So you want to play the drums but you’re not exactly sure where you should start? Playing the drums can seem to be almost instinctive to many aspiring musicians. From the earliest days of childhood, we find ourselves tapping with our hands or fingers to the beat of a tune we imagine inside our heads or hear when we listen to music nearby. Feeling that rhythm inside us can seem almost as if it’s a part of our very own existence.
Getting started playing the drums can be one of the most exciting times of our lives. Drums are truly fantastic instruments. They come in many different shapes, forms, and sizes. Most drummers consider their drums an extension of their innermost being, a virtual part of them that gives them the ability to create and enjoy the very essence of the music they hear.
How Long Does it Take to Learn to Play the Drums?
The time it will take you to learn to play the drums depends on many things. These include:
- Having an innate ability to learn music easily
- Holding your drumsticks in the proper manner
- Do you know how to practice and warm-up correctly?
- Using a metronome as a timekeeping device
- Using a practice pad
- Practicing on a regular schedule
- Practicing good posture
- Ignoring the fundamentals
These fundamentals are critical to learning to play the drums quickly. Every misstep will require unlearning the bad habit and then learning the most effective skills properly.
Who you learn to play the drums from is also a very important factor in the time it takes to learn how to play the drums. Beginner drum lessons from an experienced professional teacher are arguably the best way to begin to learn how to play the drums. Signing up for beginner drum lessons will introduce you to the fundamentals of playing the drums and let you watch and see a live drummer who can show you the basics and more intricate drum grooves and movements.
But there are also many online sources to learn from in addition to videos and books from your local library or Amazon. Learning how to play the drums by yourself in a vacuum is never a good idea.
Why Do You Want To Play The Drums?
- Before deciding to take up playing the drums, you must think seriously about why you want to play them. The right attitude is fundamental to playing any musical instrument well, and playing the drums is no different.
- If playing in a band is near the top of your list of reasons to play the drums, you’re off to a good start. Playing with musicians who have a similar standard as you do is fundamental to giving you the confidence to constantly play better.
- Playing the drums requires a passion that is much stronger and easier to come by when your fellow musicians are better than you. Their expertise helps you to focus on becoming a better player yourself.
- Drums are musical instruments you can easily become passionate about. All of the parts of your drum kit can be upgraded in the future to suit your passion. This gives you the opportunity to mold your kit specifically around your own, personal playing style. And, as your expertise at drumming increases, you will become a better and better player.
Benefits of Learning to Play the Drums
- Reduce Stress – When you play the drums, it can relieve frustration, stress, and disappointment and boost your overall mood.
- Increase Academic Performance – Learning to play the drums helps you understand another language more easily and learn mathematics faster.
- Helps boost brain power – Playing drums helps your coordination and forces your brain to learn to work and strengthen your non-dominant side.
- Helps develop confidence – Playing loud passages instills confidence and forces you to learn to handle challenging parts more easily.
- Improves Communication Skills – Students that have musical training are better able to communicate with their peers and become more empathetic through practicing and expressing ideas nonverbally.
- Increases your Global Knowledge – Introduces drummers to music and musical traditions from all over the world.
- Helps you Make New Friends – Playing at different venues gives you options to meet and talk with new and interesting people from numerous different places.
- Introduces you to Many New Instruments – Learning the drums can introduce you to different types of drums and percussion instruments from congas, to spoons.
- Musicians Have More Fun – Drumming is a wonderful way to let off steam and have fun. Just by moving to different rhythms, musicians easily burn off several hundred calories every half hour.
- Lifelong Learning – Drumming enhances your life and helps you to continue learning about the endless opportunities available to improve and perform playing the drums.
The Different Types of Drum Kits
The 5-Piece Drum Kit
Drum kits come in several different combinations with a 5-piece drum kit considered to be the most common configuration. It consists of a large bass drum, a snare drum, and 3 tom-toms (high, mid-range, and low). There are also additional pieces including the hi-hats, cymbals, and various other parts but these do not count toward the number of actual pieces.
The Bass Drum / Kick Drum
The most prominent instrument in a 5-piece drum kit is the bass drum or kick drum. Both of these instruments are large drums that produce a loud, low-pitch, booming sound designed to mark or keep time. There are three different types of bass drums:
- Orchestral or Concert Bass Drum: This is the type of bass drum that is usually heard in concerts or large ensembles. It is the largest drum in the orchestra and is struck with a mallet or beater.
- Kick Drum: This is a bass drum usually associated with a drum kit. It is somewhat smaller than the orchestral bass drum and is struck with a beater that is attached to a foot pedal.
- Pitched Bass Drum: The pitched bass drum is a bass drum that is usually used in drum corps and marching bands. It is tuned to a specific pitch and is normally played in a set of from three to six drums.
The Snare Drum
The snare is the smallest drum in a musician’s drum set, but it is considered one of the most important and versatile parts.
Snare drums consist of two drum heads made from various materials stretched across a drum shell made out of either metal or wood. Metal shells have a brighter tone while shells made from wood will have a warmer tone. The bottom head is usually made from a thinner material than the upper head to improve the responsiveness of the drum.
