band practice

The Real Secret to Improving Your Band’s Sound

band practice

Do you want your band to sound even better? (Who doesn’t?!) Here, San Diego, CA teacher Maegan W. shares her secret for improving the group’s sound as well as your individual musical skills…


Do you think a metronome is just a personal preference for some musicians? Are you one of those musicians who KNOWS your time is perfect and unmatched? Well I’ve got news for you — it probably isn’t as spot-on as you think.

Most fights in bands are due to someone being off-time, and unable to accept that it is them. The truth is that most people honestly believe they are on time. As a drummer, I learned a long time ago the only way to know for sure how good your timing really is, is to use a metronome.

I’m not suggesting that you always play, practice, and perform with your metronome — not all music calls for that. What I am suggesting is that you take your musicianship to a whole other level, and take your power back! There is no greater feeling than knowing 100% where each note, beat, lick, and fill fits in the time and space of the song.

Singer-songwriters and guitar players… I’m calling you out. I challenge you to use a metronome when practicing and learning songs. I have played with so many amazingly talented musicians, guitar-playing singer-songwriters who performed and sounded fantastic alone, but when it came to a band setting, they were like complete beginners. Don’t let this be you.

Here are some ideas on how to get comfortable with the metronome as you’re singing or playing guitar with your band:

1) Listen to your songs against the “click.” This will help you to see where everything really lines up, and how much time you actually have to do whatever you want to do or play.

2) Devote at least 10% of your practice routine to practicing with the metronome. I recommend more like 50-90% but baby steps are fine for people not used to practicing with the metronome.

3) If you’re in a band, have “The Talk.” This will hold everyone equally accountable for doing what they can to improve their personal timing, which will improve the band’s time as a whole. Also having a group practice where the drummer listens to a click is helpful too. It instantly builds trust and competence. (If there is a problem member that can’t admit or see their faults, it may be helpful to have some practices where everyone can hear the click through the speakers, to shine light on what needs extra attention.)

4) Be humble. Learning that your timing sucks can be a hard realization, especially for sensitive musicians. This can bruise the ego and come out as anger. Remember the point is not to be “right” or make someone feel defeated. The point is to improve your band’s sound, as well as individual sound. The metronome is the Truth, and sometimes the Truth hurts.

5) Slow down! The best way to really lock down any song, riff, groove, fill, or solo is to slow way down. Take the tempo down to half or 3/4′s of the original tempo and practice in slow motion, to let your brain and muscles learn exactly where everything fits. Do this until your muscle memory learns the movement of the piece. Then when you speed back up, do it gradually in increments of 5 or 10 bpms until you arrive back at the original tempo. Then push past 10 or 20 bpms so you truly have it mastered. You never know when you will need to play it faster or slower, but with this practice, you will be prepared no matter what the speed.

These are just a few ways to incorporate the metronome as you’re playing guitar, singing, or whatever part you play in your band. I hope this is helpful — and remember, it’s about taking baby steps. This is not something you just want to brush off. Being a master at time will make you a more valuable musician, and more confident in your skills too. It may be tough at first, but anything worth learning is.

Go easy on yourself and/or your band. It is challenging, but I know you can do it!

Maegan WMaegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004.  Learn more about Maegan here!



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how to become a musician

What They Don’t Tell You About Becoming a Musician

how to become a musicianWhen you become a musician — whether you’re playing the guitar, the drums, or another instrument — you’ll notice a pattern when others find out about your skills. Read on to learn what they don’t tell you about becoming a musician, in this guest post by Brookings, SD teacher Carl S…  


Every musician has his or her own story. Some people play as a hobby and may play the occasional gig. Others are gigging frequently or perhaps teaching music. No matter what type of musician you are, you should ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Be honest with yourself, and whatever your answer is, well, that is just fine. What don’t they tell you about becoming a musician? At some point, you’ll be a music teacher of some sort.

Surprise! You’ve learned one song on the guitar — now people identify you as a guitarist. If somebody you know decides that they want to learn guitar, they will likely come to you for advice on how to get started. What do you say to them? If you haven’t experienced this scenario to some degree yet, you will.

