What's it Like to be a Beginner.

Square

Well-known member
What is it like to be a beginner? I get the feeling that many here have forgotten due to starting at an early age. I'm writing this to document my first two years or so of trying to seriously learn this instrument. Warning! This will be long and really have no point other than to just say this is me, this is my experience and you late bloomers may see some similarities.

I owned a drum set before, even took lessons from one of the greats, for a brief time. Quite brief. I could play the money beat, couldn't keep time and couldn't consistently find the ONE. I could only do one fill, the descending singles across the toms. No doubles, no paradiddles, nothing. I was at heart a guitar player and had been for 40+ years.

In early 2019 I had a health issue which challenged my guitar playing ability. To gain strength in my right hand (I'm righty) I picked up some sticks and a pad. I played through the first page of Stick Control with my only goal being able to use my right hand (well) again. Boring? Yes it was, but I started seeing some progress and that kept me going. At this point I had no desire to play drums. I just wanted to be normal again. That was about to change...

A few months later I bought a nice kit. More motivation and more frustration, I focused on the pad. I started working doubles using youtube videos and tried to increase my speed and time for about three months. Occasionally I would do paradiddles and singles. Occasionally. A few months later, I bought a second kit just because I could. I still hadn't played the first one much at all.

At this point my right hand was back about 90%. I tried some online lessons and began to play the kit a bit. Something was lacking. Too much information and not enough direction. I would spend an hour at the kit and not know what to play or practice. I found myself just playing familiar beats and not anything new for more than a couple of minutes at a time. There was just too much information out there.

About 4 months ago I found a local instructor, an amazing player. I've been with him since and my playing, my vocabulary on the drums and my motivation have seen significant gains. I now play/practice on the kit one to two hours a day. I'm completely infatuated by this instrument. As my vocabulary grows, I struggle with putting it all together, but that will come. I can feel it. I work out of time to find the facility, and then in time (metronome) to make it solid and then I add to it other things I have learned. This has been an amazing journey. One I wish I had started decades ago.

So to beginners, especially older beginners I would just say that the beginning can be boring and challenging. With each accomplishment things become less boring but more challenging. Please do yourself a favor and find a teacher. In the year or so I was on my own, I developed several bad habits that I had to break. I'm sure this would have been worse had I continued solo. For me I can't find enough hours in the day to practice all I want to. You will get there too. I have sticks and practice pads all over the house. I take five minutes here and five minutes there when I can. In the beginning I would play the pad and watch the clock to get to the end. Now I watch the clock so as not to neglect some other obligation. Push through the beginning, do the boring exercises, spend the time on the pad or the drum kit and it will begin to pay off. It doesn't take that long.

Again, no real reason for this post, but to say this is what it's been like for me as a 56 year old picking up the sticks for (really) the first time.
 

Cmdr. Ross

Silver Member
What is it like to be a beginner? Too much information and not enough direction. I would spend an hour at the kit and not know what to play or practice. I found myself just playing familiar beats and not anything new for more than a couple of minutes at a time. There was just too much information out there.
This is huge for a lot of players. When I began, there was the usual Stick Control-type publications & whatever Modern Drummer had to offer.
Now, with YouTube teachers (and "teachers") out there, it's easy to get lost in the fog. Finding one you can gel with is always the trick, so troll their pages & see if what they offer is for you.
Push through the beginning, do the boring exercises, spend the time on the pad or the drum kit and it will begin to pay off. It doesn't take that long.
This is where many noob's hit the wall. They feel like starting out this way is just a waste of time & then get frustrated why they can't play like Neil Peart.
You've got to put in the work to get the skills to play the next level up. Like trying to do algebra without knowing 2+2...you just can't.

Great thread, Sir. I'm sure you'll get a lot of great input from those FAR better than I.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
What is it like to be a beginner?
It means you suck and cant do anything you want lol. It takes lots of time and work to change this. I like to think that anytime someone takes up a new activity, they are the worst in the world being the newest at it.

After almost 30 years, I still suck. Its just a much better suck that goes along with a click 🙂.
 

pinstripe

Well-known member
Yep, great thread. I can relate to a lot of this as a guitar player who started drums earlier this year. It's pretty wild being a beginner again after decades of experience on another instrument. The good part is it's not my first rodeo so I know the learning process with its string of barriers and breakthroughs, and I know the power and unavoidability of repping. The hard part is knowing what proficiency feels like and being keenly aware of how far away that is. But I'm making progress and pretty sure I'll get there. Just gotta do the work! I do think taking lessons this time around is speeding things up versus self teaching as I did with guitar. I also find a handful of guys on YouTube helpful.
 

