I'm overwhelmed


Senior Member
I keep finding tons of new material online,youtube in particular,and constantly practicing different things that I almost always forget(is it just me being thick?). How can I organise everything?do people really assimilate all that amount of material and move on?most of it seems,or is presented as fundamental for your drumming,how can I discern useful from useless?
My advice would be to find a teacher who will organize everything into lesson plans that you can practice to the point of absorption. Trying to take the thousands of videos on youtube and codifying them into some sort of coherant lesson would be quite an undertaking. You would probably spend more time putting together a lesson than you would actually playing.
most of it seems,or is presented as fundamental for your drumming,how can I discern useful from useless?

It may be challenging and fun to work on what you see online, and it doesn't hurt to explore technicalities. And even if something is fundamental to drumming, it may not be fundamental to being a working drummer.

As for determining what's useful and useless in the real world, that ability is what will separate you from the pros, or make you one of them. Unfortunately, there aren't any rules about how to do that, and it's not easy to teach. Knowing how to do the right thing at the right time comes with experience, and primarily, an open mind.

If you're overwhelmed, simplify. Decide what needs work the most and focus only on that. 1 thing. When you are happy with your one thing, replace it with another one thing. Too many choices can be paralyzing. It's much better to work 1 thing for a full hour than to fit 10 things in that hour. Depth trumps breadth...in a major way...when it comes to learning new stuff.
For me, it was key to get a teacher. This way, I am able to make a distinction between the random stuff on youtube and the stuff I should be working on for my next lesson. I also find that my youtube exploration becomes less tangential and more focused on the lesson.

For example, My teacher has me working on Samba these next couple months, so much of my youtube-watching has been Samba related.

I guess the point is that it's much easier when you know what your short-term goal is.
Depth trumps breadth...in a major way...when it comes to learning new stuff.

I'm the first to say learn as much as you can. But it's crucial to understand that you will probably never use all that you've learned, and just as important to be comfortable with that. Learn to love basic grooves, play them with economy and authority, and there'll always be gigs waiting for you.

I guess the point is that it's much easier when you know what your short-term goal is.

Short-term yes, but long-term is important. What's the goal in taking lessons at all - to learn for fun? Or is it to take those skills into the real world and aim for a career as a player?

I don't think a potential player is ever too young - or too old - to have thoughts as to where their playing may lead them, and if that's where they want to go. There are no guarantees in terms of trying to forge a career path, it's the intention I'm talking about.

I stated at age 12 that I wanted to be a professional drummer. I was far from being able to hold my own as a player, and really had little concept of what being a pro entailed, or how I might get there. But the seed was planted, and everything I did thereafter helped lead me to - and prepare me for - a career as a musician.

But, not everyone is required to play an instrument with a career in mind. Sometimes it's strictly for fun, and that's perfectly fine. There are certain freedoms that come with just having fun, and pros don't always get to enjoy those same freedoms when it comes to making a living.

My approach would perhaps be a bit different than others, but I'd say:

Chill out, man. You're almost acting like there will be a point where you will have "learned the drums". I think the perception that beginners take is that drumming is a simple form of making music and that once you get the "fundamentals" out of the way or "master" it, you'll be set.

Me, I think of myself as a life-long student of the drums and more importantly, the music I'm playing drums with. I don't know it all now, and I don't think I will ever know it all, there's always more to learn, and more to improve. I don't compare myself to other drummers, and I don't obsess about things like playing really fast... Instead, I study music. I listen, I listen, and then I listen some more... You start to hear what makes each type of music or sound really work, and that's what will get you interested. It will be a natural way to introduce new things to you, because instead of trying to "learn it all" all at once, you'll have some focus in order to gain a certain musical goal.

It's less clinical, and you know you'll be learning things that are easily applicable to what you really are interested in.

The simplest form of this would be to pick a song that interests you and work out how it works. Why does the transition you like happen the way it does? Is there a technique you need to get down to get that part right? Can you invent your own ideas over the groove? A more broad form of this might be to pick a overall feel, genre or sub-genre and really dive in.

