Tips for beginner drummers
Always go into a practice session with a plan
Practicing is the key to improving your drum skills, but it is important to pre-plan what you are going to practice. Making time to practice is hard enough in everybody's busy day-to-day lives. Pre-thinking about what you will recap and study will help to maximize and get the most out of your practice session, even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes!
Practice with a metronome
There is a common misconception that having a steady pulse and solid sense of time is something that’s innate and can’t be taught. This is of course absolutely not true, and while some people do have a more natural sense of pulse than others, time is something that everybody should devote a large portion of time to practicing, no matter how natural a player they might be.
Go back to basics
Drummers often try to run before they can walk, which can lead to bad habits and gaps appearing in ability. Mastering the drumming basics is the best way to build a solid foundation upon which to develop your playing. We recommend focussing at least some of your practice time on improving single and double strokes, and polishing key rudiments like the paradiddle and five-stroke roll. Once you can execute these drumming fundamentals with consistency, dynamics and solid time, you will be fully prepared to take your playing to the next level.
Play with Other People
Despite the fact that there are tons of videos of drummers alone in their practice rooms on the internet, you should go find some like-minded people to play music with. Music is a team sport for the most part, and you’ll learn a lot by getting yourself into bands early on in your development. Don’t skip this step; it’s crucial.
Look for role models
They will shape your playing, as their drumming style and ability level helps you to measure progress in your own performance. If you need some inspiration, you can check out our Legendary Drummers playlist on YouTube.
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.
Realize that skill takes a long time to build. Becoming a great musician can take years. Be patient, do the work and you’ll become good. Focused practice under good guidance will take you there.
“Improvisation is too good to leave to chance” - Paul Simon
To say “I’m practicing improvisation” sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact a lot of preparation is required in order to improvise well. And by preparation, I don’t mean memorising a bank of perfectly formed riffs and fills that can be retrieved at random whenever someone points and shouts “drum solo!” - I mean getting comprehensively familiar with patterns, variations on those patterns and variations on ways in which those patterns and their variations can be applied to the kit and to the music.
When I started playing the drums, almost two years ago, I thought that I always needed a kit to be able to do meaningful practice, but recently - and following the wisdom of my tutors - I’ve realised that a lot of what I’m doing is actually just learning how to count, but using my whole body.
I’ve realised that it’s entirely possible to develop independence, coordination and the ability to count with each of my limbs (and my voice), using nothing but my body. And, I’m not for one moment discounting the importance of practicing stick and leg technique, for which you obviously DO need some sort of physical resistance from a practice pad, or pedals.
I’m just talking about the daily brain workout that (will hopefully) lead to becoming a thoughtful and creative improviser. I’m not there yet and I’m sure I’m not the only drummer who can say that I know how I want to sound, but the reality of what comes out of my sticks doesn’t quite live up to the dream…. Yet.
My current practice regime
involves sitting with a metronome, Ted Reed’s syncopation book and a whole load of patience, to go through each of the patterns, page by page, playing each pattern on different limbs, with the metronome on different beats, using different ostinato patterns, playing it straight, playing it swung etc…
Essentially playing the same thing in as many different ways as possible, until my brain becomes comfortable enough to enable each of my limbs to count their own way through the piece, with my voice keeping track of the base pulse and time signature.
Though, this alone isn’t going to make me a great improviser. I’m not practicing this stuff absent mindedly - I’m also trying to use these exercises to develop ideas, which I can only try out on a kit and with a band, in the moment.
The development of ideas and the application of these ideas to create something musical and interesting, is the real goal here - not the mental endurance test that I set myself (most days) with Ted Reed and the metronome. I’ve not been playing for long enough to know whether this is all going to pay off, but my tutors reassure me that it will and I trust them...
So to reiterate; the future is uncertain and no one is totally in control of the type of drummer that they will become, but it seems that it is possible to increase the chances of becoming an inventive improviser through… PRACTICE.
At Live studios, we always like to encourage our musicians and students
to play with other people as much as possible. That’s why we have been doing our band workshops for several years now and those sessions are enjoyed by our students and our teachers alike. There is something special about different people gathering in a room and creating music together, it’s like giving birth to a new spirit or new being that otherwise wouldn’t be possible to create.
In order to enjoy playing with other people at any occasion and to benefit most from it, there are some things we can do and pay attention to, in order to make it smoother, more musical and enjoyable for ourselves and everyone else.
The most important thing whether you play music on your own or with other people. Music is a language and you communicate with other musicians by listening to them. So many times great sessions are ruined by a musician focusing on his own instrument and not listening to what’s going on in the band. Remember, everyone in the band is there for the music and not for their own individual’s sake. So, if you feel there should be more dynamics involved, or you should play quieter, louder, or maybe even stop playing at all at some point, always be aware of what’s going on in the song. If you are not sure what you need to do, keep your eyes open as well as ears. By watching other band members, you’ll be safe and aware when to change gears during a song.
2. Respecting the soloist
Let’s say you play in a rhythm section (drums, bass, guitar, piano…) and someone is soloing. Don’t ever force them into your own rhythmic/harmonic/dynamic variations - listen to them instead and just follow what they do - it’s their role to lead you and not vice versa.
3. Respecting the style
If you happen to play a song in a blues/jazz style, don’t try to play your heavy metal licks or double kick rolls over the song. It just doesn’t fit there. If you are not familiar with the style, just be as simplistic as possible and it will all be ok!
4. Don't overplay
Less is more, most of the time. Especially if you are a drummer. Nobody cares about drum fills every 2 bars, or every 4 bars, or sometimes even 32 bars. Same for guitarists, if there is a space for your solo in the song, that’s fantastic. Otherwise, the less, the better. Again, it’s all based on listening, being familiar with the style and the song.