Often a manufacturer will use a combination of different wood types to form a hybrid shell to create specific desired sound characteristics. They can also choose an exterior ply of different wood for aesthetic reasons. The innermost ply of the shell will have the largest influence on the drum’s sound while the exterior play will have the least effect. The types of woods most commonly used are these:
- Maple – Maple is very popular and is known for having a warm tone, enhanced lower frequencies, and evenly distributing the middle and higher frequencies. Maple’s sound is crisp and clear and supports a wide tuning range.
- Birch – Birch is a dense and durable wood and creates a brighter and more aggressive tone compared to maple. Birchwood produces a good tonal balance with enhanced lows and crisp highs that project well.
- Beech – Beechwood has about the same hardness as birch but it has a somewhat rougher grain. This gives the wood the capability to produce stronger low-end frequencies.
- Oak – Oak is also a very strong wood with excellent durability and projection. It’s a less-expensive alternative and offers good presence and rounded tone and strong low-end frequencies.
- Mahogany – Mahogany produces a strong low end for a rich and warm tone and enhanced mid-range that is admired by many professional drummers.
- Poplar – Poplar has a sound similar to birch or mahogany and is often used as a filler between more expensive or more attractive woods.
- Basswood – Basswood is another soft, fast-growing wood with a similar sound to poplar. It is inexpensive, sounds good, and is often used as an inner or core ply for more expensive woods.
Metal Drum Shells
- Steel – Steel drum shells have a bright tone and create penetrating rim shots that cut through loud music easily. They are also inexpensive to produce and are used on many entry-level drum kits.
- Brass – Brass drum shells are similar to steel and allow rim shots to easily cut through louder music. Brass, however, adds a warm and clear tone that’s less harsh than steel.
- Aluminum – Aluminum drum shells offer a penetrating sound that is crisp like steel or brass but somewhat drier in tone with less sustain.
- Copper – Copper drum shells are often used for orchestras because of their somewhat warmer or darker tone. Copper also offers a slightly stronger low end to snare drums than brass or steel.
- Bronze – Bronze has become more popular recently for higher-end snare drums because it to be warm and dark but more subdued than steel or brass. Brass will have a brighter and richer tone than steel or aluminum.
The snare part of a snare drum consists of pieces of a curled wire that reverberate when the drum is struck. The snare is stretched tightly across the inside of the bottom head and held in place by a strainer on each end with a thumb lever connected to the snare to tighten it against the bottom head. When the top head is struck, the snare will receive the vibrations and make a sharp rasping sound.
Snare drums are normally played with drumsticks. However, brushes or rulers can also be used. Snares are used for a wide variety of different occasions from concert and marching bands, large orchestras, and in many other venues.
Types of Snare Drums
There are several different sizes of snare drums and each one has a specific use:
- Small – Small snare drums are usually higher pitched than the larger sizes and are generally considered best suited for Rock, R&B, and Hip-Hop music.
- Medium – Medium size snare drums strike a balance between body and pitch. They provide a good balance of steadiness and rhythm that makes them excellent for most popular music.
- Large – Large size snare drums have more body and a deeper sound. They tend to introduce more drama into musical selections and are therefore better suited for musicals or ballads.
Concert or Orchestral Snare Drums – These types feature a metal cable as snares and generally have a calfskin type of batter head. Drummers will often muffle these types of drums to produce unusual and unique sounds.
Drum Set Snare Drums – These types of snare drums are the most popular in use today. They include a single-ply batter head along with a wood or metal shell. The size is usually 14 inches in diameter and 5 or 6 inches in depth giving the drum a fatter and more popular sound.
Marching Snare Drums – Marching snare drums are designed for marching bands and are made to be durable in outside applications. They produce a deeper sound than orchestral snare drums and the head tension is also usually set somewhat higher.
Field Snare Drums – Field Snare Drums are used in orchestras, concert bands, and other similar ensembles. They are larger in diameter with a greater depth which gives them a deep and resonating sound.
Piccolo Snare Drums – Piccolo snare drums are shallower and are generally used in drum kits for R&B and Hip Hop bands. They have a higher pitch sound and faster response because of their shallower depth.
Snare drums are a major element in any drummer’s kit. They contribute to the beat and help establish the pulse or tempo for all of the other instruments in a band. Musicians use snare drums in orchestras, concerts, ballads, hip hop, and even today’s most popular music.
Other Percussion Items
The Throne or Drum Stool
The throne or drum stool is the foundation that positions a drummer properly so they can have the best access possible to the rest of the drum set. The base of the throne needs to be sturdy and comfortable so the drummer has a solid base to be able to reach all of the drum instruments.
Sitting on your drum throne correctly is not only important for you to play properly but it also affects your physical health. When you sit too low on the drum throne, it tends to create lower back pain. On the other hand, when you sit too high, your leg can easily become fatigued while playing.
