Looking for road map to learning the drums

Lyptus

Member
Hello drummers,

I am reaching out to gain a bit of guidance on my learning journey. This is quite a long post, thank you in advance if you have the time to read through and offer some advice. I just want to check with a few other people and see if I am on track and whether there exists some framework I can see myself working through learning drums.

My goals are to be a well rounded drummer with the ability to sit down and jam with other musicians and feel confident and expressive on the instrument. I have been on and off drums since I was young, took lessons here and there but have only recently started lessons again ( the past 3 months). For the first time I am taking practice serious and being dedicated and consistent. I never have had a structured practice routine and focused on getting better.

Background info.

Where I am at right now:
  • Know about 5 songs 95% accuracy to the real song and another 10 songs 'jammable' with band. Mainly the easier rock songs by; beatles, ramones, creedence, doors, black sabbath and more contemporary artists like blur, jimmy eat world, blink 182 ...
  • Have a decent ability to just mess around and play grooves but I'm still largely a beginner
  • Able to play through the beginner 'Great Hands For Life' warm up
  • Singles max out about 160 bpm
  • Starting to explore basic jazz ride, latin grooves and snare drum comping (1 month in)
Books I own:
  • Syncopation
  • Stick Control
  • Future Sounds
  • Bop drumming
  • Great Hands Dvd and Groove Essentials 1/2
Weaknesses identified:
  • Fills / Transitions. I can't play advanced fills, my transitions can be a bit off time at higher tempos 120bpm+
  • Song structure knowledge
  • Having many songs that I know and can play with a band
  • Ability to play different styles - I am limited to sort of basic funk/rock type feel.
Current practice focus and ideas for improvement: Trying to develop right hand independence, left hand independence, right foot consistency and speed, and style knowledge.

General:
  • Stroke types - Full, Down, Tap, Up
  • Fulcrum squeeze - cement the fulcrum position
  • Finger technique
  • Speed training - pushing highest speeds with single stroke roll
Rudimental:
  • Focus on accent technique
  • Table of time
  • Great Hands Warm Up
  • Buzz rolls, Flams, Drags
Styles:
  • Jazz - The Art of Bop Drumming
  • Funk - Future Sounds
  • Latin - general beats i.e. bossa nova, samba, partido alto
Music:
  • Currently trying to learn the song Tappan Zee-Bob James. Which was recommended by my drum teacher.
So after all that info. I am asking whether there is a practice guideline or road map to learning drums that actually outlines the specific skill sets you are looking to develop on the instrument in a logical and structured order. I realize that what you learn is largely based on what your drumming goals are but I am talking just in general there are certain fundamental skills that a good drummer will possess and I am asking whether there is a logical order to acquiring said skills.

TLDR: I have finally started taking practice serious and the more I look into videos and guides on how to practice I realize that everyone has slightly different opinions on how to go about practicing. Is there a cheat sheet which outlines the order in which to learn drum concepts?
 

Lyptus

Member
Do you have a private teacher?
Yes I am on my second teacher in 3 months. The first one I took 3 lessons and found his lessons quite fun but he was just thinking of random things to learn when I came to the lesson, he wasn't planning anything before hand and I could tell there was no system.

Second guy I am onto about 4 lessons and he didn't want to write me a practice plan. He said he wasn't good at writing them out so he reached out to some other teachers and got advice then wrote the plan attached...

I don't want to be too critical because obviously these guys should know better than me but I am paying $50/60 per lesson so its a bit of cash that adds up quickly. That's why I am asking for alternative opinions and checking whether it is good advice.

Let me know if you want me to scan the exercises the plan is referring to.
 

