“In music, silence is more important than sound.” - Miles Davis
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Whether you play the electronic drums, saxophone, electric guitar, or even the djembe, mastering musical instruments on your own is always difficult. You need to be really motivated if you want to learn to play the drums without taking lessons or getting a private tutor.
Patience, routine, and rigour are essential for teaching yourself how to play the drums. Here’s some advice on the best ways to learn how to play your drum kit.
Organise Your Drumming Sessions like You Would a Gym Session
“If you’ve got a problem, take it out on a drum.” - Neil Peart
This is similar to all the inspirational quotes you’ll find about working out.
When playing the drums, you need to challenge yourself and a good session will always result in you breaking a sweat. Your muscles need to feel the effort you’ve put in. You should definitely schedule around an hour of practice.
Before you practise for an hour, you need to warm up just like you would if you were about to start working out at the gym.
The difference between working out and playing drums is that you need a lot of creativity for the latter. You need to warm up in two different ways: physically and mentally.
In fact, you’ll put your brain through its paces when playing the drums. It’s one of the instruments that requires the most coordination.
In fact, drummers need to use both sides of their brain and will create neural connections that aren’t found in other types of musicians.
Before you start hitting the cymbals and drums, you need to make sure you have an appropriate place to practice, be it an entire room or a dedicated space within a room.
Your drum kit should always be set up. If you have to put it together each time you practise, you’re going to end up practising much less. Make sure you have everything you need before you start: water, towel, sheet music, pen and paper, video or audio resources, metronome, camera, etc.
Put your phone to silent and close any tabs in your web browser that you’re not going to need. Say goodbye to procrastination
A good session can go like this:
- 10 minutes of warming up your wrists, back, and legs.
- 10 minutes of mental warmups: keep time on the snare while hitting the other drums however you like.
- 20 to 30 minutes of focused practice: Do exercises or study a particular piece in order to improve.
- 10 to 20 minutes of creativity: Let your imagination run wild!
You always need to have a goal in mind before you start each session: mastering a new rudiment, doing a fill on the toms, working on your rhythm, improving a certain skill, etc.
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Example Drum Exercise
To master an exercise, you need to start before you sit down at a drum kit.
Can you play the drums without any drums?
Of course! It’s a great way to save time before you start doing a certain exercise at your drum kit. Rudiments are a fundamental part of drumming.
Let’s take the paradiddle, for example RLRR LRLL RLRR LRLL
You can tap away on your lap while saying right (R) and left (L). You don’t need to go quickly. Work on this for 5 to 10 minutes to make sure it becomes second nature.
Start by playing this rudiment on a pad or on your snare drum at a slow tempo (around 60bpm). You can then speed things up until you’re playing it at 100bpm.
Don’t skip any steps! To learn how to play a drumbeat quickly, you need to be able to play it slowly and make sure you’re hitting every beat.
The second step consists of adding a bass drum beat on the first and third beats and then opening and closing the hi-hat on the second and fourth beats.
Try practising moving your feet on their own at 60bpm (with the help of a metronome) and then start increasing the tempo.
Once you’ve mastered using your hands and feet separately, bring everything together. Once again, start slowly at around 60bpm and work your way up to between 110 and 120bpm.
Make sure to accent the beats on the paradiddle. This will help you keep time.
To make things more difficult, you can do a double bass drum hit on alternate beats.
You can also add offbeat bass drum beats.
- First beat: right hand and bass drum, left hand, right hand, right hand.
- Second beat: left hand and hi-hat, right hand, left hand and bass drum, left hand.
- Third beat: right hand and bass drum, left hand, right hand, right hand.
- Fourth beat: left hand and hi-hat, right hand, left hand and bass drum, left hand.
Don’t panic if you’re struggling to speed things up when you first start! Just stay at 60bpm and you’ll start progressing. Practise these exercises for around 20 minutes per drumming session.
You can also change things up by playing the bell on the ride cymbal with your right hand and keeping your left hand on the snare drum.
This type of exercise is both creative and technical and you could also implement it into one of your compositions. It’s a great way to work on your coordination and using your limbs independently.
Go grab your drumsticks!
Drum Training: Recreational Sessions
When learning an instrument, we can sometimes forget to have fun with it.
When you focus solely on technique, you lose the fun aspects of playing a musical instrument. This can have a negative effect on your motivation in the long run. We play musical instruments mainly for enjoyment, after all!
Don’t forget to set aside some time to just have fun with your drums. This could be at the end of a long drum session.
You can also schedule this for after a hard day of work in order to relieve stress. This is good for your mind and will also help you improve your drumming.
You can improve your creativity by playing a song you like or by creating your own compositions.
More Advice on Improving Your Drumming
It’s not always easy to teach yourself. Sometimes your motivation will waiver. Here’s some advice to help you stick at it.
When you buy a drum kit, you can feel tempted to play it constantly! Make sure that your playing doesn’t become a chore so that you can get the most out of it.
If you don’t have the time to practise an hour each day, you’ll have to play smart.
6 20-minute sessions a week are far more beneficial than a few sessions lasting 2 or 3 hours.
Almost everyone should be able to find 20 minutes to practise daily. You have to dedicate this time to drumming.
Start by playing the end of a song or fill that you’re struggling with.
We tend to start playing music from the beginning. This means that you’re usually a master of the beginning. However, your focus will dwindle and your playing will be negatively affected.
By starting in the middle or the end, you’ll have an opportunity to practise and learn parts of the song that you won’t play as often because you decided to start playing another song (we all do it!).
Film yourself! Filming yourself playing the drums is a great way to make sure you’re adopting the right posture and see exactly how you’re playing.
Be critical, especially when you first start. You’re not going to be amazing when you first start. It’s important to correct mistakes the first time you make them so that you won’t pick up any bad habits. Of course, make sure to reward yourself for good work, too.
If you’re struggling, I recommend getting a drumming notebook and writing time your objectives and the goals you’ve achieved. Do an appraisal each month. You’ll soon see how much you’re progressing and will feel encouraged by it.
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Regardless of the instrument that you’re learning, you’ll need to learn all the lingo.
This is a small cymbal measuring between 14 and 24 inches in diameter which produces a powerful and intense sound than diminishes quickly.
A mallet is a drumstick with a felt or woollen ball on the end. They’re generally used for orchestral drums.
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