By sitting in the correct posture on your drum throne, you make sure that your body is relaxed. This ensures that you play the sets easier and that you can play faster and for longer periods. Sitting properly also will improve the quality of the music you play. It gives you:
Better balance – Complicated patterns will be easier to play and the sound is more consistent. When you sit properly, you limit rocking back and forth and this keeps you relaxed so you can play longer.
Types of drum throne base mechanisms
There are two different types of base mechanisms that control the height of the drum stool, spindle and hydraulic. A spindle base allows the drummer to adjust the height of the throne by spinning the seat which turns around a spindle and slowly raises or lowers the seat depending on whether the seat is spun clockwise or counterclockwise.
A hydraulic base works like a regular office chair. You pull a lever that loosens the seat so it can be adjusted up or down. When it is in the position you prefer, you release the lever and the seat is locked in the place where you positioned it.
The final factor of your throne is the shape of the seat. It can be round, square, or like a bicycle seat. Larger players will often choose the bicycle-style seat because it is somewhat bigger and the shape tends to cushion your back better than the other shapes. Whichever shape you prefer, be sure you can sit comfortably on it for several hours at a time.
Every style of music played by a drummer has an appropriate drumstick that goes along with it. Drummers in a marching band will use a different pair of drumsticks than a heavy metal band drummer. But in both, thicker drumsticks are necessary to handle the abuse and absorb shocks. But in a jazz band, a smaller and lighter drumstick is required.
Drumsticks generally are from 15 to 17½ inches in length. Some drummers prefer larger sticks and others choose smaller versions depending on the size of the drummer’s hands.
Drumsticks are conventionally measured by weight, diameter, and the type of music you play.
Weights – Drumstick weights are measured on a scale of 1 to 9 with higher numbers being lighter. Weights labeled 7, 5, and 2 are the most popular.
Diameter – The diameter of a drumstick is measured by a letter, either A or B, with B being thicker. The letter N added to a description would mean that the tip is made from nylon instead of wood.
Type of Music – Typical musical applications for drumsticks are represented by the letters A, S, and B:
- “A” drumsticks are perfect for lower volume applications such as in a jazz combo or orchestra
- “B” drumsticks are the easiest to control and used by many of today’s rock drummers
- “S” drumsticks are heavier and used mainly for street performances such as in a marching band
Here are examples of the way the letters and numbers are used:
- 7 Series Drumsticks – Generally the 7 Series of drumsticks are used for jazz, marching bands, or most lighter musical settings. A 7A drumstick would be thinner and a 7B. A 7AN or 7BN would indicate that the drumsticks have a nylon tip.
- 5 Series Drumsticks – 5 Series drumsticks are slightly thicker and heavier than 7 Series. They are the most commonly used drumsticks and are considered effective with most styles and genres of music.
- 2 Series Drumsticks – The 2 Series drumsticks are much heavier than 7 or 5 Series and are used by hard-hitting drummers in rock or metal bands.
The four things to look for when choosing the proper drumsticks are:
- Thickness: How thick the drumsticks you choose will determine the overall weight, strength, and projection of your performances. Heavier sticks will create a stronger sound while increasing their durability. A thinner stick will feel lighter and play easier and faster. In the case of jazz, fusion, and Latin music, the most popular choice is the 5A with a diameter of .565 inch. If these sticks don’t produce the volume you need, or if you are afraid they may break easily, try the 5B with a diameter of .595 inch. For hard rock or metal drummers, a heavier stick might be best.
- Taper: The taper of your drumstick will affect how it feels and behaves. With a long taper, you will have a faster response and more flex. A short taper will create a stronger but stiffer stick. The amount of taper and location where the taper begins (“shoulder”) will determine the balance of the drumstick. If you need a stick that feels heavier on the tip and offers more power, choose a stick with a strong shoulder and a short taper.
- Length: Your drumstick’s length and size affect how well it reaches the drums in your set. Even when two sticks have the same diameter, they can have vastly different feel because of the differences in length. When choosing drumsticks, you should test out different pairs to see how they feel. The drumsticks are an extension of your hands and arms, so how comfortable they are and how well you can play with them are extremely important considerations. Try out as many different types as possible to make sure you find the pair of drumsticks that work best for you.
- Drumstick Shaft Materials: Most drumstick shafts are constructed out of hickory wood. It absorbs shock quite well and produces consistent and reliable quality drumsticks. Oak is also sometimes used and is a little heavier and denser than hickory making it more durable and capable of lasting longer. Heavy metal drummers will appreciate oak’s exceptional rebound and momentum. Maple wood is used in drumstick shafts to play softer music because it is light, flexible, and ideal for playing fast. Maple provides the fastest response and makes playing complex patterns easier because of its lighter weight. Synthetic drumstick shafts use materials such as plastic or metal and feel much different from wooden sticks. Some drummers feel that synthetic drumsticks give them a bit more sound control.
Drumstick brushes serve as a quiet, soft, and subtle complement to other instruments in a band. They are much quieter than sticks and useful when a drummer is looking for softer effects at low volumes. Brushes produce a unique sound that drummers love when played in jazz, pop, and Latin music.
