“If there ever was a ‘classic’ manual for teaching the basics of drumming, this is it. A timeless compendium that handles essential terminologies of music, reading, and rudiments in an approachable and concise way—a perfect tool for teaching!”

—Claus Hessler, International Clinician & Author of Open-Handed Playing, Volumes I and II

By Dave Black

Dave Black at PASIC 2017.

It’s hard to believe that 30 years have now passed since the release of Alfred’s Drum Method, Book 1. At the time, my co-author Sandy Feldstein and I were simply trying to write what we hoped would be a comprehensive method that would inspire young drummers to continue studying music. I hope we succeeded on some level.

Over the years, many people have asked why I think the book is still so relevant, and why teachers and students have continued to use it as their first drum method. Aside from a certain amount of luck, and the fact the timing was right for a new approach, there are a number of factors I feel made this book different. I’d like to share some of them with you.

Prior to Alfred’s Drum Method, many of the books on the market didn’t teach dotted notes until the end of the book. As a result, there was very little opportunity to reinforce the dotted-note concept in the exercises and solos that followed. Because we introduced dotted-notes early on (Lesson 6), we were able to continue reinforcing them throughout the book.


3/4 TIME
Although 3/4 time was used frequently in concert band literature, many drum books taught 3/4 as if it hardly existed in music. We introduced it in a logical sequence, right after 4/4 and 2/4 time, and were able to utilize it throughout the book.

Unique to our method was the fact that we introduce the seven-stroke roll right after triplets. We felt it provided a logical extension of the rhythmic concepts taught in the triplet lessons, and over the years we’ve had many teachers tell us it was the most sensible way to approach seven-stroke rolls.

Lesson from Alfred's Drum Method Book 1, The 7-Stroke Roll

Also of note was the development of sustaining note values on the snare drum, which has the student working on a double bounce approach first (not multiple bounces), to develop short- and long-measured rolls.

Example from Alfred's Basic Drum Method, Book 1

At the time we wrote the method, sticking notation was printed in black. We thought this was a distraction, as students tend to focus on the stickings rather than concentrating on reading note values. As a result, the stickings in Alfred’s Drum Method were printed in gray.

We included 23 solos throughout the method and made sure each was able to stand on its own as a complete musical composition suitable for solo and contest purposes. Each solo reinforced the concepts taught in the previous lesson. Alfred’s Drum Method was also the first book to include the drum parts to famous Sousa marches, so students could see how rudiments, such as the five-stroke roll and flams, were used in actual drum parts.

I think the most innovative aspect of our drum method was the inclusion of a VHS video that correlated with each page of the book. Our product was one of the first to offer that element, and included a “first lesson” with a beginning drum student live on camera. And keeping up with the change in technology, the video was later released on DVD and is now available digitally for the iPad and on SmartMusic.

In closing, I’d like to say that no matter how good a book may be or what tools are included, it doesn’t take the place of a good teacher.  In order to achieve any kind of success, we all have to start with the basics in order to build a good foundation, and that’s only going to be achieved by focused practice, determination, listening and patience. We are thankful for the opportunity to have played a small part in the development of so many young drummers, and hope we can continue for the next 30 years.

IMG_0026A prolific composer and arranger, percussionist Dave Black received his Bachelor of Music in percussion performance from California State University, Northridge. He has traveled around the world, performing and recording with a wide variety of well-known entertainers and shows, and has had more than 60 of his compositions and arrangements published by most of the major music publishers, and many of those have been recorded. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and commissions, including 26 consecutive ASCAP Popular Composer Awards, two GRAMMY participation/nomination certificates, the Percussive Arts Society President’s Industry Award, a Modern Drummer Readers Poll award (educational book), two Drum! Magazine Drummie! awards (educational books), and a certified Gold Record award for the sale of more than 500,000 copies of Alfred’s Drum Method, Book 1. In addition, many of his compositions have been used as source/background music on numerous TV shows and movies, including the film Drumline. As one of the biggest selling percussion authors in the world, Mr. Black is the author and/or co-author of over 35 books, including Alfred’s Drum Method, Book 1 (the world’s current bestseller) and Sound Innovations for Concert Band. His books and music are used and performed by young people all over the world, and combined sales now total two million units. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief, School Method Strategy, for Alfred Music.

*Article originally published in December 2012 issue of Modern Drummer ( Used with permission.