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No instrument feels as deeply connected to human nature as drums. As a result, drums play an essential role regardless of the genre of music you listen to. Learning how to play the drums can be an exciting process, though, as with learning any new skill, there are particular challenges you’ll find yourself having to overcome.
Committing to a practice routine and making progress each day, no matter how small, is the only way to learn drums quickly. Unfortunately, there is no magic trick for instantly learning drums, no matter what kind of clickbait you see on YouTube.
Today, we’ll take you through a few practical tips to help you get the most out of your drum learning journey. And if you don’t have drums yet, you can even learn the drums without drums.
Plan a Practice Routine
We can’t stress the importance of having a practice routine enough. Without consistency, it isn’t easy to get better at anything. Even if you can only practice for 30 minutes daily, it’s much better than only practicing for a few hours each week.
The important thing here is to be realistic about your practice goals. Many new drummers have unrealistic expectations of where they will be after a few weeks of learning, setting themselves up for disappointment early on. Have a goal in mind, whether big or small, and schedule four to five practice sessions each week to take small steps toward that goal.
Have a Place to Play
So many people never attempt to learn the drums because they don’t want to spoil their relationship with their neighbors. If you can’t invest in a practice space separate from your home, do your best to build an at-home practice space where you can play comfortably and confidently without disturbing the peace.
There are many practice solutions, depending on how much time and money you want to invest. For example, you may install soundproofing in your practice room to minimize sound leakage. On the other hand, consider investing in a decent electronic drum set or practice pads.
Keep Form in Mind
Establishing proper form right off the bat will keep you from developing poor muscle memory. For starters, you want to invest in a decent drum throne that allows you to adjust the height, so you’re situated comfortably with your feet on the pedals at 90 degrees.
Something is wrong if you’re leaving your practice session with aches and pains.
You’ll also want to consider your grip when starting. There are two main grip techniques in drumming — matched grip and traditional grip. Matched grip is more common among modern drummers and has plenty of benefits that will make you a more robust and versatile drummer.
Check out our recent article, Traditional Grip vs. Matched Grip – Which Should You Play, and learn more!
You can learn about anything on YouTube these days, and while there are plenty of self-taught drummers who achieved success with nothing but online drum lessons, the best resource for learning is a one-on-one teacher.
One of the great things about teachers is that they know your current skills and progress. They understand your strengths and weaknesses, and how to help you overcome any hurdles you may experience.
More often than not, lessons that you find online take the one-size-fits-all approach. Each lesson plan is catered to you when you work with a teacher. You can talk to your teacher about your goals and work one-on-one to find the best paths.
Finding a good drum teacher is easy these days, with plenty of local listings online and reviews from past students. Also, consider heading to your local music shop to ask for recommendations.
Play with a Metronome
If drummers had one fundamental goal, it would be to keep time. One of the best ways to lock in your rhythm skills so you don’t fall off tempo is practicing with a metronome.
No band will ever want to play with a drummer that falls off the beat every few measures. Plus, if you ever want to get into the recording studio, it’s vital to know that most recordings are tracked with a click.
Having experienced following a click in your practice space will make you a more confident drummer the first time you step foot in a studio.
If playing with a metronome sounds monotonous to you, the good news is that most professional songs were recorded with clicks in the studio, meaning just about any track you play along to will help you develop your tempo skills.
Develop an Arsenal of Basic Beats
We recently wrote an article outlining five easy songs for drummers just starting.
However, what’s even more important is understanding the basic beats and rhythms found in these songs and how they are used throughout the music.
The more beats you have in your back pocket, the easier it will be to lay down a groove when you’re in a jam session and your buddy starts laying down a funky bassline.
Your brain can move through the Rolodex of beats stored in your muscle memory and pick out the one that works best with what the bassist is playing.
There are plenty of basic drum beats, from disco to reggae one drop, and the best part is that none of them require an extreme amount of limb coordination. Plus, once you can play these simple beats confidently, you’ll be able to build on top of them with your arsenal of fills or ghost note rhythms.
Learn Drum Notation
Too many drummers skip this part of the process. Yes, trying to demystify sheets of drum charts that look like hieroglyphics might not sound like the most exciting thing ever, but knowing how to read drum notation is crucial to learning drums.
While you don’t necessarily need to know how to read notation to become a successful drummer, most successful drummers have a basic understanding of drum notation, at the very least.
In addition, knowing drum notation makes you more versatile and flexible, as you can pick up any score off the shelf and start playing immediately without ever having to hear the music.
You can look at our in-depth guide that covers everything you need to know about reading drum sheet music.
Watch Videos of Your Favorite Drummers
Thank the drumming gods that we live in an era where you can pull up a video on YouTube of one of your favorite drummers playing a live set almost instantaneously.
In many ways, humans are like monkeys. We are visual learners who learn through imitation. Long gone are the days of having to set up your drum set by the record player and put your ears to the speakers to try and understand what in the world the drummer was playing.
Nowadays, you can watch about any band play live online and study your favorite drummer’s techniques. What hand did they use to play that fill? Check the video. How did they hold sticks for that 32nd note hi-hat pattern? Refer to the video. How long do I have to grow my hair to sound like John Bonham? You get the picture.
Study. Rinse. Repeat. You’ll be a much better drummer for having done it.
Learn How to Play Your Favorite Songs
Remember, you didn’t get into drumming to sit around and practice beats or rudiments all day. You got into it because you want to be able to play songs!
No matter what your practice routine looks like, make sure to set aside time to learn how to play your favorite songs. Pick a song and take it section by section, learning the intro on Monday, the verse on Tuesday, the chorus on Wednesday, and so on.
Not only will this help you stay more motivated, but it will also make practicing much more fun.
Keep the Beat
Developing a skill is challenging, whether it’s painting, skateboarding, or playing the guitar. The same thing goes for learning how to play the drums. However, it’s essential to ensure you’re having fun throughout the process.
Begin with the basics and practice slowly. Make sure you have a weekly routine schedule and set aside distractions while playing. Using a journal to keep track of my progress often motivates me. Each time I feel like I’ve hit a plateau, I can look back at my journal to see how much I have progressed in a short period.
The hardest step is getting started. However, once you get going with unstoppable determination, you’ll never want to turn back. Don’t get hung up on how long it takes to learn the drums. It will be worth it, trust me.