Alexa Rae Kent was born and raised in San Diego, California, where still currently lives. Her greatest passion is being able to play music. Currently, she’s doing that as a full-time college student studying music production.
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What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
I have both an electronic and an acoustic set. I have a black colored five-piece Pearl road show set with two floor toms, one mounted tom, bass drum, and a snare drum. For cymbals, I have the Meinl HCS series that includes the hi-hat, ride, and one crash cymbal. For my electronic set, I have an Alesis Nitro eight-piece kit. I don’t have an extremely fancy set up yet. I can play in the house only on my electronic drums because of all the noise complaints. I practice my acoustic set in a practice room studio I rent out.
What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?
I’m in a new band called Sick Sad World. I’m also about to start playing drums for a friend’s solo project. In the past, I was in a few bands with all-female musicians.
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
I’ve always thought that playing drums would be cool, but thought that there would be no way my mom would let me have a drum set in the house. The first instrument I learned to play was piano. I taught myself basic music theory and eventually got lessons. In high school, I joined concert band and played percussion.
At first, I was most comfortable playing the xylophone, bells, and marimba, but then I had to learn how to play the snare drum and read percussion sheet music. I spent hours playing on a practice pad to improve as much as possible. Then one day during our break time in band class, I went into one of the practice rooms and tried playing the drums. My band teacher gave me sheet music and a little lesson to help guide me on how to properly play. I watched YouTube tutorials and did more research, but I wasn’t able to convince my mom to let me have an electric drum set in the house until I was about to turn 19. When I didn’t have a drum set, I would just play on my practice pad or a drum set when I had the chance. Once I got my drum set, I was able to practice so much more and jam with other musicians, which led to me taking it more seriously.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
That’s hard to say, but if I would have to choose I’d say Anika Nilles. She’s so creative with her music and it challenges me when I warm-up to her book exercises. Her chops are incredible, and it’s rare that a drummer writes the music completely.
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How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
The best thing I’ve learned is to practice your rudiments on a practice pad with a metronome playing. Before I play, I like to stretch out my arms, wrists, fingers, and back. Once I’m done with my rudiments I will hop on my drum set and practice the sheet music my teacher gives me, all with different exercises. It includes fills, jazz styles, practicing odd time signatures, double bass exercises, snare drum exercises, etc. Then I will practice a few songs I want to cover and listen to them in my headphones while playing along. I’ll call it a good practice once I’m tired.
Sometimes I’ll be at a stop light and get annoyed how the blinker is off beat with what’s playing on the radio.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum! readers?
- Really focusing on getting my double stokes and finger techniques down has helped me tremendously
- I learn best from others so I suggest always listening and being open to feedback
- Practice with a click track in your headphones
- Learn how to play to all types of genres—don’t just stick to one. My favorite genre is punk rock and alternative rock so it can be easy to get stuck in only learning the same beats and fills over and over. Drumming to jazz is still a challenge for me, but has helped me get more creative when I am adding beats to the band. By opening my ears to the whole wide music world, I’m learning something new every time.
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?
First of all, we are pretty much the metronomes of the band! Second, it makes me always counting the beats in my head 24/7. I’ll always find myself counting and involuntarily tapping my feet and hands out in public. Sometimes I’ll be at a stop light and get annoyed how the blinker is off beat with what’s playing on the radio. I’ll sometimes take a pair of sticks and start hitting the passenger seat so I can play along to the song I’m listening to. People who’ve seen me do that probably think I’m psycho.
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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 believe success is something you gain over time and in order to get there, you have to really have the drive and capability to put hours into practice. You learn wisdom from those with more experience and once you’ve learned from them, you pass it down to the ones willing to learn. There’s always room for growth. I’m always going to keep practicing and stay humble by not letting an ego develop. For example, I know and have heard some drummers claim that they don’t need to practice because they’re “good enough.” I don’t want ever want to think like that. I work hard and achieve my goals when I practice and reach milestones.
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
I’ve only created a few individual songs on my own. I cannot sing at all, but I can form a song structure. If I have an idea, it must be really catchy or I will forget it. I must have the basic picture in my mind before I get started. I will come up with a chord progression, form a bass line, add drums, melody, rhythm, and any extra layers. Other artists influence me to help me get ideas. Also, collaborating with other musicians for the song writing helps a lot.
Women are underrepresented in drumming. Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Do not let the male dominance of the drumming world get to you—girls can do it too! Build connections with other female musicians, because they know what it’s like. Social media has helped me build friendships with other female drummers across the world. Accounts on Instagram like @femaledrummers will share videos of only female drummers. It’s a way to find and connect with other girls. Also “female” is only a label; we are drummers.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?
The first lesson they should have is a class on how to properly hold a drumstick and applying proper strokes. Learning basic rudiments on a practice pad before hopping behind the kit is important. Once they’re on the kit, students should spend one day learning how to play the bass drum and hi-hat with their feet. Then, there should be a course where students just practice playing quarter notes with their feet on the bass drum while practicing rudiments on the snare drum. After that’s complete, learn the most simple closed hi-hat rock beats, followed by fills.