Snare drums, matched grip, single stroke sticking are all words that might not mean much to you know now, but after a couple of sessions with a drum teacher, you will be able to differentiate between these words and all of the other drummer lingo.

Learning to play the drums is all about the journey and not the destination. You will always have something to learn and more pieces to practice. Your skillset will dramatically increase throughout your drumming lessons, especially if you keep to consistent practice. 

Percussion instruments such as the drums take a lot of effort and dedication. Playing the drums might seem overwhelming for a beginner, but you'll adjust with time and in just a couple of lessons you will on the road to playing perfect drum beats.

Your first lessons with your new musical instruments can set a solid foundation for future skills like sight-reading, rudiments, and intricate drum transcriptions.

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Your First Drum Lesson

Whether you have chosen to work with a private drum teacher or taken up a class at a music school, you might be curious about what to expect for your first class.

Regardless of what type of class you are going to be attending, you will receive basic instruction about posture, holding your drum sticks, and possibly how to read basic drum sheet music.

drummer sheet music
Learning to read sheet music is one of the foundations of any musician. (Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash)

Before you go in for your first class, you can ask your music instructor about the requirements. Ask what you need to bring? Drum sticks? Stool? Practice pad?

You might also want to ask if there is any prior knowledge you should know. If you are taking a class for beginners you won’t be expected to know much, but if you want to be a little ahead of the curve, you could look into basic lessons online or some background reading.

Here are a couple of topics that your drum teacher might touch on during your first lesson.

  • Grip - one of the first things you will learn during drum lessons is how to hold your drumsticks. A proper grip technique is essential to any drummer. So make sure to pay attention to the instructions. Keep reading to find out about the differences between matched and traditional grip.
  • Playing Techniques - Similar to other instruments, playing techniques for a drum can vary from musician to musician depending on their skill level, style of music, and many other factors. There are multiple techniques that can be used when playing the drums.
  • Rudiments - this is the name for the sticking patterns used by drummers. There are 26 rudiments recognized by most musicians that play under American standards. You will be taught all 26 rudiments throughout your drumming career but during your first few lessons, you will focus on the most common and well-known rudiments. There are the foundation rudiments, which include:
    • Single Stroke Sticking/Roll Right-hand lead = RLRL
    • Single Stroke Sticking/Roll Left hand lead = LRLR
    • Double Stroke Roll Right hand lead = RRLL
    • Double Stroke Roll Left hand lead = LLRR
    • Paradiddle = RLRR LRLL

Your first lesson is going to be a rush for a lot of new information. It can be easy to be overwhelmed by so many different interactions but don’t worry, the classes will get easier!

The repetition of instructions will help you feel more secure about your techniques in the future. Although it might feel very foreign in the beginning, playing the drums can become a comforting and exciting new hobby.

There is a huge range of possibilities for your skillset as a drummer. Drums can be played with different styles of music and once you get the basics down you will be able to dive into your preferred sounds.

Music lessons are an investment and the price of drum lessons can change depending on multiple factors, make sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck.

Getting to Know Your Drum Kit

Most drum kits you are going to come across are made up of five pieces. The number of pieces that they consist of describes drum kits.

To identify how many pieces a drum kit has, you have to count all of the drums but ignore the hardware and cymbals. You can also identify the number of pieces by counting the number of toms and add 2 for the snare and bass drums.

large drum kit
Most drum kits consist of only 5 pieces but others have upwards of 20.(Photo by Brad Stallcup on Unsplash)

Here are the most common parts of a drum set.

  1. The Bass Drum aka Kick Drum - This is usually the largest of all of the drums, which in drummer lingo it can be referred to as a Kick. The bass drum is played using a foot pedal that is attached to the rim of the drum. You can alter the sound of the kick drum with the resonant head, a hole at the front of the drum. Here is where you would add the mic to the drum.
  2. Toms - aka tom-toms are placed above the bass drum or held up individually by adjustable stands. In a classic five-piece drum kit, there are two types of toms. The first is rack toms and the second is floor toms. These toms are made of wood and metal materials.
  3. Cymbals - a normal set of 5 will also incline a ride cymbal and a crash cymbal. A ride cymbal is about 20 inches and sits to the right side of the drum kit. A crash cymbal is usually smaller and about 16 inches. These are hit harder than the ride cymbals and used to accent notes.
  4. The Snare Drum - the snare drum is crucial to a set of drums. It can be played in a variety of ways and is usually used to play the backbeat. On average this drum is 14 inches in diameter and 6 inches in depth. The snare stand holds the snare drum.
  5. Drum Stool - the stool or the throne, is used as a seat for the musician to sit between the drums. The height of the stool can be adjusted to personal preference. You should be able to place your feet flat on the floor and have your legs slope slightly downwards towards the drums.

Some drum sets might have more than the above parts. Drum sets are not standardized and can be customized to fit the musician or the style of music that the play. Learn about other drumming equipment you might need, right here.

Picking Up Your Drum Sticks

There is no one correct way of holding your drumsticks. Different drummers use different techniques. The way you hold your drumsticks depends on the kind of music you are playing and your preferences.

There are two ways of holding your sticks Matched Grip and Traditional Grip, with a couple of variations within each technique.

holding drum sticks
There are a variety of ways that you can hold your drumsticks. The most common are matched and traditional grips. (Photo by Nana Yaw Otoo on Unsplash)

Matched Grip

With a matched grip, you will be holding the sticks in the same way on both hands. Your thumb needs to rest on the opposite side of your index finger with two inches of the butt-end extending from the back of your hand.

  • American Grip - your hands turn at a 45-degree angle, use your wrists are the source of power and your fingers as control.
  • German Grip - your hands face down and your wrists are the drivers
  • French Grip - hold the fulcrum, balancing point of the sticks, between the thumb and the index finger. Your palms must face each other and your nails should face up.

Traditional Grip

This grip is mainly used for jazz and drum lines.

The traditional grip in drumming is when you position your left hand like if you were shaking someone else’s hand. The stick should be placed in the webbing between our index finger and thumb. Your forearms should have a rotary motion, just like a doorknob. Your right hand should be positioned as in the American Grip technique.

Your grip is essential to advancing as a drummer. As you become more experienced you are going be able to adapt your grip and find the technique that works best for you.

Remember that perfect practice makes for perfect playing, it is crucial that you practice with the best grip possible.

Learn about all the other moving parts that go into learning to play the drums.

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