This article comes from drummer and music educator, Gideon!
You’ve decided to learn to play the drums, that’s great news! No other instrument is quite like drums. It’s an incredibly rewarding activity, and research shows that drumming offers a huge number of benefits.
The drums are the heartbeat of all music. They find their home in every musical style, in every culture, and across every continent! Drummers are in-demand musicians, and they play a supporting role in the band – by driving the beat forwards and keeping everyone in time.
In this article, I’ll be sharing with you some of my most valuable drumming tips for beginner drummers. These drumming tips will help you instill good habits early on, and will allow you to get the most out of your playing. Without further ado, let’s dive right into my top drumming tips!
1. Set Up Your Drums Correctly
Most beginner drummers tend to set up their drum kits incorrectly. The bottom line is that a poorly constructed drum set will inhibit your playing, by restricting your movement and fluidity around the kit. A correctly set up drum set lays down the foundation for your playing!
Perform some research, and take inspiration from your favorite drummers by checking out how they set up their drum kits. Whilst setting up your kit, ensure that all the drums and cymbals are comfortably within reach.
Don’t angle your rack toms or cymbals too aggressively; try to have them relatively flat. You’ll want to position your bass drum pedal and hi-hat stand where your feet naturally fall on the floor. Your snare drum will sit a couple of inches above your knees and directly in between your legs.
A supportive drum throne is one of the best investments you can make early on. Don’t sit too low either; sitting higher will keep a healthy position for your spine and lower back whilst you play. Good drumming posture is essential for a relaxed and enjoyable playing experience.
2. Don’t Hold Your Drum Sticks Too Tight
The most common and grip technique is called ‘matched grip,’ and this is what I teach to my students. You will use your left and right hands to hold the drum sticks in the same way. The main area of grip is between the thumb and the second knuckle of the index finger, and the remaining fingers wrap around the stick.
It’s key that you don’t hold the drum sticks too tight. The drum sticks should be allowed to bounce after striking a drum head, and this rebound will help you out significantly to achieve fast speeds.
This rebound is a pivotal part of drumming and becomes a large part of your ‘playing feel’ as you develop as a drummer. You will naturally learn to feel when to begin the motion of striking a drum head and anticipate the rebound.
3. Play With Correct Bass Drum Technique
When it comes to playing a bass drum pedal, you must be consistent with your playing technique. The bass drum provides a powerful low-end of a drum beat, and it should be played with power and consistency.
There are two types of bass drum technique – heel up or heel down. I play heel up, and I teach this to my students. I find playing heel up achieves greater power from the leg muscles, and it’s much more comfortable too.
If you’re playing a simple rock drum beat, with the kick drum on the 1 and 3 of the bar, make an effort to use the whole force of your leg to drive power right through the pedal. You and the rest of the band want the bass drum to be heard.
Another thing to note – don’t take your foot off the bass drum pedal when it’s being played! Allow it to rest on the footboard at all times and allow your leg muscles to do the heavy lifting.
4. Develop Consistency and Accuracy
The drummer plays a supporting role within a band, and other musicians look to the drummer for guidance. Therefore a drummer is required to perform with consistency when it comes to timekeeping and dynamics.
Consider what the music requires, and be mindful of overplaying because the drummer is not the frontman of the band. The drummer holds the music together, and the best thing a drummer can do is serve the music with appropriate grooves.
Speaking of consistency, beginner drummers often struggle to hit the snare drum in the middle of the drum head. If you want to achieve good technique and sound like the pros, then it’s time to build playing accuracy early on. Always make an effort to strike the snare drum head dead center of the skin whenever you’re practicing rudiments and drum grooves!
Practicing drums to a metronome is key for building accuracy, consistency, and a strong sense of rhythm. The best way to practice with a metronome is to start with a slow tempo, performing basic rudiments and drum grooves. Begin with single stroke rolls and double stroke rolls at 60 BPM on the snare.
5. Build Muscle Memory
It’s easy to get carried away on the drums. Every beginner drummer wants to play fast, but don’t make the mistake of thinking faster – it is not. Just because you’ve played a difficult exercise once, it doesn’t mean you’ve mastered it. Practice takes time!
When approaching new techniques, practice slowly to begin with. Allow yourself time to grasp the new information. There is no rush. Once you begin to feel more confident, build up the playing tempo slowly. But don’t be tempted to rush into it, you’ll compromise your finesse and control.
Drumming in particular is a musical instrument that depends heavily on building muscle memory. Through consistent practice, we build muscle memory that retains the new information we learn and allows us to perform new exercises with effortless fluidity.
Building muscle memory is the key to improving as a drummer. Through consistent practice, we channel our inner awareness and focus on absorbing new information. It doesn’t require much thought at all – it’s an instinctive and natural process.
But we must have the patience to give ourselves time to remember and retain the new technical patterns we learn. Continue to practice at slow speeds, and resist the urge to play fast too soon!