Learning to play the drums

by Metro Music Makers instructor Justin Boyd

Drums are one of the hardest instruments to play, but they’re also one of the most fun and most rewarding to learn. You need to have patience as you start learning to play the drums, because in order to be a great drummer, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort.

You won’t think you sound great at first, or you might compare yourself to an amazing drummer you’ve heard and get discouraged when you hear yourself play. As a beginner, you’ve just started on your path of growth, and we often compare ourselves to people that have inspired us to play and have been playing for years. Don’t do that; instead, every time you get to sit behind a set, look at it as an opportunity to learn something new, or to master something you’ve been working on.

When you have that mindset, drumming becomes a lot of fun. As a beginner, if you want to improve quickly, here are three things you can focus on.

1) Learn what your hands and feet are doing.

Often I hear new drummers play who have no real knowledge of what they’re playing or how they’re playing it. Knowledge is the key to growth.

For example, I can play something with my hands and then tell the student to try mimicking what I’m playing, and though it may sound somewhat similar, they’re probably not coming close to actually playing what I am. Then I share what I’m doing with my hands around the kit and tell them to do the same thing, and they quickly see how different they sound.

Knowing and practicing different patterns with your hands allows you to create a lot of wrist control and speed in a short amount of time. The more knowledge you have of what your hands and feet are doing, the better drummer you’ll be all around.

2) Use your brain.

You have to focus your mind to play the drums. I often see my students listening to what I’m doing in a lesson, and then they try to do it just by feel. Then I’ll teach them what they should do with their hands and feet, and they still may struggle.

Usually I notice at this point that the student isn’t focused—their eyes may be looking all over the place. If so, I tell them to watch their hands and feet, and—bam!—they start playing it correctly.

Your brain controls the movement of your hands and feet. It helps to watch your hands and feet as you’re playing and make them do what you know they’re supposed to do. Every time I tell a student to watch their hands and feet as they play, they begin to learn to parts very quickly.

3) Don’t give up.

When a student starts playing drums, it can be discouraging in the beginning, the middle, and even the end of the process. There’s no finish line when learning an instrument; there’s always something new to learn.

It’s easy to get discouraged and throw in the towel, but don’t! I’ve seen multiple students that had gotten really good, and later on they quit because it was getting harder. . . . They always regret it. Most of the time it’s because they didn’t put in the practice time they should have. What you put into it is what you’ll get out of it, so you absolutely have to practice.

When you practice regularly, you’ll get excited as you start getting better and meeting your goals. You’ll never want to quit. You’ve got to hang in there and stay encouraged, make goals, and practice. You can do it!

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