View Full Version : Does playing the piano make learning drums easier?

01-23-2011, 03:15 PM
I have been taking piano lessons for 32 years. I also played professionally for 2 years at restaurants, and performed songs in my childhood days. In high school I played the double bass. Several years ago I decided to learn the drums because it was a child dream of mine, since hearing one of Zeppelin's songs Achilles Last Stand when I was 5. I never learned the drums from an instructor. I was also told that the piano can be considered as a percussion instrument. My difficulty is trying to play the hihat with my right hand and the snare with the left. I play them as if I was playing the piano; left on the snare and the right hand on the hihat. I tried playing the proper way but coordination is not to good even after playing drums for 10 years. Is it too late to learn the drums properly now that I'm 40? Also are their any DVDs for adults learning the drums?

01-23-2011, 03:42 PM
In answer to your last question...yes, there are lots of DVDs for adults learning the drums. A lot. Many. Probably hundreds.

May I just ask...in the ten years you've played the drums for...how much playing have you done? Is this a daily thing, weekly, monthly...every so often? And are you right-handed or left-handed?

01-23-2011, 03:52 PM
There's no "proper" way to play the drums when it comes to which hand leads on the hi-hat. Come to think of it, most drummers (myself included) probably wish they were taught to play the hi-hat with their left hand. When it comes down to it, playing open-handed (left on hi-hat) has many more benefits to playing close-handed (right). So, if playing open handed naturally feels better, then by all means keep on playing like that. It has all of the benefits and very limited downsides. If only I can go back in time and learn to play open handed...I would do it in a heartbeat.

01-23-2011, 11:12 PM
To me the only thing knowing how to play piano would do is help you read music and recognize rhythm. I don't see it benefiting or helping you learn the drums in any other way. Coordination is different between the two.

Guess my thing is you took piano for 32 years to learn the craft why not invest time in an instructor to learn the drums if it's been a child hood dream why not do what you can to follow that dream by getting professional instruction.

01-24-2011, 02:29 AM
it certainly helps playing mallet percussion like xylo, marimba, and bells

01-24-2011, 04:43 AM
There's no "proper" way to play the drums when it comes to which hand leads on the hi-hat

Yes, there is. There is the way drummers have been doing it for 80 years. Your way is different, and valid, but it does not mean that the convention does not exist.

Come to think of it, most drummers (myself included) probably wish they were taught to play the hi-hat with their left hand.

I do not, nor does anyone who plays a quick 16-beat, with the snare on 2 and 4, on a righty kit on jam night.

So, if playing open handed naturally feels better, then by all means keep on playing like that.

No, you should examine your goals (play in a bar band? on jam night? become the next ambidextrous clinic drummer extraordinaire?), and then seek the advice of a professional.

It has all of the benefits and very limited downsides.

Most songs were recorded by right-handed drummers, and so most songs will be easier to learn righty.

Is it too late to learn the drums properly now that I'm 40?

To the OP -- Of course not, if you are not taking time away from important things in your life. Learning drums involves learning a new set of movements, similar to learning a new dance. You've been "dancing" on piano all these years, but it won't help or hinder the physical component of drumming, because they're so different. Get some lessons, and get into a band. I know you feel that open-handed looks better and in your mind "makes sense", but what about playing just a snare drum? After all, we as drummers often play only the snare in fills and marches, and we typically lead with our right hand (in marching band and drum corps, there is no choice, for appearance's sake).

By the way, there are some fills in Achilles Last Stand that will translate more easily to a right-hand lead approach...

01-24-2011, 04:38 PM
Get a tutor or even a single lesson with a Pro. You may need to unlearn some of what you have done.

The piano will help you indirectly in understanding rhythm and knowledge of music and how songs are broken down etc. In terms of physical playing it will be of little help. I went from playing bass for 30 years to playing drums and I was surprised how little cross-over there was. One frustration in being very knowledgeable is that you know what you want to do but you can't play it! Like for years!

Also, the habit of piano players of slowing down at the end of each musical phrase has to be stopped. LIKE NOW. The beat goes on!


01-24-2011, 08:39 PM
I find cross training on different instruments very valuable...and am able to carry some skills between them all...especially composition skills.

A real answer depends on what is meant by "playing the piano" and "learning drums"

Odd-Arne Oseberg
04-23-2011, 03:24 PM
Well, if you have good musical skills in any other instrument, it's not like you have to learn the basics of music and start training your ears from the beginning again. It makes a huge difference. If you are inclined to practice the basics really hard and have a good teacher things can happen really fast.

