As any drummer can attest, hitting things with sticks – or your hands – can be insanely fun. But becoming a good drummer is no easy task, for the drummer is what holds the band together rhythmically, demanding an excellent sense of time and careful development of muscle memory and control.
If you’re a current or aspiring drummer, there are a great many ways to improve your rhythm and technique. Here are five steps to better drumming.
Use a Metronome
Whether you use an old-fashioned metronome or a digital metronome on your smartphone or tablet, using a metronome can help you develop accurate internal rhythm. Try a digital metronome app and plug your headphones in so you can hear it clearly, and go to town. Over time, you’ll find you won’t need it anymore – except maybe when you’re learning complex time signatures.
Treat Percussion as Accompaniment
Drum solos are always super fun – but by and large, percussion should be treated as accompaniment to the other instruments, particularly your band’s vocalist or lead instrument. When you practice, lock in your rhythm with your lead instrument – and watch and listen carefully as they play so you keep in time with them. Keep an eye on your dynamics, too – you don’t want your percussion to drown out the other instruments!
Keep It Simple
It’s every drummer’s dream to have the kind of drumset that, say, Mikko Siren of Apocalyptica or Dave Grohl of Nirvana – but until you’re that advanced, keep your drumset simple so you don’t get overwhelmed with possibilities. A bass kick, one or two snares, a tom or two, and a hi-hat and crash cymbal is as much as you’ll want to start out with. You can condense it even further to just a bass kick, a snare, and a crash. Start with simple time signatures before moving on to more complex ones.
Watch Other Drummers
No matter what instrument you play, watching other musicians expert in your instrument will help you to improve. When you go to concerts, watch the drummers – study their sticking techniques, observe how they interact with the other performers, and take mental notes on techniques they’re using that you may like to try. If possible, talk with them about how they learned to drum – whether they went to music school or learned on their own – and ask for resource recommendations they may have, like book and video tutorials.
Watch Tutorials or Take Classes
There are online tutorials for every instrument on the planet. Search YouTube and Vimeo for drumming tutorials, especially if you’re looking to learn more complex techniques. There are also paid online platforms like Skillshare and Coursera to teach more in-depth knowledge in a digital classroom setting, and very often these classes are taught by expert practitioners in their field. If you have the time and inclination, see if you can audit a percussion ensemble or percussion technique class at a local college or university to expand your skills and learn new percussion instruments.
From jazz to rock, metal to classical, these steps will help you become a better drummer. Bang and crash your way to fame and glory – or, at least better paid work!