There’s probably a few more here, but these are probably some of the ones that have or would’ve helped me the most early on.
1. Get lessons from a professional drum teacher
With all the online tutorials out there these days that walk you through the basics it’s understandable why more and more people think they can get away without having actual lessons. And it’s not impossible to become a good drummer without them, but even just getting a few after you’ve got the very basics down to work on technique is going to make your life a lot easier. That said online tutorials (check some of our favourites here) are better than going at it alone.
Not only will you pick up skills more quickly but you will learn a solid foundation that will mean you don’t have to relearn a lot of your technique later.
Trust me on this one, I personally spent a lot of time relearning dodgey technique a ways down the road. There is nothing worse than realising you’ve been playing wrong for years and your stuck in a bad habit which makes something new harder. So, get a few lessons with a professional teacher and at the very least learn the basics.
2. Practice everyday if you can
Practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes. Well, when it comes to drummers that old saying is definitely true. The best drummers play everyday. Every second if you count tapping and drumming on your thighs as a form of practice (well sort of, if everyone around you asks you to stop tapping that’s usually a sign).
If you want to get good you are going to have to put in the time. It won’t happen over night, but if you practice consistently it might happen quicker than you would expect.
3. Learn to play quietly, as well as loud
A tip that really should be just for beginners, but all to often isn’t, playing quietly is essential for improving technique. It also has the added bonus of making it possible for you to perform with acoustic acts. They won’t just get mad at you because you drown them out! And you know, those things called neighbours, they don’t always want to hear you.
4. Learn to play slowly before you play fast
All too many beginner level drummers are obsessed with playing as fast and as hard as they can. While this might be fun and satisfying (and it is), trust me, it sounds awful. A much better way to spend your time is focusing on technique. If you’re always pushing yourself to perform a beat faster and faster you won’t be focusing on getting it right. In essence, you will be learning how to do it wrong, many drummers are guilty of this starting out, hell it’s a mistake I made and relearning is often harder than learning correctly the 1st time. Start out slow, get the technique right, balance your wrists and then work on your speed.
5. Practice leading with your off hand
Honestly this makes a world of difference with how you play, nobody likes to do it at 1st. After all you’ve probably spent a long time getting good and even if you’re pretty good with your off hand you’re still going to sound that bit worse. And you can’t really get away with just a couple of minutes here and there. You’re going to need to stick at this. It also helps if you try and do mundane tasks day to day with your off hand after all you’re dominant hand builds up so much more natural muscle memory in a day to day setting that practice alone isn’t always going to be enough and doing both of these things greatly improved my play.
6. Listen to what everyone else is playing
As a drummer it’s easy to lose yourself in your own instrument. You can easily shut out the sound of the guitar and vocals and just focus on the loudness of your drums. However, to do so is a guarantee of never becoming a good drummer. If you don’t pay attention to what your band mates are playing there can be no overall cohesion in your groups sound. Play along with your fellow musicians and always listen to what they are playing. Don’t get too caught up in the fact that the band should be following your timing, work with the band not against them.
7. Get out of your genre
I know so many drummers who’ve improved vastly after playing outside of their favorite genre for a while. Personally I gained a lot from picking up a few books and cds on African drumming, it gave me something new to experiment and was a good way to get out of the habitual beats that you can find yourself in all to often.
8. Push yourself
This applies to everything in life, every time you sit down to practice you should try and play something that isn’t in your muscle memory. (If you’re working on tip 5 this should be pretty easy) The more you push yourself the better you’ll get. The quickest way to stagnate is to be happy with your playing level. Just because the stuff you like isn’t too technical doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and push yourself, you’d be surprised at ways you can incorporate beats and fills you never thought you would use.
9. Learn to play on both Electric and Acoustic
Both have pro’s and cons, and both force you to improve different skills. The way the sticks respond is very differently and this causes you to control the way you play a lot more to compensate for the differences. Personally I found after switching between the two on and off that my play improved overall on both. I know that not everyone can afford or will have the practice space for both. But, if you can you’ll find it very helpful. Added to which most electric models will come with metronomes built in and recording features making it a lot easier to listen for mistakes.
10. Pick up another instrument
A lot of guys do this and in my case drums (whilst certainly my main instrument) was the second instrument I learned after years Piano lessons for years as a kid. Whilst I learned drums, I neglected other instruments, but upon returning to the piano and picking up the guitar you find new ways of looking at what you write and play. Having an understanding of more instruments outside of your main applies to everyone. It makes you a better musician as a whole. It also makes it a little bit easier to learn more. And that is never a bad thing.
We know there’s loads more great tips out there what would you include?