How to Play Drums: The Basic Guide Every Beginner Should Read

Learning how to play drums can be a little daunting, mainly due to the complexity of drum set configurations. So, should you shy away from playing drums? If you do decide to go for it, should you get the traditional drums or electronic drums with drum machines?

If you’re an aspiring drummer, this article is a must-read for you.

Are Drums Easy to Learn by Anyone?

The answer differs for every person. Your ability to learn the drums will depend on a lot of factors, like your skill level, eye-hand coordination, musical background, and passion (to learn), among others.

For some people who want to learn how to play drum, it’s possible to learn the easiest drum beats in less than an hour. However, getting good at it will take ten to twelve months. If you want to be an amazing drummer, you need to constantly practice for eighteen to twenty-four months.

Suggestion: You could also try applying Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule. In simple language, it means you should focus on practicing any task (the correct way) for 10,000 hours to be good at it.

What’s the best age to learn the drums?

The usual advice is to sign-up kids for drum lessons once they reach the age of six or seven. Some kids as young as four already show signs of special rhythmic abilities. In this case, it’s best to start them on piano for at least a year to give them a huge advantage when they begin their drum lessons.

But, what about adults? Is it too late for them?

Not at all! Adults can start at any age and become proficient at it, especially with regular practice and determination.

5 Clear Signs That You Might Make A Good Drummer

Don’t rush to buy that top-of-the-line drum kit just yet. To make sure you have what it takes to be a good drummer, read these telltale signs first.

1. You’re naturally passionate about drums.

One way to approach this is to think back over the events of your past. As a child, did you like using pots and pans as drums? Do you usually tap your hands and feet when you hear music in your head?

If you still do any of those until today, and if it already became a habit, we’d say you have the heart and soul of a drummer.

2. You have rhythm.

It’s often not enough that you always hear beats in your head. It would also work to your advantage if you have some form of rhythm. It’s a must for playing music and the drums.

There are many ways to know if you have rhythm. One way to know is through the clap test: Do you often find yourself clapping on a 2/4 beat? If you want to learn how to play snare drum, it’s important to know that it falls on the 2/4 time signature, which puts emphasis on the second and fourth beats of a four-beat measure (or bar).

3. You can count music.

Reading music isn’t absolutely necessary to play drums. Your teacher will show you how to count music properly. Still, this skill would highly benefit you as you take the initial steps to your musical journey.

4. You have coordination and stamina.

Who needs to exercise when you can just play the drums? Based on the data from CalorieLab, a mobile calorie counter, a 185-pound person can lose up to 252 calories just after an hour of drumming session.

Needless to say, drumming is one of the most physically demanding instruments. It’s a full body workout that could leave your muscles fatigued and sore. Once that happens, it can affect your drumming consistency and groove.

5. You stay calm and collected under pressure.

Drumming isn’t for the faint of heart. The ability to stay calm and relaxed under pressure is an important quality to have, if you want to become a better drummer.

Try doing different breathing techniques to calm your nerves. But, the best solution is to be more confident, which will naturally develop as you keep practicing and playing.

Electronic Drums (with Drum Machines) vs. Acoustic Drums—What Should You Get?

If you’re just a beginner, a starter drum set will do. Leave the high-end drum sets to the professionals, at least until you’ve established that your interest is long term.

Now, about electronic drums and acoustic drums (or traditional drums), there’s really no right or wrong choice. It all boils down to your needs as a beginner or hobbyist.

Here are a few considerations that you could think about before making a final choice:

1. Your Budget

Electronic drum kits are usually cheaper than acoustic or traditional drum kits. High-end electronic drum kits could cost around $900 on average. Beginner acoustic drum kits fall in the $300-$500 range, while intermediate acoustic drum kits will cost between $700 and $1,400.

If you still can’t decide electronic drums and acoustic drums, set aside around $1,000. That’s usually enough to get a good-quality acoustic or electronic drum kit for beginners. At that price range, the set already includes everything you need, like the bass drum, cymbals, hardware, toms, and snare drum.

2. Your Available Space and Surroundings

Do you live in an apartment or a house? What are the noise laws where you live?

If you live in a multi-family housing (e.g., apartment and condo), there’s no doubt you’ll bother your neighbors with your drumming—unless they’re willing to compromise. If not, an electronic drum kit is your best bet because you can use your headphones while playing, or use a small amp for your drum machine to alter the volume.

How about your available floor space?

In general, a full-sized acoustic drum kit would take up around 1.87 square meters (or 20 square feet) of floor space. Most electric drum kits would take up only around 12.25 square feet (3.5 x 3.5 inches).

That could change, of course. The amount of space you’ll need also depends on the model of the drum kit you chose, as well as the number of pieces included in that kit. For instance, the Pearl Roadshow RS525WFC/C31 5-Piece Drum Set would take up around 5’x6’ of floor area.

3. The Overall Feel

Most people still prefer learning on a traditional drum because of its overall feel. Practice pads, which have gum rubber (main striking side) and neoprene (back) surfaces, simply doesn’t feel the same way as hitting the batter head of a traditional drum.

However, electronic drum kits offer things that you can’t find in traditional drum kits. For instance, they’re usually cheaper to maintain because you don’t need to constantly replace drum heads or chipping sticks. Plus, they’re convenient and make little noise.

How Can I Start Playing Drums?

1. Hire a qualified drum teacher.

Learning basic beats on the drums might be easy, but playing complex songs on drums is a whole different story. That’s why we don’t recommend doing it on your own, especially if you’re just a beginner.

You might be telling yourself, “Why should I get in-person drum lessons when there are many free drum lessons on YouTube?”

Good point.

But, nothing really beats face-to-face lessons. For one, your teacher can immediately correct your bad drumming habits and give you a more personalized advice. With your teacher’s help, you’ll become excellent at playing the drums in no time.

Depending on a teacher’s skill level, the cost of private lessons would range from $10 to $30 for thirty minutes’ worth of instruction. Highly experienced teachers would cost you around $50 or more.

2. Set up your drum kit correctly.

This one’s pretty subjective. There’s really no one-size-fits-all set up since drum kits come in different shapes and sizes. There are also many factors you need to consider, such as your arm’s reach, your body size and weight, and your unique drumming style.

Helpful tips:

  • If you really don’t have any idea, try watching your favorite drummers play. Do they look like they’re free to play the music? If yes, how did they set up their drum kit? Perhaps you can test each set up and see which one best works for your needs.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and change your drum kit set up whenever necessary. Remember: The most important thing is you’re comfortable with your chosen set up.

  • Say hi to your drummer community. You won’t only have your questions answered and get much-needed help, but you’ll also gain friends in the process. What’s more, you might be able to get hold of certain items at discounted prices, if you stay long enough in the community.

Learning how to play drums can be easy, but moving to the complex levels will prove to be difficult. Don’t let that stop you from trying, though. With talent, good-quality drum lessons, and regular practice, you’ll be playing your drums along with your favorite music or with another instrument in just ten months to two years.

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