Drumming is a great hobby for many reasons, it’s a great way to relieve stress and improve mental wellbeing, gives you an energy boost, and it’s simply great fun! Drumming may even be a career option for those of us willing to put in the time and effort required. But what if you’re new to this great world and don’t know where to start? If you want to learn how to play the drums, read on for some ideas.
So, you’ve got it in your head that you’re the next big thing in the drumming world, that means it’s a great idea to go out and buy the most expensive kit you can afford, right? With double pedals for the speed you’re going to accomplish, half a dozen cymbals, and a couple of huge floor toms. Well you could do that, but let’s just back up a bit.
Hold off on buying that kit. In fact, hold off on buying any kit just for now. You don’t even need one right away when you’re starting out. I recommend that you grab hold of a pair of decent drum sticks, a practice pad, and a metronome. A metronome?! Isn’t that what boring classical piano players use? It sure is. But it’s also an essential tool for any drummer, whether you’re just starting out, or 20 years into a professional career.
It’s better to form good habits right away, or it will give you loads of frustration when you find you need to go back to learn this when you hit limitations later on. As an educated drummer, you’ll be using a metronome at every practice session to internalise the feel that will make you stand out from the crowd.
The reason I recommend holding off on buying that kit is to make sure you’re doing the right thing. It’s a lot cheaper to put a practice pad and sticks into the cupboard if you give up than to try and sell off a whole kit, if you can sell it at all.
There are an awful lot of drum stick types to choose from, but a pair of 5A hickory sticks offers beginners a good starting point, (7A sticks might be better for kids or people who want a lighter stick).
The same goes for drum practice pads, there’s hundreds on the market. But they’re not all created equal. I personally use the Evan’s RealFeel, but check out my article on the best drum practice pads for a more detailed look at what’s available, including a buyer’s guide.
If you’ve got a smartphone, the metronome part is easy. Just grab one of the dozens of great metronome apps from the store, or now you can even search ‘metronome’ in google from your phone, mac, or PC, and it’ll provide you a basic metronome right there in your browser.
Here’s a great video from Jared at Drumeo on how to hold the sticks correctly, which will make a huge difference to your enjoyment:
Once you’ve got your basic equipment ready, learn some drum rudiments at a slow speed. There’s an official list of the 40 essential rudiments on Vic Firth’s site. I put together a few of the best drum rudiments for beginners. Play along with the metronome at a slow speed, or in time with some music you like to keep yourself interested. Watch Youtube videos, there’s a wealth of information for practicing, learning, and playing along.
Once you’ve spent some time with the practice pad, you might begin to feel a bit frustrated that you can’t put your new skills to the test on a drum kit. Following on from my comments about not buying a drum set right away, drum lessons might be a good next step to get some exposure to a real kit, without the overhead of actually purchasing one. If you don’t have access to a tutor, and you’re confident to move ahead, then it might be time to start looking at your own drum kit.
Your First Kit
So all is going well, and you’ve decided it’s time to splash out on a drum kit. This is definitely an exciting prospect! You’ll be able to take the basics which you’ve learned and put them to use on a real kit. Things will get moving quickly from there, and with the right amount of practice you’ll be able to play along with some of your favourite music.
Just a word of warning here to potentially save you some stress in the near future. An acoustic drum kit is loud. I’m sure you’re well aware of this, but your neighbours are probably blissfully unaware of your plans. Talk to your them, let them know that you’re intending to play the drums next door. Try to come to an agreement about suitable times of the day or night where it will disturb them the least. If you just start blasting away with no warning, it may be a lot harder to keep the peace. The same goes for those you live with. Talk it through first to keep the peace so you can play and practice in peace.
If noise is a problem, it’s not the end of the road. There’s a couple of great solutions. If the issues surrounding making too much noise only apply at certain times of the day, there are some changes you can make to your kit to bring the volume right down. If it’s a no-go to make loads of noise at any time, then you might be a good candidate for an electronic kit.
Electronic kits are not only quieter, but they tend to take up less floor space. There are a range of e-kits on the market, at bargain prices, right through to unbelievably high prices. Do yourself a favour and avoid buying the cheapest one possible, they’re nothing more than toys with rubbish sound and poor build quality. The bare minimum I recommend for an electronic kit is something like the Roland TD-1K, or Alesis Turbo Mesh Kit, both good entry level choices. If you want to see what’s further up the price and quality ladder, check out the Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition, or the Roland TD-27KV kits. These are both packed with great features and are much tougher than cheaper e-kits.
If you live in an apartment, you’ll find that the bass drum tower is still pretty loud and the sound will definitely travel through the floor, so my advice about talking to your neighbours still stands. The Roland TD-1 might be better in this situation, as it has a beater-less bass pedal which is much quieter than one with a beater.
Once you’ve got your kit and are all set to go, jump into the world of drum tabs. If you’re not familiar with tabs, check out this article on reading drum tabs for beginners. Virtually every song by popular artists has been tabbed and many are very accurate, without having to pay for sheet music.
If you’re like me, and like watching video lessons, Youtube is a great resource. You can find info for grooves and beats in all genres, as well as techniques for increasing speed and independence. Or for something a lot more focused, a popular and very well-liked video lesson platform is Drumeo. They have lessons right from beginner level, progressing through to advanced levels, in many different genres and styles.
If you’re playing on an e-kit, check out Melodics. You can hook up your drum module to your laptop and play along with their interactive lessons. They offer a bunch of lessons for free, so you can try it without any financial commitment.
Developing an effective practice routine is critical to your progression and enjoyment of the drum set. There’s no point playing only easy stuff, or practicing what you’re already good at. Here’s an article about why you need a drumming practice routine now
Drumming is a great hobby on so many levels. Start out right, put in the effort, and practice effectively. This way you’ll be developing not only your drumming skills, but yourself, in ways you never thought possible. It’s a skill for life which will benefit your health and wellbeing, and you’ll never stop learning. If you’re thinking about getting started, I say go for it!
Have you started learning the drums? What’s it been like for you? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.