An EDC coursemate mentioned this in passing and I decided to give it a go:
Here is my post, verbatim, on the Drumeo Student Progress Forum. I am playing along to the February “collaboration” track.
My plan to do Smoke on the Water this week is falling by the wayside as I need to do a load of interviews for my job instead. Bloody proper job getting in the way of my drumming.
Anyway instead I found the time to play around with If It’s Silent. This was the result of about half an hour’s experimentation. Critique would be much appreciated.
A few things that I am already aware of however:
* My set up is far from ideal for recording, both in terms of the kit and recording gear. This video was done off my wife’s digital camera placed on top of a coffin case next to the bass drum. Hence it shaking each time I use the kick.
* I missed a change over into my latin idea at the end. I meant to start doing the clave on the cowbell once the extra percussion came in.
* I look kind of stressed at times, probably because I am. First time I’ve ever done a video. Plus I can’t make too much noise where I live.
* At 1.13 the first time round the latin idea I was a bit awkward as I forgot the tam tam hit at the end of the motive (?), I decided to keep with that idea and then switch in the next 4 bars. It then started working better.
* I managed not to hit a cymbal at 1.36. The consequences of having to hold back whilst playing quietly.
* I’m not so consistent playing with sticks at this volume. I think I dig into to the heads a bit as well.
Man, this was interesting. First time I’ve ever videoed myself. I thought this would be a horrifying experience hence having avoided it for so many years. It sort of was horrifying but I can see how it is useful. As ever I notice how much my hair line is receding these days. Another reason for avoiding video.”
I got 3 responses, 2 quite brief. All were positive. Despite me pointing out that I knew my recording set up was not ideal a lot of the comments focused on that I was encouraged me to mic up my drums, splice the recording of my drumming with the audio from the track, as well as edit the start and end of the video in keeping with the style of other people’s videos on the forum. These comments can be classed as cultural norm enforcement (Kozinets, 2010) and the fact people made them despite me implying they didn’t have to demonstrates how strong the social impulse to make these kind of comments are.
Another interesting thing to note is that the person who I had offered the most comments on their playing was also the person who commented most on mine. The reciprocal, social aspect of getting peer feedback is crucial. On a commercial platform like Drumeo community members cannot be forced into doing this in the same way MOOC students can i.e. by making it a compulsory part of their assessment. Some may argue there is an opportunity here to further incentivise feedback by offering user rating systems or discounts on the subscription fee so that those who write in depth critiques are rewarded for the value they add to the community forum. However I do not approve of this approach as it removes the chance for people to be altruistic as well as implying that critiquing others is not rewarding in itself, which is really not the case. You can learn a lot from it.
I have to admit it was nice to get some positive feedback from other drummers. More often than not what few comments I get from my playing are from people who do not play drums (my wife and my band mostly). As they don’t have the same level of expertise on the instrument as their comments are often a little unspecific i.e “that’s cool” or “that doesn’t work”. Trying to get them to say why they think that or suggest other ways the beats could work takes a lot of coaxing and engagement (if it ever works).
On the other hand, non-drummer feedback is still always useful as for the most part most people who may listen to your music don’t play your instrument. An ideal beat would satisfy both groups.
(for a better version of this picture see Kozinets 2010, p.28)
Whilst this diagram is a useful summary it misleads slightly in the way the arrows suggest a linear progression through the different stages of communication as time increases. For my part whilst I found a general tendency for my engagement with Drumeo to follow this structure, there could also be posts where I reverted back to topical information exchange. There could also be posts where there would be a mix of different types of communication. But then that is the nature of theoretical models, generalisations are inevitable.
So here is how my experience with Drumeo maps onto Kozinet’s model.
Stage 1 – Task oriented information seeking and topical information exchange
Typified by lots of seeking information through a variety of sources, lurking on the periphery* of certain online communities before being drawn into a particular community.
I had watched numerous youtube drumming education channels and visited several sites over the last few years. I eventually settled on drumeo exclusively and got intrigued enough to want to do my netography project on it.
(* periphery implies that lurkers are not central to or are in a minority in the make up of a community. This is a dangerous assumption to make about online communities and I didn’t want to imply this, however I liked the wording so kept it in)
Stage 2 – Identity information exchange
Posting my responses in established pinned threads such as “where are you from?” “what drum covers are you working now?”
