And, if you think about watching little kids when they are first exposed to musical instruments, what is one of the first things you notice them doing? If the little ones that you’ve seen are anything like the ones I’ve seen, they begin banging away with the sheer joy of doing just that!
And it seems like “the more noise, the better!” when it comes to them. It seems to come naturally. Whether it is something within us that just loves feeling rhythm, I truly don’t know. Maybe because we have a “pulse” beating within us all the time that gives us an affinity for such things.
Whatever the reason, we know we love it. And, growing up in the 1970’s there was something about rock drummers that always enjoyed. Their names are legends: Neil Peart, from Rush, Alex Van Halen, the late Tony Williams (Miles Davis) – okay, he was jazz, but just awesome! – Phil Collis (Genesis), Ringo Starr (of course!), Sheila E (her real name is Sheila Escovedo – you didn’t think I’d remember her, huh? We’re grateful to the late, great Prince for helping to discover her!), the amazing (sadly, also another who left us too soon) Keith Moon from the Who, Charlie Watts (yes, THAT Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones who, incidentally, looks quite fabulous – something that I cannot honestly say about some of his mates), the late John Bonham from Led Zeppelin. It was the tragedy of Bonham’s death (“asphyxiation from vomit” was the official cause of his death after a night of drinking far too much vodka) that ultimately made the rest of the band decide to disband rather than attempt to replace him.
Sad as some of our musicians’ lives are, they inspire us nonetheless. I couldn’t begin to imagine how many wonderful musicians were inspired by the success of others who have come before them, and that will never stop. With each new generation will come new talent and desire to play an instrument, and when that happens, we search for a way to learn. And so it is with drumming, just as it is with piano, guitar, violin, or anything else.
Usually, when little Johnny or little Sheila tells mom or dad that they want to take lessons, the search most likely begins in the neighborhood. We ask around at the school music department, or at a local music store if there is one. While you are trying to determine how serious your (or your kid’s) intentions are, just asking around to see if someone can let you (or Junior) come by for a brief “beginner” lesson might be enough to set the wheels in motion.
If it’s your child who has the interest, some schools still have music programs, although it’s my understanding that many don’t have anything like that anymore. Times have changed I guess.
What if your local community does not run a drumming program and there is no music studio offering lessons either? Almost anything can be taught online including the basic “how to” from the very beginning or to help you progress from what was taught by a high school band leader.
Pick one of many links that are going to come up when you search for these terms: many lead back to the same place anyway. You will discover there is more to this art than just hitting sticks against an acoustic surface. There are lots of terms to learn. Even the music looks a bit different from music for piano and other instruments.
Hi-hats and cymbal beats are noted by what at first glance appears to be a typical note, but where the typical “solid” part of the note is, you’ll see an “x” type of figure instead. The notation for the snare (probably the single most important part of the set) will usually look like a regular note placed in the middle of the staff (you might call it the “b” note), and the bass is a note lower on the staff. There’s a bit more to it than that, but with practice, you’ll “get” it! And, of course, when you are learning – no matter who is teaching you – this will all be part of what you learn.
The on line programs almost all have reading the notations as part of their curriculum. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t understand this right away. Like anything else that is new, practice and some quiet time to study will help.
A website will introduce you to sub-topics: how to play bass drum, your posture, selecting the right kinds of sticks, and how to hold them. If you are just getting started though, then doing a search query such as “how to play drums” or some such sub-heading is the place to begin.
I want to mention a little bit about “posture.” I have a buddy who was the percussionist in a rock band for many years who developed some pretty serious back problems. He contends that this happened because he never really worked on keeping his core strong. If you are a younger learner, please take my friend’s situation to heart, and do something TODAY to keep yourself strong in order to avoid injury TOMORROW. Seriously. Just go to YouTube and look up stretching and hand exercises as well (you don’t want to hurt your arms, wrists or hands).
Lessons On the Web – And Some are Free
A number of websites are advertising lessons for free. Since rarely is anything truly “free,” you can assume that they want your email address to send you free lessons, hoping you’ll pay for something more down the road. Or, on occasion, advertising pays for the site. Sometimes you go a little way into the lesson but it is cut off and then you pay for more. Perhaps the early freebies are meant to tantalize you into ordering more advanced tuition for continued online learning. E-commerce (for example, selling equipment, music, recordings, etc) on specialized websites is another way they can make some money and still offer complimentary teaching. Not all sites and lessons are free, but it is easy to get started without paying anything.
The clarity of training is amazing: online video has come a long way and the sound is great. Tuition comes across very well, especially if you can feed video into your television and watch on a big screen from behind your personal set. Put in some earphones and this will work well.
Ideally, if you can put your set (no matter what size equipment you are able to procure in order to practice) in front of your screen, close enough for you to see clearly, that will work fine.
What You Need
Other than a computer, the one thing you need is a set of drums. There is no replacement for the real thing (even the practice pads aren’t enough to really learn) when you are learning the techniques taught by teachers. You will be learning how hard to hit for specific effects, using cymbals and the foot pedal, different sounds you can make with varying levels of force or types of brushes/sticks, rhythm, and musical styles (reggae, blues, rock, jazz, etc.) Again, a mere game on your phone or a percussion pad for children won’t be enough to teach you properly.
I tell people to keep a lookout for used sets on Craigs List, eBay, and on local Facebook groups. Put the word out, and you might be surprised at how affordable it may be to get started. This is especially important if it is a child who is learning. There is no point in spending thousands of dollars on a professional quality set until you’re sure that Junior’s interest is going to be a long-term one.
A quick look on Amazon will show you that you can get a beginner set for anywhere from $100 (for a fairly well-rated Mendini by Cecilio 13 Inch 3-Piece Junior Drum Set), a best-selling and full-size (adult) Gammon Percussion Full Size Complete Adult 5 Piece Drum Set with Cymbals Stands Stool and Sticks for about $250, and, of course, the sky is the limit for pricing when you begin to look at professional sets. For example, you can get a sweet Gretsch Catalina Maple Satin Dark Cherry Burst 7-Pc Shell Pack for about $1,600! However, as I said, there is absolutely no reason why you should feel you need to spend so much to just get started.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of “getting it.” It can just feel so amazing to begin to master the grips and rudiments. Words like “paradiddle,” “dragadiddle,” and “ratamacue,” will roll (no pun intended) off your tongue as easily as they will off your drumsticks.
Pretty soon your random strokes will begin to take shape, and before you know it, you’ll be smoothly demonstrating the very cool six stroke roll, then the seventeen stroke roll to your family and friends. Putting it all together is one of the joys of this instrument. The better you get, the more you’ll “feel” the beat to the music coursing through your arms, extending through the ends of the sticks to the head.
Once you have developed the basics, you have a few choices: take what you know and just drum for pleasure, join a band and teach yourself more, or become a more skilled percussionist by continuing your lessons.
No matter what you decide to do after you’ve begun to learn, and you realize how much you enjoy it, you’ll have a terrifically enjoyable hobby for life! Now, get rolling!