So, you have decided to transform yourself into a drummer! There are few things more exciting. But it can also be daunting, especially once you get started. While the very first things that you learn on the drums might seem pretty basic, it won’t be long until you encounter something challenging, and it is not unusual for people to throw their hands up and decide they will never be able to learn.
But, as with most things in music, learning these more complicated fundamental elements and progressing to more advanced drumming is a matter of deliberate practice and focusing on small goals that develop your skill incrementally. But how exactly do you do that?
Below, we have compiled our nine top tips for drumming beginners. If you implement these suggestions as part of your drumming practice, you will find that your progress increases quickly. Before you know it, you will be able to rock out to all your favorite songs.
1. Hold Your Sticks Correctly
Essential to mastering the basics of drumming and progressing to proficiency is getting the fundamentals right. One of the most basic things when it comes to approaching a drum kit is holding your drumsticks properly. Good technique will make it easier for you to develop speed and make it less likely that you end up injuring your wrists.
There are a few different ways to hold drumsticks. While some grips are considered better for certain styles of music than others, whatever grip you choose as your “go-to” comes down to personal preference. You’ll want to master one type of “matched grip” and one type of “traditional grip” early on in your drumming journey.
Read our complete guide to how to hold your drumsticks properly here.
2. Establish Your Bass Technique
Of course, you don’t just use your hands when drumming — you also use your foot to work the bass drum. This is another technique that you will want to master early on in your drumming journey to facilitate faster learning.
Again, there is more than one option when it comes to how you play your bass drum. The most fundamental question is whether you play with the heel up or heel down, and again, you will probably want to experiment with both.
For the heel down technique, the whole bottom of your foot stays on the pedal and you push down with the ankle to strike the drum. This allows the beater to bounce off the drum freely and produces a resonant bass.
In the heel up technique, your heel raises slightly off the pedal while the ball of your foot remains on it. This technique allows you to bury the beater by keeping it close to the head, which creates a more attacking sound.
3. Practice The Rudiments
Among the first things you should apply yourself to, to learn, are the rudiments. These are different beat rhythms that form the basis of all drum rhythms. If you take the time to master the individual elements, it will be much easier to apply them in combination in songs.
There are 40 fundamental rudiments in drumming, and you will want to eventually learn them all. But start with the most essential, which include the single stroke roll, double stroke roll, paradiddle, and flam. These will establish the fundamental techniques that you need for more complex rudimentals.
Rudimentals also help you focus on fundamental drumming aspects such as hitting the drum in the center of the head and raising your hands to the right level to get the volume that you want and keep it even. You want these drumming skills to be instinctive so you don’t have to worry about them when focusing on beating out a killer drum rhythm.
Read our essential guide to drum rudimentals here.
4. Use A Metronome
The main purpose of the drummer in a band is to maintain the rhythm and timing. For this, you have to have good rhythm and you can’t fall into the common traps of speeding up as a song progresses or slowing down when you hit complicated passages.
Teach yourself to stay on beat by using a metronome to help you detect when you are falling out of the rhythm. Soon, keeping the beat will become second nature.
When mastering new skills, start with a slow beat — for example 60 beats per minute — and then you can gradually increase.
Find our recommendations for the best metronomes for drummers here.
5. Establish A Consistent Practice Routine
Drumming is the kind of skill that requires consistent, repetitive, and deliberate practice. A big two-hour session once a week will limit your progress, while committing to 30 minutes a day will help you develop quickly.
Try to establish a regular routine for yourself at a time that doesn’t conflict for you, and think about when you are unlikely to be asked to keep it down by neighbors who are trying to sleep.
Setting up a good practice space can make it easier for you to maintain consistent training. Choose a spot far from shared walls with neighbors and with relatively good soundproofing. Ideally, you will also have a spot where your drums can stay set up most of the time, as having to spend time mounting and demounting can sap your motivation.
Try to spend at least 30 minutes behind your kit each day. But if you miss a day for reasons beyond control, don’t beat yourself up about it. A missed day here or there won’t set back your progress.
6. Balance Fundamentals And Fun
When you’re practicing, your session should include a good balance of fundamentals and fun. We learn to play the drums so we can beat out cool rhythms. Learning to play the songs that you love can be the biggest motivations to keep going, but don’t ignore the fundamentals such as your rudiments.