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NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
a road map of learning is otherwise known as a curriculum. I am a fulltime professional drum teacher and i have just such a thing. it ticks off all the boxes you stated and more
 
Weaknesses identified:
  • Fills / Transitions. I can't play advanced fills, my transitions can be a bit off time at higher tempos 120bpm+
  • Song structure knowledge
  • Having many songs that I know and can play with a band
  • Ability to play different styles - I am limited to sort of basic funk/rock type feel.
There's no quick way probably since you want to get better at pretty much everything. :)That's great of course but it can be a trap if you want to cover as much material as possible and skimp over accuracy and details. I've learned the hard way that I should stick for a longer time with one thing. Getting the right dynamics, sound and rhythmic placement of ONE thing down typically opens up doors for other things.
So your teacher's song will also help you with up and down strokes (hi hat accents) and fills. One thing you might like are New Orleans grooves. Herlin Riley's and Stanton Moore's book are pretty good - there might be other good ones. They develop some ride and feet patterns, rhythmic feel, soft playing, accents, rolls, solo vocabulary and so on.
For the last three points: set up some playlists for different genres. Look on the internet and the back of drum books (recommended listening). You'll engrain some concepts just by listening and it will give you new goals to aspire to. Letting the music you want to play guide practice seems less overwhelming to me than trying to practice everything at once - still jumping around too much personally. :D
 

jimb

Member
How old r u?....impertinent I know but relevant. If u tell us I'll explain...I'm a newby and Im 61. And just to say, anything by Bob James is a blast.
Do you play another instrument?
 

Lyptus

Member
There's no quick way probably since you want to get better at pretty much everything. :)That's great of course but it can be a trap if you want to cover as much material as possible and skimp over accuracy and details. I've learned the hard way that I should stick for a longer time with one thing. Getting the right dynamics, sound and rhythmic placement of ONE thing down typically opens up doors for other things.
So your teacher's song will also help you with up and down strokes (hi hat accents) and fills. One thing you might like are New Orleans grooves. Herlin Riley's and Stanton Moore's book are pretty good - there might be other good ones. They develop some ride and feet patterns, rhythmic feel, soft playing, accents, rolls, solo vocabulary and so on.
For the last three points: set up some playlists for different genres. Look on the internet and the back of drum books (recommended listening). You'll engrain some concepts just by listening and it will give you new goals to aspire to. Letting the music you want to play guide practice seems less overwhelming to me than trying to practice everything at once - still jumping around too much personally. :D
Thanks for the reflections. Yes I agree that I may be focusing too broadly on the entire skill set and developing everything simultaneously. Is this just the wrong way to think about learning an instrument? I have also read a few different sources that say to focus on 2 or 3 things for a few months and then move onto something else. I think your advice is probably correct. And perhaps it is just a matter of playing music until you hit some kind of technical road block then going away and practicing until you can play the song then continuing.

Good tips recommending the New Orleans grooves as that is how I am trying to learn buzz rolls - it's fun because you really see the clear relationship between the rudiment techniques coming out in the playing... And I am very much holding myself back from buying Stanton Moore's books but you might just persuade me. I already feel overwhelmed by the amount of material I have but if there is more of a system in his book I could narrow my focus and just focus on that for a while. That is the style I am trying to progress in.

How old r u?....impertinent I know but relevant. If u tell us I'll explain...I'm a newby and Im 61. And just to say, anything by Bob James is a blast.
Do you play another instrument?
Hi Jimb, I'm 26 and I only play drums at this point. The song is pushing my comfort zone in a good way - and I hadn't heard of the band before or even listened to much Steve Gadd so yes - happy to have some challenge and exposure to new music.

a road map of learning is otherwise known as a curriculum. I am a fulltime professional drum teacher and i have just such a thing. it ticks off all the boxes you stated and more
Interesting - Is it a book for sale? I wouldn't mind looking through your system. Will you ship one to Australia? Edit: should have watched the whole video before replying. Ty
 
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brentcn

Platinum Member
TLDR: I have finally started taking practice serious and the more I look into videos and guides on how to practice I realize that everyone has slightly different opinions on how to go about practicing. Is there a cheat sheet which outlines the order in which to learn drum concepts?
You have a very, very good start!

