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6 Tips on Beginning the Drums

January 5, 2012

Ezra by Seth AffoumadoIf your child is already begging you for a drum set or wants to start percussion lessons, here are several considerations to keep in mind.

How old should a child be to begin percussion lessons?

Young students should have some reading skills. Generally seven or eight year olds do well. Study after study shows that learning a musical instrument increases one's ability to read too.

Isn't playing drums a loud activity?

Yes it is. But you can practice on a practice pad instead of the drums. It is quieter and it can be argued that one's technique develops better (because there is no resonance and you can hear all of your mistakes). In the long run, playing on pads saves the ears of the drummer as well as the nerves of family members and neighbors.

How long does it take to hear progress?

You can get up and running (on a drumset for instance) in about 3-6 weeks with some basic rhythms and grooves. Naturally, the more you practice, the more you improve. It is not uncommon to see motivated students "jamming" with guitar and keyboard players in six months to a year.

Do I Need An Instrument?

At first you will only need an inexpensive practice pad and a pair of sticks. Eventually, though, you will need a stand-alone snare drum or a full drum set. If you are studying mallet percussion, you will be fine for a while if you already own a piano or keyboard. If you own neither, you will need a small xylophone (wooden bars) or a set of orchestra bells (metal bars). If you are studying hand percussion, you will need an instrument on which to play and practice, or an E-pad (a specialty practice pad for hand drums). The good news is that an instrument doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg (although it can!).

Should I practice 30 minutes a day?

Not necessarily, though we recommend you pick up the sticks everyday. Practicing everyday for any amount of time will do you more good in the long run, than watching the clock for 30 minutes. Practice in a room where you can't see a clock. Some days you'll practice for 15 minutes … other days you'll come out of the session 2 hours later!

Do I have to read music to play the drums?

No, but it sure saves time and money. Music is a language. Learning a language by rote can be done, but is repetitive, boring, without depth, and slow. Your teacher should explain the basics of reading music in your lessons.

The FAQ is generously excerpted from the FAQ posted by percussionist and teacher Cary Nasatir with the Nasatir School of Percussion. Visit his website for more information on equipment, pedagogy and taking lessons: http://www.nsopdrums.com