So 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 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 improve 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!
Photo by citric_bullets