Updated: Nov 9, 2021
After some time spent learning and playing songs, a new drummer will start to notice something very exciting. They will notice when they listen to certain songs that they can actually discern what the drummer on the track is playing. This is truly an important milestone for any drummer!
There is a fortunate snowball effect that happens here. As we learn more songs, our ability to pick out the drum parts improves, accelerating the rate at which we learn new songs thereafter.
In order to drum along to music, we should first listen intently to the drums in the song. This hones our musical ear. If we can't hear the drum part in our head, we won't be able to play it on the kit. While I highly recommend reading music to expedite the learning process of any song, it should always be coupled with diligent listening. Start by listening to the song you want to learn, and then listen again while following along on the sheet music before playing along on the drums. While you can technically learn a song without hearing it, relying on sheet music alone, it's impossible to really nail the feel and soul of the song without hearing it first. It's important to note for those drummers who can't read music, it is completely possible to learn songs by ear alone. This is a skill that takes a while to develop and will require patience and determination, but hey, any great thing worth attaining usually requires those two abilities anyway!