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Beginner’s Guide to Drumming

By Yann, published on 22/09/2018 Blog > Music > Drums > How to Start Playing the Drums

“I’ve heard the stories. Like, Eric Clapton said he wanted to burn his guitar when he heard Jimi Hendrix play. I never understood that because, when I went and saw a great drummer or heard one, all I wanted to do was practice.” -Neil Peart, drummer and primary lyricist for the Canadian rock band Rush

Let’s be honest the drummer is often the coolest guy in the band. This may motivate many to learn how to play drums.

Not only is playing the drums completely groovy but its official ladies and gentlemen drummers are smarter than everybody else in the room. 

How so? 

Researchers at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet have found that after playing a few beats on their drum kits, drummers with superior rhythm scored far better on a 60-question intelligence test. Keeping up a steady beat on a drumset is said to actually be an expression of intrinsic problem-solving abilities.

These are just some reasons to convince instrument learning amateurs to choose to learn the drums.

However, how does one pick between an acoustic set versus an electronic drum kit, how many hours must be dedicated per week and what techniques should one use in order to progress rapidly?

Superprof is here to address all of your questions and concerns. In no time you will have aspirations to become the next Thomas Lang, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon or John Bonham!

How to Choose an Acoustic Drum Kit

A great set of drums The feel and sound while playing an acoustic drum set wins everyone over. (Source: Visual Hunt)

As a beginner, many face a common dilemma about choosing the correct drum set.

Some may choose an electronic kit while others prefer to stay true to the classics and pick an acoustic set.

Here are some advantages of choosing an acoustic set:

  • An electronic kit is quite limited in terms of sound quality on low-priced models,
  • The touch and feel of play makes the whole experience more memorable and pleasurable for the beginner,
  • On a purely aesthetic level, an acoustic set is much more satisfying to watch,
  • It is more difficult to reproduce the correct sound striking on the bass drum and hi-hat pedals on the pads of an electronic drum set,
  • Qualified music teachers will never train you during drum lessons on an electronic version because they understand the superior playing experienced on an acoustic set.

Setting a Budget

It is very wise to set a budget before walking into the nearest music store and spending loads of money.

The best choice as a beginner, who is not sure about continuing on and making a career in drumming, is buying a complete drum kit. 

Your beginner drumset should not cost less than £270. If you buy for less you will get a poor quality percussion instrument that will not last as long as you would want it to.

Eagletone, Tama and Yamaha offer great beginner drumsets from 320 to 600 £. However, if you want a better bang for your buck it is recommended to pay a little bit more say between 400 and 600 £. Nevertheless, a realistic budget of £800 is needed in order to get a good quality set with all the right cymbals, shells, hi-hats, toms and accessories.

Used Drum Kits

Buying used is an attractive alternative because it allows you to have a better set of acoustic drums for a lower cost.

For the same price as a low-quality set, you can get a lightly-used, high-quality drum kit from superior brands such as Pearl and Ludwig. 

If you have champagne tastes but a beer budget check out the UK based website Gumtree to find the previously used drumset of your drums!

Choosing the Right Drumset for Your Style of Music

When you are beginning it would be optimal to choose a fusion or rock/fusion drum kit.

However, if you are searching for a drum kit with a previous style of music already in mind, note that not all drum sets are suitable for all musical styles.

The wooden material used for the shells and the size will differ based on your musical preferences:

  • Rock/Funk: birch shells with a 22″ bass drum, 12″ and 14″ sized medium toms, and a 16″ floor tom,
  • Fusion/Funk: birch shells with a 20″ bass drum, 10″ and 12″ medium toms and a 14″ floor tom,
  • Jazz/Latin: shells made of beech or mahogany wood with a bass drum of 18″, 12″ medium toms and a 14″ floor tom.

If you are unsure of what to choose, seek out the advice of a professional drummer or music teacher!

How to Choose an Electric Drum Kit

Electronic drum sets have disadvantages in comparison to the more classic acoustic drum set but there are also quite a few advantages that make buying one a good idea.

Here are some of the advantages:

  • They make a lot less noise than an acoustic set. You can listen to the beats and the groove using your earphones so that others will only hear the striking of the drumsticks on the pads (something that your neighbours and flatmates will thank you for!),
  • You can modify the sounds to make the set less or more loud.  There is also an option to choose between different styles and samples of music,
  • An electronic drum kit is very lightweight and saves a considerable amount of space in your apartment,
  • It is very easy to use and understand,
  • The maintenance is far more simple than that of an acoustic drum set because there are less wear and tear of the drum skins and you don’t replace the sticks as often.

You will not likely be able to play many concerts using an electronic drum kit but buying one is a great idea for a beginner who wants to practice a lot at home!

Defining Your Budget

Stay true to your budget do not get carried away, especially if you are a beginner!

Set a price range and do not exceed that price even if there are many pretty options in the music store.

The price for an entry-level electric drum set is around 200 to 400 £ but at this price do not expect miracles because the fittings and accessories are not very sturdy and are of poor quality.

It is highly recommended to choose a mid-range electronic set that has quality finishes and is priced between 450 to 650 £.

Buying used is a great idea because for the same price as a mid-range kit you can get a high-quality set that would originally cost around £900 new!

Before buying ask yourself a few questions about how you will use your electronic drum kit. This can save you from spending excess money.

Components of an Electronic Drum

The drum module or “brain”, cymbals, hi-hats, bass drum, snare drum, pedals, and playing pads all need to be chosen carefully and correctly in order to experience favorable practice sessions.

The components need to work well together and sound as real as possible!