Stage 3 – Cultural norm exchange
I think I’ve managed to avoid stepping on any toes but then I did read a lot of threads about forum etiquette, particularly on giving constructive critiques to people’s playing. In looking through other threads I also saw a lot of posts that were “correcting” people who posted things in the wrong thread category.
Stage 4 – Clarification of power/status
Bit tricky given my short time in the community but it’s pretty easy to spot how this works due to the badge systems on the forum. The members with the highest status were those with:
- Were employed by Drumeo (visible on their forum avatar)
- The most posts (visible on their forum avatar)
- The longest running threads in the student progress forum
- Had their student progress thread pinned to the front page of the student progress forum
- Got the most responses to their videos,
- Displayed the greatest drumming skill in their videos (although not always, there were a few exceptions),
- Had lots of acronym badges next to their avatar (I could never find an explanation of what any of these meant)
Stage 5 – Cultural Norm Enforcement
This was subtle but when I posted topics that were of interest on the forum or gave detailed feedback to a video the number of appreciative responses increased. This reinforced the cultural norms of the community.
Stage 6 – Relational Exchanges
Gradually more personal information started to slip into my posts, what Kozinet’s identified as convergence. e.g. when talking about space and texture in playing mentioning that I got married to this particular tune .
I don’t think I advanced much further than this in Kozinet’s model and as I metioned above, I don’t think it’s accurate to describe it as a straight progression.
One of the most interesting forums in Drumeo is the “Student Progress Discussion” forum. Here people post videos of themselves and encourage you to critique them. In my previous course I had spent a lot of time writing about the difficulties of giving feedback when you have no monetary motivation or specific training in how to do so. It is regularly a key part of how a MOOC or online education community is expected to operate but is often neglected in the terms the amount of support given to community members. Drumeo is no exception. There is a pinned post at the start of the forum where the community manager (ostensibly the most authoritative figure on the message boards) gives only two rules:
1.) Stay on topic
2.) Be constructive
Both are hugely open to differing interpretations, particularly the idea of what is constructive criticism. As an extreme example, this approach could be considered to be constructive by some but would probably be frowned upon in this particular community. The replies the community manager got to his post of forum etiquette extended out into a 2 page debate where different members proposed various guidelines including:
- Don’t just say “good job”, be specific. (although others argued there were some benefits to giving people simple “nice ones!”)
- The player should say whether they are open to brutal honesty or identify specific areas of their playing where they want to improve.
- If someone takes the time to write an in depth critique then either reciprocate or acknowledge it.
All of the videos are publically available on youtube so I think it is ethically OK to embed them in this post.
Here is the first video I tried to critique:
Well, everything fits and it is played well. It’s really hard to give much in the way of feedback without a vocal line. I presume you didn’t get one, in which case you made the best choice by not making it too busy. It’ll be easier to sing over later. Plus it is in keeping with the whole Smiths vibe.
My only suggestion is whether a different fill could be played on the high hats at 2:30. Nothing wrong with what you play but doing a single stroke roll on open high hats is an unusual choice. Feels a bit noisy for jangly guitar pop song. A different rudiment with a some opening and closing of the high hat perhaps?
This got a positive and timely response from the community member. He explained a bit more about his decision making in the roll at 2:30.
Ah I see what you were going for then with the high hat fill. That could work. It is tricky to crescendo in such a small space of time, for me it sounded like it was one volume. Bit more closed with the foot at the start of the roll with give it the contrast to make it a crescendo.
This is my first attempt at giving forum feedback. It’s bloody tricky given that it feels weird to critique other players who technically better than me. Also the very openess of musical interpretation means I rarely can identify something as “wrong”, more like “that’s not what I would try and do”. Then it becomes a question of why do I think that? How can I articulate it?
A repeated motif in your track was the high hat lift on the ah of 4 (might be wrong about that, my counting is a bit shaky). Maybe dropping another one on the e as well? You know, two open and closes in a row. It adds a little variety but is still very straight ahead indie rock.
For me, this reinforced how it is important to give people specifics as well as general critique. A habit I tried to continue when I commented on other videos.
