Drums are an exciting yet intimidating instrument, but anyone can learn to play them with the right amount of passion and dedication. Whether you decide to take lessons or teach yourself, learning drums can be a fun and rewarding endeavor for people of all ages.
Because of all of the coordination involved for the different parts of the drum set, it typically takes beginners around 4 – 6 months to feel comfortable playing. To play well, it can take a year or longer. However, learning any instrument is a lifelong journey, so continuing to practice and improve is critical in becoming the drummer you want to be.
Drums keep the beat and create rhythmic texture in songs. So before you can get behind a drum set, you should make sure you understand and can keep a rhythm. Try listening to your favorite song and keeping the beat by tapping with your hands or feet.
Once you feel comfortable keeping the beat, you can begin reading drum notation/sheet music. Sheet music for drums is fairly straightforward and can be learned quickly. Start by tapping out a simple rhythm composed of quarter notes and quarter rests on any surface using your hands. As you get the hang of that rhythm, begin incorporating eighth notes along with other more complex rhythms while alternating between each hand.
Drumsticks are a critical piece of playing drums, so knowing how to hold them is essential to your playing. There are two popular ways of holding drumsticks: matched grip and traditional grip. In order to have the most versatility in your drum playing, you should familiarize yourself with each of the different styles.
Matched grip is the most popular way of holding drumsticks, with both hands mirroring one another. There are three variations: German grip, French grip, and American grip. Traditional grip is not a variation of matched grip and is mostly reserved for marching bands and jazz groups.
Once you have your rhythm down and are able to comfortably hold your drumsticks, you can begin to learn some basic drumming patterns. Start with those same simple rhythms we practiced earlier, but this time use your sticks and a drum practice pad. Once you feel you’re ready to move to an actual drum set, spend some time getting comfortable with the coordination it takes to play each of the pieces. A few basic beats you can try are “Two and Four”, “Four on the Floor”, and “Boom Boom Clap”.
After you feel at ease playing the drum set and can play a few simple beats, you can begin working on more complex patterns. A few beats to try once you’re ready for the intermediate level are Flams, Up-Beat, and One-Handed Sixteenths. Since most of these beats are in 4/4, you can also try switching the time signature to practice further. You can also start practicing your improvisation skills by blending together beats you’ve already learned and creating a few of your own to create something brand new.
Although drums don’t have scales or traditional notes, drummers should still plan to practice their instruments every day in order to improve and keep their skills sharp. Plan to practice both written patterns and improvisation in order to learn new techniques and grow as a musician.
As a general rule, drummers should follow an 80/20 schedule in their practice sessions – as in, spending 20% of the practice sessions learning technique and the other 80% learning songs. With 20 – 30 minutes of practice each day and passion for the instrument, you’ll be playing on stage in no time.