04-23-2011, 04:19 PM
My mom was a piano teacher. I started playing piano when I was four or five, continued to play piano and picked up the trumpet when I was ten, continued to play both and picked up the drums when I was fourteen, dropped the trumpet, self-taught myself bass guitar at seventeen.

I am now twenty seven years old and drumming is the one that stuck. There's no doubt in my mind that piano helped me get there. Not only did it aid me in learning all those other instruments, but I remember when I started taking drum lessons how I was able to skip over so many of the books since I already knew about timing and how to read music.

And as it just so happens, I'm a righty and am currently trying to teach myself to play some basic beats with my left on the hihat and right on the snare. It's tough! But I want to have that versatility and just strengthen my left hand in general. There's a proper way, but there are also other ways.

Odd-Arne Oseberg
04-23-2011, 04:35 PM
Open handed is the fun and musical way to get your weak hand up to speed. A lot of well know guys do mostly that it. Simon Phillips would be one on the most well known.

04-23-2011, 10:12 PM
Yes, as already stated by others, what you learn from other instruments can help with playing drums. I play keyboards and bass. Playing these other instruments has made my drumming more "musical". Being a drummer helps with playing other instruments, too. For example, I can play in asymmetrical rhythms (like five-four or seven-eight) and most non-drummers I play with really have trouble with playing fluidly in an asymmetrical rhythm. Each instrument helps each other and the whole musician.

01-24-2013, 07:04 PM
I would undoubtedly say yes, playing piano makes learning drumming much easier. You already start with a wide base of knowledge of musical form, rhythm, and coordination. Regarding coordination, even though youíre using just two hands (and sometimes a foot pedal), a pianist could easily have 3 lines of music happening (a bass line in the left, melody in the upper right, and music ideas/lines happening the middle or anywhere else). So, while you may not be using all your limbs, your brain is used to processing and parsing out multiple musical themes, and thatís the first step.

Iíve played piano for 43 years now and counting starting at age 5, and 3 years ago I got a drum set. At first, I was surprised to realize neither the drum set itself nor playing the drums is symmetrical. The drums seemed ďbackwardsĒ as the set goes from low to high as you travel from right to left, which is opposite a piano. And I hadnít realized how the roles of the hands of a beginning drummer were often split, i.e. simplistically that one hand may generally play ďtimeĒ on a cymbal (or wherever) while the other plays other rhythms.

Faced with the conundrum of which hand to do what, I asked a drum teacher (whom I knew, but didnít study with), and he said it would behoove me to learn everything both ways, i.e. playing time with either hand. He said his students who did this took longer to learn at first, but then developed faster later.

So, I set out to learn both ways. At first, I found it MUCH easier to play steady time with my left hand rather than my right due to my piano background. I practiced, though, and now I generally play open-handed, i.e. the high hat with my left hand and a ride cymbal with my right. If you practice, it will come!

Since I am right handed, no matter what I do, the technique and control of my right hand is better than my left, so if there is some more intricate stick work that challenging for me, I can chose to do that with my right hand.

One unanticipated outcome of learning to play steady time with my right hand was how it carried over to my piano playing. My left hand gained greater independence and Iím much more likely to through in a little syncopated or little flurry of a bass line with my left hand than I ever did before. Jazz pianists who often play chords with varying rhythms in their left hand while soloing in their right (while playing with a bassist) would likely already have a heightened level of hand independence.

I actually started some drum lessons a few months ago. My drum teacher commented that he thinks itíd be way easier to teach a pianist to drum than vice versa, not that heís had much experience with either.

So, thatís my long winded take on it. Have fun with it!

01-25-2013, 08:26 AM
First of all, good luck!
If you want to learn open handed do it. I can't think of many disadvantages to learning open handed.

It is my personal opinion that if you are right handed it will be much better to use your left hand on the hi hat, for future development.

I also think that quite frankly it is far more natural to have your hands open, simply in terms of movement/mechanics and to assist in the maintenance of a healthy posture.
Creating a back beat and playing the hi hat with accents can be accomplished with either hand. Rimshots can be played with either hand. Also take into account that "fills" can be played with the left or right hand leading where necessary.

As emcc already said, keeping the pulse with your left is a natural thing already as you are a piano player. Bon.