Every month there is a vote on the message board for the “collaboration” song. Then everyone goes away and records themselves playing along. People then post and critique each other.
This is an interesting community activity although I would argue it is far from collaborative. The end product is a track where no student has any input or control over what it sounds like. Each student is working on their own and it appears to be rare that a student re-records themselves incorporating another’s critique so that it becomes true “feedback”.
All of the videos are publically available on youtube so I think it is ethically OK to embed them in this post.
In his post this student said he could have put more of a reggae feel to it. I tried to give him some feedback on how he might achieve that. He seemed like a pretty competent player so I felt safe to use drummer jargon but then I am still a little uncertain whether he understood this. A teacher who had built up consistent relationship with a student would be better placed to judge their student’s background knowledge. He didn’t respond to the post.
If you wanted more of a reggae fill you could try using some of the classic reggae vocab like using cross stick, the one drop beat, 3/4 triplet accents on the high hat whilst keeping the groove going. That kind of thing.
Your general groove on the bass drum on the ah of 4 and the 1 which is more like reggae rock Stewart Copeland thing than full on reggae. If you do have a second go at it I’d be interested to hear how you change things.
The shaker is a cool idea. When you switch from cross stick to the practice sticks how about a little crash or fill. Something to transition into the new sound texture. I’m always a sucker for that.
At 2.23 the high hat closing at the end of the fill is a good idea. It does sound a little like you are snatching at it by bringing the foot down that quickly though. Bit more relaxed feel for reggae perhaps.
Just as a final thing the way the light catches off your toms makes them look like they have disco lights in. That’s very cool.
I used a lot more equivocation and conditionals in my wording than I would had I been a more professional situation. Or perhaps if I was talking to the student in real time and could read his body language. Either way, I was conscious of the difficulty of trying to tell him what to do without sounding like I was telling him what to do. I also used informal language and expressed my views as a personal preference in order to make it seem less dictatorial.
I then decided to circle back round to the player I started with:
Just got round to listening to you on “If It’s Silent”. You’ve got wonderful taste. The choices you make both with the Smiths style song I previously listened to and this song are entirely fitting to the tracks. If you have that kind of deep understanding of genre combined with technical training on percussion (I think I saw something mentioned in earlier posts) then you’ve definitely got enough experience to get teaching (if that’s what you want).
Put it this way, I’ve been playing for 10 years or so and feel I could learn a lot from you.
What’s interesting to note here that I am using a lot more personal opener to the post and referring to other previous posts. We’re beginning to move towards more of a personal realm. This would be, according to Kozinets, the inevitable convergence that happens in online communication.
Looking back at my posts in this thread what I’m seeing is that the academic debates of the role of the teacher in the age of digital culture mirror similar experiences in drumming education.
No matter what the subject, whether they are learning in schools, university or online students look for:
- Guidance in navigating the deluge of information that the internet enables. What’s important? Where do you start? What do I need?
- Motivation and to be pushed just beyond what they think they are currently capable. But not pushed too far beyond what they are capable of that they “fail” and become demotivated. The value of this is particularly felt during real time interactions.
- An authoritative assessment of their own skills by somebody who has greater expertise than them.
These messages also threw up some classic “themes” within Digital Education debates:
- The power to bestow accreditation makes certain educational formats more appealing for some students. Which institutions should have this power?
- Is online the inevitable “future” for all education?
THREAD QUESTION – Do you use drumeo and have an IRL teacher?
If anyone would like to take the time to answer the following questions I’d be most grateful.
Do you have lessons with a live drum teacher and use drumeo? Whether it’s yes or no can you say what your reasons are? How are the two experiences different for you?
To show willing I’ll tell you about my experience so far:
I’ve recently started having lessons again once every two weeks. As I aspire to one day be a teacher I find that these lessons are just as useful learning how to teach in realtime as they are useful for drumming knowledge.
I think I find the openness and depth of the archive on drumeo a bit overwhelming. I quite like having a teacher saying “this is where I think you are at now, this is what you should focus on for the next two weeks”. I imagine the student focus feedback section of the website fulfils the same purpose but I find it easier to go see someone in person than rig up a whole camera and recording set up.
