Trinity qualification: ATCL diploma in Drum Kit
Gautam Krishna, a 19-year-old multi-instrumentalist hailing from Singapore, has recently completed his ATCL diploma in Drum Kit. A graduate of City of London School, Gautam's journey into the world of percussion began with the piano at aged 5, but roughly five years later he convinced his parents to buy him an electric drum kit for his birthday. He learned both simultaneously, achieving six grades in piano before fully pursuing drums.
Coming from a family of musicians, with his brother focusing on songwriting and composition, and a mother who used to be in a band, Gautam was surrounded by creative inspiration from an early age. Today, he draws inspiration from the internet, particularly platforms like TikTok, where he curates a playlist of intriguing drumming videos and uses them as a source of learning. Gautam's teacher, Matt McDonough, has also played a pivotal role in shaping his musical journey.
Gautam started his diploma in October 2021, culminating in his final performance in May 2023, which he submitted digitally. Every time he thought about submitting, he would push the exam back to add just a bit more polish, before realising there would never be a point where he’d be perfect – there’s always potential for more growth.
The diploma proved to be a substantial undertaking, and the standard of playing was significantly higher than in prior graded exams. He emphasised that the challenge lay not in impossibly difficult pieces but in nailing every hit and perfecting fundamental timing.
“It’s often that the pieces themselves aren’t impossibly difficult, but it’s just absolutely nailing every hit, and ensuring your fundamental timing is perfect.”
A significant breakthrough in his approach was the constant review of his recordings, which he now has in abundance, tracking his progress throughout the diploma.
Something new he deployed for his diploma was constantly listening back to his recordings, and identifying where he could improve. He now has a laptop full of recordings which track his development as he progressed through the diploma.
“I think the most challenging thing was listening to yourself, being like ‘this still sounds terrible’ and doing that again and again, and knowing it’s something that you’ll see progress within four or five months, not days. You’ve just got to play and trust that it’ll get better.”
Gautam has developed a newfound sense of discipline and routine as a result of the diploma. To help with the nuance of his performance, when beginning his diploma he moved from an electric to an acoustic drum set, which meant he could only practise at certain times of the day. This, coupled with exam revision, meant he had to be much more organised, and grew to appreciate the value of time. He claims he saw more progress in the two years of his diploma than he had in the seven prior due to that transition.
His sight-reading skills have also significantly improved, and his ability to deconstruct and reconstruct complex drumming techniques from online sources has become a liberating part of his independent learning process.
This newfound discipline has not only enhanced his drumming but also contributed to his academic success, securing him an A* in Music A-Level, thanks to his performance and the compositional element.
In his gap year, Gautam is eager to travel to Taiwan to develop his Mandarin skills, embracing the opportunity for cultural enrichment. He is also contemplating enrolling on a one-year music course to continue his skill development.
He aspires to attend Cambridge University to read Engineering, but even there he believes music will remain a part of his life. He hopes to join the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO), and is considering starting a function band with his brother.
Given the success he saw, it’s not surprising that routine and discipline were the two things he advocated for every Trinity student to try to adopt.
“This is what it takes to get there.”