Square

Well-known member
Yep, great thread. I can relate to a lot of this as a guitar player who started drums earlier this year. It's pretty wild being a beginner again after decades of experience on another instrument. The good part is it's not my first rodeo so I know the learning process with its string of barriers and breakthroughs, and I know the power and unavoidability of repping. The hard part is knowing what proficiency feels like and being keenly aware of how far away that is. But I'm making progress and pretty sure I'll get there. Just gotta do the work! I do think taking lessons this time around is speeding things up versus self teaching as I did with guitar. I also find a handful of guys on YouTube helpful.
I couldn’t have said this any better.
 

JimmyM

Well-known member
I was just about to start a similar thread when I saw this one. My story's a little different, but very relatable to everyone else's, I think.

Started on drums when I was 6, took lessons for 4 years and got pretty good, even could play a few jazz beats. Then I went through a lot of different instruments before settling on bass/guitar/vocals, mostly bass and vocals. Built myself up a middle class career with music and got endorsements with Ampeg, Yamaha, and EMG (B-level, but excellent prices and occasional freebies). At age 60 I'm now separated, had drums but no cymbals and haven't had a kit up in 20 years, and live with my cat in a house. So of course, drums.

I was decent on drums up till my 40's, at least I didn't embarrass myself till then. But all my drum skills went into atrophy, and I've spent the last month on the practice pad while building up my little Ringo style kit into something playable. The toms and bass drum are cheapo CB700's while everything else is stellar, so that will have to change in the near future.

Someone told me recently it's like riding a bicycle. It's sort of like riding a bicycle but forgetting how to do anything beyond merely keeping balanced. So yeah, I can play some wobbly rudiments and beats now, but I am far from playing shape, and probably won't be for another few months. However, the more I practice, the more I'm working out the kinks, and I spend a good couple hours split between a kit and a practice pad, then another hour or two checking out online lessons. Youtube lessons are great if you already have a little skill, but nothing beats a real teacher, especially one who explores jazz concepts and reading since you can apply them to everything you do. I have no illusions about becoming Thomas Lang, but drummers who can sing are in pretty high demand around here, and after a very encouraging month, I see gigging on drums within a year as a distinct possibility.

But it isn't easy and it will take the same dedication I had to it as a 6 year old to be able to pull it off. Right now I feel like as much a beginner on drums as anyone. I remember the mechanics but my hands and feet don't!
 
Last edited:

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
I think it's wonderful that you're wanting to study and learning to play drums, especially since you sound like you've really taken to it!
Keep in mind how challenging it would be for an experienced drummer your age picking up a guitar for the first time wanting to learn how to play it. Having to develop the hands, learning how to read notation, chord charts etc...
 
Last edited:

JimmyM

Well-known member
I think it's wonderful that you're wanting to study and learning to play drums, especially since you sound like you've really taken to it!
Keeping in mind how challenging it could be for an experienced drummer your age picking up a guitar for the first time wanting to learn how to play it. Having to develop the hands, learning how to read notation, chord charts etc...
Learning to read drum music after bass and guitar isn't exactly a walk in the park, though. Sure, you know the subdivisions, but you still have to be able to sort through it, and non-drummers often write poor drum charts.
 

Frosticles

Silver Member
Being a beginner means just that. The most important part of being a beginner is enjoyment. Kill the enjoyment with endless rudiments & regimental teaching will mean a lot will just give up after a short time.
Bash along to some easy tunes increases enjoyment & the lessons etc can come later if you so wish. I suppose it all depends on what you want out of it all............
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
I think it's like learning to walk. You fall down a lot.
 

Icetech

Gold Member
I started at 46 and honestly if i hadn't found drumeo i would have quit within weeks.. being new was crazy painful. That being said you put in the work you will look back in a few years and think "wow, i am pulling off stuff i could never even do for 3 seconds when i was new" Every now and then i have moments where i actually feel competent and it's amazing :) there will be work and frustration though.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I don't know how much I can relate.