Early in high school, I decided to be a multi-instrumentalist. Saxophone has always been my “primary” instrument, but I play and teach many instruments. Like many 15-year-olds, I had the desire to try my hand at guitar. Having had solid experience with another instrument, it came to me very quickly, albeit self-taught. One day, I was in our high school music room playing a song I’d figured out on the guitar, and one of my friends heard me playing. “I didn’t know you played guitar!” he said. This was immediately followed by a request to join a garage band, help him with his bass playing, and write songs together.

Whoa! Am I even capable of this? Well, I went for it, but as soon as I said yes, I felt the overwhelming anxiety of not being as virtuosic as I was falsely perceived to be. At this point, I had learned everything that I knew about guitar from a Walmart poster. I’m serious. Poster + guitar = now offering advice?

I needed to learn some things and quick! I immediately started thinking, “Who do I know that plays guitar well?” Seeing a pattern here?

No matter when we decide to give making music a try, someday, you’ll teach somebody something about music. Don’t be afraid of this; rather, rise to the challenge and let this be your inspiration to submerse yourself in thoughts and ideas that will in turn push you to the next level.

For example, I’ve always been sort of a hobbyist in regards to guitar. I teach music for a living at a university, so guitar has always been an outlet instrument for me. I teach big bands, so now I have college-level jazz guitarists coming to me for advice. The best way for me to teach them was for me to pick up my guitar and put myself in their shoes. I’ve had great success teaching them, and they go on and on about how much more things seem to make sense. I’m just having fun playing guitar with them!

Music is an art. This art of how to become a musician is passed down from generation to generation via friends, family, and mentors. On behalf of music teachers everywhere, welcome to the club!

CarlSCarl S. teaches saxophone, music theory, piano, and more in Brookings, SD. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance at the University of Kansas in 2014, and his Master of Music Pedagogy and Performance from Oklahoma State University in 2011. Learn more about Carl here! 


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Reading Drum Sheet Music | 5 Tricks to Remember

2620170206_8bdb56da66_oLearning how to read drum sheet music can be challenging at first – here are 5 tricks to remember as you’re working on your skills, courtesy of Edmond, OK drum teacher Tracy D...


It can be a bit daunting when you are new to reading drum sheet music, to absorb and coordinate all the information contained in drum set notation. With that in mind, I have compiled a few tricks that I’ve learned over time, which should help you on your way.

First, let me say that while it is possible to be a good player without knowing how to read music, the ability to read will open up worlds to the musician! You can learn from any book, compose your own pieces or exercises, and transcribe the works of your favorite artists. Reading is power!

Let’s take a look at the rhythm staff:

(Staff courtesy of

This is the standard notation. Occasionally, you may see a staff with the snare on the center line, but that is fairly rare. Most likely, you will begin by reading music that contains only the snare, kick (bass), and hi-hats. Now, let’s begin the process of decoding it all. In the grooves below, the time signature is 4/4 (four beats, quarter note gets the beat). They are counted as 1 2 3 4. The hi-hats are written as 8th notes (eight to a measure) and that is a subdivision. They are counted as 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. (Each line below “says” the same thing, but it is a good comparison for common variations in notation). Each groove is two measures, separated by a “bar line.” Line A contains rests, quarter, and 8th, respectively, and they indicate silence for that duration.

Look for the parts on the staff that line up directly. Hi-hats and bass? Snare and hats? These will help ground your interpretation of the music. The limbs required for those voices will hit together. In the first measure of each groove, the bass plays beats 1 and 3, and the snare plays beats 2 and 4. They line up with the hats.

(Grooves courtesy of

Observe the voices that change in the groove. Which voices do not change? Here, the hi-hats never change, so you do not have to busy your eyes (and brain) with continuous reading of those figures. Notice that the snare is always on 2 and 4 as well. You will quickly be able to move those to auto-pilot and concentrate on reading the bass part, because it is the only voice that changes. Nice shortcut, huh?

If you run into a tricky pattern within a measure, isolate that part and work it out before putting it back into the whole. For example, the first few beats of measure 2 may be challenging at first. Those are your target beats.

