Self taught drummer.. how do I take my drumming to the next level

angry chair

Junior Member
I play the drums, I am not a drummer. I find myself falling into the same, comfortable beats, doing the same fills and snare patterns, my kick is hardly consistent for long periods of time. I feel like I'm really stuck in a rut.

Should I learn songs? What songs? Are there books you'd recommend? How important are rudiments? How do I get faster? Learn better technique? Where do I start? I want to get better, I want to absorb everything I possible can and dedicate a large part of my life to drumming and really take it to the next level.


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I played my first ever "gig" the other night at a small bar, playing for about 7 people and we got paid in pizza and beer. We did 5 songs... it was terrible and terrifying, mostly because we'd never practiced together, the guitarist would change the rhythm and the song would fall apart because I had no idea it was coming and couldn't adapt. 2 songs were pretty good, 1 was okay, 2 were embarrassingly terrible, all 5 needed work.

(I can chalk some of it up to playing on my friends ekit, and it sounds awful. The volume of everything is so messed up, the toms sound are so loud with a soft hit and I was so hesitant to play them. I would've been so much more comfortable on mine. Then when they're doing a sound check on the guitars, the bar owner comes up and says "get playing, don't play too loud, turn it down. it sounds like you're practicing. Start playing". It made me so nervous. People said we sounded like we just met, everything was too quiet.)

We took a break and played 6 more songs, this time I played the djembe... it was the most fun I've had in a long time. It was awesome, it sounded really, really good, the bar started to fill up, we were getting tips on the stage.

It was a good learning experience. I learned that I'm okay at drumming, better than a beginner not quite intermediate but I want to be great. I can play to a crowd with confidence. Even though the first half of the night was pretty bad, I won't be embarrassed, I won't be discouraged. I want to get better.

How?
 

CreeplyTuna

Silver Member
I want to absorb everything I possible can and dedicate a large part of my life to drumming and really take it to the next level.
The best way to do this: get a teacher. I know it's intimidating, but you will cut down the time it takes you to learn something by yourself by a huge margin. At this point, it seems you're already in love with the instrument and have a decent fundamental understanding of drums. That is your jumping off point. Don't underestimate how helpful a teacher can be. One of the best decisions I ever made, and I wouldn't have made it if my parents didn't push me. Don't hold yourself back!
 

Winegums

Silver Member
You've got two separate problems here.

First you need to practice with a click, metronome, drum machine or anything that can keep time. Start with a comfortable beat and work on your kick, this way you'll know if you're off on your timing and can get things more solid. Do this EVERY PRACTICE until you don't even have to think about it and the click disappears. I myself am self taught when it comes to technique but I've always used a metronome or solid time keeper when I practice.

If you want to learn some new beats or get fresh ideas play along to songs. Typically a studio recording is very accurate and on time so there's no harm in learning and practicing to one.

Second, don't go on stage without practicing the song set at least 30-40 times through, you'll eliminate all these problems you had at your gig. I know 30 - 40 times seems like a lot but that's what it takes to iron out the wrinkles and sound like a professional band. You can't expect to sound good if you only just met your band mates and had a practice session here and there. Work hard, practice hard, have fun and make some music!
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
What a deep philosophical question!

Question: What made you decide to play drums? Who, or what, inspired you? Start there.

For me, it was The Beatles. I wanted to be in a band that made great music like that, so I started trying to figure out what Ringo was doing. Mind you, this was long before I got my first kit so there was a lot of air drumming, pots & pans, and that sort of thing.

Then when I got my first kit ('81), it was all about Rush. I wanted to be as amazing as I thought Neil Peart was, which then led me to Stewart Copeland, Terry Bozzio, Bill Bruford, Rod Morgenstein, and on and on ... so there was never a shortage of drummers who I thought were really cool who's parts I could try to unscramble and reverse-engineer. All that effort was done simply because I couldn't think of anything remotely as fun to spend my time, so I was never left wanting for motivation. Perhaps that's the key: it has to be fun. But in order to get maximum fun, it also needs to be productive. I can't think of anything more satisfying than acquiring a new skill.

