If you are a beginner drummer, there is no doubt that you have chosen the best musical instrument! The drums are an incredibly important instrument because they find their home in every style of music. Other musicians depend on the drummer to keep the groove and hold everyone together in time with the beat.
Let’s be honest. No other instrument is quite as fun as playing the drums. There is so much fun to be had in exploring and experimenting with a wide range of sounds on a drum set, and combining them with all different types of rhythms.
In this article, I will share my top tips for beginner drummers to help you find your bearings quicker and develop good habits early on. It is essential to avoid the common pitfalls and progress killers from the beginning. So let’s get right into it!
1. Ensure Your Drum Set is Comfortable to Play
Proper drum kit setup is a much-overlooked aspect of drumming. Most beginner drummers tend to construct their drum sets in any way that looks remotely acceptable. The reality is that most beginner drummers set up their sets poorly.
It is essential to make sure that all of the drums and cymbals are easily reachable. Angle the rack toms towards you, and the snare drum must sit comfortably between your legs slightly above your knee's height.
Spend some time researching drum sets and look at how your favorite drummers set up their kits. Having a drum set that's correctly set up will allow you to play at your best- plain and simple.
2. Sit With Correct Drumming Posture
While we are on the topic of playing a properly constructed drum set, one of my most important tips for beginner drummers is learning to sit with correct drumming posture. Playing the drums with correct form and posture will prevent the risk of injury, while offering a more relaxed and enjoyable playing experience.
Set your drum throne to the right height. As a guide, aim to have your thighs sloping downwards slightly towards the knees. This height will keep a healthy position for your spine and lower back. Position your hi-hat stand and bass drum pedal where the feet fall naturally, with a 45-degree angle between your legs.
3. Hold the Drum Sticks Correctly
There are various correct ways you can choose to hold your drum sticks. The most common is the ‘matched grip,’ which I teach to my students. Matched grip is where the left and right hand hold the drum sticks in the same way. The fulcrum is between the thumb and index finger, with the remaining fingers wrapped around the stick.
Don’t hold the drum sticks too tightly, they should be allowed to move freely and bounce after striking the drum head. This bounce the drum head provides is what drummers take advantage of when achieving fast speeds, and playing with power and consistency.
4. Choose a Preferred Bass Drum Technique
When it comes to playing a bass drum pedal, the technique is super important. The bass drum is the real driving force of any drum beat and it ought to be played with confidence and power. There are two types of bass drum technique - heel up or heel down.
Neither choice is strictly better than the other, as it is simply down to personal preference. But I personally play heel up, and my students tend to follow suit. I find playing heel up offers greater power from the thigh and calf muscles, and lets you bury the bass drum beater into the bass drum head.
5. Play Drums with Consistency
The drummer plays a supportive role within any band or ensemble. Because of this, a drummer is required to perform with consistency when it comes to timekeeping and dynamics. The drummer is the understated hero of any band, and the best thing a beginner drummer can do is remember to accompany the music with steady and consistent rhythms.
Consider what the music requires, and be mindful of overplaying, because the drummer is not the frontman of the band!
6. Practice with a Metronome
So how can a beginner drummer develop a strong fundamental understanding of rhythm to play drums consistently? A metronome, of course! There are many great metronomes for drummers on the market, and they are exceptional tools for improving your timekeeping.
Practicing drums to a metronome builds accuracy, consistency, a strong sense of rhythm and improves playing speed. The best way to practice with a metronome is to begin with a slow BPM like 60 beats per minute, performing basic rudiments such as single stroke rolls, double stroke rolls, and paradiddles. Then proceed to practice some easy songs for beginner drummers with your metronome!
7. Build Independence Between Hands and Feet
Many aspects altogether make a great drummer. Some of the most notable are: good technique, playing feel, timekeeping, creativity, and perhaps most importantly - excellent coordination.
Drumming utilizes all four limbs to play together or independently of one another. Where most beginner drummers tend to stumble is when learning new rhythms and drum patterns, where the hands and feet perform different subdivisions. Here are some tremendous linear drum beats that will help to build independence between your hands and your feet.
8. Don’t Over Tighten Cymbals
At this point in the list of tips for beginner drummers, it is time to address some of the most common pitfalls that any beginner drummer is guilty of. First up: don't overtighten cymbals! All too often we see newbie drummers clamp down their crash cymbals to the point where it chokes the sound of the cymbal, and often results in the cymbal cracking.
When mounting a cymbal onto a cymbal stand, it should be allowed to swing freely and flex. Ensure there is no metal to metal contact between the cymbal and the stand by using felts (which should come supplied with a stand) and only screw the wingnut slightly.
9. Hit the Middle of the Drums
Another common aspect of performance that many beginner drummers struggle with is being able to hit the drum in the center of the skin. It is super important for achieving good technique and being able to sound like the pros.
Sometimes it is a lapse in concentration, while for others, it could be too much focus is spent trying to remember how to play complicated patterns. Either way, this needs fixing up in order to build good habits moving forward. Be aware of where you hit the drums, and the stick marks will be a clear giveaway if you need to practice this!
10. Master the Basics First
Lastly, on this list of tips for beginner drummers, we have one piece of advice that can't be stressed enough. Master the basics first: AKA don't run before you can walk! Every beginner drummer wants to play fast, but believe me; faster does not mean better. Playing fast but sloppy and out of time never sounds good, in fact, it is amateur.
When approaching new drumming techniques, or learning some easy songs for beginner drummers, practice slowly to begin with. Give yourself time to process the new information. Once you feel more confident with new technical patterns, build the tempo up slowly, but do not be tempted to speed it up too soon. As this will compromise your technique and accuracy.
Through consistent practice, dedication, and patience we build valuable muscle memory. As drummers, this allows our brains and muscles to retain new information we learn, and improve as drummers!
Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer and music educator, who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Westminster. You can find more of his advice over at Drum Helper - one of the most popular free online drumming resources.