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I've recently started learning drums and I was hoping to get some advices about good practices and directions in general, especially from drummers. I know this is quite a "too broad" kind of question so I'm going to focus mainly on my experience and specific topics I'm interested in. I'll edit it if it's not enough information.

Drums are the third instrument I'm learning, but it is definitely the one I feel the most comfortable and motivated with. That's the reason I want to make sure I'm not heading into a dead-end: I learned to play a few things on the instruments I've played before, but I have the feeling I ended up doing the same things over and over again and started not to progress anymore. I don't want this to happen again with drums (I know things are not over for the others instruments, I just want to make sure I'm starting on the good way this time ;) )

My objective is not to become a pro, but at least to be able to play in a "band" with some friends and play some tunes I like. Let's say I would like to put one of my favorite rock CD on and be able to play along with it.

Specific topics I would like to talk about:

  • Self-learning or Teacher:

    I've always learnt things by myself (sometimes from books but mainly from the internet), but I'm still wondering at which point can self-learning play against me. I understand finding a teacher is definitely going to speed up the learning, but is this absolutely mandatory to avoid getting bad practices from the start? And since we're talking about bad practices, is there specific ones to avoid? Let's say I can find the time and money to take 1 or 2 hours classes a week, would this definitely be the way to go or just a "bonus"?

  • Getting books:

    I've read a lot of people telling how much books would be more safe than just reading tutorials or watching Youtube videos. Is there any specific method I should get depending of the kind of playing I want to acquire? Or should I just see books as additional exercices?

  • Importance of playing with friends:

    I actually have some friends that already play different instruments. I have the feeling it could be very fruitful for me to play with other musicians from the start, especially for a drummer (I guess?). How can I handle the fact that their level is higher than mine? Should I learn new songs at the same time than them?

  • Balance between exercices and songs-learning:

    Some say "You won't get anywhere if you don't have fun, so pick a song you like and learn it". Others say "You'll need theory and a lot of exercices to play a bit of everything". I know the ideal recipe is somewhere between the two, but I can't estimate the importance of both. Is fifty-fifty of my time a good deal? The reason I'm asking this is because I've spent really low time on exercices until now, and I'm not sure if this is something I should fix.

  • Using an electronic drumkit:

    Does it matter a lot to start on this instead of "real" drums? I will be playing from time to time on a friend's drums, but I will spend at least 95% of my practice-time on this one.

Thanks in advance !

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closed as too broad by Dom, Alexander Troup, American Luke, Dr Mayhem Feb 11 '14 at 20:25

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Cedric - if you can ask one question at a time, they may be answerable, however in this case you have asked questions that are opinion based and so broad they aren't answerable with a definitive answer. Please read the How to Ask page. – Dr Mayhem Feb 11 '14 at 20:27
up vote 5 down vote accepted

As someone that was in an almost identical position a couple years ago, I'll tell you what worked for me.

1. Self-learning or Teacher? Teacher. In my case, I had plenty of experience with other instruments before I decided to pick up drums. Even so, they were all melodic, music-reading type experiences. Drumming is obviously very rhythm-based. My teacher, who had been drumming for years, pointed me in a direction that was challenging but not frustratingly hard. It's easy to stumble into a tough spot when you don't know enough about drumming techniques to know what your next step should be. A teacher alleviated this. Also, it helped me to avoid playing in a vacuum. The problem with some self-taught musicians is that they cannot move and adapt to other people's mistakes/embellishments when playing in an ensemble due to lack of experience.

2. Getting Books: Books can only help you. I cannot recommend anything specific, but I would suggest finding basic technique books. Avoid specific styles and advanced techniques until you know what you like to play and know what holes in your abilities you need to fill in.

3. Importance of playing with friends: To paraphrase the great Victor Wooten - "We learn to speak by imitating those who have already mastered it. Music should be learned in a similar fashion." Playing with other people is almost always a good idea, unless they try to influence your musical growth in harmful way. For me, drumming was a lot like playing the bass - as long as you can keep a beat you have almost unlimited freedom from there on. Don't be afraid to just lay down a simple bass-snare-hi-hat beat until you're comfortable enough to embellish. A lack of skill should not keep you from playing with others. As for learning songs alongside your friends, find what works for you. If you don't like constantly learning challenging music to keep up with your friends then you can take it down a notch.

4. Balance between songs and exercises: I think in the very beginning it would be best to stick with 70-80% exercises and the remaining time to devote to songs. For me drumming had the highest barrier of entry of any instrument I've learned due to the kinetic nature of it - getting my body movements to sync and multitask wasn't easy. At that point nothing I could play actually sounded like a song. My point it, focus on primarily exercises until you can sort of work your way around song songs, then move the ratio closer to a 50/50 spread, then on to maybe a 70/30 ratio of songs to technique, since you'll be better versed in the basics and will be better able to avoid frustration and learn songs you will enjoy playing.

5. Electronic Drumkit In my experience there's nothing like the feeling and timbre of a real drum kit. Bass drum pedals get screwy, everything needs to be moved around between players, and the sounds produced are unforgiving if you don't have a consist style. Drumming needs to have a solid and consist foundation to keep the band together, and a real drum kit would highlight some of the errors caused by hitting heads too hard/inconsistently, blasting the bass drum, etc. where as the electric drumkit may be more forgiving of bad technique, depending on its quality. Once you've been exposed to both you can decide for yourself, as the potential for bad technique has likely passed by that time.

Sorry if it's a lot to read, but it was a pretty big question! Good luck on your journey.

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This is exactly the kind of answer I was hoping for ! Good to hear advices from someone who walked the same way. Still waiting for some others (maybe?) answers before accepting it but this one fits perfectly for me. Many thanks ;) – Cédric Dereme Feb 11 '14 at 20:25

Just maintain a proper technique while you're learning, even through the frustrating stuff. Maybe you've seen your favorite drummer go ham and at times you just wanna bust out and do that *. Take your time with the form being taught to you and then, sooner than later, you'll be busting out sick fills in no time.

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