Be sure to count as you play! There is nothing better for correct note placement. In these grooves, the 8th note is the smallest subdivision that the drums, which are the main voices, represent. 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & – if you can say it, you can play it.

If getting all your limbs to cooperate is a challenge, start off with the hi-hats, and add the snare or the bass (whichever is easier) and get a solid feel with those. Then add the other parts until you are comfortable with the feel.

In sum, the ability to read drum sheet music will always serve you well. Remember to look for your anchors, notice which parts do or do not change, isolate trouble spots, count as you play, and add or subtract voices as necessary until you can play them all. These tips should streamline the learning process and make it more enjoyable. Practice, practice, practice!


Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums in various bands for more than 13 years, and has also played intermittently with the OKC Community Orchestra for the past five years. Learn more about Tracy here! 



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Drum Kit

9 Dumb Drummer Jokes, Plus 3 Snappy Drummer Come-Backs

What is it about the drummer in a band that makes them such an easy target for musical humor? Even though the drummer holds the band together and recent studies have shown drumming increases certain kinds of intelligence, drummers often find themselves on the punchline side of a dumb joke. If you’re a drummer with a good sense of humor, or if you’re brave enough to try a few of these out on the drummer in your life, here are 9 dumb drummer jokes that might give you a chuckle.

1. What’s the difference between a drummer and a large pizza?

A large pizza can feed a family of four.

2. How do you tell if the stage is level?

The drummer is drooling out of both sides of his mouth.

3. What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?

A drummer.

4. What do you call a drummer who just broke up with his girlfriend?


5. What’s the last thing a drummer says in a band?

“Hey, how about we try one of my songs?”

6. What do you say to a drummer in a three piece suit?

“Will the defendant please rise?”

7. What’s the difference between a drummer and a savings bond?

One will mature and make money.

8. How can you tell a drummer’s at the door?

The knocking keeps speeding up.

9. How is a drum solo like a sneeze?

Because you know it’s coming but you can’t do anything about it.

Drummers, you don’t have to take these jokes laying down! Here are 3 good ones to come back with!

1. What’s the difference between a drummer and a toilet seat?

A toilet seat only has to put up with one bum at a time!

2. Why are drummer jokes so simple?

So the rest of the band can understand them.

3. What’s the difference between an electric guitar and an onion?

No one cries when you cut up an electric guitar.

You can also replace “drummer” with “guitarist”, “bass player”, or whoever is hassling you in any of the dumb drummer jokes above and you’ve got yourself a good comeback.

Got any jokes you want to share? Or any drummer jokes you absolutely hate? We want to hear from you in the comments!


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Hi Hat

A Beginner’s Guide to Reading Drum Tabs

Hi HatDrum tabs are an abbreviated, simple form of musical instruction used in place of traditional sheet music for drummers. Many modern musicians and music students prefer to use this kind of tablature because it’s easier to write and easier to find. Instead of looking for sheet music in the music store, for example, you can simply go online and find thousands of drum tabs for all your favorite songs.

Sheet Music and Musical Tabs

Tabs are different from sheet music because they are written specifically for the instrument, rather than the sound. Sheet music is written with musical notes, while tabs are written with letters and various markings. Want to learn to play the drums? Understanding drum tabs is going to be a key part of that adventure!

Parts of the Drum Kit

The drum kit is made of several distinct drums and symbols, each with their own names and abbreviations. Once you recognize these, you are halfway to reading drum tabs:

  • CC, or Crash Symbol
  • HH, or Hi Hat
  • Rd, or Ride Symbol
  • SN, or Snare Drum
  • T1, or Hi Tom
  • T2, or Low Tom
  • FT, or Floor Tom
  • B, or Bass Drum
  • Hf, or Hi Hat with Foot

How are Drum Tabs Written?