There's a guy who I really respect here who likes to give his students a drummer to study for the week at each lesson. Another great way to focus a bit and not get overwhelmed by the literally endless amount there is to learn.

That said, there are some things you want to be able to work on consistently. And those would be the very base fundamentals of the different strokes, different grips that you might use in each different situation, rudiments/stickings that can help you get generally more proficient at making your hands and feet do what you tell them in the right order. For me, I saw a teacher to get this all started, and again, each of these things will be a life-long study. I'll never totally be perfect at any of it, but I will improve.

Just my take on it.
Of course you're overwhelmed, there's tons of stuff you can't use or play right at your fingertips!

how can I discern useful from useless?

You, by yourself? You can't, because you are simply too inexperienced at this point in your life. Most information scattered about on the internet addresses very specialized niches in the drumming world, which is not very helpful to a beginner or intermediate player. More importantly, there is an enormous difference between watching videos, and going to someone else's teaching studio and being taught. A YouTube video does not know how to correct your technique, or explain how chord movement can tell you when to play a fill, or assign coordination exercises that address your particular weaknesses. A good teacher easily knows all of this, and also knows that the crazy fill explanation on YouTube is usually distracting you from conquering the basics. A teacher can correct you as you play, and remind you to do things you probably won't do by yourself, such as fixing your posture, reading music, counting aloud, and playing to a metronome.

A good teacher will know, far better than you, what YOU need to work on in order to make significant improvement, in ways that will make you become the sort of drummer that other musicians want to play with. Of course, you should realize that a teacher can't really help you unless they can see and hear you play, and play along with you. In addition to a private teacher, find a band or ensemble situation that is taught by someone with more experience. You'll need to apply your training somehow, in order to truly grow as a musician.

If you find a video that corresponds to your lessons, then great, use it as a supplement. In general, though, don't get bogged down in linear polyrhythmic madness before you've learned to play some basic musical styles with a band.
You're going to be overwhelmed even more with all these replies :)

There are only so many books or methods you can study in depth. Probably only one or maybe two at a time. I bought Syncopation, Groove Essentials and Stick control at the same time and I have my teacher's course material. Makes no sense at all. Way too much material for me. You will inevitably do some trial and error before you find a method that suits you, because there's not one right and all others wrong. They were all written by drummers with best intentions of teaching their knowledge and skills.

Try to get a good teacher first. It's expensive and they can be hard to find.
Failing that, get one of the other methods I mentioned above (or one of the many many others) and then WORK IT HARD. Buying the dvd is the easy part. Exercising diligently and daily (or almost) is harder and is the key to progress.
Enjoy it. If you're not enjoying it, ditch the book or dvd and get a different one.
How can I organise everything?do people really assimilate all that amount of material and move on?most of it seems,or is presented as fundamental for your drumming,how can I discern useful from useless?

Im going to keep this very concise. 3 things:

1. Get a good teacher. If you can't,
2. Identify all your weaknesses, and work on those FIRST. Depending on your level of playing, you might have a lot of weaknesses. BAM! That's a few years worth of stuff you need to work on. You've just eliminated everything else.
3. You will need a journal of some sort to keep track of what you're working on. You can write this by hand or use web/software/iOS/Android apps.

It's very simple.
Practice everything. You'll retain what you want /can retain. And some years later, you may incorporate it in your vocabulary.
Make sure you practice what you really like and think is cool.
...most of it seems,or is presented as fundamental for your drumming,how can I discern useful from useless?

In order to know that, we'd have to know where you're at now, and where you want to go.
Have you had lessons? How long have you been playing?
Are there any specific styles or techniques you'd like to learn, and so on.

I'm pretty old school, so I'd suggest getting some proficiency with the subdivisions of whole notes (including tuplets),
and the rudiments: http://www.vicfirth.com/education/rudiments.php
down first, before attempting anything else.

