There are so many different areas of drumming to study. Everyone has their own unique path that they follow and that’s one of the beautiful things about playing the drums. For a beginner, it’s nice to get started on the right track with the best drummer tips that cover the basics…so keep reading. If you’re experienced however, it’s easy to overlook some important areas of drumming, especially if you aren’t under the guidance of a teacher. Maybe you feel that you have plateaued and don’t experience a feeling of progress anymore. This article is specially for you. It is my top 7 best drummer tips to help you cover all the most important aspects of learning this instrument. I’ve also made a YouTube video about this top 7 list that you can watch here.
Social Media = Inspiration
Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms today and one of the most useful for drummers. On your off time (and absolutely NOT during your practice time), search for drummer related hashtags. There are bazillions of awesome posts of people all over the world playing the coolest stuff on the drums. Some are even mini lessons and breakdowns. Save a few posts of beats and fills and things that you like. Later on when you’re practicing, you will then have simple practice ideas right at your finger tips. It’s a great way to get something really good out of your practice time when you aren’t sure what to work on. It’s especially good if you are looking for something short and sweet that won’t take longer that a day to learn. See my article about my top 20 favourite instagram drummers to follow.
And then there’s YouTube…as yes, the mecca of drumming social media. Chances are you’ve already watched a drum lesson video on YouTube. This is another vast ocean of endless practice possibilities. But watching/searching YouTube is like watching tv. It will suck up all your time and it doesn’t belong in the practice room unless it directly relates to what you’re doing. Search for lessons, drum covers, songs, etc when you are on your off time. That will give you direction and will maximize your playing time.
Take A Lesson
There’s no replacement for a 1-on-1 lesson with a good drum instructor. We all have strengths as well as weaknesses on our instrument. While it’s relatively easy to know our strengths, it can sometimes be difficult to spot our weaknesses. Even if you know what your weaknesses are, do you know how to address the problems and strengthen that area of your drumming?
One of the best drummer tips I can think of is to take a lesson with a good drum teacher. You could do this regularly or once in a blue moon. Either way, it’s a great experience to gain insight into your drumming from someone else. It’s also great to have someone test you a little and spot some of the weaknesses in your playing. This kind of insight is extremely helpful. It can give you plenty of good direction in your future practicing and get you closer to achieving some of your goals on the drums.
Book a free 10 Minute Check-In with me on video conferencing to meet and see what an online lesson experience is like. More info here.
Learn To Read Notation
Musical literacy is one of those skills that drummers tend to overlook. Yes, there are many great drummers out there who couldn’t read a note to save their lives. They don’t have to and that’s totally ok. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful or important. Reading and writing is non-verbal communication. Period.
Imagine if you didn’t know how to read or write in life? You couldn’t text or email a friend. You’d have to rely on hearing them in an actual phone conversation or in person. How inconvenient would that be? Music is the same way. Yes, you can rely on your memory and lots of practice to get by. But they aren’t mistake proof. You can go back to practicing something and then struggle to remember how it goes. Often we may even practice something incorrectly, just because we aren’t remembering it fully.
Notation solves this problem. When you practice what you read in front of you, it will be correct every time. You can learn and study from drumming books and websites. Learn something by ear and then write it down with notation (cheat sheets) so that you don’t forget later on. You can communicate notated ideas to other musicians (not just drum stuff but melodies, rhythms, etc.) and they will understand what you mean. Not to mention, there are many real life gigs that you couldn’t get without reading skills. Those are just some of the more obvious benefits but reading music isn’t something that can be learned overnight. It is a skill that needs development and should be a part of your regular practice in some small way.
If you have never learned how to read notation, start with this free and simple lesson.
Play Music And Learn Songs
Remember that a drummer is a musician. The best way to develop your ears and musicianship is to regularly learn to play songs. If you’re a beginner this can feel a little daunting. Once you get started however, it not adds a lot more fun to your practice. We all know how fun can lead to increased motivation right? The more songs you learn, the more your repertoire grows. This will help shape your sense of musical taste and style and what is appropriate to play on the drums for the music to sound good.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be an entire song either. You can also practice parts of a song that interest you. There’s no rule that says it has to be every note. You can take a simple tune and learn how to play the beat or a cool fill you hear. That counts and it may bee all you need from the song on that day. As long as you regularly include music in your practicing, your musicianship will grow.
Balance Work & Play In The Practice Room
Unless you’ve got all day everyday to bang away at your drums, we all benefit hugely from a little bit of time management. One of the best drummer tips I can think of is work & play balance. Drummers who learn how to structure and balance their practice time progress at a much faster rate. The simplest approach I can think of is to aim for the 50/50 approach to work and play in the practice room.
Some things in the practice room are challenging and require focus and dedicated time spent learning. This is the work part of your practice. Exercises, drills, sight-reading, these are all things that increase our skills but don’t always activate our feeling of fun. These are inward types of practice where we focus more on ourselves and our instrument. Without them, our skills on the instrument don’t really advance.
Play time could include learning songs, playing to music, jamming with friends or working on free flowing improvisation on the drums. These are all creative and fun activities on the drums. It can bee tempting do do these things and never get down to business working on your drumming. On the other hand, too much work and no active play time can zap your motivation big time. Aim for a 50/50 split of these activities and you will have a healthy and balanced practice session.
Counting Out Loud
This list of best drummer tips would certainly not be complete without this one. It might seem silly to some of you reading, but this is the #1 most overlooked aspect of drumming I can think of. Yes, most of us have been told to count out loud at some point in person or in a video. Do you do it while you play? You absolutely should. I have come to learn this throughout my own career and in my teaching room. Counting out loud during practice has always led to the highest success rate.
When you count out loud using your voice, you are constantly making yourself aware of two things; a) time and b) rhythm. Drummer are supposed to be thee masters of these two elements in music. By saying it and hearing it when you practice, you are building a deeper instinct and acute awareness of musical time. Counting out loud helps you to know if what you are playing is correct. It helps you to maintain time when you make mistakes (that’s key). It will also help you analyze what you hear in recordings and break down what you read in notation.
Frequency Is The Secret
Ask almost anybody who is accomplished in anything, what their secret to success is. They will almost certainly tell you…”Do what you love everyday.” The same is true for the drums. Many drummers value their practicing based on how long their sessions are . Some may even boast about practicing for several hours. That’s great, don’t get me wrong. But if it’s happening only once or a few times in a month, then they are aren’t benefitting from those practice hours as much as they should be.
We humans aren’t machines. We get distracted easily, physically tired and lose mental focus when we’ve been doing anything for too long. Not to mention that playing the drums also involves a high amount of muscle memory. This is best learned with frequent and repetitive practice, I think you can probably agreee with me on that. When a few days or more pass between our practice sessions however, there is usually a little re-learning to do. It takes up valuable practice time to review, remember and refresh on the things you were doing last.
Drummers who practice frequently have a much more continuous practice life with little to no back-tracking. They tend to learn faster and overcome physical challenges more easily. Frequently can mean everyday, or simply often enough that you rarely allow more than 3 days to pass. This type of regularity makes drumming more than just a hobby. It makes drumming a part of your identity and always leads to happiness, higher motivation and high achievement.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and feel like your drumming isn’t heading anywhere. Just remember that it’s perfectly normal and everyone experiences it. If you follow my top 7 best drummer tips and take them to heart, I promise that you will benefit from more direction and feelings of motivation, progress and success. It’s rewarding to get to a place of zen in the practice room and feel a little slice of heaven. I hope these tips help get you a little closer to your drumming heaven.