I'm an educated guitar player who had playid that thing for about 25 years that got some drum students at my first job. Went to the city for a few drum lessons and got the 25 greatest books from a list here. Now it's more like 600 books and that was 12 years ago.

Drums are my main instrument no by far.

I have plenty of issues with how most teachers work with beginners, especially the young ones, but that's a different story. You look at the individual, use common sense, see the whole person as well as the whole environment and try to expand your own tool box as much as possible so you have options of something doesn't work.
 

JimmyM

Well-known member
Being a beginner means just that. The most important part of being a beginner is enjoyment. Kill the enjoyment with endless rudiments & regimental teaching will mean a lot will just give up after a short time.
Bash along to some easy tunes increases enjoyment & the lessons etc can come later if you so wish. I suppose it all depends on what you want out of it all............
Great advice but don't neglect the rudiments either!
 
Learning to read drum music after bass and guitar isn't exactly a walk in the park, though. Sure, you know the subdivisions, but you still have to be able to sort through it, and non-drummers often write poor drum charts.
I think that guitar notes are a lot more confusing. Even a simple chord like Em or G looks daunting without tabs. Once the chords become more complex, it becomes even harder to figure out which notes are played and on which fret or open string. Then you also need to know which finger you put where...
I find drum notation to be much easier. Of course, that's what I'm used to, but I still believe that it's objectively easier (unless you want to notate something Terry Bozzio played on his giant set).
What confuses some drummers is that grooves can be written in one system / as one combined rhythm ( https://cdn.onlinedrummer.com/2015/10/Funky-2-Bar-Linear-Groove.pdf ) or in two systems (1. Hands in upper system: https://cdn.onlinedrummer.com/2015/10/Breaking-Up-33.pdf or 2. bass and snare in the lower system: https://cdn.onlinedrummer.com/Funky-drummer-style-groove1.pdf ). What's easier to read depends on the groove. Once you get used to both ways, you're good to go, though!
 

Bozozoid

Well-known member
Swissward flamtacles..im learning guitar and it's a B.I.T.C.H. drums came easy to me (to a point) but I'm pushing through on the guitar thing. Your thoughts on guitar helped in the fact that I could relate. I frikkin hate learning..and learning SLOW. I'm am thee most impatient person alive today which is my most beloved trait..sometimes the guitar needs to be hurled out into the street but I don't want to hit a car so I try to avoid that.
 
Last edited:
Swissward flamtacles..im learning guitar and it's a B.I.T.C.H. drums came easy to me (to a point) but I'm pushing through on the guitar thing. Your thoughts on guitar helped in the fact that I could relate. I frikkin hate learning..and learning SLOW. I'm am thee most impatient person alive today which is my most beloved trait..sometimes the guitar needs to be hurled out into the street but I don't want to hit a car so I try to avoid that.
Oh yeah, guitar is easier than piano in some ways and more confusing in others. You need to learn lots of "shapes" and you can get pretty far not knowing which notes you're playing. I guess at least thinking about where the root note can be found on the fretboard and how the other chord notes (3,5,7) relate to it (e.g. same fret, one string lower = 5th or same fret, two strings higher = m7th) will help making sense of notes on a staff. Of course that stupid B string messes up the shapes and there also other tensions to play.. Best of luck!
 

JimmyM

Well-known member
I think that guitar notes are a lot more confusing. Even a simple chord like Em or G looks daunting without tabs. Once the chords become more complex, it becomes even harder to figure out which notes are played and on which fret or open string. Then you also need to know which finger you put where...
I find drum notation to be much easier. Of course, that's what I'm used to, but I still believe that it's objectively easier (unless you want to notate something Terry Bozzio played on his giant set).
What confuses some drummers is that grooves can be written in one system / as one combined rhythm ( https://cdn.onlinedrummer.com/2015/10/Funky-2-Bar-Linear-Groove.pdf ) or in two systems (1. Hands in upper system: https://cdn.onlinedrummer.com/2015/10/Breaking-Up-33.pdf or 2. bass and snare in the lower system: https://cdn.onlinedrummer.com/Funky-drummer-style-groove1.pdf ). What's easier to read depends on the groove. Once you get used to both ways, you're good to go, though!
I get what you're saying about guitar. I guess the important takeaway from this conversation is that whatever you're trying to learn, it takes dedication and lots of practice to get good.
 
Top