Pay close attention to the snare drum. The materials used will influence the feel but also the sound when you hit the playing pad.

Meshed skin and silicone playing pads are highly recommended but are quite a bit more costly than the rubber versions. Opt to pay more here, you will feel the difference!

Recommended Electronic Drum Sets

Drum Sets Electronic drum kits are different from acoustic sets offering some attractive advantages. (Source: Visual Hunt)

There are many options on the market and sometimes a wealth of choice can become overwhelming.

Here are three quality options that will not break the bank:

  • The Alesis Nitro Set: solidly made and reasonably priced at £300. The bass drum and is one of the best features!
  • Yamaha DTXplorer: priced at £5oo, this model lets out a very performant sound and you can easily change the place of pads and components because it is robustly made.
  • Roland TD-11KV: the most expensive model of the 3, priced at £650. Has a mesh skin snare drum and boasts the most realistic sound.

How Much Practice is Required to Play Well?

Some estimate that 10,000 hours of practice is required to become a professional drummer.

Let’s be honest the abovementioned figure is a bit outrageous. If you cut those hours in half you will still become a good drummer. However, those figures go to show us that every time you sit down on your throne thoughtful and thorough practice needs to be exercised.

It would be necessary to practice the following things during drum lessons:

  • The correct handling of the drumsticks,
  • The exactness of the tempo, the triplet and the triple-eighth note,
  • The drum rudiments: rolls, strokes and taps.

Learning to play the drums requires motivation, rigour and practice, practice, practice!

Try to do 20 to 30-minute practice sessions 2 to 3 times a week. Perhaps even more if you are truly dedicated.

Importance of a Regular Schedule

Regularity is of extreme importance. A weekly practice schedule should be established with both short and long sessions.

Here is a sample practice week that you may wish to adopt:

  • Monday: 15 minutes of drum rudiments during your lunch break at work not using your acoustic or electric set,
  • Tuesday: 30 minutes of special rhythms after returning from work (deliberate practice),
  • Wednesday: 15 minutes of basic drumming at work using your lunch table top and then 1 hour of drumming at night,
  • Thursday: 30 minutes of practice after work trying to play a certain sequence from a song you enjoy (deliberate practice),
  • Friday: 15 minutes of the drum basics during a break at work,
  • Saturday: since you have more time on weekends, 1 to 2 hours of playing the drums including warm-up, rudiments, a sequence from several songs and/or playing the entire piece of music,
  • Sunday: do the same thing as Saturday on a lazy Sunday morning. Nothing more will wake you up than banging on the drums!

Does sound too difficult right? This is a schedule anyone can make their own.

Beware of Irregularity

Beginners are usually very enthusiastic during their first few weeks or months of practice but this passion can slowly slip away due to the busy lives we all have today.

If you feel that your drumming schedule is too demanding lower the amount of practice time but do not stop completely you will regret it!

Even if you have the best drum equipment available to man, one can lose motivation and the progress is reduced to nothing. 

Remember that regular practice cannot be stressed enough. If you are lacking that spark you once had, don’t be too proud to call a professional drum instructor. This qualified individual can get you right back to where you used to be!

The most important thing is to have fun and be creative while playing the drums!

How to Play Drums and Progressively Improve

Vic Firth Drumsticks A brand new pair of drumsticks can be a motivator to get back into drumming! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Playing the drums is good for your brain and creative skills. However, if you don’t know have the motivation you will never reach your potential.

Many people feel motivated after doing such things:

  • Listening to their favourite band,
  • Conversing with people that inspire or motive them,
  • During a beautiful walk in the woods,
  • After a yoga or work out session,
  • Directly after buying a brand new pair of drumsticks.

Knowing your motivation will help you to progressively become a better drummer. You will not only impress yourself but also those around you including your drum teacher.

Make Yourself a List of Songs You Would Like to Play on Drums

If you play songs level-appropriate songs that you love you will improve brilliantly.

Remember you need to be realistic as a beginner. Don’t expect to be able to play the songs of Led Zeppelin or The Who during your first drum lessons.

Here is a list of beginner songs to play on drums:

  • Billie Jean by Michael Jackson,
  • Yellow by Coldplay,
  • Highway to Hell by AC/DC,
  • Imagine by John Lennon,
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day.

The band called coldplay Coldplay offers some songs that are worthy of imitation for beginner drummers. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Plan a Short Term Goal and Let Others Know About It

A commitment or goal to oneself is rarely held…

Let others know about your instrumental goals. If you tell your parents, music teacher, classmates or significant other that your goal is to practice the drum rudiments for 10 minutes each day for the whole month of October, they will support you and constantly ask you about your progress.

This way if you miss a day you will feel guilty and have to make up an excuse for your loved ones…Nobody wants to do that!

Practice the Drums Without the Drums!

Active relaxation periods are a great time to test out your drum skills.

During these times you can improve your drum rudiments (everything can become a drum pad: your thighs, sofa cushions, a tabletop…), listening skills because sometimes without the distractions of an instrument you can notice other things such as groove and pulsation and last but not least you can work on your tempo by using a metronome.

As a beginner, the whole is your oyster. You can choose your own style, set of drums and schedule. If you follow the helpful advice from this article you will become a very qualified percussionist in no time!

Definitions

What is deliberate practice?

Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. Focuses on a specific point and is very physically and mentally demanding. Puts you out of your comfort zone and reaps great results. Very recommended for drumming.

What is an active relaxation?

Active relaxation consists of choosing activities (taking a long walk, listening to the songs of your favourite musician, practicing the rudiments of drumming) that contribute to a deep sense of well-being and calm.

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