I have to be quite disciplined with myself to not just constantly browse drumeo lessons rather than playing. It’s great for when I am at work and I want to think about drums though. There are a good few lessons on here that I can’t wait to get my teeth into. The cha cha lessons this week was great. Never thought of using dead and open strokes on the snare.
I guess the main difference between the IRL experience and the online experience is being able to pause, repeat and fast forward videos. You can’t fast forward a person if you don’t think what they are saying is what you are after.
Just so you know I am asking this as part of my preliminary work on a project for my masters degree in Digital Education. I have to a month long mini project on online learning communities and thought this site would be particularly interesting. So yeah, any replies would be very much appreciated.
Thanks for replying both of you.
What makes you say that drumeo particularly represents the future at college level? Is there a particular reason why you think it is the future of at that level but not others?
Cheers. Academic is entirely the point of the question. It’s part of my degree after all.
I think having the level of self knowledge to be able to judge what your own musical needs are can be tricky to develop. I honestly feel I’ve only been able to practice in the last year or so. Never had the patience to be structured and consistent before that.
So what I’m getting for that it’s the persuasive “push” real time contact with a teacher can give you. With internet lessons if something is too hard it’s easier to just switch it off. Even if the instructor has encouraging remarks in the video e.g. “this is a tricky exercise so take your time, you can do it”, it’s not quite as emotionally affecting as when someone is in the room with you saying that.
Would that be a fair summary or have I go off on one there?
Cheers for replying.
Is accreditation important to you? Having had a traumatic experience with grade 4 saxophone at a tender age (there was a vocal part of the exam which I wasn’t warned about and my voice was breaking at the time) I never wanted to do accredited exams with drums.
Would you do accredit courses if they could be offered through drumeo? Or maybe something like a certificate of completion for certain courses? They get offered on Massively Open Online Courses a lot.
So as a paying customer of Drumeo I can pretty much ask anything I like from the support service team right? So I bombarded them with several questions:
“Hello! I am a recent drumeo edge member. My user name is JiaSiYang. I have some rather obscure questions as I am doing a month long project on drumeo as part of a Digital Ethnography project for my MSc in Digital Education. I would like to write a piece on the political economy of drumeo and it would be very helpful if anyone can answer the following questions:
- Privacy – Why was the decision made not to share the website logs with other companies? What has been the cost and benefit of this decision?
- Copyright – Railroad Media owns any materials posted by users. What does it do with said materials? Have you had any guest teachers be reluctant to teach on drumeo as they would no longer own the copyright to their recorded lesson? The terms state “You may print out any articles and activities for your personal use only….Materials may not be reproduced on another Web site, book, or publication without express written permission. Any reproduction or editing by any means mechanical or electronic without the explicit written permission of Railroad Media is expressly prohibited”, is this possible to monitor and enforce? What actions (if any) have you taken to date to protect your copyright? Song breakdowns – I take it that you can’t have the song playing in any of the videos without paying royalties to the copyright holder? How do users avoid copyright problems when they post videos of themselves performing covers on youtube? Can you not avoid copyright restrictions with the same method or does the fact you are run as a for profit company prevent that?
- Business structure – Does railroad media inc have shareholders? Are there any shareholders that are not working for railroad inc? Diversification – Are there plans for drumeo but with other instruments? I thought I saw an advert for pianeo a few months back.
Should you be interested here is the course website for my MSc: http://edc17.education.ed.ac.uk/block-2-virtual-communities/ And here are the posts I have written so far on Drumeo: http://edc17.education.ed.ac.uk/djackson/category/eddigcul-best-for-commenting/netography/ Thanks for you help Dan”
After a few days I got a reply from the founder, CEO and regular featured teacher of Drumeo asking if I could just pick 3 questions as this was a bit too much to answer. This in itself was interesting as it shows that Drumeo is still a small enough private enterprise that obscure customer questions can still get a personalised response from the head of the company. I don’t think I would have got a similar response from Andrew Ng had I been asking questions about a Coursera MOOC.
So I picked my 3 most pertinent questions and here was the response I got (the writing in bold is Jared Falk’s):
Privacy – Why was the decision made not to share the website logs with other companies? What has been the cost and benefit of this decision?
