Drums have been around for a very long time, giving the beats to chants and songs and ritual dances since the Stone Age. Now, drums are an integral part of many different music styles, from big band to jazz and blues to the complicated drum solos of rock bands and heavy metal.
Perhaps you are one of the growing number of people fascinated by the art of drumming and eager to learn how to play drum rolls, a paradiddle, a flam or drum fills. If so, then this is the post for you.
Drum Lessons for Beginners
You are eager to get started and learn to play the drums, but what exactly are you getting yourself into? What should you consider before googling online “drum lessons”, what can you expect from your first beginner drum lessons? Let’s have a look.
What to consider before your first drum lesson
First and foremost, you need to know what type of drum you want to learn. You don’t need to buy a full drum kit if you really wanted to learn the Djembe drum; a bodhran teacher won’t necessarily be able to teach you how to use a kick pedal or hi-hat. To do that, think about what styles of music you like, and see what type of drum is appropriate for it.
- Do you like the drum beats of traditional ethnic music, such as African drums, Aborigine or Native American music? Even here there are different styles of drumming, from hand drums to frame drums to standing drums played with sticks. Do you prefer the soft sound of hand drumming? The steady beat of a drumstick?
- Is European classical music more your forte? Look into the deep, reverberating tones of the timpani and orchestral bass drum or learn the hand cymbals.
- Do you like traditional folk music? You might want to look into the Irish bodhran or the large snare drums used in drum and fife.
- Want to join a marching band? You can choose between tuned bass drums, marching snares and other portable versions of your favourite percussion instrument.
- Latin music is played on conga drums, bongos or octobans.
- Enjoy big band, jazz or rock? Congratulations. A full drum set will set you back quite a bit but will offer the most options in varying the sound of your playing.
- Are you a lover of electronic music? Learn to use an electronic drum set.
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You should also think about why you are learning the drums. Do you want to play in a jazz band? Become well-rounded as a music teacher? Improve your understanding of rhythm? Work on your hand-eye coordination? Simply jam on your own to the DVD of your favourite drummers? This will influence how often and how intensely you should take drum lessons and practise your craft.
What will your first drum lesson be like?
What will be covered in your first drum lesson once you learn how to play the drum will depend greatly on the teacher. However, you might want to talk to them about their classes in general:
- What will they be teaching? Will they also cover musical theory? Will you be learning how to read drum notation or tabs?
- How do they structure their lessons? A warm-up, some theory, exercises in drum rudiments, then a song to study?
- How soon will you be learning drum songs? Right away or do they prefer to have you drum to songs once you’ve reached intermediate level?
- What sort of learning assistance can they offer? Do they have a metronome and drum practice pad you can borrow so you can play at home?
- Do they offer a free video lesson showing you how to improve your flams or other rudiments?
- Will you be exploring different styles of drumming?
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What Drum Gear Do You Need?
Though you may be able to borrow some drum gear at first, it’s usually best to have your own instrument. This means that, first and foremost, you are going to need:
- A drum.
- Drum beaters such as drumsticks, brushes, mallets etc. (unless you are learning the hand drum).
If you are learning on a drum kit, you have two options. You can start with a junior drum kit of:
- One bass drum
- One snare drum
- One hanging tom-tom
- One or two different cymbals
- A drum throne.
Or you can go for a more advanced drum set with several toms (any combination of hanging toms and floor tom, depending on what kind of music you want to play) and any combination of cymbals - crash cymbal, ride cymbal, China cymbal... If you are going for a more complete kit, you again have two options:
- Buy separate stands for all your snares, toms and cymbals. This is slightly more versatile, letting you place things exactly as you like them, but takes up a lot of floor space and is liable to wander out of place due to the vibrations when playing. Also, setting up and taking it back down is a pain.
- Get a drum rack. If you are willing to put in a few pounds more, you can get an expandable rack where you can add modules as you need them. You can get fairly accurate placement if - once more - you invest a little in boom arms for the cymbal racks. You can also attach microphones to your drum rack to record your practice sessions and improve your drumming.
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How to Find the Ideal Drum Teacher
It’s always important when acquiring a new skill to have the right teacher when learning how to play the drums, this means finding someone you can really synch with. If you and your drum teacher understand each other, it will mean better progress. But how can you know if a drum teacher is right for you?
Drum schools vs. private drumming lessons
You can learn how to play drums either in a music school or have a private tutor come to your home or go to theirs. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Drum schools have more facilities, often have drum sets or other instruments available to borrow and practice rooms for rent for those who cannot play the drums at home. Home tutors are practical because you can use your own drum set and only have to coordinate your schedule with that of your drum teacher, without having to see if a room is free or being tied down to a specific time.
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Finding a drum teacher near you
If you want to learn to play drums, you will need to find a school or teacher not too far away. Before you give your first drum solo, you will need to learn rhythm, drum fills, the right way to beat with the sticks, how to use a hi-hat or bass drum pedal. And that means finding just the right drum instructor.
Whether schools or private tutors, most will offer taster lessons. Most of our Superprof tutors offer their first lesson for free; schools usually either have open days, free lessons or taster lessons at reduced prices. This is not only for you to see if learning how to play the drums is really for you, but also to make sure you respond well to the teacher’s method and manner.
When looking for private drum teachers, you can, of course, look at tutoring websites such as Superprof. Superprof offers the advantage of a detailed page for every tutor detailing their experience as a musician, any diplomas they might having and offering a space for students to leave comments.
You can also consider going to your local college if they offer music programmes and see if any music students are offering lessons. Look on their corkboards or put up your own flyer expressing your interest in drum lessons.
The advantage of music students is that they are cheaper and, because they are still at school, still remember what it’s like to learn drum rudiments. They are perfect for beginner drum learners, but as you advance you may need to turn to a more experienced teacher.
Getting a diploma in drumming
If you want to become a professional drummer, you should consider getting a diploma in Musical Performance. The higher education course will be not only concerned with getting the right beat on the double bass drum but also with fundamental notions of music theory - not just reading music but the basics of syncopation, polyrhythm and all the theoretical constructs that will help you improve your drumming.
They will be more intense than private lessons - you will be entirely focused on improving your strokes and drum patterns, practising several hours a day.
Drum performance courses are usually 3-4 years for a BA.
How Much Do Drum Lessons Cost?
If you want to learn how to play the drums, you must be prepared to pay. The price of lessons depends on where you are and how experienced your teacher is.
- Drum schools vary greatly in the length of lessons (ranging from 30 minutes to an hour), but average around £17 per half hour.
- Private drum lessons can cost anywhere from £15 an hour to £35.
- University courses cost about £9,000 per annum.
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