The nine parts of the drum kit are written in the order listed above on each drum tab, from top to bottom; the musical instructions are written from left to right. For example:

HH  x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-
SN   -o- -o- -o- -o- -o
B      -x- -x- -x- -x- -x–

The preceding tablature shows you that three parts of the drum kit are being used in this piece of music: the hi hat, the snare drum, and the bass drum. Furthermore, it shows you when to play each piece during a musical count of 16 beats. Look closely, and you’ll see that each line of rhythm for each component has 16 marks per line, so 16 beats. The dashes (-) tell you not to strike the instrument during this particular beat, while any other symbol (x,o) tells you to hit it. A music teacher can help you better understand keeping rhythm, but first, it’s important to practice playing more than one piece of the drum kit simultaneously, as in the tablature.

Symbols Used in Drum Tablature

Full drum tabs follow this format for several sets, depending on how long the piece of music is. The different symbols on a line, such as o, x, X, #, or b, tell you how to hit a particular part of the drum kit. The “o” means open, the small x means normal and the big X means harder or looser.

If you want to learn how to read all the little intricate details of drum tabs and play them successfully, it’s best to pair up with a music teacher. The right teacher can help clarify instructions that are confusing and give you exercises to work on, which will build up your confidence and skills. Take a look through the professional drum teachers at TakeLessons and see who fits the bill! Working with a professional who knows what they are doing will get you drumming much quicker.


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Drum Software

Is Learning With Drum Software Effective?

Does Using Drum Software Help You Learn One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself or your children is the gift of music – by learning how to play an instrument, use your voice, or simply appreciate the artform. If you’ve always wanted to play the drums, you have more options than ever before.

Today, technology from companies like Roland, Alesis, and Yamaha have given us electronic drum kits so you can practice anywhere, and at anytime. The features that come with these kits give you a variety of drum sounds to work with, replicating everything from heavy metal drums to small jazz combo kits and everything in between.

Even the way we learn has been touched by technology. Savvy drummers can now find thousands of free online drum tutorials, inexpensive drum software programs, and DVDs from some of the best musicians in the world.

Many of these options offer a carefully developed curriculum, put together by highly qualified teachers who can help you streamline your learning. This new generation of learning tools has advanced far beyond those that came before.  Roland, for example, recently released the first combination product, the drum tutorial DT-HD1, featuring a basic electronic drum kit teamed up with drum software designed to work hand-in-hand with the hardware.

While personalized, one-on-one instruction with a qualified teacher is always the best way to learn how to play an instrument, the advances in drum learning technology and hardware can provide fantastic results. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of software learning, and several software and DVD packages available for the practicing drum student.

The Advantages of Software Learning

  • Most drum software programs are downloadable. You can start immediately and the lessons are accessible at any time of day or night.

  • If you have more than one person in your home interested in learning, software or DVD learning can be shared.

  • Learning to play using drum software allows you to work at your own pace. It’s also possible to go back and rework concepts or review tricky material until you’ve mastered it.

The Best Drum Software and DVD Learning Materials

Drums can be a challenging instrument to learn, as they incorporate independent movement between the hands and feet. This requires focus, dedication, enthusiasm, patience, and persistence. Here are a few great drum software options and DVD learning sets to help you get started:

This drum software was designed to work hand-in-hand with Roland’s HD1 V-drums, but will work with any MIDI-enabled kit.  A big hit with beginners, this program takes you from learning the basic fundamentals to being able to play a variety of styles.

If you’ve ever played the drums in “Rock Band” you’ll recognize the interface. It’s a fun, interactive way to learn! Moving on to the notation screen, you’ll learn how to play fills, beginning and endings of songs, and how to read drum notation. Visit Roland’s website to learn more and to access downloadable songs to add to your repertoire!

This well-presented resource from professional educator, drummer, and percussionist Dann Sherrill features great production quality, and can help you earn a variety of styles, including rock, funk, blues, Latin, and jazz. The course covers the basics, like setting up your kit, up to advanced techniques like using brushes. The 12 DVDs contain 22 video lessons to help you learn visually and aurally. This is a complete course designed to take you from the beginner level all the way up!  

It also includes 70 full-length tracks in a variety of styles, backing tracks (minus drums) to get you playing in a group context, and over 100 pages of printed material, helpful information for reference, and illustrated examples. The Learn and Master drum course also offers support and additional materials online to take your playing to the next level!

