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Old 01-28-09, 09:40 PM   #1
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Learning to play the drums.

So after a year of finally deliberating and circumventing the issue, I'm going to learn how to play the drums formally (i.e. with a teacher). I think I'm going to stick with a guy in the area that I found on a flyer, unless he doesn't get back to me. I have another option as well that isn't much more expensive.

I've started looking at some videos from FreeDrumLessons.net regarding counting, sheet music and proper basic technique so that I have something to keep in mind before I begin. I'm going to get a practice pad as well as some drumsticks. (I'll probably start with 5a maple sticks with a wood tip, since it's been said that 5a sticks are better for rock drumming.)

While I can't afford the price for a full kit right now, I'd rather stay away from owning one because:
  • I'm unsure if this is just a temporary fixation or a revival of my strong desire to learn music. I tried learning the clarinet several years ago, but had to stop because of moving and our family's financial conditions at the time, (At least my sister can play the viola well!)
  • Having a kit can tempt me to learn faster than I should, and can probably mess up my development overall, and
  • There's really no way that I can practice with my grandma living below me practically all of the time (she really can't move anywhere) and the neighbors upstairs.

Finally, I'm not expecting to learn quickly or become a great drummer in a few months. I just want to learn the right way, whether that takes a few weeks or a few years (if I decide to go on that long). I don't have any immediate goals with this; I just really love the idea of drumming. It'd probably be nice to join a band or be a freelance somewhere down the road, but I'm not looking to do that so soon. I have enough to sate my interests for now!

I know that there are a bunch of musicians on here (Serendipper and pgoat, I'm calling y'all out), so I'm asking for advice. What should be my primary concerns before really hitting this (no pun intended)? What should I look for, and what should I avoid? What are some common mistakes that beginners make or mistakenly assume while they're learning?

Thanks!
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Old 01-28-09, 10:36 PM   #2
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well, I am no drummer, but I'd say do a lot of listening, and specifically pay attention to the basic pulse of music - not so muc details and accents and whatnot but the basic meter (even if it's just in twos or threes) and how the other instruments play off the drums.

For example, if you listen to very straight boring top 40 you can really pick up on how the bass drum usually locks in with the bass and the other instruments might hit with the snare.

Listening is really really important. About the worst thing I can say about other musicians is when they just play for themselves without leaving room for everyone to interact and co-exist. Unfortunately its usually like the case where the most ignorant person in a room often has the biggest mouth sadly it's usually the most mediocre musicians who overplay. If you listen thoughtfully whle playing with others, and streamline your playing to the essentials it makes everything sound better - so concentrate on the basic beat, get the feel down and you'll be 90% there. If you stick with it and practice consistently, the fancy stuff will come in time.

The best thing to do is listen a lot, practice the basic drills your instructor gives you, and go play! Don't be afraid to go make noise, by yourself and with others. I haven't played with a real band in ages - the stuff I post here is from a fun band with friends - the drummer is not a 'real' drummer, never had a lesson and he just wings it. He's actually gotten a lot better over the past couple of years, can even use the kick drum well now.

If you ever want to jam just yell. Some studios will have small "Jam rooms" - drums, amps, but no PA - so you can go in and play the full kit. It's cheaper than regular rooms, maybe $10-15/hr.
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Old 01-28-09, 11:05 PM   #3
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I play a little drums (and bass) so...

1) it TRULY is important to play a GOOD kit. There are quality lower end kits, and there is total junk.
You MUST get a good kit. Like any instrument, you do not want to fight to get a sound you like.

2) cymbals you like for sound are also very important. You can check out the sounds at Guitar Center
and buy used off ebay if needed. Staying in a 'family' and 'model' (eg Sabian AA's or AAX's) is a good
thing to do as they tend to all pitch well together.

3) if you BUY, the most importatnt drum will be your snare. try a LOT of them before you just get one
cause someone tells you they like it -- YOU need to like it. If you stay with with drumming, trust me
you will own several snares.

4) find some sticks you feel comfortable with -- they come in all sizes (width/length). Some like a
big fat stick, some a thin stick. go to a place with a wide assortment of sticks and tray a few on
a practice pad. Popular choices are 5A, 5B & 3A(jazz).

5) a metronome is your best friend. it will keep you on beat until you have some sense of timing.
There are lots of choices, but whatever you choose, make sure you can hear it over the drums
as you play. few people can stay totally on the beat at all times -- music swings -- but work to
stay on beat as much as possible. btw, drummers tend to play either 'on', 'ahead of', or 'behind'
the beat -- you will figure this out when you start playing with a metronome. You will either be hitting
the drums deat on with the tone, a little ahead, or a little behind. Any way is OK -- so long as you
are constant and not moving around all the time.

