Annapurna “AP” Tobler is a 2017 “Hit Like A Girl” finalist and winner of the popular vote in the under 18 category. She has been drumming for four years, working with instructors at San Jose School of Rock and participating in house band The Drought.
Women are underrepresented in the percussion world. Our weekly series, Woman Crush Wednesday (#WCW), aims to recognize, celebrate, and inspire female percussionists of all stripes. Each Wednesday we’ll feature a profile of a drummer, who will share tips, advice, and videos.
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What is your city, country, and age?
San Jose, California, 12 years old.
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
My kit is a Tama Starclassic Performer B/B. I use TRX cymbals, DW hardware, Evans drumheads, Vater drumsticks, and Cympad Chromatics. I won a Yamaha DTX450K electronic drum kit through the Hit Like A Girl Contest, and that has also been a lot of fun to play.
My setup is a pretty standard rock configuration. I do play with an 18” crash on my left, and a 16” crash on my right, which might be a little unusual. I also tip my rack toms toward me a little more than others because I’m short.
What bands do you perform with, if any?
I’m currently looking to join a band, but haven’t found one yet. I am a member of School of Rock San Jose’s house band The Drought, which gives me some fun gig opportunities. I have done a couple of collaborations with some local musicians, and am eager to do more of that as well.
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
When I was eight, I asked my mom if I could take karate, but was disappointed when she told me that I couldn’t hit people as hard I wanted. I decided to become a drummer so I could hit things.
When I first sat down at a kit, it felt so natural. I jammed with two other musicians, and I didn’t want to stop.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
It all started with Tré Cool, and he’s still a favorite. Right now, I’m really into progressive rock and metal, and am split between Danny Carey and Matt Garstka. I love their complex drumming style, technique, and unusual time signatures.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
Instead of setting an expectation that I have to practice many hours a day, I follow the advice of Matt Greiner to set a minimum goal of 30 minutes a day. Some days it winds up being only 30 minutes, but most days end up being multiple hours because I’m having fun.
There are several elements to my routine. I have School of Rock songs, assignments from my jazz instructor, rudiments, reading, and time for writing my own material. I have a white board with each of these written on it, and make sure I work on at least a few of the items each day.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum! readers?
It is valuable to learn to read music, and also to take learning rudiments seriously. I also think the performing aspect of drumming is important, and I encourage people to watch live drumming, and to watch videos of other drummers playing. The drum set is like a symphony, and there are so many sounds it can make. It’s very important to find your own sound, and watching others and then experimenting can help you find it.
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?
I think studying the technical details of drumming is super fun. I love playing rudiments and learning theory.
As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?
I define success as to be doing what I love, which is music. If I am able to make a living playing music, then I have found success. My dream is to be a touring musician, but I think it would be a lot of fun to do studio work or even run my own studio.
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
I typically start writing music with a guitar. I go through a few scales before writing a riff. The scales seem to give me ideas as I run though them. I hear notes that sound good together, and choose some to incorporate into a riff. Once I’ve written a riff, I play it again and again, adding and subtracting until I’ve produced a sound that I like. Then, I write a bass line based on the key of the riff. I record those, and play them into my ears while I’m at the drum kit. I listen, and think about the space between the notes. From that, I just jam along with the track until I produce a sound that fits. I don’t typically write lyrics, so most of my music is instrumental.
How important is failure in making music/performing?
I think failure is important for learning and creating change. Imperfection forces you to become a better musician. I use active listening and eye contact with my fellow musicians to adjust to live music mistakes or “happy accidents.”
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
The drumming industry is dominated by men, and that makes it difficult for women in drumming to get the credit they deserve. I know that a lot of female drummers, including myself, have had men come up to us after shows and say things like, “Your drumming is very powerful for a girl,” or “You’re pretty good, for a girl,” which I think is ridiculous. There is nothing that a male drummer can do that a female drummer can’t do as well. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t drum because you’re a girl.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?
I would start by helping my students really find their passion with music, listening to lots of music and finding a sound they love. I would help them learn about genres and history, while learning songs as well. If there was one thing I could change about my music learning experience, I would probably learn theory, grip, and reading sooner. I would incorporate lots of technique in fun ways, and always try to be engaged with my students. The general design of the school would be a lot like the School of Rock, as I think learning songs as a band is quite important.
Where else to find AP
I love meeting and connecting with other musicians. You can find me lots of places on the internet.