Thomas Belknap
Thomas Belknap

January 21st, 2022

ToneGym Hero: Thomas Belknap

Developer by profession, Drummer at heart, and Avid amateur chef from Rochester, New York. Thomas Belknap is this month's ToneGym Hero! 

Who are you, and Where are you from?

My name is Tom Belknap and I'm from the Rochester, NY area.

How did you get into music?

My father was a drummer before me, and I've been playing music as long as I've been alive. Whether that meant singing along to songs on the radio, playing a toy drum I had for years, or eventually turning to brief formal music education and a number of years trying to "make it," music has always been around. I'm 47 now, a father and husband. Music occupies a different place in my life than it used to, but it continues to teach me more and deeper things about who I am every day. 

What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music?

I'm a proud dad, so I like spending time with my son and doing the things he enjoys. I'm an avid amateur chef, making dinners for my family from any part of the globe that I can credibly put together in a pot. I'm a developer by profession and a blogger out of habits as old as my musical ones. I've often said that there is a way to see information move through a song, a program, or a paragraph that's not unlike watching cars passing on a busy city street at night. 

What's your most useless skill or talent?

I can curl my tongue into a weird, concave shape and make a little froggy noise. It is a talent so useless that I find it hard to describe, because who cares? But it did a great job of irritating authority figures in my childhood. 

What inspires you to keep making music?

I think that, with the benefit of age, I've learned how much of what inspires me to continue to make music is internal. Maybe even internal medicine: playing music feels like a cosmic alignment that goes straight to my spine. For a moment, the way I feel in my mind matches the way I feel in my body, and all of it is relaxed and energized. I probably have better posture in front of my drum set than all day at my job. 

If you could sit down to a session with any artist, who would it be?

Paul Simon. I'm here at ToneGym, at least in part because I'm trying to advance my knowledge of harmonic music composition, and Paul Simon stands out as one of my favorite songwriters. And if something of mine could sing out alongside his work, it would be an incredible honor. 

Any habits you have before starting a session?

I have treaded socks that I like to use because I can feel the pedals better. I like to do a kind of stretching behind the kit, my arms, back, and waist especially. I'm starting to make use of the Vocal Warmup Tool to try to stretch and strengthen my voice. 

Thomas Belknap

What have you been working on lately?

I'm writing a song called "Share the Harvest" that's about a sense of gratitude our society seems to lack. To me, anyway. It's been a fun experiment for a relative novice to songwriting. It's all organ and piano and drums for the moment, sort of a classic Dorian minor rock song. 

As the drummer in a lot of rock outfits, my role has often been to be the arranger: I don't generally know what the chords of a song might be, but I understand the ABACAB of pop music composition. Guitarists I've worked with will have a pile of riffs but not necessarily a song. I'm here at ToneGym specifically because I've spent the last however long of the pandemic trying to bridge that gap and do the whole enchilada on my home studio setup. 

If you could pick one, what would be the theme song of your life?

Shanty by Johnathan Edwards. Because what else do you want but to relax, take a little time out with the one you love, and get a good buzz on?

What is your favorite musical instrument?

I'm of the drums. I shall stay in the drums. And to the drums, I shall return. 

What is your favorite ToneGym feature?

I think the thing that makes me a happy ToneGym member is the diversity of the games and exercises to help you develop your ear. When I attempted this skill in college, the only "game" was me and a piano. Or maybe if I was lucky, a friend and a piano (I was lonely). But with ToneGym, I can work on different aspects of ear training, all of which have their subtle differences. Beyond that, the theory tools like the harmonizer are amazing ways to stretch your ear training into your theory training. 

What does the future hold for Thomas Belknap?

As much music as I can cram in a lifetime! I'm looking forward to hitting more open jams as things open up again. I'd love to get a band together and flesh out the tunes that I'm writing, but I'd be just as happy to have musicians come to my house on a session basis. I just want to write, I guess!


Colin Aiken
Jan 22
Colin Aiken
Jan 22
Love your drumkit.
Congrats! I've read your musical story and I feel amazingly identified with many passages. We even share a devotion for Paul Simon's songwriting...
Pleased to meet you, Thomas.

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