How To Drum: 9 Basic Steps
The quickest way to learn drums can also be the most fun!
The FREE app “How To Drum” has a collection of drumming tips to help you get your skills off the ground. It also provides songs to jam along with, so you can hone in your finger drumming! There is also a metronome to help your timing skills improve.
Each kit has six buttons that trigger parts of the drumset, and there are a handful of songs ranging from hard edge to funky, without the drums in the mix. You get to be the drummer and make the best fitting part to each song.
Here are some of the topics covered in the ‘tips’ section of the app:
1. Shopping For Equipment
At first, you should have the right equipment to learning how to drum. You will need:
I recommend either the acoustic drumset or the electronic drumset for intro drummers, because both work great for developing all the necessary skills to play drums. Later a drummer can decide which instrument he/she prefers, acoustic or electric. I’ve had plenty of successful drumming students learning on each type of instrument.
I recommend starting with at least a couple pairs of typical size sticks for your drumset, and some 2b’s or larger (like marching sticks) for use ONLY on a practice pad (so they stay clean and undamaged). From that point it will be easy to explore other models according to your preference… you can’t go too wrong with stick choice.
Unless you have another planet to practice on, you’re going to want a practice pad so you can develop basic sticking skills without having to play on your snare drum for long periods of time. This would be highly annoying to any organism with ears, including yourself!
Make sure to get a practice pad with a rubber surface, because it will provide perfect rebound for your sticks and is actually fun to practice on and sounds cool.
While somewhat expensive this investment is totally worth it, if not necessary. Studio headphones allow you to perfectly balance the volume levels of your drums and the music you’re playing with. They also double as ear protection when you aren’t playing with music. Sound isolation is key so get the best quality you can find. The Vic Firth stereo models are perfect.
You will need some sources to learn from, if you want to advance quickly as a drummer. Many method books provide grooves and fills to learn. Private lessons are also very important, to ensure you go in the best direction and don’t make any mistakes with your technique.
Your timing skills are important! You will want to learn them from an electronic device, which is highly accurate. You can use a dedicated metronome or even an app (like ours)
2. Plan to Practice
Being a great drummer isn’t just about ‘getting there’. You will never be satisfied with your skills anyway, so there is no concrete goal to shoot for. The goal is to be on an ever-increasing path of improvement. This is what makes professional drummers.
Practicing the drums is one of the most enjoyable activities imaginable! It’s rewarding to experience increases in your skill. If you have a plan and a routine, soon you’ll be used to practicing and will look forward to it. You should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes three times per week. That will at least maintain your current skill level and probably bump you up a notch each week… assuming you practice effectively.
Effective practice means rehearsing your materials many many times, not just playing around. Repeating things is what makes them stick.
3. Technique, Posture, Grip
Without going into extensive detail, here are some tips you can use to improve your physical abilities at the drums. Your skill level completely depends on the quality of your positioning and movements, so try to use these tips!
- Keep a balanced posture – sit so your head and spine are stacked up and balanced like a tower of bricks. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows in.
- Adjust your seat height and position so your knees are below your hips and your ankles are further from you than your knees.
- Use your wrist movements to control the drumsticks, not your arms. Your forearms should remain relatively still while you play, except to reach for different parts of your drumset.
- Use your ankle movements to control the pedals, not your legs. This might feel strange or weak at first but it will lead to great speed. An easy way to train for this is to keep your heels down while you play.
- Grip the drumsticks with your thumb and forefinger on the sides of the stick, at the ‘fulcrum’ (about a third of the way up the stick). Your wrist should be flat, not vertical – don’t play with your thumb on top of the stick. Also make sure your middle knuckle stays in line with your arm – don’t play with your wrist bent sideways.
- It is useful to build extra strength and speed early on, in your ankle and wrist movements. It will make proper technique much easier.
4. Timing and Rhythm
This area of drumming skill is the most important foundation for the rest of your playing. Everything you do on the drumset is a rhythm of some kind, no matter which way you play it.
The best approach to developing your timing is to first practice playing steady notes. Do this with one limb at a time, then with alternating strokes using your sticks. Try many different tempos for this. When using the metronome, play with it on sometimes and off sometimes, to develop your internal sense of timing.
To develop rhythmic skill, you need an instructional book with a wide variety of rhythms. It is important to learn as large a vocabulary of rhythms as possible, so that you can use variety and creativity in your playing. Make sure to experiment with your rhythms on the drumset – use them as ‘fills’ and come up with different ways to play each one on the snare, toms, or cymbals. Please see 21 Skills you NEED as a Drummer
5. Coordination Is Easy
Many people are afraid to try learning how to drum because the coordination looks difficult! I can assure you, this is one of the easiest skills to learn… but there is a catch.
The reason people have difficulty with coordination is that they try to play too long of a pattern at first. The real trick to learning coordination is to take small steps. By learning short patterns, your body can put together the skills necessary to eventually play longer patterns. When learning a groove, start with repeating one note at a time – play whatever things hit together on that note, several times. Then repeat all possible pairs of notes, then a few notes at a time… then try playing and repeating the whole measure. You can learn grooves quite easily this way.
6. Reading Drum Music
The good news is, you don’t have to become a pro at this in order to learn drums. The only important thing is that you’re able to learn new material by reading it – you can take as long as you need to figure it out.
I suggest you learn to read rhythms, by practicing with an instructional book or seeking help from a drum instructor. This is easier than it might sound, especially since you don’t need to read melodic notes like other instruments do. Once you can do this, it should be quite easy to read and figure out any written drumming material.
7. Grooves, Fills, And Song Structure
On the drumset, your primary goal should be playing with music. The pieces you need to do this are grooves and fills. You can learn these from many instructional books or videos, and with some practice you can easily switch between one and the other without stopping.
Just play four measures of mostly groove, with a fill during the fourth measure. Make sure that you start the groove again at the beginning of the next measure, and repeat this four-measure sequence as many times as you want. This is good practice for playing with songs, and often it works as an actual drum part, depending on the song.
8. Adding More To Your Musical Vocabulary
Once you feel you have the basics of drumming down, it is useful to expand your reperitoire of what you can play. This will keep you on your toes learning new things, and your playing will never feel boring.
I recommend learning more rhythms than grooves… many drummers overlook the usefulness of rhythms. The best fills are simply rhythms played in a creative way on the drumset. Grooves are important, too – make sure you learn them in a variety of styles and time signatures, so you can be ready for almost any situation or song. Start with rock music and try grooves with eighth notes, quarter notes, and sixteenth notes on the hi-hat or ride cymbal… then learn triplet-based grooves, etc.
9. Learn From The Pros
One of the easiest ways to get a jumpstart into playing the drums is to learn by watching. Yes, I’m suggesting you watch YouTube. There are incredible videos of professional, even ‘master’ level drummers. Simply witnessing a performance can inspire you with ideas on what kinds of skill you would like to develop. You can also learn things about technique, styles, and equipment.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to go to YouTube to ‘learn from the pros’. In fact, another possibly better way is to take drum lessons! In person, an experienced drummer / educator can bring you incredible amounts of advancement on the drums.
These steps are just the basics.
Hopefully you’ve learned some good tips on learning the drums. Once you start you’ll be hooked! After you’ve mastered that, you can learn how to play guitar and be a one man band!