6) THE BEST instructionals for a beginning drummer out there right now are:



http://www.amazon.com/Tommy-Igoe-Gro...3205105&sr=1-2


http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Weapons...9HHN9QPWR95JND

The first is a better full-kit DVD, the 2nd is the BEST for you hand development.

7.) Make sure you dedicate some time to play every day. You cannot 'catch up' before lessons.
learning an instrument is a building process like learninng a foreign language.

8.) You have to have a good rapport with your teacher. If you think you are on different plains,
get a new one.

9) get a good practice pad (the ones that sound like a snare drum are excellent).

10) and always remember... What do they call the guy who plays with the band? The drummer!
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Old 01-28-09, 11:06 PM   #4
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Listen to Neil Peart, and then realize you'll never be that good
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Old 01-28-09, 11:47 PM   #5
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I play a little drums (and bass) so...

1) it TRULY is important to play a GOOD kit. There are quality lower end kits, and there is total junk.
You MUST get a good kit. Like any instrument, you do not want to fight to get a sound you like.
I played in a punk band for 4 years and realized that you can get away with a lower-end kit (Tama Rockstar) if you use good heads. Aquarian snare heads and Remo Pinstripes on the rest made the difference between a cheap kit that sounds like a cheap kit and a cheap kit that sounds pretty good.
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Old 01-29-09, 12:22 AM   #6
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yeah, but that's punk....
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Old 01-29-09, 12:43 AM   #7
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I don't really play drums (not 4 real - see avatar pic). I got to sit in with the swing orchestra tonight, cause our real drummer is on vacation. What fun.

As a non-drummer, my tip is to learn to play dynamics too. Love playing with a drummer who can play a driving, exciting beat real soft.
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Old 01-29-09, 06:30 AM   #8
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When I was a kid I wanted to play drums like Peter Criss from KISS.
My mom didn't want to get kicked out of our apartment so she got
me accordian lessons which is probably why I'm not a musician today.
It only works for Mariachi and Polka bands and Weird Al Yankovick (sp).

Get an electronic kit. You can use headphones and you won't bother
granny or the neighbors. Sure they're not quite what an acoustic set
is as far as sound, feel, space cool factor etc but they do the job,
especially for playing at home.
No way having a kit will hinder your learning. It'd shorten your
learning curve if nothing else.

I prefer the Vater 5a with nylon tips.
I'm kind of where you're at as far as having desire but unsure about
skills and long term interest plus I'm old.
No old drummers in punk bands, just old punk bands. (referring to my interests)
I've seen cheap electronic kits (even Costco carries them online) but you
might look at Craigslist etc. I'd rather have nice gear that's used than new
entry level stuff.
I had a nice kit outfitted with great cymbals and hardware and couldn't play
jack. My personal/relational situation played a roll in that too though.
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Old 01-29-09, 07:50 AM   #9
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yeah, but that's punk....
Which is precisely what I want to play...
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Old 01-29-09, 08:42 AM   #10
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Which is precisely what I want to play...
Watching good drummers play is also helpful.

I like the DVD of Bad Brains at CBGBs ('82) as there are a lot of shots taken right over the drummer's shoulder. He's phenomenal, to say the least.
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Old 01-29-09, 08:45 AM   #11
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drums, eh? please don't move in next door to me.
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Old 01-29-09, 10:23 AM   #12
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Here ya go, the o-fishal Spreggy recommendations. See my avatar? Those are my credentials, you can clearly see that I own a drum set, a cymbal, and at least one stick.

Equipment (Craigslist is your friend):
  • Good pad $20
  • Sticks: try a few sizes, 5a is a good start, for rock I use the Vic Firth Buddy Rich stick, it has a nice meaty balance. Don't ask what nice meaty balance means. There's a lot to be said for choosing sticks that you can find close to home. Promark and Vic Firth are what you will likely find.
  • Get a kit, seriously. For noise control, you can dampen the heads a lot, fill the bass with pillows, etc. The ideal apartment dweller's kit is an electric kit. A 4 pc kit off craigslist is a good way to start. If you just play the pad, you'll lose interest. You also can't learn 4-way independence on a pad. Playing a set is much like walking while chewing gum while while juggling while reading a math book.
  • Metronome. You can download a freebie off the net that plays on your computer. Anywhere you practice, there should be a metronome, and it should be on.
  • Music stand.

Learning: a teacher is the best thing you can do. The videos above are great, both Igoe's and JoJo's.
Learn the different grips right away, and master them, don't just hit. Grip and stick balance are very important. Vicfirth.com has a great learning library, check out the free stroke vids by Don Famularo for sure.