Brushes are constructed from a series of wires or strands of plastic and joined at the handle. Brushes can be swept sideways over a drumhead to produce a constant smooth background sound; stuck similar to a drumstick to produce a light drum beat, or used on a cymbal or Cajon to create other similar sounds. Some brushes have adjustable fans while other versions are fixed. Drum brushes and when playing ballads.
Drum mallets are sticks that have been capped at the end with cotton, yarn, or a cloth that has been condensed into a ball at the head. Some mallets will have a plastic or rubber ball tip. The shafts can be constructed of birch wood, rattan, or a synthetic material like fiberglass.
Mallets are used by drummers to strike many different percussion instruments, especially marimbas and xylophones. They serve quite well for large, loud drums, and also work well by offering a unique building-like sound with cymbals instead of using standard drumsticks.
Mallets can produce many different sound timbres depending on the instrument struck and the force used by the drummer.
Rods or “rutes” are batches of several thin sticks that have been bound together tightly with a band to create a single stick. These instruments were first established for orchestral music but have now become popular in standard drum sets as well. Rods produce a louder sound than a brush but quieter than a drumstick, offering drummers an excellent balance between the two when needed.
At low volumes, rods absorb most of the energy within the stick to produce a tone that would normally be associated with playing loudly. The tone can be altered significantly by adjusting the position of the band. Rods are a great compromise between the harshness of a drumstick and the quietness of brushes.
Drum sets are loud by nature and difficult to mike properly. While most musical instruments simply require one mic to be positioned close to the sound source, a drummer’s territory consists of a wide collection of vastly different instruments. So, a mic that works fine with a bass drum is not usually best for cymbals or the snare drum. And drum mics also need to be durable and capable of withstanding outside weather, an occasional stick hit, being dropped or even stepped on.
Different musical genres also can affect a drummer’s choice of a mic. With jazz groups, the main concern can often be more on the overall sound of the drum kit instead of each instrument. In this case, a couple of good overhead mics and an individual mic for the snare and kick drum are all that’s needed. In other cases, such as a rock setup, a separate mic for each drum as usually needed, and often a mic under and over the snare drum, two a condenser for the hi-hat and two more condensers for overhead mics.
The most common types of microphones are dynamic, condenser, and ribbon. Each one has different characteristics:
- Dynamic mics are an excellent choice for drummers. They have large diaphragms that require high sound pressure levels (SPLs) which drums produce naturally. They are also quite rugged and can survive drops and an occasional drumstick hit relatively well.
- Condenser mics are also popular because of their good performance characteristics and low profile. These mics are often used overhead, on hi-hats, rack toms, and attached underneath snare drums or cymbals. Condenser mics are also more sensitive, but require an external power source to work properly.
- Ribbon mics generate a very smooth response but in the past, ribbon mics were considered too fragile for drums. However, technical innovations have improved the durability and today most can withstand kick drum and guitar amp applications.
Miking the drums for either live or studio recording can be a highly subjective process. Positioning the mics is often just as important as the type and brand you use. Always experiment with the placement of the microphones you use to be sure they are picking up the sounds you need.
Nearly every drum except the bass drum is played with a stick, baton, the hand, or a brush. Because the bass drum is the largest in a drum kit, it sits on the floor under the toms and cannot be directly reached by the drummer. Therefore, a separate device called a bass or kick drum pedal is used and operated by the drummer’s foot.
The bass drums originally played in orchestras were large, novelty instruments with only limited use and a very low percussive tone. Over the years, the drums shrank in size and began to be adopted by orchestras. At around the same time, the bass drum became adopted by hobbyist musicians.
In 1909 a young drummer from Chicago was playing in a band and wanted to increase the speed of the swing pedal that hung from the top of his bass drum. He and a friend invented a foot pedal that did the job and the company they founded, Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company, was in business.
Ludwig’s bass pedal made it possible for drummers to play the bass drum just as fast as the snare drum and cymbals. The invention made it possible to incorporate the bass drum into drum kits that became popular in big bands of the day and also in today’s rock and pop music.
The bass drum pedal works by using a footboard attached to a belt or chain which drives an attached mallet into the drum head. The mallet or beater’s head is usually made from felt, rubber, wood, or plastic.
Drum pedals come in both single and double versions. As heavier genres of music have become more popular, the double bass drum pedal has become more popular. A double bass drum pedal allows the drummer to make his drum set sound like he is playing two bass drums instead of only one.
Drum Dampening (muffling)
Drum dampening or muffling changes the sound of your bass drum. It may be used to make your drum quieter, to stop a ringing sound, or any change you need to dampen or soften the sound so it makes the sound you need it to make.
Drum dampening is especially useful when playing in a small cafe or where there are strict noise restrictions. A live show without mics will often require a different amount of dampening compared to a show with mics set up across the entire drum kit. A recording studio will usually need different drum dampening than a live gig and specific songs may require different dampening when you play in a studio.
When mics are used, the location of the drum dampening will also be important. Using slight dampening where the mic is pointed will keep the mic from picking up as much ringing. This can stop the ringing sound of your drums completely without excessively muffling the drum’s sound.
