Getting Started Playing Drums - How Do You Practice?

Drumming upside down stylee

I started my journey in drumming as most drummers probably do. You get a cheap kit for a present, and you let it take over most of your bedroom. You fall over it, you fall out with it, you ignore it for a long time. Then you feel guilty every time you see it (and trip over it again), and finally you sit back down and try to learn a few things.

That's when the real learning kicks in.

The important thing to remember is that learning any instrument, or anything worthwhile, is that it takes a shit-load of time. There is no easy way to getting good. You just have to put in the hours and grind away at it. You start out bad, but you get better. One day you realise you're pretty good. And if that's the only useful thing you take away today I'll be more than happy :-).

So the real key to learning drums is putting in the hours. Try to pick the sticks up every day if you can - even if it's just for 10 minutes.

You Need To Make It A Habit

Not to get too sciencey and nerdy about it, but you want to make playing drums a habit. A good habit obviously!

Now according to the researchers it takes at least 21 days to form any good habit. At least. But the real answer varies from person to person and depending no what it is you're trying to make a habit of. Drinking beer every day is a much easier habit to get used to than learning an instrument!

So expect it to take anywhere from 2 months to 8 months to make learning drums something that you just automatically do. During that time it won't be easy - you'll feel frustrated, excited, fed up, bored, excited again, ready to quit, like a rock star... and so it goes on, ups and downs. Fight through it, know that it will soon get way easier to practice, and that's when you'll start to improve faster than ever. I sincerely hope it only take you a couple of months to crack this stage. It took me a LOT longer and I was ready to quit so many times. You will get there though, just hang in there, swear and walk away at the bad times but always come back to it.

Keep Your Kit In Sight

One day you're going to get banished to the garage, but if you can keep your kit set up and visible in your home. In your bedroom, in a spare room, next to the couch.

Do NOT think you can pack your setup away after every practice session. You just won't do it - it's way too much hassle. Your kit needs to be there, set-up, tuned, sticks to hand ready to go. You need this level of visibility and convenience so that 30 minutes you have to practice becomes 30 minutes practice, not 25 minutes messing around and only 5 minutes hitting skin.

What if you just don't have the space for a kit to be kept out? Don't give up hope here. You can still get started. Electronic kits are smaller so that may help - a full kit still needs stands and a stool etc so is still quite big. But check out something like the Yamaha DTX400K - can you fit that in? If not, you still have options. You can also get tabletop kits. These are meant as portable options, but work pretty good. The Yamaha DD65 gives you 8 pads and 2 pedals and only costs around $200. Not bad at all.

One other option you have is to go pure software based. It's not the same as hitting a drum with a stick, but you can make awesome music all the same. This kind of 'beats' software is available for most computers, and is actually good enough to produce pro level music. Beat Generals is one of the most popular packages (check out a review here) which even comes with a free trial and a ton of tutorials. It's an option if space is an issue and you have a laptop anyway.

Learn What You Love To Hear

People may buy you gifts of training books, DVD's or whatever. You may even end up with a drum tutor. For god's sake whatever you do, do not let anything push you into learning a style of music you don't like. It will just kill you. I learned piano from my mother for years - she was a good teacher - but she wanted to teach classical, and I wanted to play rock. We could have learnt Elton John or something together - we would have both got something out of that, instead my interest in keyboards died.

If you love rock, learn rock. If you love jazz, learn jazz. If your drum tutor says learning jazz is the root of all drumming and will lead you into being a better thrash metal drummer, tell him to go screw himself and that he's sacked. Then find a local drummer who melted your face off playing live, and pay him to teach you!

Learn The Way Your Brain Works Best

You might hear some people say the best way to learn drums is by watching videos on YouTube. Or someone else might say there is only one book you should ever get to learn drums.

Until you know how your brain works - ignore this confusion.

How do you learn best? Think about anything you've learnt before, think about lessons at school, something your dad taught you, something you taught yourself, something you learnt on a course, anything. What way did your brain take in this new information the best? Because we are all different, and some people learn better by reading, some are more visual and learn better from watching video. Others learn much better by being told what to do by someone else. You need to figure this out up front or you are going to waste a lot of time.

If you're still not sure - try all the options to see. Don't just get the 'best book', find out it's too hard and give up. It may just be that you need to learn by watching not reading.

Where To Now?

So now you need to find some drum training guides. Check out here and here to start with. If you want to try a tutor, ask your local music shop for a recommendation.

But starting is the ony way to get better. Day 1 is the worst you will ever be at drumming - from there on you get better :-).