One thing that immediately jumps out at me, is that there is no system-based independence learning book on your list. Personally, I'm a huge fan of Time Functioning Patterns (and the other 3 Patterns series books ) by Gary Chaffee (who taught Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Smith, and many others). This book is typically taught to 1st year students at the Berkley College Of Music in Boston, and is a favorite in the jazz program at nearby Wayne State University in Detroit. There is also the New Breed, although I feel TFP is much better to start with. Basically, you choose a pattern with your right hand (i.e. a "system"), and then you work through the exercises in order to gradually develop independence and coordination within that system. Then, you improvise within that system, until you're ready to move on to another system. It's a great way to work out the awkwardness and flubbing that sometimes happens, when you try to do something that you can think of, but can't quite execute. As you get better, your systems can become more challenging, for example, by including ghost notes, and/or playing with a swing feel, and so on.

(You *can* use Syncopation this way, but it requires lots of converting and imagination, and it's not as complete. Much easier to work directly from TFP.)

My goals are to be a well rounded drummer with the ability to sit down and jam with other musicians and feel confident and expressive on the instrument.
In my professional opinion, you won't get to this point without a system-based method of developing your coordination.

Know about 5 songs 95% accuracy to the real song and another 10 songs 'jammable' with band. Mainly the easier rock songs by; beatles, ramones, creedence, doors, black sabbath and more contemporary artists like blur, jimmy eat world, blink 182 ...
Nice work so far! Keep going. Learn a few songs from different styles: blues, funk, reggae, Latin, jazz (medium, up tempo, latin). Groove Essentials is very good, especially the Latin/World section. You're probably better off learning actual blues, funk, reggae, rock, etc. from actual songs that people play, rather than a stylistic play-along.

Able to play through the beginner 'Great Hands For Life' warm up
Excellent, highly recommended! Don't skip days! For those times when you just can't get a rudiment together, check out Rudimental Logic by Bill Bachman, for good breakdowns and awesome warmups and other fun stuff. Also, are there any Moeller exercises that you're working on?

Is there a cheat sheet which outlines the order in which to learn drum concepts?
No. Not everyone starts from the same place, nor do they have the same goals. And the "order" really isn't that important -- you should be working on multiple things at once. And then, when it's time to learn songs for a gig, you focus on that, and go back to the book stuff when time allows.

Here's a good resource for info on practice strategies, and research on the subject of how to maximize your practice time: https://bulletproofmusician.com/
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
Interesting - Is it a book for sale? I wouldn't mind looking through your system. Will you ship one to Australia? Edit: should have watched the whole video before replying. Ty
yep - might take a while to get through to you
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
No disrespect to the teachers here on the forum, but is our OP here actually playing and doing, or spending time on the internet looking for a system to do?

I consider myself more of a player with a semi-career doing it than I do as a teacher, but all of my formative years were spent doing. I’ve spent hours if not years drilling singles and doubles, and rudimental exercises (and that doesn’t stop). And I also spent hours and years learning how to coordinate stuff on a drum set, playing time (and that doesn’t stop), and most importantly, I’m listening to music so I can emulate the masters (and that doesn’t stop). I know I said if you get a good teacher, that will shorten you’re trip since you need another pair of eyes to guide and fix mistakes, but on the other hand, there’s no real substitute or system that will declare you a drummer at the end of it. It never ends.

Reading through these threads this all just sounds like there’s no focus. You said your end result is to be well-rounded, but what does that mean? The end result is to be able to play music with others, isn’t it? Or if I’m wrong, let me know what that is. But have you tried making music with others? Your specific end goal will determine the system you choose. I just feel if you focus too much on the “system”, then it’s like a shield saying you don’t have to put in 10,000 hours drilling hand and foot exercises. At 26, considering what you’ve already learned, I would think you know this is going to be a journey that you’ll never complete. So it’s almost best to jump on the train and get to work.
 