Adding drum dampening closer to where a mic is pointed will also affect what the mic picks up. Even the smallest changes in position can make a big difference. Remember, if something doesn’t sound exactly right, move it around until it does. Experimenting is the key to getting drum dampening right.
Drum Stick Holders
To most drummers, a drum stick holder is required for being able to smoothly manage their drums. It gives a drummer the ability to easily pick up a drumstick during a performance and not miss a single beat in the process.
There are different sizes of drum stick holders available on the market. Choosing the right one depends on the number of sticks you need to access during a performance. Holders are usually made of plastic and feature a clamp that allows it to be easily attached to your drums.
The most popular position for a drum stick holder is on a cymbal stand below the hi-hat. The goal is to locate it within easy reach so that when you need to change drumsticks, you can do it quickly without interfering with the music you’re playing.
Normally a drum monitor is not needed for a regular drum set, but with electronic drums the situation is different. All electronic drum sets require an amplifier and speakers or headphones to be able to monitor the sounds they produce. It’s crucial to choose an amp that is strong and provides top-quality sound. The amp should also be able to highlight your electronic drum’s good points while making any bad points less obvious.
Most electronic drum set manufacturers also make monitors. These amplifiers and speakers are designed specifically to work with and enhance the sounds of your drums as accurately as possible. Often, however, you may want to use a monitor from another manufacturer. Sometimes, a guitar or bass amplifier will work, but you should use a monitor made for drums to achieve the best results.
There are two main types of drum monitors:
- Passive speakers – These speakers need amplification to reproduce the sounds of your drums. An amplifier raises the sound level and feeds it to the speakers. If you use your drum kit professionally, a passive speaker and amplifier combination will give you full control of your sound.
- Powered speakers – These speakers have built-in amplifiers and require less equipment to carry and set up. There are fewer cables to deal with and, since it is an all-in-one unit, you don’t need to worry about making complex amplifier settings to get the sound exactly right.
Another advantage of a powered speaker is that it is much easier to carry since everything is contained in a single unit and most come with a carrying handle. Combo amplifiers are usually powerful enough for small to medium venues but a full-size setup may be required for larger events.
Another standard piece of equipment often used with electronic drum sets is a mixing board. These devices control the amplifier by adjusting the music quality with volume, treble and bass knobs and often elaborate equalizer controls.
Keeping your drums properly tuned is essential to produce the best possible sounds. While tuning a guitar by ear can be relatively simple, tuning the drums is much more complicated. However, with the right tools, tuning is easier and more efficient today than ever before.
Digital drum tuning has become increasingly more common over the last few years. A digital tuner simply clips to a standard drum rim and measures the overall pitch at each lug. Audio filters can reduce or fully eliminate overtones quickly with just a few simple settings. Re-tuning for different settings is also easy. The tuner can save the setting from a location and later recreate it for the next visit with just the press of a button.
Classic drum tuners
Classic tuners are less intuitive than digital versions but they are easy to handle and often preferred by some drum professionals.
Digital tension watches are another option that simplifies the tuning process. These devices provide an easy-to-use face and simple design that make duplicating tuning easy.
Drummers will find it impossible to get the right sound without using the proper drum key. There are dozens of practical designs on today’s market that require no more than a slight amount of elbow grease to function properly.
Different variations of drum keys will have different designs, from the color or accessories. A magnetic head can often be more effective than one that is non-magnetic, although the result will be the same.
A magnetic cymbal tuner will help to adjust the volume and resonance of your cymbal properly. These devices are essentially rubber-covered magnets that you apply to the top and bottom of your cymbal to tune it. Different sizes of magnets are usually included in a package to allow for different sizes of cymbals.
Electronic drums have begun to be popular recently and have replaced regular acoustic drums in many venues. Both have their place in the music scene.
What is an Electronic Drum?
The roots of electronic drums began in 1967 when Felix Visser, sound engineer and drummer for the Dutch band The VIPs, decided to add touch-sensitive circuit boards to his Acetone Rhythm Ace electronic keyboard to add a more “human-like” quality. The result was the world’s first electronic drumming machine.
In 1971, Graeme Edge, the drummer for the rock group, The Moody Blues, created the first electronic drum kit by working with Brian Groves, a professor at Sussex University on the design.
Over the years, electronic drums constantly improved with innovations by numerous manufacturers. Then, in 1997, the Roland Corporation brought out a new kit, the TD-10, which changed electronic drums forever. Instead of using a sampled acoustic drum or cymbal sound when triggered, the module relied on mathematical models to generate the sound using specially designed synthesizers.
The TD-10 also did not use traditional rubber pads but instead used mesh pads that created a more realistic sound and feel that had been missing in electronic drums up until that time.
In 2017, Roland’s US patents for drum pads with mesh heads, head and rim zones, trigger cones, positional sensing, and other features expired and other manufacturers were able to make similar versions of electronic drums with the same features. The result is that without Roland having exclusive rights to these patented electronic drum revelations, other manufacturers have been able to produce similar versions of electronic drums with the same acoustic-styled, full-size eDrum features.
