Starting Lessons Right - Drums
9 Ways to Get the Most Out of Drum Lessons
The following are guidelines to help you have a successful, rewarding, experience in learning drums. We have arrived at these conclusions after many years of teaching hundreds of students.
1. Starting at the Right Age
Adults can start any time, but for children, starting at the right age is key to the success of their lessons. The sooner the better isn't always right for an optimal learning experience. Waiting until the child has reached the right age greatly improves the odds of success.
For drum lessons we recommend waiting until 7 years of age. In some cases where the desire is great, we will do a short evaluation of a younger student to see if they are physically and mentally ready to start. If they cannot reach the pedals or cymbals, then we would suggest waiting. Starting on piano or violin would be a better choice for such a student. Therefore a student can learn about notes and timing on one of these easier instruments and then when he or she wants to switch to drums later, he will have a basic musical foundation to work from.
2. Small Beginners Should Use a Small Kit
There are small kits that can be purchased to fit kids that are not ready for an adult size kit.
3. Performing Builds Confidence
You don't have to be a great musician to perform. A drum student that has a few months of dedicated practice and a little stamina should be able to play at least one song from start to finish. It doesn't have to be a difficult piece. The experience of performing builds the student's confidence and creates the desire to tackle even more challenging material. Finding a school that offers regular opportunities for a student to perform with other students as a band is important, especially for a drummer.
4. For the Best Results, Choose Private Instruction
Group lessons work well for beginners to get exposure to an instrument, and to let parents know the desire level and practice habits of the child. Also rock bands, jazz bands, or other performance groups cannot be rehearsed without other player/students.
However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are undeniably superior since the student has the undivided attention of the instructor. Also, the student can progress at his or her own pace, with extra time being spent on the individual student's desires and weaknesses. The pressure of having to keep up with other students or the frustration of having to wait for other students who may not have even practiced their lesson can be very discouraging. With private lessons, progress is expedited and the student gets a customized lesson providing him with the knowledge he wants and needs.
5. Be Aware of the Quality of the Teacher
There are a lot of drummer jokes out there. This is because many drummers have not studied music, even though they are able to keep a great beat. At our drum music school, the instructors are not only accomplished players, but they have studied music, can read drum charts, and are able to teach various drum styles in addition to good old rock and roll.
With children, knowing how to relate at their level and keep them motivated is just as important as being knowledgeable on the instrument. A good school will choose from a pool of many potential instructors, saving you the time and trouble of searching for a well qualified, professional teacher.
6. Learning in an Appropriate Setting
Not only is it necessary to have a qualified teacher, but also having an optimal learning environment is very important. A professional school environment with a functioning kit can produce better results since all of the time is focused on learning music and all of the tools and materials necessary are already in place. Although a traveling teacher sounds like a good idea for convenience sake, the reality is that there are distractions like phones, pets, or other kids which sometimes make concentrating difficult. It is also common during a lesson to have a situation come up where a specific problem needs to be addressed. With a complete library of musical materials and references readily available a teacher teaching at an academy can address the problem immediately rather than putting it off until the next week. Hearing peers who are at different levels of progress can also inspire students.
7. Purchase a Metronome (or Drum Machine)
A metronome is just a device that makes a clicking sound. You set the speed of the click to the recommended speed or if there is no recommended speed, you set the speed to a point that you are able to play your song or exercise that you are practicing. A drum machine is really just a deluxe metronome with cooler sounds that costs more money. It can be used for the same purpose. If you have an electronic keyboard that has programmed rhythms, that can work instead of a metronome too.
8. Making Practice Easier
As in all things, improvement in music takes practice. One of the main problems with studying an instrument is the drudgery of practicing and the fight between students and parents that ensues. How to make practice easier:
- Time – Set the same time each day to practice so that it becomes a routine or habit. This is especially good for children but works for adults too. The earlier in the day that this happens the more likely the practice will not be put off until tomorrow.
- Repetition – This method works quite well when setting practice schedules for beginners. For a younger person 20 or 30 minutes may seem like an eternity. Therefore instead of a time frame we suggest repetition. For example do this song 4 times each day and this scale 5 times a day. Then the clock is not the enemy, as soon as the work gets done (correctly) the child is free.
- Rewards – Children respond well to rewards. As parents we can reward the child by saying when your practice is complete you can have x number of minutes on the PlayStation or other coveted activity. As teachers we sometimes will use stickers or more importantly, the praise of the teacher "Excellent job, keep it up" can be the best reward. For adults, usually a nice cup of java or other beverage will make the experience a little more rewarding.
In conclusion, playing a musical instrument should be an enjoyable experience, not a stress inducer. There will be times, usually at the end of the term for children, or a big project at work for adults, when the student will not able to practice. The goal is to learn at your own pace, not at the pace your friend or idol learned. As long as you know that you want to learn the instrument and that you are giving it your attention as much as is realistically possible, then you are being successful. The fun is the journey.
9. Other Benefits of Learning Drums
Playing percussion stimulates the brain and usually helps academics. The necessity of keeping a steady tempo for several minutes at a time is a concentration builder.
Being a "physical" instrument, it will help the stamina and cardio of the student when played for over 15 minutes
When playing in a group situation as offered here at the Academy, the student learns teamwork and real band experience.
For families with parents or siblings that play another instrument like piano, guitar, or bass, it provides a positive way to spend time together, growing, learning, and having fun all at once.