Lyptus

Member
You have a very, very good start!

One thing that immediately jumps out at me, is that there is no system-based independence learning book on your list. Personally, I'm a huge fan of Time Functioning Patterns (and the other 3 Patterns series books ) by Gary Chaffee (who taught Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Smith, and many others). This book is typically taught to 1st year students at the Berkley College Of Music in Boston, and is a favorite in the jazz program at nearby Wayne State University in Detroit. There is also the New Breed, although I feel TFP is much better to start with. Basically, you choose a pattern with your right hand (i.e. a "system"), and then you work through the exercises in order to gradually develop independence and coordination within that system. Then, you improvise within that system, until you're ready to move on to another system. It's a great way to work out the awkwardness and flubbing that sometimes happens, when you try to do something that you can think of, but can't quite execute. As you get better, your systems can become more challenging, for example, by including ghost notes, and/or playing with a swing feel, and so on.

(You *can* use Syncopation this way, but it requires lots of converting and imagination, and it's not as complete. Much easier to work directly from TFP.)



In my professional opinion, you won't get to this point without a system-based method of developing your coordination.



Nice work so far! Keep going. Learn a few songs from different styles: blues, funk, reggae, Latin, jazz (medium, up tempo, latin). Groove Essentials is very good, especially the Latin/World section. You're probably better off learning actual blues, funk, reggae, rock, etc. from actual songs that people play, rather than a stylistic play-along.



Excellent, highly recommended! Don't skip days! For those times when you just can't get a rudiment together, check out Rudimental Logic by Bill Bachman, for good breakdowns and awesome warmups and other fun stuff. Also, are there any Moeller exercises that you're working on?



No. Not everyone starts from the same place, nor do they have the same goals. And the "order" really isn't that important -- you should be working on multiple things at once. And then, when it's time to learn songs for a gig, you focus on that, and go back to the book stuff when time allows.

Here's a good resource for info on practice strategies, and research on the subject of how to maximize your practice time: https://bulletproofmusician.com/
Thank you for the detailed reply!! You have really given me some solid stuff to think about.
To summarize what you have said:
  • Need a systematic way to develop co-ordination: Check out TFP
  • Keep learning more and more songs. Focus on actual songs for blues, rock, funk, reggae. Use groove essentials for the latin and world beats.
  • There probably isn't such a thing as what I am looking for. More important to just keep moving forward and spread you focus to a few areas.
  • Focus on the music you are learning and then in between learning songs you go back and focus on technique.
I only do really practice moeller doing a few triplet with flams on the one with over-exaggerated arm movements. Any tips on incorporating moeller into daily routine? And thank you I will take a look at the resource you have linked.

No disrespect to the teachers here on the forum, but is our OP here actually playing and doing, or spending time on the internet looking for a system to do?

I consider myself more of a player with a semi-career doing it than I do as a teacher, but all of my formative years were spent doing. I’ve spent hours if not years drilling singles and doubles, and rudimental exercises (and that doesn’t stop). And I also spent hours and years learning how to coordinate stuff on a drum set, playing time (and that doesn’t stop), and most importantly, I’m listening to music so I can emulate the masters (and that doesn’t stop). I know I said if you get a good teacher, that will shorten you’re trip since you need another pair of eyes to guide and fix mistakes, but on the other hand, there’s no real substitute or system that will declare you a drummer at the end of it. It never ends.