Pricing and Quality Differences
Many of the least expensive electronic drums are not even close to being comparable to full-size acoustic drums. Most have poor responsiveness and tonal quality. However, the majority of the better-quality higher-priced electronic drums not only sound and feel just as good as top-quality acoustic drums, but they offer many advanced features not possible in a regular acoustic drum set.
The better electronic drum sets have positional sensing that helps the drums react more like an acoustic kit. Electronic drums allow low-volume practicing or listening with headphones that simply can’t be done with the excessive noise created by acoustic drums. But when noise is not an issue, acoustic drums are usually a much more viable alternative and a better choice for the real feel of playing a set of drums.
Recording sessions, however, will nearly always sound better with digital drums. Even though an acoustic drum kit may sound fine in person, it can sound dreadful with a mic. A room’s acoustics play an enormous part in how a set of drums sounds to the ear. Adding the right microphones and positioning each one properly with acoustic drums normally requires a professional sound engineer and several hours of experimentation. But electronic drums require very little setup, especially when using a drum sampling application.
Electronic Drums – Pros
- Electronic drums are usually much less expensive than acoustic drums
- Electronic drums are much quieter and can be played silently by wearing headphones.
- You do not need to be a professional drummer. Especially in a studio, electronic drums offer so many sounds and features, that you don’t need to be an actual drummer to create a good mix of drum sounds. As long as the player can keep a basic drum beat, the electronics will fill in the gaps.
- Microphone amplification is not needed. Electronic drums allow you to pick the pre-recording samples you want and mics and an amplifier are not needed.
- Electronic drums allow you to pick the right drum sound from thousands of drum samples. Acoustic drums take lots of experimentation to get the right sound.
- Each drum sound from an electronic drum recording can be easily changed depending on the number and type of settings. With acoustic drum recordings, only a limited amount of changes can be made.
Acoustic or Electronic?
With live performances, however, acoustic drums are still the best option unless you’re dealing with electronic music. An acoustic kit almost always has no sound volume limit in a live performance and is much more fun to watch in person.
Hybrid kits that look like acoustic drums but are actually electronic kits are beginning to become more popular, particularly for drummers who look for the exact sounds and samples used on a particular recording track.
Practice Drum Pads
A practice drum pad is a percussion device that drummers and percussionists use to practice or warm-up before performing. Many types of practice pads have been designed over the years depending on the various needs that drummers have.
Drum practice pads are commonly constructed of a disk of mylar, synthetic rubber, or similar material stretched over an underlying buffer and designed to give the “feel” when struck of a true drumhead. A practice drum pad allows drummers to build technique and improve their speed when it’s not practical to use a real drum kit every time to practice.
Practice drum pads vary in complexity from simple units that are cheaply made and bear practically no resemblance to actual drums to electronic marvels which do an excellent job at replicating a real drum head. The most advanced electronic practice drum pads are tunable
Are Drums Hard To Play?
Every aspiring drummer who considers buying a drum set will ask themselves if they are making the right decision and are the drums hard to play. The answer is complicated. Drumming is the easiest way to keep a rhythm and can be done with the hands against any surface including other parts of one’s body.
On the other hand, when it comes to making a long-term commitment to playing the drums properly, playing the drums can be an intricate process and heavily nuanced depending on your playing style and aptitude to creating music.
The worst mistake a beginning drummer will make is to try and play complex music too soon. The best way to learn is to take your time and concentrate on perfecting basic beats and grooves first before moving on to more complex and demanding music.
Style, technique and the grip you use are also important considerations to learning to play the drum. Some drummers are much more rhythmically inclined than others so learning to play well may be easier for them.
Your playing style will usually be a reflection of the kind of music you enjoy listening to. Essentially, if you tend to feel the rhythm of music almost constantly, and even find yourself constantly tapping on the steering wheel in your car while driving, you probably won’t find a real drum set to be a difficult transition and it may lead to a promising career as a professional drummer.
Drum Equipment for Beginners
Professional drummers own more pieces of gear than anyone else in a musical group. Thankfully, it’s not necessary to own every one of them when you are a beginner. When you’re just starting, you need only the hardware or pieces to build fundamental skills. Additional pieces at the start will only be a distraction.
If cost is a major concern, the least expensive option to be fully-functional is to buy an all-inclusive bundle. These can be purchased with the following pieces:
- The actual drums
- Cymbal stands
- Bass drum pedal
- A throne
Be sure to try out any kit before buying. Make sure the reach and size will not be a problem. If the beginning drummer is a youngster less than 11 or 12 years of age, you may need to purchase a junior-sized kit where the drum diameters are smaller to allow youngsters to reach each drum and the kick pedal.
For adults, many major manufacturers make kits that offer a good tone and also fit the budget of an adult just beginning to play. When doing your research, take a look at each of the pieces of the hardware to make sure it’s solid. Bundled hardware and cymbal sets will generally cost less than buying pieces separately.
How To Start Playing Drum? How To Learn Drums For Beginners?
Once you have your drum kit, you should take the time to learn how it’s set up and how to break it down properly. This will take some time and effort but it will be well worth it in the long run.
