New drummer question


Silver Member
Going to disagree here. We've had a lot of agreement lately but this one I'm going to disagree with.

If you learn to read music early on, it'll serve you well if you ever get any gigs that require reading. It's important that musicians have a wide set of skills. That includes reading and also includes playing by ear - both are important. One of my biggest regrets was not continuing with score reading as a kid. I failed auditions for fairly big opportunities (singing, in this case) because of my lack of reading ability.

By all means, play along to music you like but also practice between lessons using the material your teacher has given you. The fastest way to practice both skills is learning how to transcribe music from recordings but that takes quite a high level of both listening and writing to be able to do.

If you want to play outside of the Rock context (and even within Rock sometimes) it really helps to be able to read. I used to play in a Swing band and got away with my reading but was then thrown a small quartet gig and had to brush up sharp. It really helped me as a player to be thrown those challenges.

To me it depends on what the OP wants to achieve?? If he's only wanting to play for his own enjoyment then throw away the sheets. Learn to play by ear. Much more satisfying.
If he is looking to play with bands (Covers etc) that "May" require reading then carry on.
I have played since the age of 12 & am completely self taught. I have played many various styles from hardcore punk to funk without ever having to read. 99% of drumming is by ear in my opinion. Listen to the song you are going to play then have a go. You develop a lot quicker this way. Especially as you get older.
Does the OP have natural rhythm? If so, even more reason to throw away the sheets :)

John Lamb

Senior Member
Been taking lessons for nine months now. Weekly half hour lessons and I've only missed twice in nine months. I also practice a little each day. My question is I don't seem to be getting very far. My teacher has been drilling me on reading the music (just finished dotted notes) but aside from playing some simple beats and fills that's Still about my limit. am I rushing things thinking I should be playing more? How long before I could expect to play on a higher level? I really enjoy the lessons and learning so I will stay with it. Just a little discouraged. By the way I'm 59 yrs young!
Honestly, I'd say find a new teacher. Reading is important, but it isn't the only thing.

I have many older students and a Masters in Teaching Adults. One of my books is aimed at people just like you. In it, I developed a way to start playing songs without reading staff notation at all.

Staff notation IS important. I transition from my notation into staff fairly quickly - but I prefer to start with my notation because it is not the most important thing. There is a lot to learn at the drum set - what the sames of the drums are, how to sit, how to hold the sticks, how to strike the drums, what to play, what sounds everything makes, what makes a different in tone and what doesn't.... decoding staff notation just isn't Job Number 1 for me. It is Job Number 5.

It is frustrating and arbitrary and, while it does improve your access to information, takes time away from actually getting better at your instrument and having fun making music. What you signed up for when you decided to learn to play. If you are already working on the dot, then your reading is more than good enough to access reams and reams of great stuff.

If the OP came to me for lessons 9 months ago (I do not teach), I would have put on some of his favorite music, showed him the basics (snare, kick, HH or ride) in an hour and he would "playing drums" quickly (if he practiced). I would bet money that it would have been a more effective teaching system.
This is exactly what I do. Start off with music making, not cryptography. Introduce notation in a way that supports what the student wants to learn already. When they settle in to what they are doing, then you can start throwing new stuff at them.

Oh - with my older students I often spend quite a lot of time developing really good technique. Partly that age takes its toll and poor technique is much more likely to actually cause them pain than a young'un, but also because they've had a lifetime of movement habits established and if they don't serve them well now then it has to be unlearned. They universally love me for it, though because it provides dividends well beyond the drums.
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John Lamb

Senior Member
It takes literally less than a few hours to learn reading drum music. I don't understand why people turn it into some big mystical thing that should be ignored because it's just too hard to grasp. It's so weird. Learn your sub-divisions, learn your note positions, and specialty marks, and you're nearly done.
One of the reasons I'd recommend going with a new teacher. This guy seems like he doesn't explain things well.