Lessons FAQ

Why have you switched primarily to group courses instead of one on one solo lessons?
– each year students are turned away because there are not enough solo spots available. Group lessons are a way to allow more students to study and at a more affordable price for each student. It’s also a way to offer courses that typically haven’t been offered before like drum tuning, maintenance and a dedicated music theory course. For the benefit of each student, class sizes will still be limited and enrolment is based on a first come, first served basis. Please use the contact page to get in touch if you’re interested in any of the classes being offered.

How long does it take to complete each course?
it depends on how strong a student you are and how often you practice between lessons. Daily practice for 15-30 minutes is essential to begin with. As you progress to higher levels, more practice time is required. Practicing at the same time each day is also important so that it becomes a routine that you do without thinking. If you don’t pass a level in the first year, you can always sign up again the following year. Higher levels will typically take more than one year to complete for most drummers.

What happens if I miss a lesson?
– You’ll get sent all of the relevant material by email during the course but unfortunately there’s no way a lesson can be made up or refunded if missed. You can schedule a solo spot to catch up but that would incur an additional solo lesson fee. Each new lesson typically starts with a recap of the last so unless you miss a lot you shouldn’t find yourself falling behind too much. We want drummers to succeed so we’ll look after you as much as we can.

How long does each lesson last?
– each lesson, solo or group lasts for 50 minutes. Lessons are conducted via Zoom communication software. See this page for information on how to prepare for your online lessons.

Why are the class levels centred on the PPBSO (Pipers and Pipe Band Society of Ontario) system of grades?
– most of the drummers who take lessons at dougstronach.com are either in Canada or the USA. Doug’s home pipe band association is Ontario and as a result this makes sense to use as a guide for each course level. In addition, the PPBSO Massed Band Scores are used throughout North America in some form for band and massed band performances. Regardless of each associations various grade levels and requirements for competition, all material learned is standard and used by pipe band drummers around the world.

Why don’t you offer courses for Grade 2, 1 and Open Drummers?
– we only offer solo lessons for drummers at these levels. This is because drummers who get to this stage are more self-sufficient and can, or should, be able to progress on their own with minimal input from an instructor. If you find yourself ‘stuck’ as a higher level drummer, then you may be missing some of the essential skills learned in the lower grades like reading and writing music or stick control and technique. The Theory Course is open to all levels of players and highly recommended if learning new scores and/or understanding rhythms is an issue for you. The Theory Course also covers some of the PDQB requirements and essential material needed to become a judge or teacher.

Can I join a course after it’s started?
– Yes. You will get sent all the material for the course but obviously miss out on the lessons presented up to that point. Depending on when you start, we can also try to prorate the fee.

What are Spot Lessons?
– spot lessons are one-off lesson times available throughout the month. They are not recurring and only available as time permits. Some higher grade drummers like to ‘check-in’ every now and again as a way to get feedback on their solo playing or help with any specific issues they may be having. There is no commitment to more lessons or on-going study of any kind. They can be used to ask anything about music, including questions about recording or tech issues you may be having.

What do I do if I feel I need more one-on-one solo lessons than are available?
– we can recommend other teachers to study with. Please email to discuss.

What are the exams all about?
– the exams are very relaxed and designed to solidify the information learned throughout the course. The written exams are open book (you can look up the answers) and not timed in any way other than a final date for them to be sent in by. If you want to move up a level the following year it’s mandatory to have a minimum pass in the written theory and practical video presentation portion of the exams. If you don’t want to move up or plan to sit the level again the following year, then you can safely ignore anything to do with the exams.

What are the video presentations all about?
– the video presentations are similar to the format for online contests. You play a set piece or rudiments that you’ve learned during the lessons along to a recording of the tune or a metronome at a set tempo. You do it at home, on your own and take as long as you need to perfect the performance. It’s a great way to get ready for the solo contest season. A pass in the written theory exams and practical video presentation is needed to move up to a new level the following year. If you don’t plan on moving up, then you can safely ignore the video presentation portion of the courses.

Do you teach in-person lessons?
– typically no since the start of the pandemic. However in times before Covid, it wasn’t unusual to travel to a band to conduct a weekend workshop, evening rehearsal or week-long summer school. If the pandemic continues to loosen its grip on our daily lives then these options will likely become available again at some point.

When will the free additional lessons be offered?
– at various times throughout the year students enrolled in courses will have the chance to sit in on some of the free additional lessons. The topics covered and frequency will depend on the demand for them each year by the students. See here for some of the topics on offer this year.

Why are there more solo classes offered at the end of May?
– group courses end at the end of May and as a result more time is available to teach one-on-one solo lessons. It’s also the time of year drummers are getting ready for solo and band contests so they need more one on one time to help with their performance.

Why do lessons end completely in August?
– Ontario’s largest contest of the year is at the start of August with the Maxville Highland Games. Although there are other smaller contests after this, Maxville often marks the end of the competition year for many in Ontario. In addition, lots of Canadian pipe bands and players often travel to Scotland in August for the World Pipe Band Championships. This is the largest pipe band competition in the world and although a highlight of the year and loads of fun, most players want to take a well-earned break when it’s all over.