How to Hold the Drumsticks?
All drummers should learn the best way to hold the drumsticks. Many don’t understand the importance of a proper drumstick grip and waste valuable time unlearning improper methods.
The correct grip will give you the maximum bounce and control of your drumsticks and you’ll be able to play with much more efficiency and power. The sooner you learn how to hold the drumsticks correctly, the sooner you’ll be able to play the drums correctly.
Matched Grip – The most popular type of stick grip is the matched grip. This grip has become standard for most modern types of music and allows you to use both hands equally when playing the drums. The matched grip can be broken down into three grip versions:
Germanian Grip – The Germanian grip is quite common in rock drumming and corps drumming. It involves holding your drumsticks at the balance (fulcrum) point using your thumb and index finger and placing your other fingers on the bottom of the stick. When you place your sticks on a snare drum and then try to make a 90-degree angle with them, you’ll notice that your elbows stick out slightly. Don’t worry. This is a normal effect of the grip.
American – The American grip is similar to the Germanian grip except that you change the angle of the sticks. Instead of having your elbows out and the sticks at a 90-degree angle, the American grip is more relaxed and your arms will be flat instead of sticking out. This allows the sticks to come in a little and your angle changes to about 45 degrees. This is a more comfortable position and the most common style of drumming.
French – The French grip is different in that you let your arms relax even more and bring your stick together so they are almost parallel. The French grip is unique because you hold the sticks with the palms up instead of the palms facing downward. This grip allows you to have much more speed by using your fingers. However, the grip has a downside in that your strokes are less powerful than with the other two grips.
Traditional – The second style of stick grip is the Traditional Grip. This grip is very popular in jazz drumming and corps drumming. It was made popular by drummers in the Army corps who played their snare drums while they rested on their hips. The angle of their snare drum made it hard for them to play with the matched grip so they invented a new method by holding their hand underneath the stick.
The traditional grip isn’t as popular for rock drumming as other heavier styles of drumming because with your hand underneath the stick, it’s not possible to get as much power from your strokes. This is why many drummers use the grip for soft jazz and other softer styles.
It’s a good idea to learn all of the stick grips so you can further your control and feel for your drum sticks. Then, no matter what type of music you play, you’ll know the perfect grip to use to make it easy and comfortable to play properly.
Some say that man’s natural connection to musical rhythms is based on the soothing feelings humans experience as a baby when we feel and hear the symmetrical beating of our mother’s heart. The natural extension of this would be to tap our fingers to the rhythm of some music we hear or the enjoyment we feel while playing the drums.
A drum rudiment is a small musical idea that you can easily memorize. It’s like the alphabet is to learning a language and the basic foundation of the music you make when you’re playing the drums. Learning and mastering rudiments will help you improve enormously as a drummer.
When you begin learning to play the drum, you should pay close attention to the “skeleton” of the rudiment. The skeleton is the basic form of the rudiment, or the Drum rhythm without the ornamentation. As an example, the skeleton of a 5-stroke roll would be four eighth notes. Once you’ve mastered those four eighth notes, you are easily able to add the rolls and accents as ornaments.
Learning your First Rudiment
When you learn to play a rudiment, you should pay close attention to which of your hands you use for each note. This is called “sticking”, and every rudiment has a specific sticking pattern. Over the years, a total of 26 basic drum rudiments have become established. Additionally, the Percussive Arts Society, a non-profit organization, the world’s largest percussion organization, has established an additional 14 rudiments to cover several drum corps, orchestral, European, and contemporary drum rudiments. To listen to samples of these rudiments, visit this link to the society’s rudiment page.
Reading Drum Sheet Music
Sheet music for the drums consists of two layers of symbols on the treble staff. The staff is made up of the traditional five lines where notes are placed. The drum beats are signified by regular musical notes while the cymbals are represented by small X’s.
The hi-hats and ride cymbal sit on the same line. The height of a note indicates approximately where you should play the associated drum or cymbal. For more information on reading and writing drum sheet music, visit this link from Kickstart.
Drum tabs are different from sheet music for drums because they are written specifically for the drums. Instead of musical notes, drum tabs are written with letters and other various markings. To learn more about reading drum tabs, visit this link: A Beginner’s Guide to Reading Drum Tabs.
Finding a Good Teacher
The process of learning to play drums is much easier and more organized when you can find an appropriate teacher to show you how to play properly and the other technical aspects of playing the drums.
A good teacher will also become your musical mentor and help you fulfill your goals as a drummer. Look for these 5 attributes to find the best drum teacher for you:
Someone who not only is experienced in teaching but also plays the drums on an advanced level. Someone who has a lot of experience in playing the drums. They should have played in a real band in front of audiences. Ask other drum students for their recommendations.
Someone who can help you understand what drums and accessories you need to purchase based on your aptitude and capabilities.
Someone who specializes in a course about the specific genre of music you are most interested in. Your teacher should be able to help you choose which drums you have the most aptitude for and specialize in playing.
Someone who is excited to teach you and wants to spend time to help you excel at playing the drums. You should be able to form a personal bond with the teacher also as a friend.