Watch a lot of videos at www.drummerworld.com and participate in the forums. Watching is very useful.

Learn to tune drums by finding the drum tuning bible on line, it's a freebie.

Learn the rudiments on the pad, and you will see how they translate to your ideas on the set.

Good luck!
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Old 01-29-09, 11:32 AM   #13
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OK, if it's punk, then get your hands on any old vids of The Minutemen and watch George Hurley. The guy was a friggin' animal, and one of the most animated drummers around. There's some good footage in the documentary "We Jam Econo", if you can make it through Watt's ramblings.

Also check out Charlie Quintana (Social D) and Robo (Black Flag).
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Old 01-29-09, 11:34 AM   #14
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George Hurley was awesome indeed. A bit technical by punk standards, but they sure made it work. Quite a rhythm section!

Topper from the Clash was more of a straight ahead r&b pop musician but for solid steady beats he is as good a model as anyone. He could get a bit sophisticated at times too.

For simplicity you could always check out Meg White or Slim Jim Phantom
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Old 01-29-09, 11:48 AM   #15
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drums, eh? please don't move in next door to me.
All the more reason to find you in NYC
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Old 01-29-09, 11:52 AM   #16
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George Hurley was awesome indeed. A bit technical by punk standards, but they sure made it work. Quite a rhythm section!

Topper from the Clash was more of a straight ahead r&b pop musician but for solid steady beats he is as good a model as anyone. He could get a bit sophisticated at times too.

For simplicity you could always check out Meg White or Slim Jim Phantom
I'll just take a few drumming lessons and play like White from now on.

I'll consider those references! I also like Josh Freeze (The Vandals), though the whole band can be pretty creative for punk music. Not punk rock, but I also really like Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater.
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Old 01-29-09, 01:01 PM   #17
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I'll just take a few drumming lessons and play like White from now on.
no offense, cause I love WS, but you may not really need any lessons for that
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Old 01-29-09, 01:30 PM   #18
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Of course you do. You need to know what a kit feels like!
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Old 01-29-09, 02:20 PM   #19
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Of course you do. You need to know what a kit feels like!
she plays barefoot, sitting on a stool. lesson over
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Old 01-29-09, 04:34 PM   #20
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that was actually the start of the advanced session.

While it sounds simple, White's drumming is the prime example of creativity and technical mastery.
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Old 01-29-09, 07:07 PM   #21
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that was actually the start of the advanced session.

While it sounds simple, White's drumming is the prime example of creativity and technical mastery.
I love her tone, and what she plays is perfect for their music. but her timing is pretty erratic, or at least it was when I saw them. Maybe stage fright?

In any case you could def. be playing stuff like that pretty quickly. That's no rip on her, just sayin'.
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Old 01-29-09, 07:13 PM   #22
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Charlie Watts ?
Im a guitar player, not a musician, but I can tell you a
good drummer and bass unit pretty much make the stuff
that people groove to at live shows. A great guitar player
will sound like feces over bad drums but good drums will
make a bad guitar player good. Learning when NOT to
play, just as important as learning when/what to play.
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Old 01-29-09, 07:15 PM   #23
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Charlie Watts ?
Im a guitar player, not a musician, but I can tell you a
good drummer and bass unit pretty much make the stuff
that people groove to at live shows. A great guitar player
will sound like feces over bad drums but good drums will
make a bad guitar player good. Learning when NOT to
play, just as important as learning when/what to play.
well said. Kinda what I tried to get across. And Charlie W. def. came to mind right away. I don't think he ever overplays.
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Old 01-30-09, 08:59 AM   #24
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I'll just take a few drumming lessons and play like White from now on.

I'll consider those references! I also like Josh Freeze (The Vandals), though the whole band can be pretty creative for punk music. Not punk rock, but I also really like Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater.
There ya go, Mike is an excellent player. You can check out Liquid Tension Experiment for more Portnoy.

I think if I were to go back in time to help the early me in my budding drummer days, I would want myself to instruct me on how to play out of the drum, not through it. Use the bounce to pull sound out of a drum, instead of hitting it hard, so to speak. You get the same volume for half the work, which, like cycling, is important. I used to sweat like mad and break sticks at gigs, now I rarely crack a sweat, and haven't broken a stick in years. I would also encourage me to simplify fills so they are clean-clean-clean.

The metronome point is key, I encourage you to use it whenever you practice anything except when playing to music. Good time doesn't fall out of the sky, you need to practice with the click. You can score a cheap drum machine off ebay or craig's and have a great metronome for your practice room.
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Old 01-30-09, 09:19 AM   #25
Grumpy McTrumpy
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