In this edition of “The Thinking Drummer,” I offer ten tips for aspiring/beginner drummers. They are not in order of importance.
Realize that skill takes a long time to build. Becoming a great musician can take years. Be patient, do the work and you’ll become good. Focused practice under good guidance will take you there.
One of the most common problems facing beginners is that they try to play things too fast. That makes it much harder to learn new drumming patterns and movements. If you slow things way down (waaaaaay down) you’ll have better success learning. Speed things up later, once you’ve “got” it.
Learn To Read Music
Reading music seems scary at first, but it really is not as hard as you think. It is truly essential. We refuse to teach anyone here who won’t learn to read…that’s how important it is.
Seek & Find Inspiration & Passion
Ask yourself “what music do I like?” Discover drummers you like. Immerse yourself in music. After all, playing an instrument is about making music, so exploring music and letting it excite you will inspire you. Passion and emotion drive the work of becoming a good musician. If you listen to any great musician tell their story, you’ll notice an obsession with master musicians they looked up to and tried to emulate. Find some music and musicians that inspire you and you’ll be driven to get better….you’ll almost have no choice.
Practice as Much as You Can
The cold hard truth is that it takes thousands of hours of practice to get really good. If you take lessons and you show up time after time without practicing, just know that you may never get that much better, or at best, you’ll progress very very slowly. If you practice a lot, you’ll start to see and feel yourself getting better and that will excite you. I love practicing because I love getting better and the more I can do on the drums the happier I am. See if that cycle will work for you by practicing a lot.
It’s OK to like certain kinds of music more than others, but don’t shut other things down completely. Maybe you’ll hear something you really like in a place that you didn’t think you would. Knowing different types of music and being able to play different styles will make you a more well-rounded and more skilled drummer. I didn’t think I liked jazz and then I became obsessed with it–all because of a good teacher.
Find a Good Teacher You Respect
You can read books and watch videos online but nothing takes the place of a bunch of one-on-one private lessons with a great drummer who knows how to teach and is low on the ego quotient. Your teacher should be someone who you can go see play live in a club and then say, “man, I wish I could play like that.” That is what I mean by respect. If you like the way he plays, then you’ll want to learn from him.
I’m probably way too serious about my drumming, but the bottom line is that when I’m playing, I’m pretty much always happy. Drumming is so much fun for me. So, take a step back, and let it sink in. You’re playing drums! Isn’t it fun? Of course it is. Don’t be so hard on yourself. If it’s no fun, you shouldn’t do it. Enjoy your drumming and enjoy the process of getting better at it. It’s not life or death. It’s music.
Develop Your Technique
Don’t ignore technique. It’s probably the hardest thing about drumming to get right. It takes the most work and it’s the most frustrating of the skills to learn. But guess what? If you have the patience and drive to develop great technique, you’ll never regret spending that time. Pound for pound it will give your drumming more to draw from than almost anything else. I implore you to do this. Good technique will expand what is possible behind the drum kit in immeasurable ways.
Play with Other People
Despite the fact that there are tons of videos of drummers alone in their practice rooms on the internet, you should go find some like-minded people to play music with. Music is a team sport for the most part, and you’ll learn a lot by getting yourself into bands early on in your development. Don’t skip this step; it’s crucial.