17 Feb North London Drum Tutor Luca Romano: “It’s a Great Time to Learn Drums”
Luca Romano is a North London drum tutor who is known for being dynamic, enthusiastic and friendly. Originally from Italy, he balances his time between being a tutor, gigging and session work, whilst maintaining equal amounts of passion for all three. We’ve represented Luca in the North London Drums hub for a few years now so we thought an interview to discuss all things drums was very much overdue!
Luca, you’re one the most experienced tutors that we represent. It can be easy to forget that even the most experienced tutors were beginners at one point. What made you want to play?
I’ve always loved music. Even though no-one in my family played I grew up in a very musical environment. I always wanted to play an instrument. When I was about 12 I decided to make the big step. Drums was somehow the obvious choice – it just seemed like the coolest instrument to me. Every time I’d listen to music I would ended up tapping along to the beat. (My parents loved that as you would imagine!) That’s when I started taking drum lessons and I’ve played ever since. Before then I played a bit of piano in school, but not very seriously.
Did you ever take any music exams in Italy?
Music exams are not very popular in Italy. I wish I had done though as it can be a very helpful way to learn any instrument. I often attended masterclasses and short courses – I have a whole box of certificates back in Italy! After I moved to London I started studying music on an academic level and obviously that included taking numerous exams.
We know you never pressure your students into taking exams but for those that do, what’s the most rewarding part of this process?
The sense of achievement that I share with my students when they do well in an exam is incredible. After years of teaching, witnessing their progress first hand still fills me with joy!
Moving to London
So you started drumming back in Italy at 12 but sometime after that you moved to London. When did that happen?
I moved to London in the summer of 2011 with the intention to study music and become a professional musician. I started a one-year diploma in 2011 and then my music degree in 2012. I’ve since completed my MMus.
How do you find living and teaching in London?
London is the place to be for me. It offers great opportunities both on a professional and personal level. It’s a city I truly love and it feels like home. My studio is based in Green Lanes which has a very strong music and artistic community. I naturally started to gravitate around it. There is also an incredible amount of great restaurants in the area!
I can attest to that myself! Are there any secret spots in the area you’d recommend a music-fan checking out!?
The Nightjar in Old Street. They host a lot of very nice small jazz gigs in there – the atmosphere is very unique. And their cocktails are great!
Going back to your studio in Green Lanes, what’s the current kit set up you are using there?
Well it often depends on the gig I’m playing but my favourite set-up – which I’ve had for a while – includes a 22″ kick drum, 12″ snare drum, 10″ and 14″ toms, 14″ hi-hat, 16″ and 18″ crashes, 20″ ride, 18″ china and both 8″ and 10″ splashes.
Wow, that’s pretty comprehensive!
And this is the kit you tutor on I presume?
Do you have any favourite books or resources you use in your lessons?
Online versus one-to-one lessons
There are so many books out there and now, of course, so much of it is available online too. With so many resources on the internet what actually makes coming to lessons worth it?
It is undeniable that the amount of online resources at our disposal is incredible. The internet is a source of constant ideas and inspiration and it really is a great time to learn an instrument. However guidance is also essential. In my opinion, that is the case for two reasons:
Firstly, having the guidance of someone that has already gone through the journey and knows how to get from A to B makes the process easier, efficient and more enjoyable. It’s hard to navigate through all the content available online. To have someone that can show you the path according to your own goals, abilities and personality is something that can’t be replaced.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the face-to-face interaction. Your tutor is there to help you with all aspects of your playing and to provide a constant flow of information.
Say you want to learn a song. You might go online and study one of the many videos on YouTube. But what if you can’t figure out that one fill? What if you try to play the beat as explained but still can’t crack it? That’s where having a tutor makes a difference. They can step in, give you a solution to your problem right there and advise you on things you didn’t even know you could improve.
Is there anything that you have brought into your teaching from the lessons you took?
Absolutely. I have been lucky enough to have had some truly amazing drum teachers that have accompanied me in different stages of my career. They have inspired me greatly as a teacher.