5. Don't be afraid or ashamed if you are a beginner
Nobody will judge you, we are all here to learn and communicate through music. As already said above, even if you know only one rhythm or a couple of notes on the bass guitar, good musicians will know how to make the best use of your skills.
6. Don't be crushed by your own mistakes
If you make a mistake, make a mental note and just continue playing, but remember it and work on it later. Again nobody will judge you. The worst thing you can do is stop because you made a mistake. It’s not a big deal, it’s human!
There is always something to learn at any band session because it’s not just music, it’s the exchange of people’s energies when we play together. Even one song can sound different every time. That’s why we are keeping the band music alive at Planet Drum. We can’t wait to go back to our regular sessions hopefully once the lockdown is over. In the meantime, keep practicing your instruments!
Planet drum guitar teacher, Vladimir
Where do I find ads for musicians wanted?
There are so many places to look: Social media, local music shops, ads in the back of music magazines and online, notices in music venues and rehearsal studios, word of mouth, the possibilities are endless – and it’s easy to get lost.
The key is: to know what YOU want.
Knowing what you want to achieve will make you better to work with, more positive and focused and undoubtedly help you reach your goals faster.
What do I want to gain out of the experience?
Some people think of it as a hobby and others as a career choice, either way, it’s about enjoying yourself.
Work out how and where you see yourself playing and what kind of commitment you are prepared to make.
If you’re not sure, talk to your tutor, other musicians and friends, get involved with workshops, join a drumming group or musical collective.
Sometimes you need to find ways to bounce ideas around before making an initial commitment to a band.
What type of music do I want to play?
This is not about playing one style but it’s helpful to give yourself a starting point so that finding people becomes easier.
You’re likely to discover all sorts of sounds that inspire you and, ultimately, it’s about finding like minded people to play with.
Most bands looking for members state music their musical preferences in their ads. Match your taste against theirs. If it fits, get an audition.
How long before I find something?
Some of you may feel ready to go out there and find your band, others might want to join workshops, collectives and jam with other musicians to get a better idea of which direction they want to go in, musically.
The advice is always the same - If you practice hard, give it your all and keep an open mind, you're likely to do just fine.
Putting the work in will open doors to all sorts of opportunities and the more you put yourself out there, the more chance you have.
Get involved, stay focused and things will fall into place.
Don’t forget if you're a drummer, that compared to the other members of a band, drummers are in high demand, so use this to your advantage.
And above all – ENJOY THE RIDE!
What are the musical commonalities between famous artists such as Skrillex, The Prodigy, Jay-Z, Slipknot, Bjork, Oasis, Amy Winehouse and Duran Duran?
The answer is rhythm. All of these artists have at one point used a specific rhythm pattern that is so identifiable you would recognise it even if you have never heard the original title song.
At just 6 seconds long it is the most sampled rhythm in the history of drums.
The Winstons, below, were an American funk and soul band who were not very well known, (their drummer G.C. Coleman even more so) and they released a song in 1960 titled ‘Amen Brother’, listen below! Little did they know that a sample derived from the drum solo in this track would become the ‘Amen Break’ - the most sampled rhythm in the history of drums.
The Amen Break is a loop of 4 bars that was popularised by the drum sample album ‘Ultimate Break and Beats’ released in 1986 for the DJ population. Since the sample was created it has become a prominent feature in mainstream music, featuring in a host of famous songs such as; Oasis - ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’, Nine Inch Nails - ‘The Perfect Drug’, Slipknot - ‘Eyeless’ and Björk - ‘Crystalline’.
The concept of sampling: where did it come from?
It was in the 70’s when the concept of using a ‘sample’ was brought about. Musically speaking, sampling is the process of taking a portion of a sound recording and reusing it on a separate piece of music. More often than not, this is done through a ‘rhythm break’ whereby a small section is sampled from one piece of music to form the beat on another track. It is through the sampling method that a piece of music can transform from average to being equipped with a catchy and memorable rhythm, making it hard to forget!
So as a result of this, DJ’s, musicians and artists like Skrillex and Jay-Z are continually in search of a melody ostinato/lick or drum pattern, that has the ability to resound in your mind long after it has been heard, leaving the taste of desire to hear it again… which is how the ‘Amen Break’ became one of the most extensively used rhythm across all genres of music.
Unfortunately, The Winstons never received any royalties for their original creation. However, in 2015 a DJ from the UK created a ‘GoFundMe’ page in the name of Richard Spencer, the singer and saxophonist from the band, to acknowledge and give appreciation to the ‘Amen Break’, whereby 2,000 people have donated $24,000!!
More and more artists are recording their own material nowadays with ever evolving technology accessible to them.
A basic knowledge of sound engineering will enable you to record your work, analyse your playing and help you understand what is happening to your track in a recording studio.
Stereo overheads, close mics on each drum, as well as room mics seems to be the standard for recording drums. However today I'd like you to read about a simple technique I use for getting great drum sounds with 4 microphones only, the Glyn Johns method. It is what I use at livestudios.
From Wikipedia: "Johns developed a unique approach to the recording of drums, sometimes referred to as the "Glyn Johns Method", that rarely employs more than two or three microphones, and which usually keeps one mike hoisted several feet overhead to achieve natural perspective of the whole kit, as well as one off to the side (not far from the floor tom tom), and one near to the bass drum. The key to the method is to keep both the overhead mike and the side-mike equidistant from (and pointed at) the centre of the snare, aimed in such a way of forming a triangular pattern (with the three corners being the snare, the side-mike, and the overhead mic).Johns prefers not to close-mike the individual drums, except occasionally the snare drum". See original article here, or read below for the the detailed method.