If you're lost there, your best bet is to find someone to take lessons from in person for some real time feedback.
I taught myself reading percussion notation,have been playing seriously...ish for around 12 years(not professionally,just focusing more than I used to).I made the mistake of never having formal lessons with a teacher,hence my state of confusion.
Would focusing on a specific style for a while be effective?eg Latin for a few months ,excluding anything else... I feel tempted to do that.
If you're tempted to do that, than just do it :) if that's a style you feel like playing.

More in general, as you're saying you're overwhelmed and feel unable to retain what you learn, I really think you should leave youtube alone for a while. There are zillions of books and dvd's written by drummers and guys like Tommy Igoe spent months thinking about should I include this, should I leave that out, should I put it in this order or the other way around... And you sound like you want to create some kind of META drum course for yourself, using all the material available, and select what is useful and what is useless, with your limited knowledge. First you can't and second the thinking has already been done for you in the book or the dvd.

There are great books about drumming in Japanese (I am just assuming for the sake of the argument :p). Most pro drummers here have probably never heard about them. Does that make them incomplete drummers? No man.

Bonzo did not have youtube. Maybe it allowed him to better focus and become a better drummer.

Get a good method and work it. Forget youtube for a while.

If you want to play latin: Groove Essentials contains many latin grooves. You may want to try it.
Grooeve Essentials won't teach you much technique, so for completeness' sake you may want to get Great Hands for a Lifetime if you like Tommy Igoe, or any of the many other methods and practise technique during the first half of your practice time, then practise a groove during the second half.
(It's just like soccer training : first learn various techniques then apply them in a match).

My 2 beginner's cents :)
I mentioned youtube as the major source of overwhelment,not the only one.I own a lot of books and the effect is the same:I'm overloaded with information from all sides and nothing seems to consolidate...
Sell them :)

I know how you feel. It's information overdose every day at work, then in the evening on the couch it's emails again, facebook, tv, newspaper, your favourite drummer magazine (should have started with that one) and then the @#$% drummer magazine contains exercises too... The information comes out of your ears, and as with everything, the more there is, the less it's worth.
I mentioned youtube as the major source of overwhelment,not the only one.I own a lot of books and the effect is the same:I'm overloaded with information from all sides and nothing seems to consolidate...

I agree, forget YouTube for a long while actually. By doing that, you're eliminating a huge source of the stuff that's making you feel overwhelmed.

Can you list down all of the books/DVDs you own so that we'll know what exactly we're working with? Then maybe we can give suggestions on what you can keep on the bookshelf for now.
oooops,mainly for jazz... John riley's bop books,dejonnete's,Chapin's...
for funk... all Garibaldi and Latham, afro cuban ...jimmy branly's,ignacio berroa 's DVD,maria martinez,chuck silvermann...to name the ones I concentrated on the most.Plus millions of transcriptions from random websites.
If not a teacher then at least an assessment.

Here's a couple of examples of what preps are or might be needed for entrance into a music curriculum. Not that you wish to go thru that course of instruction but... the basic requirements and range of those requirements are laid out for your viewing pleasure.

Observe the different styles that are generally thought of as requirements. In other words don't lock yourself into any certain type or genre of music.


Early in my playing I noted that Densmore was rounded out rather well in his approach to composing drum parts for Doors material. At least I thought so at the time and perhaps he was. He was inspired by several notable jazzers and other influences as well. Mickey Hart came through several differing influences, Mitch Mitchell as did many others...

Hal Blaine, like most of his contemporaries in the L.A. recording studios back in the 60's came from a variety of backgrounds and from what I've gathered through viewing interviews of those contemporaries many came out of jazz backgrounds. Jazz, as most people recognize came from many influences and cultural backgrounds and continues to evolve into a more complex gumbo as time passes.

Anyway. Foundations in percussion will always carry the day. Once those foundational concepts are nailed down... expand from there.

Enjoy the journey.