Taking Care of Your Drums
Unfortunately, as a drummer, you will eventually discover that about half your time is spent as a musician and the other half tuning up and maintaining your drums. There is no other musical instrument that requires as much mechanical maintenance than the drums.
In addition to having your drums perform properly, they also need to look good too. Your drums’ appearance is an important part of their entertainment value. Here are some important tips to help take proper care of your drum set:
- Covering the kit – Your drum kit needs to be kept covered whenever it is not being played, especially if the set is left for a long time. A simple bed sheet or painter’s drop cloth to keep your drums’ finish in top shape.
- Wipedowns – A simple wipe down with a cloth and some glass cleaner is usually all that’s needed to remove dust and grease from your drums and hardware. However, a full-scale cleaning should be performed occasionally. Dismantle the lugs and rims and use a quality polish on the shells.
- Scratches – Never scratch the surface of your drums. Polish lacquered kits with a clear lacquer and use high-quality wood furniture polish on natural wood surfaces. Never use anything abrasive that can create scratches. A soft cloth with non-abrasive polish works best.
- Lube Bearing Edges – Examine the shells and bearing edges and if they are in good shape, lubricate them carefully to aid in the drumhead’s seating and tuning. A light coat of furniture polish or wax can also be used when appropriate.
- Polish Chrome – Chrome hardware can usually be cleaned with the same products used on drum shells. Just be sure to remove excess polish from the nooks and crannies on your lugs and stands by adding the polish to your cloth first instead of putting it on the part itself.
- Clean the Tension Rods – Wipe off the tension rods thoroughly and remove any grit or rust. Once the parts are completely clean, use a small drop of oil to lubricate each part and help protect it from future oxidation.
- Refresh the Heads – Before reassembling your drums, check the drumheads and replace any that are worn out or badly frayed. If a batter head is pitted or the coating has worn smooth and thin, it should be replaced.
- Bottom Heads – The bottom heads of your drums can also lose their tensile strength by stretching over time. If it can’t be tuned evenly or doesn’t have the resonance it formerly had, you should consider replacing it.
- Maintaining Cymbals – Although in the past many drummers felt their cymbals “mellowed” with age, modern cymbals should be cleaned and polished to retain their look and sound. Use a cymbal cleaner and/or polish designed to remove dirt and tarnish quickly from your cymbals.
- Tighten Screws – Make sure that all the screws and lugs of your drums are evenly tightened. Also, tighten and make sure all parts of your pedals are secure, and check the machine screws that hold the footboard to the baseplate as it can work loose and eventually fall off.
- Check the Beater – Before attaching your pedal to the bass drum, examine it to make sure the beater shaft is clamped securely. The beater head should be attached firmly to the shaft and if the head is held in place by a nut, make sure it’s tight
- The Drive-By – On chain-drive pedals, be sure all of the bolts that connect the chain to the axle and footboard haven’t worn through. On direct-drive linkages, check all the metal connectors. On strap-drive models, be sure the straps haven’t worn thin where they bend around the footboard and that the adjusting holes connect securely to the footboard and axle.
- Spring Forward – If the spring on your foot pedal is exposed, check it for wear. If it has worn thin at the “hook” of the spring, replace the spring before it breaks.
- Hinges – All hinges should be oiled regularly to keep them operating properly. Check the hinge and the hinge pins and replace any part if it is worn or stretched before the pedal becomes unattached.
- Regular Check-Ups – Give your entire drum set a complete and thorough inspection to make sure you haven’t missed anything. There can always be problems with cymbal tilters, tom holders, hi-hat clutches, case straps, and even the wheels on your hardware bag. Deal with problems ahead of time before something breaks.
Beginning Drummer’s FAQ
Q – Am I too old to play the drums?
A – You are never too old to play the drums, or too young! You can easily learn to play the drums at any age.
Q – Am I too fat or short (thin or tall) to play drums?
A – No, you are never too fat or short (thin or tall)! Thrones are adjustable for short or tall drummers and throne seats can be purchased in wider versions.
Q – Is it hard to learn to play the drums?
A – No. However, you should practice two hours for every hour you spend taking drum lessons. With dedication, aptitude, hard work, and a good attitude, you should learn the drums within 10 to 12 months to become proficient and around 18 months to 2 years to become a good player.
With this article, we’ve tried to cover as many questions as possible about learning to play the drums. Playing the drums can be truly exciting for both young and old. Playing the drums can reduce stress, frustration, and disappointment. Even if you only play for just a few minutes, it can make you feel better and boost your mood.
Playing drums has been documented as being able to increase brain power and academic performance in youngsters. It will instill confidence and even improve your communication skills. Drumming helps you learn about music and musical traditions and helps you to make new friends. It even helps you get fit and develop stamina.
Learning to play the drums will enhance your life even beyond your first few lessons. You’ll never stop learning and there will be numerous opportunities to improve as you perform. Be the best you can be by playing and enjoying the drums!
Please let us know if this article has been helpful to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read our article on The Best Drum Guide for Beginners and we hope you have a great day!