So, you wanna play the drums? I ain't gonna bullshit you, it takes practice. But let me tell ya, if you are enthusiastic about it, and have a halfway decent sense of rhythm, you can get pretty good in no time.
What's the first step? Well, you need to get your hands on a drumset. And maybe you can't afford one right now. So what do you do? Well, I can only speak from my experience, and there were a couple of key things I did early on, before I was able to convince my dad to buy me my first kit.
Okay, that's the first step... Getting your hands on an actual drum set, so you can get the feel of what it's like to hit the various drums and cymbals.
What's next? I would have to say that the next step is:
Once you can play a really basic beat, you can then go a couple of different ways.
In my job as drummer of the band CRACKER, I had occasion to perform a song on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. As you may know if you've ever watched the show, the drummer of the studio band is none other than Max Weinberg, (Also the drummer for Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.) As a matter of fact, the band is called the Max Weinberg 7. Pretty nice, a drummer getting a band named after him, no? Anyway, after the show, I respectfully approached him and had a quick drumming conversation with him. I explained that I was getting a lot of email from people asking me how they could learn to play the drums. So, I asked him: "What advice would you give to a drummer starting out?" His answer surprised me. He said that he would recommend a FULL YEAR of work on a practice pad before even THINKING about sitting down behind a drumset. Then, he quickly said that that probably wasn't a good answer to give to my website visitors, because they would think it was a boring way to go about it. But I said to him, "No, no... that's perfect! Every drummer is going to have a different answer to that question."
Do I recommend the Max Method? Perhaps. It sure would make you pretty solid by the time you finally sat down at a drumset. Is that what I did? Nope. I may not have a band named after me, but I do okay. My point is, there are many ways to go about learning to play the drums, and they all involve getting a pair of sticks into your hands, and listening to music.
I have to say, I wish I had paid more attention to all that book learning in the beginning, but hey, within a year of starting to play, I had formed a band with two friends, and we were playing our favorite songs together regularly. We weren't all that good as a band, I admit, but I feel that it was the right way to learn for me. As in: Just get behind some drums and DO IT.
Let me take a minute to make one point here. If you've read up til now, you might get the idea that there's a shortcut to be had, that drumming is easy to figure out with a minimum of fuss and hassle, and away you go. That's not really what I'm getting at. What I mean by all this, is that there's more than one way to go about starting out in drumming. The way I started made it possible for me to not get bored by the studiousness of strict technique and lessons. I just dove right in. But, I'll tell you this. If there's one thing you'll definitely have to do, it's put in the hours. HOURS, HOURS, and MORE HOURS. If you're cut out for this drumming life, you'll put in those hours with joy and zest. Learn whatever it is you want to, and pick and choose whatever you like to play. Perhaps you won't get well-rounded that way. You can pick up on the things you missed later on, once you're firmly committed to getting better at your craft. I found that by not boring myself, by staying interested, well, that was the key to making drumming my lifelong passion. (And my living.)
Okay, so... I didn't take many lessons. If I had it to do all over again, I would probably have taken more. But no. I intuitively guessed that the best teachers had to be the drummers themselves, the guys who were out there on the stages and in the recording studios. Hey, that's just me. So, that brings me to my next suggestion.
Stop and rewind as necessary. The beats may not be obvious at first, but if you followed my earlier advice and learned "ROCK 1", you will see how it fits into a lot of rock songs. Next time, we'll play around with ROCK 2, and explore some other ideas to get you going.
Oh, and one more thing. Experience can be the best teacher. I've got some friends who, like me, play drums for a living. (Imagine that: People will pay you to play the drums.) So, I've started an interview page right here at iplaythedrums.com, wherein I ask the oh-so-important question: "How did you get started playing the drums?" I don't know about you, but getting the advice of a person who's already doing the very thing you're looking to do? Priceless. This is some practical stuff here, folks, the real life nuts and bolts of real life drummers. Keep coming back and checking periodically, because I'll be adding more interviews as time goes on, and you'll see, there's a lot of different ways to go about this task at hand.
Any questions or comments, just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org