Learning Drums at a Young (or Older Age)

Russ’ Blog - Jan 2016

Learning drums at a young (or older age)

I have the privilege of meeting players from all over the world. "I also meet many people that are interested in playing the drums but are torn about it. "Many of the excuses for not starting to play, are the same excuses for not working on progressing in one’s playing. "The most common discussions surround a few things:

"I should have started at an early age". "This is one of the main excuses for not starting to play. "I also hear a lot of players say this as an excuse for their current state of development. "The first point I'm trying to make here, is that there is a tremendous amount of time wasted at the beginning of study. "This is especially true when the student might be very young. Lack of focus and diligence is very common at younger ages. "Starting at a later age can remedy these shortcomings quickly. "You can progress much faster in adulthood than in your childhood, especially with solid organization and commitment.

"I don't have anywhere to practice". "This is a valid issue, for sure. "But, the industry has put quite a bit of focus on practice scenarios in instrument design. "There are silent (mesh) style heads for the drums, low volume cymbals, electronic pads that mount right to your drums, full electronic kits and even practice drum sets in the market. " These are all viable options to full volume playing. "I would recommend the low volume cymbals

(like Zildjian Gen-16, etc.) over full electronic cymbal pads. "Learning to execute the various tones from the kit is very important. "You cannot do this on all electronic cymbals and drums. "Using the silent heads or drum mounted electronic pads are fine (most of the movements and independence works with these) but the cymbals need to be actual instruments.

"It costs too much to start playing the drums". Obviously, money constrictions are relative to your current financial state. "However, the cost of drum equipment has lowered significantly over the years. "When I was 13 years old (after playing on a pad and then a snare for five years), I sold my Star Wars toys in a yard sale and bought my first drums. "They were a no-name brand from Asia. "The bass drum, tom and floor tom cost $400.00, with no hardware! "You can buy a name brand 5-piece, great sounding drum set (with a full set of hardware) in 2015, for $500.00! "This is less than the average smart phone, cost of about 8 video games or four months of having coffee at home rather than Starbucks! "Also, have the discipline to start the correct way. "This will help the initial financial output dramatically. "A practice pad and lessons are first. "Learn proper hand technique, reading, basic rudimentary studies and the articulations of tones available with the snare and sticks. "Work up to a basic kit configuration. As your facilities progress, so should your equipment. "In this era of "I want everything right now", people try to buy something like a double-bass kit to start playing. "The disciplined and patient approach will be better off in the long run--as a player and financially.

"My life is just too busy to start (or to keep) learning an instrument". "Trust me, I understand this as much as anybody. "Family, children, employees, aging parents, travel schedule and daily business responsibilities don't give me a whole lot of time to practice. "I have a system for practice that I recommend in my online classroom. "It involves breaking your time into three sections:

First, play the drums for 15 minutes. "Play along with your I-Pod and have fun and play the drums. "Get the "I feel like playing" energy out.

Second, spend a focused 30 minutes working diligently on your current lessons. "Do not leave this concentrated and deliberate study time. "Don't get bored and take off into a drum solo for 20 minutes! "Stay working on your current study materials at your highest execution level for the entire 30 minutes. "Take notes and log your progression. "Organized and deliberate practice is the key to development on any instrument. "This approach trumps un-nurtured natural talent any day!

Third, play with music or solo around for the last 15 minutes. "Have fun playing and walk away from the drums feeling positive. This way, if you were working on difficult things, you don't leave the drums thinking "I stink at this..." and not want to come back the next day and work some more.

This hour of working on your playing (with the proper guidance) can be very effective. "In the matter of furthering your development, it's now easier than ever to do this. "A half-hour per week lesson can be factored into your schedule. "What usually hinders this is not time constraints... it's ego. "As I've mentioned multiple times, everyone needs a coach. "Don't look at it like a teacher, if your personality as trouble with that. "The best of the best in sports have coaches and so should we. "Online lessons make it very easy to gain information on your time, as well. "Just remember, the internet has no filter for qualifications. "Make sure you are getting information from a reliable source when it comes to lessons online. "An easy rule of thumb is to find a player who has done (or is doing) what you want to do. "They have the real information and can tell other people how to "do it”. This is the basic premise of the Percussion Pathway!

Connect with the connected. The great Drum Shops

In last month's column, I spoke about what a nice environment a great drum shop can create. "The good drum shops offer lessons, that not only further the ability level of a player but gets them into the store once a week. "In this way, they stay inspired. "They see other players, test new gear and get exposed to new materials, such as instructional DVD's and books. "I had the privilege to have one of these great shops in my early years of playing. "I grew up in a small "steel workers" town in the North Eastern, Ohio. "Zampino's drum shop was owned by one of my first teachers, Phil Zampino. "Later, one of my early teachers Scott Grewell, purchased the store. "Scott has retired from the store and Phil has passed on but the shop remains. "Some of my earliest memories of the drum shop, included me taking lessons, attending clinics (like Roy Burns, my first clinic!!), watching instructional videos and even performing at recitals. "There was always a great "vibe" at the store. "The best players in town were coming in and the teachers were educated and professional. "The gear set-up was always cool and inspiring. "I bought everything from the shop, including multiple kits, electronics, cymbals, accessories and even my first Zildjian T-Shirt! "I ended up teaching at the store and working there part-time in high school. "I was drawn in and remained invested in the store for 12-years from the age of 8 to 20 until I moved to Miami for college. " The first thing I did when I got to Florida was seek out the local drum stores. "I ended up teaching and eventually managing "Resurrection Drums", one of the great drum shops to this day. "I actually hired its current owner, Jeff Lee! "I learned about building drums, set-up, tuning and the differences between the various brands on the market. "I know that those experiences prepared me to develop my various signature products over the years with Yamaha, Zildjian, Mapex, Prologix and Meinl Percussion. "The times in and around the drum shops did so much for me. "I was so inspired, became a better player, educated in the world of drums and even got my career going by teaching and subbing on gigs for my teachers! "

No substitute for the "Real Thing"

Beside being involved in the "community" of a great drum shop, you will get exposed to high levels of playing. "There is no substitute for seeing a great player play the drums. "YouTube videos and Facebook don't quite get it done! "Not even going to a big concert and seeing a band does it. "Although you will get the impact of the majesty of a great show, you need to experience the power of a great player, first hand. "Only smaller environments, such as clubs and clinics will get you face to face with great drumming. "Pending your location, going to a drum clinic or the regional national act theatre or club, might be your only chance of experiencing a high level of playing close-up."

You can make a new ending to your story! "You can be a drummer just for fun. "But, it's more fun to be good! "You can become a semi-pro (part-time) musician. "You can even switch careers and become a professional. "It's all up to you! "It's easier than it has ever been to acquire information. "Consider the source, focus and be diligent, get in an inspirational environment and go see the greats play in person. "Drums have created some of the greatest moments in my life. "They have taken me all over the world (too many times..)"Just about every dream I had as a child has been fulfilled by playing!

If these approaches worked for me, they can work for you!