We have not had requests to do this, but if we did, we would not share any private data with anyone. Since it has been a non-issue to this point, we don’t know what the costs and benefits are.
Copyright – What actions (if any) have you taken to date to protect your copyright from violation by specific parties? Basically I am interested if you have the financial resources to check if people are using your materials without permission and then go after them if they are.
We do not actively seek out people stealing our videos and reselling them as their own. This happens all around the world, but it’s something that is so rampant you can’t control it unless you have access to large amounts of funds. Our model is to just focus on helping each individual drummer and making our ‘products’ feel more like ‘services’. It’s much harder for someone to download and steal a service.
Business structure – Is Railroad Media Inc. still primarily invested in by people with a personal connection to company? Rather than publicly traded or anything like that.
There are only 3 shareholders with Railroad Media. I am the majority shareholder and sole director so every decision is made only by me.
With this information I can firmly conclude that Drumeo is a relatively small enterprise which can (currently) put educational goals ahead of potentially revenue maximising decisions. It currently does not have the financial wherewithal to strictly enforce its own copyright but is a sizable enough commercial entity that it has to avoid violating other people’s copyright.
Personally, I feel that this business structure has an overall positive effect on the online community. Unlike many social media networks where I am becoming increasingly conscious that my every click is being harvested for its data trail and is ultimately furthering the corporation’s overall goal, the increasing of its share price. Within Drumeo however, this does not to appear to be the case. Although commercial it does adhere to its educational goals.
Drumeo Cultural Artefact – Excerpt from mass mailshot –
“The way we consume media has changed. Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon Prime have ushered in the age of convenience. You can’t buy an Apple computer with a built-in DVD drive anymore. Thrift stores and recycling depots are filled with DVDs as consumers are emptying their shelves and turning to digital media.
And the reasons are clear:
- You can watch anything, anywhere, anytime. It doesn’t need to be on the shelf.
- You don’t need to spend time driving to the store or paying for shipping fees.
- Your media is safe, forever. You’ll never need to wonder where you placed it, or open the case with nothing inside.
And for us at Drumeo, it’s time to get real. I’ve probably shared with you before: it’s our goal to help EVERY drummer in the world. And because of this, we’ve probably kept our DVDs around for more years than I ever intended.”
There are a lot of beliefs and implications in this short extract. More than I am really prepared to sit down and tease out. The main contradiction I am most intrigued by is the way Drumeo is trying to orient its business model in a similar manner to TV streaming services. One of the key drivers of the streaming business model is to try and keep people logged in, with their eyes on screen, for as long as possible. Hence the now common features of “the next video will start in…” countdown at the end of videos.
However, Drumeo is an educational resource. There are different dynamics at play here. If a video drumming lesson is truly successful and a student really deeply engages with the content then they will want to spend a lot of time off-line practicing and experimenting with the material. Ideally the student should be in control of when they move on to more material. Sometimes the most helpful thing to do is not bombard them with other material until they are ready to move on. Although this may be ideal for the student this would be less than ideal for maximising Drumeo’s revenue.
There is a tension here between the goals of commerce and the goals of communication. Drumeo emerges as a cultural artefact from these tensions.
This map takes inspiration from Hines (2000, p.13) suggestion that ethnographic fieldwork could be based around tracing connections rather than focus on a single location.
Like any map, and in fact more so than cartographic maps, this is a personalised, time bound representation with many omissions. The pages themselves can expand as you scroll downwards and the surface content updates regularly. What I’ve tried to show is the blurred boundaries of Drumeo as a self contained website, as a networked site within the wider internet and as physical site “in real life”.
One of the things that it perhaps should reflect is that there are several teachers streaming their lessons onto Drumeo all over North America. There are also far more users than I have indicated.
One could also make a link between Hines connectivist approach and an excellent lesson on Drumeo by Stanton Moore on musical mileage (click here). In this lesson Stanton explains how you can trace connections between certain drumming patterns and apply them in different cultural contexts. You can take the sticking pattern RRLRRLRL and play it in a New Orleans funk style, Brazilian Maracatu or Cack Handed English Indie Drum and Bass. So rather than focus on a single location as a drummer you situate your work in the space of flows.