This program features four separate but complementary multimedia packs that take you from beginner to advanced. The “Beginner” pack and book starts you with the basics, including tuning and setting up your kit, theory, drum notation, and beginning technique. Each level then progresses, adding additional techniques as you go along.

Tons of great info and drum techniques are presented in this course, including half bar and single bar fills, two bar fills, cross sticking beats, 300+ patterns, and open and closed hi-hat patterns.

The program also includes over eight hours of video instruction, books for each level, and lots of bonus material.

This is a great DVD to check out. It’s not an instructional video, per se, but instead showcases this drum master diving into some interesting and challenging techniques. While it’s not really suitable for a beginner, this is definitely a DVD to add to your library after you’ve become proficient.

This is a recording of a master class filmed at The Manhattan School of Music, and it presents a question-and-answer format between Gadd and the audience. He touches on:

  • Applying rudiments
  • Warming up
  • Using a click track
  • Seat height
  • Brush pattern
  • Odd phrases
  • Latin ideas
  • Tips for studio performance

With each topic, Gadd performs various tracks to demonstrate the skills involved. It’s a really interesting DVD, and the format allows Gadd to touch on some unusual techniques.

Drum Software Learning Vs. One-on-One Instruction

All of these drum learning tools can stand alone, but working with a qualified private teacher can enhance their effectiveness. There are many subtle techniques, especially when beginning to play an instrument, that if learned under the careful eye of a qualified teacher will make working on your own more effective.

Software and DVDs certainly offer flexibility, but they also require a high level of self-discipline. A qualified teacher will know when to push you, when to lay back, and when to offer another perspective when learning difficult techniques. A qualified teacher and one-on-one instruction is often the difference between success and failure when learning to play an instrument. Remember, there are no short-cuts – the most important step is to just get started! Good luck, and have fun!


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4 Easy Drum Songs to Learn for Beginners

Easy To Learn Drum SongsIt’s well-known that learning a musical instrument can enhance creativity, coordination, and overall happiness. The drums are a popular choice for their rhythmic sound and the tempo they give to group music. But while it might be nice to be able to play like Keith Moon from The Who right away, you’re going to need to practice first in order to learn how to play the drums that well!

If you are just beginning, one of the best ways to establish a foundation is to learn songs that are good for practicing beginner drum techniques. Before you start playing, take a look at these four easy drum songs. Learning these will help you master some rudiments and get used to song structure.

1. “Run to the Hills” – Iron Maiden

The speed of Clive Burr’s epic drums might make you think that this is a hard song to learn. However, while learning to play as fast as the great Clive Burr can take time, “Run to the Hills” is quite simple to play because it features the rudiment that every beginner should first learn: the single stroke roll. To play this sticking pattern, alternate strokes between the left and right drumsticks. Start out slowly, then go faster once you start to get the hang of it. Use a metronome to help with your tempo. Relax your shoulders and wrists. Learning this is fun, because you’ll sweat as you try to speed up and perfect your single stroke roll.

2. “Beverly Hills” – Weezer

Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” features simple patterns and slow-paced drumming, making it a great song for new drummers who love alternative rock. This hit from 2005 is a wonderful song for applying another important rudiments, the double stroke roll (especially on the hi-hat for this song), which consists of alternating double strokes with the right and left hand. While learning this song and, in particular, the double stroke rudiment, start out at a manageable speed, and make sure to watch your stick height. When practicing the double stroke, you may find that having an instructor guide and critique you is the best way to polish your technique and increase your speed.

3. “Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry

The Katy Perry hit “Teenage Dream” is one of the most popular pop songs right now, and the pattern is easy to follow and memorize, which makes it one of the best easy drum songs to learn. This song is great for practicing the flam on the snare drum, which is yet another rudiments to know. It’s used to thicken the notes by adding a grace note. To do this, place one drumstick a few inches higher than the drum and the other one eight to ten inches higher. When you play, these two strokes should be nearly simultaneous. The higher drumstick thickens the note when it hits. Once you can play the drum flam right, you’ll feel like a true pop star as you jam to this song!

