Drum Lessons

Michael McNeil’s Drum Set Program

For a description of my experience and qualifications please read my promo bio at the bottom of this program description.

Contact mike@mcneilprodrummingottawa.ca for more info

            In my drum set program we work towards helping you to develop the musical skills, technical skills and theoretical knowledge you need to become a solid musician and drummer. We combine these skills with some business knowledge so other musicians may want to play with you and hire you. We do this through a balanced approach that involves playing along to recordings, discussing different theoretical and conceptual approaches, practicing technical exercises, working on ear training and reading exercises, analyzing songs in different styles, transcribing drum recordings and discussing music business concepts. The program is extensive and involves regular practicing but we focus on things you really need to know that will actually make you a better musical and technical drummer.

This program is good for:

            Novice to intermediate level students who want to bring their playing to the advanced level by improving their technique, expanding their conceptual and theoretical knowledge of music, improving their musical ear and learning how to play many styles of music.

The program covers the following areas:


Students are taught how to play grooves and stylistically appropriate fills in the following styles:



Hard Rock


Progressive Rock


Dixie Land


Big Band

Second Line Drumming

Caribbean Styles






Cuban Styles





South American Styles


Bossa Nova



African Styles



Electronic Music

Drum n’ Bass


Break Beats

2- Step

Time Signatures

            The program will focus on teaching the student to be able to fluidly groove and solo in the following time signatures:

  • 4
  • 3
  • 5
  • 7

The following time signatures will also be studied:

  • 11
  • 13
  • 9
  • 15


Students are taught how to read and write:

– drum charts

– form charts

– actual drum notation

Students are taught how to:

  • interpret lead sheets and charts written for other instruments.
  • Interpret rhythmic figures (or shots) written in charts.

Students are also taught how to:

  • Deal with bad charts
  • Determine when a chart is actually getting in the way more then it is helping.

Ear Training

            The student will be taught how to recognize rhythms, and phrase structures so they can play music by ear without rehearsal and write charts from recordings.

            This will be accomplished through call and response exercises, analyzing and playing along to recordings and transcribing drum parts.

Fills and Soloing

            We take a technical and stylistic approach to fills in all of the styles mentioned above and also work on the following concepts to expand the students soloing vocabulary:

  • Phrasing
  • Metric Counter Phrases
  • Polyrhythms
  • Stickings
  • Foot Patterns
  • Hand and feet combinations
  • Ostinatos
  • Linear concepts
  • Developing a vocabulary out of a “lick”
  • Soloing over vamps
  • Soloing around shots written in charts
  • Soling on your own with no accompaniment
  • Using fills to set up shots for the band
  • How to play a fill or solo and sound like you know how to “play the style” that the music is in.

Technique and Rudiments

The program is centered around wrist strokes, finger control and heel down playing but the following techniques will also be studied to supplement these:

For Hands

  • Controlled Bounces
  • The Free Hand Technique (Johnny Rabb)
  • Push Pull

For Feet

  • Constant Release (combination of heels down and heels up)

      Students will also be taught rudiments to help them move around the kit more efficiently and express their ideas more clearly. We will use rudimental snare drum solos and other various exercises to accomplish this.

Studying the Great Drummers

      As a part of the lessons we may study the styles of great drummers such as:

  • Vinnie Colaiuta
  • Steve Gadd
  • Mike Portnoy
  • Derek Roddy
  • and others


      Students will be taught:

  • Some of the different routes you can take in the music business as a performing musician
  • The difference between a “session” or “freelance” musician and a “band member”
  • How to network and get hired for gigs and studio work
  • How to learn music quickly and handle working with many different bands
  • How to work in the studio
  • How to work under pressure and how to act professionally on the band stand

For Gear Recommendations, Lesson Policies and Other Info Click Here


As a drummer and holder of a bachelor of music degree from Carleton University, Mike is continuing on a music career which has already seen him perform on just over 2000 gigs and recording sessions (since going full time in 2007, in a wide range of musical styles both locally and internationally at major music festivals, concert halls, event centers, special events, weddings, restaurants and more. It has also seen him tour Canada and The U.S.A. as a professional musician, work as a cruise ship show band musician for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines “Enchantment of the Seas Orchestra” and perform drums in the production show “Stage to Screen”, which is a musical that includes music from West Side Story, Sweet Charity, Chicago and Hair Spray.