Some expert drummers suggest following the 80/20 rule, which means spending 20 percent of your time on drilling fundamentals and 80 percent of your time learning songs. As a beginner in the first three months or so, you might find that you need to spend a little more than 20 percent of your time on drills. But don’t forget to learn some cool songs too.
Check out our list of the 15 best easy songs for beginner drummers.
7. Take Lessons
There are so many excellent online resources out there that you can use to teach yourself to drum, and some very famous drummers never took lessons, including John Bonham, Ringo Starr, and Scott Travis. However, if you want to accelerate your learning, it’s worth booking at least some drumming lessons.
You might not want anyone to take you through the rudimentals, but it is a good idea to check in with an experienced drummer so they can help you with any bad habits you may have developed ,such as the way you grip your drum sticks or where on the drum head you hit. Ideally, you should pick up on these issues before they become well-established and difficult to break.
Check out our recommendations for the best online drum lessons here.
8. Know When To Update Kit Elements
If you get yourself a starter drum kit, the truth is that there will be parts of the kit that just aren’t very good. It won’t matter much when you are learning, but as you improve, one of the reasons you might not be getting the sound that you want could be the quality of your drum set.
Assuming you are not yet ready to buy a new kit, as you progress, consider replacing elements of your kit that will make the biggest difference to your sound. The first thing you will want to replace are the cymbals, which are generally of pretty average quality when you get an entry-level drum set. You will also want to upgrade from factory heads to superior drum heads to get a significant upgrade to your sound.
To change your drum heads, you will need to know how to tune your drum kit. Read our guide here.
9. Learn To Read Music
A lot of people, when they start drumming, don’t know how to read music. You can get pretty far with drumming with adapted notations that let you know what to play. But if you don’t learn to read music, you are limiting yourself.
Serious drummers will talk about their music in notation, and you are losing access to that if you aren’t able to read music. Also, learning to read music also involves some music theory. This will help you better understand drumming theory and why the drums need to be played in a certain way. Developing this deeper knowledge tends to help people make leaps and bounds in their drumming proficiency.
What should a beginner drummer practice?
Beginner drummers should focus on the fundamentals. This includes techniques such as how you hold your drumsticks and how you use the bass pedal, but also rudimentals to learn the basic beat patterns. But this kind of repetitive practice can be a little dull, so from the start, choose easy songs to learn and practice.
How can I teach myself to play drums?
There are lots of online resources to help you learn to play drums that explain fundamentals, such as how to hold your drumsticks, show you the essential exercises such as rudimentals, and provide tutorials for playing popular songs. Follow these resources in a structured way and you can teach yourself to drum.
However, it is a good idea to check in periodically with an experienced drummer. They can alert you to any problems with your technique, hopefully allowing you to correct any issues before they become bad habits that are difficult to break.
What is the 80/20 rule in drumming?
In drumming, the 80/20 rule suggests that you should spend 20 percent of your time drilling the basics such as rudimentals, and 80 percent of your time learning songs. However, when you are a beginner, for example in the first three months of your practice, you will probably find yourself spending more time on fundamentals and gradually moving toward the 80/20 divide.
Are drums easy to learn?
Drums can be challenging to learn because they require you to develop significant coordination to tap out different beats at the same time with different parts of your body. Learning to hold a consistent rhythm without speeding up or slowing down is also a significant obstacle for many newbie drummers.
What is the best age to start drumming?
As with most things, new skills can be easier to master when you are younger. Children’s brains are in learning mode and can soak up knowledge and skills, but as you get older, you sacrifice some of that learning capacity, which is replaced with logic, analytics, and self-control.
But, that said, it is never too late to learn the drums, or anything new for that matter. The human body and brain are extremely adaptable and you can learn almost anything with motivation and deliberate practice.
Drumming Tips For Beginners: The Verdict
The way to learn most things is through deliberate practice that allows you to incrementally improve on essential new skills that collectively build toward mastery. But when you are just starting out, it can be very difficult to know how to get from zero to one, let alone zero to 10.
When it comes to drumming, the most important concerns are probably learning the fundamentals, establishing good basic technique, and keeping yourself on track and motivated by making sure you’re having fun.
Our nine top tips for beginner drummers address all of these challenges. Hopefully they will help you on your path toward becoming a badass drummer.