4. “Cantaloupe Island” – Herbie Hancock

One of jazz great Herbie Hancock’s all-time best songs, “Cantaloupe Island” maintains a slow and groovy tempo throughout much of the song, which makes it a manageable piece for beginners. Any jazz aficionado knows about Herbie Hancock’s truly exceptional drummer, Tony Williams. If you want to be a jazz drummer and play like Williams, there are few better songs to learn than “Cantaloupe Island”. With an easy tempo, “Cantaloupe Island” won’t feel like it’s too fast after some practice. This iconic jazz song calls beginners to learn the buzz roll, something that’s very popular in big band and jazz music. This multiple bounce technique (usually three) is great for crescendos and is best played at a smooth, medium-paced tempo. It’s important that the sound stays even between the two drumsticks. While playing buzz rolls, alternate hands after roughly three strokes and keep the drumsticks very low.

Are you ready to pick up the drumsticks now? The key is to first study the rudiments and get a basic grasp of them, as these are the building blocks for playing drums. These easy drum songs can help you practice. And once you start getting some rhythm, you’ll be hooked on playing the drums and improving your skills. Good luck!


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A Beginner’s Guide to Playing Drums: Where Should I Start?

Learning To Play The DrumsReady to start playing drums? Learning how to play can be exciting and rewarding – but there are a few things that you should do before you dive in headfirst – you’ll be glad later on that you’ve taken a few steps to prepare for playing drums down the road.

Here are four steps to take that will keep your drumming skills strong for years to come:

Find a Qualified Drum Teacher

This is one of the most important steps, and just so happens to be the first one you’ll need to do! The key is to find a drum teacher who is passionate about drumming, but also knows how to cater your lessons to your individual needs and goals. Keep in mind: even if you’ve found the best drummer in the world, he might not be the greatest teacher.

To begin your search, think about your goals, playing level, and schedule. Browse the teachers in your area, and be sure to check out the reviews posted by current and previous students!

Gather Your Equipment and Books

Before your first lesson, you will also want to make sure you have all the equipment and practice books you need. Chat with your teacher beforehand to see what he or she recommends or would like you to bring to the first lesson.

If you’re trying to save money – or aren’t sure if you’re ready to commit to the drums – it’s totally fine to start off with just a set of sticks and a practice pad. You can decide whether you’re enjoying yourself (and who wouldn’t be?) while still picking up concepts, and use the money you’re saving on expensive equipment to pay for private lessons right away. This way, you’re developing the right drumming form right from the start. Just remember you’ll need to buy a full drum set at some point.

For your drum sticks, don’t be overwhelmed by all of the different types available! Drum sticks come in different sizes as well as shapes, with the tip of the stick being made with a variety of materials. You’ll want to have different sticks for playing cymbals in a concert band than you will playing a drum set in a garage band. This is where talking to your instructor before making any purchases will help you out.

Learn How to Hold Your Drum Sticks

This is something that can wait until your first lesson, but you might be able to convince a friendly face at the music store to help you, too! There are a couple different styles, depending on which genre of music you want to play, as well as your personal preference. Check out this tutorial on how to hold drum sticks for an introduction to the different styles. At your first drum lesson, your instructor should review how to hold the sticks with you, to make sure you’ve got it right.

Listen Carefully to Different Rhythms

When you’re first starting out, every drum rhythm might just sound like the guy playing drums is hitting them as fast as he can. When you listen a little closer, you’ll be able to hear the different rhythms. Unlike other instruments, the pitch of each drum cannot be changed up or down too much, and definitely not in between each note. The only way to make music from each drum stroke is to vary the rhythm. Sometimes rhythms will be quite random, while other times there will be a pattern to it.

When your instructor is showing you different patterns and rhythms, don’t be afraid to ask him or her to slow down so you can feel each different pattern. Sooner or later you’ll be able to read music on your own and hear the patterns in your head without anyone else showing you.

Keep Practicing!

Now that you’ve taken care of these few steps, just remember to keep practicing! With consistent practice, your rhythm will improve, your technique will get more precise, and you’ll be rocking out in no time.


