggested me “The Throne Podcast”, the program created by Colin Campbell, freelance percussionist and teacher of the Chicago area. I’ve listened to some episodes of his podcast and watched his YouTube channel. Well, Colin is hilarious, his topics are mostly about percussionists’ everyday life and the interviews to his guests are really interesting. I immediately subscribed to his podcast and I became one of his followers on Twitter. This will be one of those recordings that will accompany me in the next days.



First of all, a couple of questions to introduce this topic:

  1. Can you learn on the Internet? Of course, you can.
  2. Are Youtube, blogs, podcasts designed to teach you any kind of knowledge? Not necessarily. In contrast to the Learning Management Systems.

As a matter of facts, Learning Management Systems (LMS) are virtual settings created to manage educational resources on the web: online or offline lessons, documents, quizzes, videos, electronic class books and discussion forums. Sometimes students also have the possibility to write their own blog on the topic they are studying.

Certain LMS, at least those I’ll describe today, can even be arranged as real application platforms, which offer complete e-learning courses and include learning resources distribution, student subscription and online activity tracking.

Currently, these systems of distribution and management of the courses are still in a development stage and they aren’t fully exploited by users, but they already are the main e-learning tool, which is even institutionally provided.

Note: technically, LMS are softwares that some websites use to design and manage their online courses; they don’t represent the website itself. The followings are reviews of three websites, which use three different softwares. Therefore, I’ll simply use the term LMS.



Coursera is a platform that offers university level courses for free in MOOC format, which stands for Massive Open Online Courses. These courses are open to everyone and the founders of the website were Information Science professors at the University of Stanford.

What can you do on Coursera? You can subscribe for free and attend, always for free, courses created in different Universities worldwide. You can even get the certification of the one you attended. It might sound exaggerated, but certain States already acknowledge Coursera certificates as ongoing further training.

The different courses normally include a wide variety of topics, such as Humanities, Social Sciences, Business, Medicine, etc. Among these, one stands out: it’s about jazz improvisation and it’s taught by Gary Burton of the Berkley College of Music.

“Have you just said Gary Burton?” Yep, I’ve said Gary Burton.

This course is made out of a series of video-tutorials and it also includes some quizzes, which allow students to focus on some of the most important concepts. Moreover, there are some home activities to complete like recordings of solo excerpts and exercises that all the students and Gary Burton himself will discuss. You can also have immediate feedbacks in the sections available on Coursera. This, certainly, is possible if you attend the course live, when the videos are broadcasted and discussed. Otherwise, you can still watch the classes without taking part to the discussion.

The 5 lessons are organized as follows:

  1. Improvisation as a Language;
  2. The Improviser’s Vocabulary;
  3. Making Scale Choices in Real Time;
  4. Harmony for the Improviser;
  5. Theme and Variation.

Now, I’ve never been a jazz improvisation master on the vibraphone. However, I want to learn something about it and the Gary Burton course goes well beyond the basics, as you have enough material to study for a looooong time.

Everything is free. So where is the bluff? No bluff, I swear.

Learning Management System



The courses on Coursera are essentially designed by Universities and they are mainly addressed to University students. Therefore, it’s unlikely that you find on Coursera convincing lessons, for example, on how to feed the fish in your garden pond or the basics of the Feng Shui philosophy.

Well, I’ve no pond in my garden and I don’t have the slightest idea of what Feng Shui is, but if I wanted to learn all these things, I would surely attend the courses available on Udemy. This platform mainly offers “how-to” sort of videos aimed to the general public. This isn’t a synonym of poor quality, it’s only a very different virtual setting compared to Coursera.

For example, I’m attending on Udemy a very interesting course, which explains how to mix drums. As a layperson of the mixing techniques (as proof of this, you can listen to this terrible video I recorded some years ago playing the snare drum), this course is simply all I needed.

They are 16 lessons divided in three parts: preparation, editing, mixing. Each lesson has links to some blog posts for various in-depth analysis and a discussion section where you can ask questions or answer to other people’s doubts. Cost: 50 bucks. Well-spent.



Some weeks ago I published on my YouTube channel some teaching videos for those who want to start playing percussion instruments. Someone in San Francisco, maybe by mistake, clicked and watched them.

Then I received an email where this person, clearly a Curious employee, asked me to publish those videos on their website and eventually continue this collaboration in the future.

Now I’m not sure whether telling this story damages this new LMS platform, which maybe already regrets having contacted me, but this is precisely the way I came across Curious.

I can’t say much about the features of this LMS because I’m just starting to explore it. In general, I can say that Curious is basically similar to Udemy, with the additional possibility for those who learn to send to the teachers “Curious Cards”, which can contain videos and photos regarding what they’ve learnt.

However, the take-home message of my story is another, a more practical one. Using LMS platforms allows people to earn money by teaching what they are expert in, because you also have the chance to offer courses or classes under payment. A minor earning portion goes to the platform (Curios gets 30%, I still have no information regarding Udemy), the rest goes to the teacher.

I know that this might sound like reinventing the wheel to some readers; nevertheless, I wasn’t aware of this further possibility to monetize your own knowledge (which, besides any romantic or idealistic idea, is what I do everyday with my job of teacher in the public school).

So, up to now LMS for me are not only an instrument which allows you to learn but also a way to earn some money.



With today’s reviews I conclude the “Percussionist 2.0” articles. In this series I talked about the best technological and web resources for percussionists.

I’ll briefly recapitulate all the topics I introduced during the various episodes:

All that I’ve done is based on my personal and direct experience and for this reason it’s a limited point of view. But thanks to my last post about blogs I started receiving some great suggestions from someone of you about resources that I didn’t know before .

This is what I like the most about web and technology: they allow us to share information that can be useful for some other people. I did my best with this series of articles. At least I tried to do it!



Question: what other podcasts about percussion instruments do you know? And what about other LMS? Leave a comment.