Calendar with drumset and the word, "practice"

Many students ask the question, “How long will it take until I get good at drumming?”  The answer to the question depends upon a number of factors including:

  • The ability to set realistic goals
  • Willingness to seek out drumming information or formal lessons
  • The frequency of practice
  • The ability to maximize practice time by correcting mistakes before they become deeply rooted
  • Eagerness in seeking out performing opportunities (to gain experience)
  • The ability to enjoy the process

These steps will be discussed in detail in this article.  Every drummer will learn and practice at a slightly different pace.  The goal is to expedite the process by eliminating common mistakes. 

Setting Realistic Goals

Let’s return to the question, “How long will it take to get good at the drums?”  That question is difficult to answer, because everyone’s version of “good” is different. 

In fact, a more appropriate question is, “How long until I achieve my goal?”  The answer to this question depends upon the goal.  One student may have a goal of playing in a church band.  Another student may have a goal of playing in a community concert band.  Another drummer may have a goal of performing on cruise ships.  Clearly, each one of these goals will take a different about of time to achieve. 

Large goals may have small sub-goals.  For example, a smaller goal may be to play a single song or drum solo all the way through.  These sub-goals will take less time to achieve.  Meeting these goals will produce enthusiasm and strengthen one’s determination. Think about your large goal and come up with sub-goals that you can cross off along the way. 

Seeking Out Drumming Information

There is an abundance of drumming information online.  Some may say that there is an overabundance, making things confusing.  There is also misinformation, usually by well-intentioned drummers who do not have enough experience to explain things in a clear and concise manner. 

It is often difficult to find a step-by-step guide to drumming.  The Drum Lesson Room strives to be such a resource.  Begin by following these steps:

  • Set goals
  • Start with the Reading Rhythmic Notation section.  
  • The other sections (__TECHNIQUE__) and (__DRUMSET__) can be practiced at the at the same time as, or after, the reading section.

Drum lessons are often very effective at expediting the learning process.  A qualified instructor will be able to pick out mistakes and correct bad habits.  There are no certifications required to teach drum lessons, so not every instructor will have the knowledge or experience to direct a student correctly.  For more information on choosing a drum teacher, read my article “How to Choose a Drum Teacher.”

Consistent Practice

A practice routine is especially important when learning an instrument.  The quantity of time is not as important as the consistent reinforcement of the concepts and techniques.  For example, it is better to practice for a smaller amount of time every day as opposed to cramming in a marathon-like practice session once or twice a week.

A regular practice regimen will allow concepts to be reinforced, instead of forgotten.  It will also help to build hand and foot technique.  Repetition is the key to comfort and confidence on a musical instrument.

Maximizing Practice Time

Many musicians believe that the more they practice, the better they will get.  This is partially true: the more one practices anything (either correctly or incorrectly), the more that concept will become engrained.  In other words, if someone makes the same mistake over and over, that mistake will begin to seem natural.  Additional practice will then be needed to correct that deep-seated mistake.

The most beneficial method of practicing would be practicing the correct notes from the start. This is easier said than done!   It is human nature to make mistakes.  We can, however, minimize mistakes during the learning process utilizing the concepts below.

  • Practice slowly at first.  Increase the tempo after the exercise or passage is able to be played correctly.  When practicing with music, use a program or app to slow down and loop musical phrases.  See my article on this site for more information on these apps. 
  • Practice short segments.  When working on rhythmically challenging parts, section off a small piece.  After that piece is comfortable, add the next (small) piece.  This is especially helpful when practicing difficult coordination exercises.
  • Practice in time.  Practice using a metronome or metronome app.  This will ensure that the passages being practiced are rhythmically correct.
  • Record and review your practice sessions. Use a video camera or video app on your phone to record parts (or all) of your practice session.  Watch and listen for obvious mistakes that were missed in the spur of the moment.  Some camera apps have a function that allows for slow motion playback.  This is great for analyzing one’s technique.

Adult Beginners

Another common question is, “Can adults learn to play drums?”  Yes, adults often progress faster than younger drummer because adults usually have a well-established work ethic.  In addition, adults who have experience on other instruments have and additional advantage since the fundamentals of music are the same for every instrument. 

When Do Drummers Stop Taking Lessons?

Drummers sometimes take a break from lessons after gaining enough proficiency to perform in a variety of musical situations.  Some feel that they have acquired enough knowledge to now take advantage of educational resources (such as drum books or sheet music) on their own. 

Some drummers will seek out other teachers which specialize in specific areas of music, such as Indian drumming (which has a totally different method of counting rhythms).  Other drummers seek out instructors to refine their technique.  Many drummers do this in order to reduce muscle strain and play with a greater degree of comfort.

Professional athletes often have trainers or personal coaches to help them stay in top form and get over hurdles.  Professional musicians also seek out teachers to stay at the top of their vocation.  Famous drummers such as Steve Smith, Danny Gottlieb, Dave Weckl, Neil Peart, and Gregg Bissonette have sought out instructors to help them improve upon their drumming careers. 

Enjoy the Musical Journey

While goals are good to have, remember to enjoy the process. There is a feeling of accomplishment that happens when a musical passage is learned or a coordination exercise is mastered. 

One must be open to new concepts and new styles of music.  Students will often explore other genres of music that have interesting drum parts.  This opens up a world of music that the student never even considered listening to.

Everyone’s musical journey is different.  This is one reason why no two drummers sound alike.  Remember to enjoy each step of the process!

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