So that was my approach right out of the gate. Something similar might work well for you, too.

Start tackling the stuff that turned you on to begin with. Absolutely start learning songs. When you've figured out what other drummers have done with the songs you're learning, it will inform your future choices when you're coming up with your own parts. Playing along to songs will help your time, as will practicing with a metronome. Don't lose sight of the fact that keeping good comfortable time is Job #1, but don't be afraid to stretch out with crazy ideas either. There's a high liklihood you'll screw up a lot, but that's part of problem solving and stretching your skill set. Just keep the screw ups in your practice room as much as you can!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is you should probably find a good teacher to help you sort out your technique and get moving in the right direction in terms of nuts-and-bolts playing issues. Don't cling to, or be precious about the "self-taught" title. I could call myself that too, not having had formal lessons, but the fact is that nobody figures this stuff out in a vacuum and the more help you can get, as soon as you can get it, will only help you get on your way to getting where you want to go most efficiently.
 

angry chair

Junior Member
Thanks for all the advice. I shouldn't say I'm completely self taught, I did take lessons, albeit only once a week for 30 minutes for 12 weeks. It has been a few years since that, and outside of that small time frame, everything else has been self-taught.

As far as the gig... it was really a last minute thing. We weren't expected to be good at all.. it was a Monday night in a bar, playing for a pizza. The djembe was really fun. I can be a lot freer and transition a lot smoother on a djembe. It was really thrilling to hear the crowd clapping, see people taking pictures... and getting tipped!

I don't really know what got me interested in the drums. I've just always had a passion for music but no real musical ability with the guitar or piano. Drums just came naturally to me.

I think that I should take lessons again. I'm going to look at a few books, I've heard good things about "The Drumset Musician", and I think that would be geared for someone like me. I want to learn from the ground up even though I might not need to. I know I skipped over a lot of the fundamentals.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
Thanks for all the advice. I shouldn't say I'm completely self taught, I did take lessons, albeit only once a week for one summer - 12 weeks.

As far as the gig... it was really a last minute thing. We weren't expected to be good at all.. it was a Monday night in a bar, playing for a pizza. The djembe was really fun. I can be a lot freer and transition a lot smoother on a djembe. It was really thrilling to hear the crowd clapping, see people taking pictures... and getting tipped!

I don't really know what got me interested in the drums. I've just always had a passion for music but no real musical ability with the guitar or piano. Drums just came naturally to me.

I think that I should take lessons again. I'm going to look at a few books, I've heard good things about "The Drumset Musician", and I think that would be geared for someone like me. I want to learn from the ground up even though I might not need to. I know I skipped over a lot of the fundamentals.
so you took lessons for 12 weeks but skipped over fundamentals ?

sounds like you need to take a new approach to finding a proper instructor

skipping fundamentals is like building a house right on the grass without digging a foundation or pouring a slab..... the first time you get a nice heavy rain that thing will start tumbling down because it has nothing to stand on
 

Winegums

Silver Member
I don't really know what got me interested in the drums. I've just always had a passion for music but no real musical ability with the guitar or piano. Drums just came naturally to me.
Don't give up on studying other instruments that you have some experience with! I'm a multi instrument musician and I can't stress more that music is all one big interconnected web. Being good at one instrument will always help you with your other instruments, and learning new ones will be easier every time. Drumming helps your sense of time and rhythm, piano will help with notes, theory and scales, guitar will teach you about tuning, etc. So always revisit those instruments from time to time, and you might be surprised with how things have become easier.
 

angry chair

Junior Member
so you took lessons for 12 weeks but skipped over fundamentals ?

sounds like you need to take a new approach to finding a proper instructor
Meh, it wasn't bad. 6 hours really wasn't a whole lot of time together. He really did help me get a solid foundation and helped me identify a lot of my problems.
 