Lister (2009) states that the internet has developed unsystematically, driven by the tensions between cultural and commerce. Drumeo illustrates this point, it is both a cultural resource and a commercial concern . As such it is interesting to consider the political economy of drumeo and ask how it has shaped the website as a learning community.
Lister (2009) analyses the internet using a Marxist approach which provides a useful framework for my own analysis of Drumeo. Capitalism’s need for profit and protection of property rights establishes the underlying base conditions which the superstructural features of a social instution form from. Drumeo’s professed goal is to “help EVERY drummer in the world” (Falk, 2017). It is this that guides the sites superstructural output and it offers a wealth of material that is accessible to all for free via youtube and their own blogs.
However, Drumeo is only one facet of Railroad Media Inc. who have a considerable number of employees who rely on Drumeo to turn a consistent profit so they can have a livelihood (Drumeo, 2017). This tension between the base condition of profit making and cultural superstructure of knowledge creation and communication in turn shapes the community. This results in numerous cultural features, for example there are multiple enjoinders to join the community in the free video lessons but also a monthly subscription fee to access said community.
With high quality free materials available acting as an advertisement Drumeo has to work hard to create unique data , which is one of the key factors in a successful Web 2.0 business (O’Riley 2005 cited in Lister 2009, p.44). Arguably the most unique data is the student learning plans and analysis, where you can submit a video of your playing and then a drumeo instructor will analyse it and provide exercises to improve what weaknesses they have identified in your playing. This is done during a streamed lesson where students can also send in their questions to the instructor live. This community feature is limited to paying members only and is a key selling point of Drumeo. As such it is highly unlikely that these features would ever be offered as free content.
Lister also talked about how property rights can determine the shape of a community’s cultural output. Drumeo as a for profit company also has to operate within strict applications of property rights. For example, it cannot claim fair usage in the same way non-profit individual users can when posting cover songs for educational purposes (for example click here). Thus, despite having a lot of song transcriptions on their site and a lot of the community activity geared towards learning and recording cover versions, they are limited in what content they can host. None of the song transcription lessons can have the actual recording of the song playing at any time. As well as being determined by property rights Drumeo seeks to determine others usage of their cultural output by protecting their own property rights. This includes their free material which it is heavily copyright protected and branded (for example click here).
Having the Adams (2014) I can say that some of the experiences he documents definitely chime with my experiences with drumeo. Although I know that they are not always in a little room in Canada, bashing away at kits and doing Q&As with other more famous drummers it still feels like Jared and Dave (the main drumeo tutors) are ALWAYS there. It probably explains why their sticking technique is so much better than mine.
Another point that I would agree with Adams is that surprisingly intimate relationships have built up in my mind with some of the drum tutors I watch. For example, I have a particular affection for Alex Ribchester as he is one of the few prolific British drum vloggers and as his videos have built up over the years you can see more posters appear in his practice room, his camera set up get more elaborate etc. Quite often I find that it is not the content of his lessons that I like most (his lessons are a bit too centered around US skate punk beats for my liking) but it is the imaginary relationship I have with him. It’s nice to hear a British accent compared to the overly chipper North Americans like Jared Falk and Adam Tuminaro.
I have to say I haven’t quite experienced the feeling that I am actually in a shared space with the tutor, as Adams (2014) reported some of the MOOC students describing. That is not to say online drum lessons should seek to replicate the experience of sharing the same space with the tutor. Merely that it does not happen in the same way that Adams reported.
As an online drum student I am always conscious that the lesson is a mediated experience. There are two reasons for this, firstly I have heard drums being played in a real time environment enough times to know what I am hearing through the computer would be completely different if I was actually there. Secondly, online drum lessons are always filmed from multiple angles, often with a front of kit view, birds eye view and back foot view. This angles are often shown together at the same time so that you can get an idea of how different limbs work together as the music is played. This is very useful but is not representative of how I would see things if I was really in the shared environment with the tutor.
Finally, Adams termed online lecture videos as a “a hermeneutic speech act that is augmented with technology” (Adams, 2014, p.11). Online drum lessons can be similarly termed. The technological augmentations being the ability to see multiple angles at the same time, as well as read a transcription with a synchronised “read-a-long” pointer.