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The 6 Mistakes You’re Making When Drum Tuning

How To Tune Your Drum Keeping your instrument in tune is essential for all musicians, even for those who never play a melody. When your drums are in tune, they resonate with a clear tone with just the right amount of overtone. Drum tuning is an art, and each drummer has their unique approach. Your drum teacher will likely show you at least one method, but as you grow as a musician, meet other drummers and improve your techniques, you’ll also develop your own preferences in tuning. There are, however, a few practices to avoid when tuning your drums, whether you play drum set, timpani, or frame drums.

Tune Andante, Not Presto

The first mistake many beginners make is trying to tune drums too quickly. Drum tuning is a delicate art, and you will use your senses of sight, touch, and hearing to check for the proper tension on the drum head, the centering of the drum head, and for a clear, resonant tone. Set aside time to do it right. Ask your drum teacher if you can practice drum tuning in your lessons, so you can master the basics of his or her recommended technique. Fine tuning, when your drum head is close to the proper tuning, may take most of your time. Go slowly, with small turns and cranks. Stop to listen frequently. And remember that drum heads need time to fully adjust to their new bearings. If you are tuning a timpani, it can take days for the head to fully adjust.

Be Aware of Too Much Dampening

Be careful with adding dampening on tom drums. Dampening can muffle the effects of improper drum tuning and muffle the sound of the drum too much. While this can seem tempting when you’re in a hurry, it makes it harder for you to get a feel for proper tuning.

Let Freedom Ring – Or At Least Your Snares

Keep snares loose so they can ring freely. Unless you are going to use the drum like a tom with the snares off, proper tension on your snares is nearly as important as proper tension on your drum head. When the snares are too tight, they will sound partially muffled – because they are. Experiment until you get the proper tension for each snare.

Steady As She Tunes

Playing drums is an intensely physical experience, and so is drum tuning. You want to be steady on your feet and capable of a broad range of movement. Avoid wearing boots or heels, as these tilt your body and make it harder to stay balanced. Wear clothing that you can move comfortably in, including kneeling, squatting, and sitting on the floor.

Sweet Spots for Sweet Sounds

Another common mistake is not identifying the “sweet spot” on your drums. Many beginning drummers tune for proper visible tension, but don’t seek the best tone from their instrument. The “sweet spot” is where the tone is clear and well-balanced. This might be the note your drum is tuned for, so if you’d like to try to get a better sound out of your drum, ask your teacher how to tune it to the note. Listen to where your drum sounds best, and remember that next time you tune your drums.

Marching To The Beat of Your Drum

Playing an instrument means learning from your instrument. Because of the way a drum is constructed, it’s often easy to see exactly what might be causing a lack of resonance. But the ways that you will learn to correct this can involve a lifetime of learning. There are a few mistakes in drum tuning, but many ways to tune drums correctly. Talk with other drummers, read books on drums and other percussion, and you’ll find your overall musicianship improve!


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Are Drums Hard To Learn

Are Drums Hard to Learn? Tips and Techniques for Success

Are Drums Hard to Learn? Tips and Techniques for SuccessSo you want to sound like Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses or Vinny Appice of Black Sabbath during your first drum lesson? It’s a great goal to have, but you’ll need to be patient at first! Learning the drums is a process, and sometimes a long one at that.

Are drums hard to learn? That really all depends on you. But if you set yourself up for success in the right ways, you’ll speed up the learning process and reach your goals that much sooner.

Learn with a Teacher

You can bang away on your drum set all you like, but hiring a teacher with several years of experience is a priceless learning tool. A good drum teacher can:

  • Help you establish good technique: There’s only so much you can learn by listening to a track or even watching a professional drummer in a music video. The nuances of correct stick technique, foot positioning and snare work are best learned with a teacher at your side pointing out what you’re doing right and what you need to correct.

  • Teach stylistic corrections: Perhaps your dynamics or emphases are off, but your untrained ear can’t hear it. What’s worse is if your rhythm is off and you can’t play in time. If you try to teach yourself drums, you could get stuck playing with incorrect styling and not even know it.

  • Provide learning material: Sure, you can turn on the CD player and try to mimic what your favorite band’s drummer is playing, but proper learning materials turn a casual pursuit into serious skill progression. Your teacher can recommend the best books, videos and other resources to help you progress between lessons.