        Highlights in 2008 include 5 months of busy intermittent touring of Canada and the U.S.A as a professional musician as well as performing at the London, Ontario Sunfest. Highlights in 2009 include a performance at the Cisco Systems Ottawa Bluesfest Main Stage (Bank of America Stage) with Jeff Rogers and The Liquid Sound. Highlights in 2011 include a request to perform in China (though cancelled), the release of artist Deneece’s CD “From Bromont To Broadway” which Mike performed on and a recording session in which Mike recorded drum tracks on 3 songs for Paul Blissett’s album “Luna”. Highlights in 2013 and 2014 include 2 performances at The Ottawa RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest with Firebelly and 1 performance at The Tremblant International Blues Festival with Firebelly. Highlights in 2016 include working as an adjudicator for a graduation recital for The Carleton University Music Program.

        Mike’s career as a drummer has also provided him with the opportunity to perform with such artists as Billy Richards’ Coasters, Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters, Juno Award winning musician Steve Marriner, East Coast Music Awards Nominee Neil McDaniel, Canadian Aboriginal Music Award Winner Melisa Pash, Singer/Songwriter Cory Mervin Coons (winner of the 2014 Producers Choice Award for Studio Album of the Year by The Los Angeles Music Awards), Stéphanie St-Jean (2016 Winner of La Voix/The Voice Canada), Boom Desjardins (Juno Award Nominee and Lead Singer for La Chicane), Etienne Drapeau (Top 10 Finalist on “Star Académie”), Christian Marc Gendron (Roch Voisine), Marie-Ève Fournier (from La Voix/The Voice Canada Season 2), JF Dubé and Rudy Caya, Manon Séguin, Howie and Bert On the Edge Comedy Jugglers, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines “Enchantment of The Seas Orchestra”, The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Singers and Dancers, numerous choirs and hundreds of other musicians, variety artists and bands. He has also performed drums for many artists’ albums, 5 of which can be found on iTunes (3 albums and 2 singles). Mike has also written professional drum charts/transcriptions for Yamaha Drum Set Artist/Zildjian Cymbals Artist Volkan Oktem as well as Grammy Award Pre Nominee Rocco Ventrella.

        As a local freelance musician, Mike has performed professionally with numerous Carleton University associate performance teachers including Tim Bedner, Mark Ferguson, Roxanne Goodman and Rick Rangno and he has also had the privilege of performing with some other great local musicians including Mark Ferguson (Tony Bennett, Holly Cole), Mike Mullin (Natalie Cole), and Carmelo Scafidi. Mike has also filled in on gigs for Sonor Drum Set Artist/Endorser and Carleton University associate drum set performance teacher Jeff Asselin.

        Having studied many aspects of music, Mike has specialized in drum set and has studied with Chuck R. Burrows (highly respected drum set instructor), Juno Award winning musician Paul Delong (Kim Mitchell, Tom Scott), Mark Kelso (Herbie Hancock, James Taylor) and others. Mike has also taken a group master class with Randy Cooke (Ringo Starr, Kelly Clarkson) and a lesson with world class jazz drummer Ian Froman (Mike Stern). Mike’s pursuit of music and the drum set have allowed him the opportunity to play live and/or in the recording studio with a wide variety of artists including musicians, choirs, a DJ, jugglers, comedians, variety acts and dancers. It has also required him to play many styles of music ranging from rock to cha- cha, jazz to African Pop, metal to samba and blues to avant-garde classical as well as many other styles within the spectrum.

        From Ontario to Jamaica, from the U.S.A. to the Canadian prairies and from the middle of the ocean to Nunavut in the Canadian North, Mike has successfully performed as a professional musician. Mike has performed in many venues including the cruise ship main stage and orchestra pit, outdoor festival stages, hotels, event centers, recording studios and restaurants all while dealing successfully with the professional demands of chart reading/writing, rehearsing, playing to a click track, improvising, learning music by ear and performing with little or no rehearsal when necessary.

        Currently working as a full time performing musician in his home town of Ottawa, Mike is known for his strong sense of time and his desire to constantly push himself by discovering new envelope pushing drumming techniques and learning new styles of music.

        As a reliable musician with a great professional track record, Mike always strives to do his part to help make music that a group can be proud of in a positive atmosphere with other musicians/artists. He is always interested in meeting and making music with other artists in many different styles (original music as well as cover/tribute).