Reading through these threads this all just sounds like there’s no focus. You said your end result is to be well-rounded, but what does that mean? The end result is to be able to play music with others, isn’t it? Or if I’m wrong, let me know what that is. But have you tried making music with others? Your specific end goal will determine the system you choose. I just feel if you focus too much on the “system”, then it’s like a shield saying you don’t have to put in 10,000 hours drilling hand and foot exercises. At 26, considering what you’ve already learned, I would think you know this is going to be a journey that you’ll never complete. So it’s almost best to jump on the train and get to work.
I understand where you are coming from. It is quite easy to get caught up in finding the correct things to practice and not actually putting in any "doing" as you have said. I would agree with you that I am somewhat afflicted with this condition. However, I am putting in an hour a day minimum at this point. Some days its more like 4 hours. And if, like you said, you are going to spend 10,000 hours doing something, you might as have some kind of plan laid out in front of you as to what you will be doing and why you are doing it.

If we can agree that "all practice isn't made equal" then the implication is that if you practice certain things you will progress faster. I also realize that maybe that is a bit egotistical as well. Wanting to be better faster than other people who put in the same amount of time, and maybe also it comes from insecurity that I'm not happy with where I am now. Agreed. But at the end of the day I think if I am going to put so much time an effort into something why not at least spend time researching and finding what worked for other people who have already been through it. So yes, it is a balance of doing what keeps you engaged on the instrument and coming back. A balance of doing what you find difficult, but not so difficult you feel overwhelmed. A balance of doing the right exercises that work on your entire skill set as a musician rather than overdeveloping in one area.

And yes I agree. Becoming a well-rounded drummer who can jam with other musicians and feel comfortable and confident is perhaps a vague goal. By well-rounded I just meant that you are training your whole skill set - I am not sure how to make this more specific and perhaps I would need to analyze and break down the entire skill set of drumming into its most fundamental parts - This is pretty much what the essence of my question is. Think of it like a person going to the gym. IF they have a well rounded gym plan they will target every main muscle group in your body rather than just going and always working on your biceps and chest muscles. Do you get what I mean?
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
No disrespect to the teachers here on the forum, but is our OP here actually playing and doing, or spending time on the internet looking for a system to do?

I consider myself more of a player with a semi-career doing it than I do as a teacher, but all of my formative years were spent doing. I’ve spent hours if not years drilling singles and doubles, and rudimental exercises (and that doesn’t stop). And I also spent hours and years learning how to coordinate stuff on a drum set, playing time (and that doesn’t stop), and most importantly, I’m listening to music so I can emulate the masters (and that doesn’t stop). I know I said if you get a good teacher, that will shorten you’re trip since you need another pair of eyes to guide and fix mistakes, but on the other hand, there’s no real substitute or system that will declare you a drummer at the end of it. It never ends.

Reading through these threads this all just sounds like there’s no focus. You said your end result is to be well-rounded, but what does that mean? The end result is to be able to play music with others, isn’t it? Or if I’m wrong, let me know what that is. But have you tried making music with others? Your specific end goal will determine the system you choose. I just feel if you focus too much on the “system”, then it’s like a shield saying you don’t have to put in 10,000 hours drilling hand and foot exercises. At 26, considering what you’ve already learned, I would think you know this is going to be a journey that you’ll never complete. So it’s almost best to jump on the train and get to work.
Absolutely no offense taken, and I agree wholeheartedly! It can’t be overstated how important it is to play a few thousand gigs. I’d belabor the point, but, the times being what they are, group playing situations are rare and it may be a while until they come back. So it’s not a bad thing to dive into the laboratory, for the moment.

Lyptus, as soon as you can, get yourself into a regular playing situation, or two, or three. Much of the control and expression you see and hear in the players you like, comes from just having played a ton of gigs.

A world class bass player told me once: “If you want to get better at a style of music, go get yourself a gig on that style. Start a band, if you have to. You won’t be great at first, but you’ll get there.”
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
A world class bass player told me once: “If you want to get better at a style of music, go get yourself a gig on that style. Start a band, if you have to. You won’t be great at first, but you’ll get there.”
As a former journalist who refused anonymous sources, I'd like to know who the world class bass player is. Aside from that, the advice is very good. Kind of generic but real world. With enough "want to" and passion, anything is possible. Well, maybe not sword swallowing.
 
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