  • Make equipment suggestions: If you need help buying a drum set or selecting the right drum sticks, that’s what your teacher is there for! You can get recommendations as well as advice as you’re researching and shopping around.

  • Show you how to tune your drums: Well-tuned drums produce a much more appealing sound than a head you simply slapped on. Plus, correctly installed drums have a much longer lifespan. However, as a beginner, you may find it confusing to learn that there are contradicting ways to tune drums. A good teacher is your best resource for learning the tuning method that works best for you.

  • Hold you accountable: Say you buy a drum set and pound out a few beats you made up. That doesn’t really count as a practice session, and your drum teacher will call you out on it. With a teacher to hold you accountable, what could have been just a passing whim to learn the drums is likely to turn into a dedicated, lasting pursuit to develop a new skill.

Take it Slow

Insane rolls and double bass beats are impressive, but that’s not where you should start. If you get ahead of yourself and try more difficult techniques than you’re ready for, you’re more likely to give up because you think drums are hard to learn. During your first few lessons, keep the following in mind:

  • The meter: If you can’t stay in time, all the fancy drumming in the world won’t mean much. If you’re learning to play because you want to be a band member, keep in mind that just about every band out there would rather have a drummer who can keep perfect time than one who can do 40 different amazing rolls but can’t keep a steady meter to save his life.

  • The basics: You hear simple rolls and one-two beats in music all the time. Why? Because they work. So start with learning basic beats, rolls, and fills, and only move on to more complicated off-beats and drum rolls when you have the basics down pat.

  • Avoid the cymbals for now: Yes, they are fun and loud, but lay off the cymbals until you can confidently play several types of beats. The same goes for hi-hats. In the long run, your drumming will sound better if you pace yourself in this way.

  • Play soft: You might get excited when you see a drummer break his sticks on stage, but bashing your drums is poor technique and can damage your equipment. Play around with how much force you need to achieve a certain volume. You’ll probably find that if you play softer, your endurance and speed improves very quickly. Besides, sticks and heads are expensive, so why not make them last?

Invest in the Right Equipment

Every budding drummer needs the right equipment to practice effectively at home. Consider your options:

  • Practice pad: This little beauty is a drummer’s best friend, both as a beginner and if you have years of experience. At about $20 apiece, this inexpensive drumming tool allows you to practice without making a lot of noise or taking up tons of room. It’s ideal for practicing at night, when you need to be a little quieter, or when you’re away from home and don’t have your full drum set. Set it on your lap, a table, a chair, or any other comfortable spot with enough stick room for you to practice.

  • Starter drum set: Four- or five-piece basic drum sets are a great place to start. Four-piece sets typically come with a bass drum, rack tom, floor tom, and snare drum. Five-piece sets usually have two rack toms. Starter sets may or may not include a cymbal and hi-hat.

  • Drum sticks: What’s the point of all those drums if you have nothing to hit them with? Once you schedule your first lesson, ask your teacher which type of drum sticks you should bring with you. It’s also smart to have a few extra pairs lying around in case you break one playing a killer roll.

  • Metronome: If you’re having trouble keeping a steady beat, invest in a metronome. This device ticks to the beat you program into it so you can practice your rolls at different tempos and focus on maintaining a steady meter.

Be Willing to Practice

This final factor is huge when it comes to answering the question, “Are drums hard to learn?” Read through the following scenarios – sound familiar? Here are some ways to overcome them:

  • Unwillingness to practice assigned work: If all you want to do is mess around and you’re not willing to take your teacher’s assignments seriously, it will be difficult to progress. Even if it seems beneath you, you need to practice the beats and rolls your drum instructor gives you to prove you’re ready to move on.

  • Lack of time: Perhaps all you want in the world is to devote an hour every afternoon to pounding through the work your teacher gives you, but you simply don’t have the time. The only solution to this problem is to just make drumming a priority. Rearrange your schedule if you need to – whatever it takes to carve out time to practice, even if it’s just 10 minutes each day.

So, are drums hard to learn? The answer to that question is really up to you. Stay committed, stay positive, and stay patient, and you’ll make it much easier on yourself – not to mention more fun!


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 Photo by citric_bullets