My first teacher was a very calm and patient individual, he allowed me to really feel comfortable. Even during moments when I wasn’t doing great he would always be encouraging and made me focus on the positive elements of whatever I was doing. He also stressed how important a knowledge of the instrument is – that’s the key of really turning the instrument into an extension of yourself.
That’s a really interesting point!
My most recent teacher was also an incredible educator. He gave me structure and methodology. I improved greatly in a very short period of time. His teaching style is based on a few very simple concepts. It’s something I’ve made my own from the very beginning of my teaching career and has helped me craft my own personal teaching style.
Taking music lessons
What advice can you give anyone thinking about taking music lessons?
Just do it! I go on and on about how amazing it is to be able to play an instrument. There’s truly nothing like it – it’s an experience anyone who loves music should have. On a more practical level I would recommend to always have a goal in mind. For example, “I want to play that song one day” or “I want to be able to play that drum beat or fill” is a great place to start. To embark on a journey like this and be able to visualise, even roughly, where you want to get to will help you stay focused. It will help you to put in the work and passion you need to improve.
Is there any advice you can give to anyone currently taking music lessons?
Enjoy the journey. Learning any instrument is a fluid process that is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling but also full of small challenges. I always think back at myself ten years ago, or sometimes even less, and it makes me feel incredibly proud to realise how much I have overcome in my musical journey and how happy and whole playing an instrument makes me feel. It’s a feeling that anyone can experience!
Once you get to your studio, is there a particular warm up you use?
I don’t really have a specific warm up. It depends on the mood and whether I am about to go on stage or to practice. Generally I try to make sure I include single stroke rolls as well as paradiddle variations. When gigging, the routine I tend to play is based on a single stroke roll played in 16th notes on a practise pad. Sometimes I double or diddle some of the notes. It’s great warming up like that as it’s both musical and fun.
I also often like to take out the metronome and phrase along using different compound stickings. Again I do that because it’s fun and puts me in the right mood to walk on stage and let loose. If I am about to start practicing I try to warm up in relation to whatever I intend to practice on. So it really depends!
In terms of gigging, you’ve toured pretty extensively. What sort of places has music taken you to?
I’ve toured in most European countries such as Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Montenegro and the Netherlands as well as the UK. I’ve been touring both with my band as well as a session musician for other bands. 2019 was a fairly busy year as I was session-ing for a band and we toured throughout the year. My favourite place to play is Berlin, I always have a fantastic time there!
Is there a best gig you’ve played out of the places you mentioned?
The one I enjoyed the most was when I played at a festival called ArcTangent in Bristol. My band You Break, You Buy was signed to a small indie in 2016 . A year later we were offered a slot on the second biggest stage of the festival. It was an absolutely incredible experience.
The crowd was amazing and I still smile when I think about seeing a few people walking around the festival with my band’s t-shirt. It was truly a beautiful moment for me.
Do you still go to gigs yourself?
Which has been your favourite so far?
That’s tough but if I had to pick I think I’d go with the very first gig I went to on my own. It was The Cure in 2005. They played in this old Greek amphitheatre and it was breathtaking.
Inspiration and improvement
Speaking of favourites, and I know it’s a tough one to answer, but do you have a favourite drummer?
There are so many but I’m going to go with Eric Moore II. He is such an inspiration for me. He’s the perfect mix of a drummer that can pull off an incredible solo as well as lay down the most solid groove. There’s something about his playing that really excites. Every time I watch him play I just want to go back to my studio and practice for hours!
Do you have a dream collaboration?
Before we start wrapping up, what projects are you currently working on?
I recently started session-ing for a pop band who records their songs using very intricate electronic drum beats. It’s quite a challenge to be able to translate those parts onto an acoustic kit and to perform them. It’s really made me grow as a musician and it’s an important learning opportunity that has forced me to step out of my comfort zone.
And finally, is there a particular stand out moment from your time teaching so far?
I’ve had countless stand out moments but the one I remember most fondly was when one of my young students informed me they wanted to become a professional drummer. I had had them under my tutelage since they were quite young. To know that they wanted to make such important step filled me with pride and joy.
Thanks so much for all your time Luca!