“Music is the true breath of life. We eat so we won't starve to death. We sing so we can hear ourselves live.” - Yasmina Khadra
By 2020, the UK musical instrument market is expected to grow to over £400m. Obviously, this isn't just a bunch of rich musicians buying loads of instruments, plenty of people are deciding they want to express their creativity through music.
More and more people are choosing to play the drums, too. It isn’t always easy to teach yourself how to play the drums and if you don’t want to take lessons with a drum tutor, you’re really going to have to put the effort.
You’re going to need motivation, rigour, and a drum kit with at least a snare drum, bass drum, and a hi-hat cymbal to get started with some basic beats.
Teaching yourself to play a musical instrument is a lot of work and if you lack motivation sometimes, don’t forget your goals! You can always opt for music lessons if you feel that you’re struggling.
However, in this article, we're going to focus on driven musicians who are happy to go it alone without the help of teachers, tutors, or traditional music lessons.
The Most Effective Methods for Teaching Yourself to Drum
It doesn’t matter whether you have an electronic drum kit or an acoustic drum kit,there are books and methods to help you learn the basics of drumming.
While some drummers learn just by listening to music, sometimes this isn’t enough and you’ll have to study music theory, which can help you with reading music and then playing a piece. As it's the academic part of music, you won't be surprised to find out that there are plenty of books available on the matter.
Of course, it can be difficult to express musicality in writing. That’s why it can be worthwhile investing in other resources.
Here are the some of the best:
- Time Functioning Patterns by Gary Chaffee
- The Language of Drumming by Benny Greb
- African Rhythms and Independence for Drumset by Mokhtar Samba
- Control for the Snare Drummer by George Lawrence Stone
- Master Studies by Joe Morello
- The New Breed by Gary Chester
- Advanced Funk Studies by Rick Latham
- Realistic Rock by Carmine Appice
- Groove Alchemy by Stanton Moore
- The Commandments of R&B Drumming by Zoro
- Future Sounds by David Garibaldi
- Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer by Jim Chapin
- The Art of Bop Drumming by John Riley
- Modern Rudimental Swing Solos by Charley Wilcoxon
- Buddy Rich’s Modern Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments by Buddy Rich and Henry Adler
There are also other ways to learn the drums. For example, reading a book on the history of drums and interviews with famous drummers could also help you to improve.
How Do You Organise a Drumming Session on Your Own?
A drum session can be organised in the same way as going to the gym: you need to warm up before you move onto the exercises else you won't get the most out of each session.
You’ll also sweat like you would at the gym, push your limits, go further, and end the session with a few aches and pains after having had a good go on the cymbals, practised a ternary rhythm, or worked on your hi-hat technique. The only difference is that you’ll need more creativity when you play the drums than you would doing a few sets at the gym.
Before you get started, make sure you’ve got everything ready so that you won’t waste any time. Set your phone to silent and start your session with:
- 10 minutes of warming up: play around on the drums to loosen up and play a song you like in any style you see fit. You need to loosen up your wrists and warm up your muscles.
- 10 minutes of warming your brain up: keep time on the snare drum while playing around with the pedals.
- 20 to 30 minutes of focused practice: work on exercises or a particular piece you’re learning. The only rule is to improve with each repetition.
- 10 to 20 minutes of fun: play a song or improvise to your heart’s content. The goal is to express your creativity.
If you can’t dedicate an hour each day to practice, you should still practise every day, even if it’s just 20 minutes during the week (and a full hour during the weekend). In fact, regularity is far more important than how much time you spend practising.
In this case, you’ll have to spend less time warming up and do 10 to 15 minutes of actual practice.
Find out more about how to learn the drums by yourself.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Good Drummer?
If you just do an hour per week in a music school, you won’t progress that weekly. You need to commit more time to drumming than that.
You need around 10,000 hours of practice in order to become a professional drummer. This means that you need to practise for 2 and a half hours every day, 365 days a year, for 10 years! Even if you’re really driven, it’s very difficult to keep to this schedule (especially on days like Christmas).
However, that mightn’t be your goal. 20 minutes of practice three times a week is already a good start.
We often wrongly think that the drums are one of the easiest musical instruments to play. It’s not because your right hand and your left hand will do completely different things and so will your feet. You need to use all your limbs independently in order to become a good drummer.
Furthermore, the drums aren’t a harmonic instrument, you need to keep time, which is no easy feat. The rhythm will change depending on the genre, too. A drummer needs to adapt as they’re the one carrying the whole band.
During the day, don’t hesitate to practise your drumming even if you don’t have your drums to hand. Drum away on your legs, cushions, or your desk during your lunch break.
Think about it. You could effectively spend 10 minutes practising a rudiment rather than idly scrolling through your Facebook feed. Spend your 30-minute commute listening to a drumbeat and de-constructing it in order to play it later on.
You need to form a habit of playing at a given time during the day for a certain number of minutes on each exercise. After a month, you’ll see that you’ve got into the habit.
The Best Advice for Drumming
There’s a lot of advice around that can help you in a variety of different styles.
- Adopt a good posture: look at the correct posture to have at the drum kit.
- Hold your drumsticks correctly: there are several ways to hold drumsticks, American grip, German grip, French grip, and Traditional grip.
- Film yourself: this is the best way to correct your mistakes.
- Play with a metronome: this makes sure that you can keep time perfectly.
- Be patient: don’t skip any steps otherwise you run the risk of stunting your progress. You need to learn how to play both slowly and quickly.
- Practise regularly: It’s better to practise 6 times a week for 20 minutes at a time rather than a single 3-hour session.
- Relax: You can’t play when you’re tense.
- Learn your rudiments: Drum rudiments are essential for any budding drummer.
- Learn music theory: you can learn by ear but it’s much easier if you can actually read sheet music.
- Play anywhere and everywhere: If you can’t access a drumkit, make sure that you drum on anything you can.
- Have fun: don’t forget to have fun and develop your creativity.
- Find a band: you’ll progress a lot more quickly by working alongside other musicians and working on a piece together.
Don’t forget that it’s much easier to remain motivated if you practise regularly and keep your goals in mind than trying to learn everything in just one long session.
The drums, just like the electric guitar, bass, or saxophone, have their own language that you need to learn. You'll quickly find yourself lost if you haven't got a clue what your new drumming books are on about!
This is a graphic representation of the music to play. For drums, this will tell you which drum to hit and when. This is slightly different and easier to understand than traditional sheet music.
This is a musician who plays the timbales, shallow single-headed drums with a metal casing that are often played in pairs.