Learning to Play Drums: How to Do it Right From the Start

drum teacher

Learning to play the drums is like riding a bicycle. Once you have learned it, it will accompany you for a lifetime.

But what is the best way to learn to play drums? What is important, what is ballast? Should I go to a drum teacher or can I teach myself? These are essential as well as exciting questions that have been on the minds of drum beginners of all ages for many decades.

Learning to Play Drums

The basic prerequisite for learning drums: a feeling for rhythm and the will to learn.

As a drummer you should have – ideally from your gut – an affinity for rhythm and groove. But even if this is not always naturally ingrained in you, there are ways and means (mostly through a lot of diligence and discipline) to learn the instrument and become a good drummer.

For many young drummers, a very primal interest in drumming becomes apparent at a very early age: namely, when you start banging around on the cooking pots with your mother’s wooden spoons as if you were not in the kitchen at the moment, but playing as a John Bonham stand-in with Led Zeppelin at the sold-out Madison Square Garden. In such a case the affinity and the inclination to the drums crystallizes relatively fast.

Another variant is that the interest in drumming grows within the early musical education – in both cases the logical next step is drum lessons. These can be taken at the local music school or at a private drum teacher.

Private drum teacher vs. learning drums at a music school

Teachers at a public music school usually have an artistic university degree in their subject and therefore have very good skills on the instrument, theory education as well as appropriate repertoire knowledge in music history. In the case of private drum teachers, a degree is not always a given. Which of course does not mean that such lessons have to be worse.

Often drummers who have a lot of touring and live experience with bands have alternative and exciting methods, tips and approaches at the ready. Compared to a music teacher who is highly trained theoretically and technically, more practical approaches can usually be taught here. Ideally, of course, the drum teacher has both skills.

Discuss beforehand with the drum teacher what is to be learned

In the preliminary discussion with a drum teacher should be discussed in any case the teaching content. It should be clear that a drum student who is just starting out as a beginner probably has little desire for percussion and orchestral content. In this case, the learning program should clearly be designed around the student. What is the goal? Does the little rock star want to be able to rehearse with his band and play concerts later on? Then the main emphasis of the lessons should be on hand-setting exercises on the snare and playing on the set. Rhythms and counting exercises, paradiddles are then standard.

drum teacher

The teacher must enable success and motivate the student to enjoy learning.

It is important that the student does not lose the desire to learn drums right at the beginning. Especially in times of short attention spans and low frustration thresholds, the teacher must be able to keep the beginner happy and make small successes possible.

So when choosing the right drum teacher, sympathy is also a very important selection criterion. Will he manage to motivate the student and make independent learning attractive to him? Because learning drums does not only mean going to lessons once a week, but also practicing at home and gradually learning and internalizing the exercises from the lessons.

Different methods of learning to play drums

Learning to play the drumset can be started in a variety of ways: some teachers first practice with their students on just the snare drum for a period of time to teach them the most important note skills, as well as proper stick and sitting posture. Other teachers start directly at the drum kit and immediately introduce you to all the relevant components of the drum kit, i.e. mainly bass drum, snare drum and hi-hat.

As we all know, as a drummer you have to be able to multitask, since you are working with all your body parts/extremities at the same time. In the drum lessons, you don’t mainly just deal with what rhythms or fills there are in the first place, but rather learning to play drums is about which playing techniques (for the hands and feet, for example) are important and which beat sequences are essential. But of course it is also important to learn with which dynamics you play the instruments used in individual grooves and fills in relation to each other or what and how you should practice at all when learning to play drums.

The basic prerequisite for learning drums

Learning drums with a teacher or alone with YouTube?

In addition to the classic drum lessons with a teacher, you can of course also teach yourself many things. Especially the internet offers a lot of inspiration and instructive material through tutorials and online lessons on YouTube as well as many interesting video clips (live as well as in the studio). At the same time, it is advisable to acquire the “basics”, i.e. a basic understanding of the drum set, the correct stick position as well as note reading from a reasonably trained teacher. This makes it easier to “get the hang of things” later on, and playing is more fun from the start if you have acquired the rudimentary skills and are able to learn things yourself from a certain playing level onwards.

Conclusion: This is the right strategy for learning drums
From my own experience, I would recommend the following strategy:

  • How motivating is the student? Does he have any desire at all to learn drums or is this just a wish of his parents?
  • It is highly recommended to learn at least the first 10 hours with a drum teacher. Especially the basics of sitting posture, stick position, counting and structure of the drums are enormously important. If you get used to these incorrectly, they are hard to change later. A teacher also shows a student what to pay attention to when tuning the drums. Because learning on an out-of-tune set is no fun.
  • It is best to rent a used drum set first. This saves a high initial investment and if it turns out that learning drums is not the right thing to do, you can simply return it. Rental instruments are usually available at the local music store or a music club.
  • A good drum teacher can be found at the local music school, on the Internet, via Facebook or by asking friends. In every city there are “the usual suspects” who play in bands. They usually have an idea who is a good musician or know where to find a teacher. Just ask them.
  • One should find out in a first telephone conversation about the learning contents. Is the teacher practical or more theoretical? By the way, if he already sounds unappealing on the phone, it’s better to keep your hands off him and keep looking.
  • After the phone call, a meeting with the drum teacher and the future student is scheduled. This is the best way to find out whether the chemistry is right. The relationship between teacher and student is extremely important.
  • After the first few months, you can then also make the investment in a used drum kit. Why used drums are simply the better idea, we reveal in our guide “Buy a drum kit used or rather new”.
  • If the student believes that he can teach himself to continue playing the drums, the most important thing is discipline. Parents are advised to make an agreement with the offspring. At least every two days an hour should be practiced. Of course, daily practice is optimal. But it must be fun! A great learning and fun factor is practicing to so-called playalongs. These are playback tracks of well-known songs on which the drum track is missing. It feels a bit like playing with a band. Of course, you can also simply rehearse to your favorite songs as mp3 or from CD.
  • The main thing is to keep at it every day and not have long breaks. Because practice makes perfect. Also when learning drums!

We wish you much success in learning drums.

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