Drumming is lots of fun and it can look so easy. After all, you’re just hitting things with sticks, right? Expert drummers make it look like a cake walk. TV and movies make it seem as though you just need to “feel the music in your heart” for it to translate into an amazing song. What they don’t show is the thousands of hours of hard work and practice that goes into it. There’s no way around it, either. All the greats had to start to start somewhere. What made them great was their patience, dedication, and determination.
If music is a universal phenomenon, then drums are the universal instrument. Their sound resonates with people all over the world. Almost every culture feature drums in their music. Anyone can play them, regardless of race, sex, creed, religion, nationality, or ability. It just takes practice. But sometimes, it can seem like all that practice is a waste of time when you aren’t improving as quickly as you think you should. In times like these, it is perseverance that will make you great.
If you find yourself in need of a little inspiration, check out these tips from a few expert drummers. At one point or another, they’ve all been right where you are now.
On Practice and Lessons
You’ve heard it a thousand times: practice makes perfect. You know you need to practice. It can be easy to feel as though once you’ve practiced a certain number of times, you’ll be skilled enough to not need to keep doing so. And lessons can sometimes seem like such a drag. How many more times is the teacher going to make you play the rudiments??
However, it is important to realize no one ever outgrows the need for practice. No drummer ever reaches the point where they have nothing left to learn. Just read what these expert drummers have to say about lessons and practice!
Author, drummer, and producer Rich Redmond says it best when he says “getting good at anything” requires practice. And you want to practice over and over and over again. His advice? “Take lessons and learn from anyone and everyone.”
The Paper Jackets drummer Mike Di Guglielmo is direct in his advice. He says simply, “Learn the 40 rudiments.” You want to do this early in your drumming career. And most importantly, you can never stop practicing! Di Guglielmo says these rudiments aren’t just essential, they will amplify your own creativity beyond “playing beats and fills.”
Harry Smith, lead drummer of June Bug, agrees with Di Guglielmo, saying simply you can never outgrow or be “too good” at playing the rudiments.
On Goals and Motivation
When you get bogged down with practice or discouraged by a setback, one of the best things you can do is to spend some time remembering your goals. Think back to the things that motivated you in the first place. Goals and motivations change over time and that is perfectly alright. However, it is important to have them. Having goals also gives you a sense of direction and accomplishment to guide you through your lifelong study of percussion. Motivations will drive you to accomplish them. Here’s why the pros have to say about the importance of goals and motivation.
Keith Sorensen, teacher and professional music, says that if you practice without set goals, you might as well play “basketball without a hoop.”
Jeff Page of Alice Cooperland says simply that drumming has to be your “passion.” Even those seemingly simple lessons can become an “intense learning experience.” Most of all, Page recommends that novice drummers “watch ALL drummers.” It’s the best way to absorb everything you see.
Professional percussion instructor Jyn Yates has similar advice: “Never give up.” It doesn’t matter what other people say about your skills or that being different will hold you back. If you love it, then just remember to “smile and have fun”! That’s really what music is about when it comes down to it.
Other General Pieces of Advice
Aside from specific tips and inspiring quotes, most expert drummers offer these same pieces of general advice:
Find a Teacher You Admire
We touched earlier on the importance of lessons, practice, and life-long learning. A key part of this is finding yourself the right teacher. Ideally, this should be someone you admire and, more importantly, respect. You can learn something from everyone. But, a teacher whom you respect will motivate you to be the best you can be. If you respect them, you’ll want to emulate them. You’ll work hard to make them proud.
Keep an Open Mind
Don’t restrict yourself to certain types of music or styles of playing. Instead, strive to become a well-rounded drummer. Do your best to learn as much as you can from wherever and whomever you can. You might find enjoyment and inspiration in unexpected places.
This doesn’t just mean to be humble in your dealings with others. In fact, it is most important to be humble with yourself. Don’t let yourself think that you’ve completely and totally mastered something and cannot improve upon it. No matter how basic it may seem, you can still learn. Even the most experienced drummer who has been practicing for decades can learn new lessons from the rudiments.
Love What You Do
Practicing can seem like a chore sometimes. This is true no matter how much you love drumming. But you’re more likely to stick with it and get the most out of each practice if you genuinely love what you’re doing. You’ll always need to practice, so you might as well enjoy it. Remember, it is much more about the journey than the destination.
Learn How to Read Music
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you really cannot be the drummer you want to be without knowing how to read music. It might seem a little intimidating at first, but as with everything else, practice makes perfect. Once you learn to read music, you’ll be able to communicate with other musicians in no time. You’ll be speaking their language.