Nour Ayasso

Senior Member
If you're getting lessons in anything it needs to be technique and fundamentals. This is most important when beginning. Feeling stuck in rut with stickings/patterns? Don't worry you're not alone, we all get that very often. You have to remember drumming (rhythm in general) is VERY repetitive. Wanna avoid ruts? break your limits, learn new styles/genres and look HEAVILY into rudiments. You said you wanna absorb, you gotta look deep into underground music and find the raw exotic stuff.
 

Brian

Gold Member
Agree; if you can afford an instructor, take lessons.

Try playing along to your favorite songs. Work on timing, feel, and getting the parts correct, more than actually playing note-for-note.

Technique and fundamentals are important, so you will also want to spend time on practice pads and work on rudiments, out of books, etc. With and without metronome. Stick Control (more sticking/rudimental based) and Syncopation are very important books to work through in the beginning, at least. I also like The Funky Primer and Mel Bay's Jazz Cookbook, as well as any of Gary Chaffee's Patterns material.

Jojo Mayer has a well-known DVD for hand technique "secret weapons", a great reference guide

Being able to read music is important if you want to do it alone, and improve relatively quickly. If you can't read well, you may want to find a teacher for that sole purpose!
 
K

keirik

Guest
As others have said find a teacher.

Ive been playing since I was 14 (im now 52) and ive just got myself a new young teacher to help me with bringing myself up to date

My favourite saying "the man who has nothing to learn, has everything go learn"
 

mjtug

Junior Member
You need to learn the rudiments. These are the building blocks of any type of drumming/percussion.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Should I learn songs? What songs? Are there books you'd recommend? How important are rudiments? How do I get faster? Learn better technique? Where do I start? I want to get better, I want to absorb everything I possible can and dedicate a large part of my life to drumming and really take it to the next level
I teach myself. To be fair I got lessons in the beginning but I wasn't interested in lessons because I knew what I wanted to play and didn't want anyone telling me what to do. Fast forward to now and I regret not learning good technique because it's hard to correct, and easier to cope if you learn it properly the first time (so I hear).

If you want to persist with the self taught thing there are a thousand DVDs and books out there.

I would get tommy igoes great hands DVD and play to some simpler records that you enjoy and genuinely love playing to.

I can recommend more but that's a good start.
 

Intellidjent

Junior Member
Hi there,

Sometimes I feel that some teachers are just plain useless. Here in South Africa I had three, none of which taught me any technique whatsoever. They did, however, teach me how to play to a metronome or a recording and stay in time. Also a few rudiments and touching a few different genres. A great way to develop some new chops is to study rudimental books *coughstickcontrolcough* and apply what you've learned around the kit and even into grooves. Mix and match the patterns up a bit, be creative! Also technique is something I taught myself. I'm heavy into death metal drumming and I used to be obsessed with gaining speed and proper technique. This I taught myself by buying DVD's and watching YouTube video's

Check this video out on hand technique (French grip):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a47dUsE72Ks

If you want to learn about foot technique there's a plethora of videos on YouTube. Check out Flo Mounier's video/DVD on his foot technique. George Kollias also explains the 3-4 motions involved at playing different speeds with the feet very well in his DVD.

Also Derek Roddy has some great endurance exercises that will help with consistency and control for long periods of time with both the hands and the feet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPFEP_stPGI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD3SLe6VjmE

Please be warned, that speed is not everything. I myself made that mistake in the beginning. Speed and proper technique will come eventually if you put little portions of practice into it each day. I'd say stay focused on learning to stay in time and learn solid grooves and some creative chops. I cannot stress how important rudiments are for this!

So bottom line. While a teacher may be useful, sometimes they are just not teaching you the right things such as technique and developing your own "style". Some really bad ones may even skip the fundamentals such as rudiments or keeping time to a metronome and will just focus on learning you some rock beats (a.k.a. teacher number 1 in my case). There are plenty of books and instructional videos/DVD's that will teach everything you'll ever need! From REAL pro's I dare say!

P.S. Check out stephensdrumshed.com, some great ideas in there! ;)
 
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