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   I just want to ask you, as an expert, how can I learn more about playing drums and convert into an excellent drummer without the help of classes. Here's why:

    1. I would like to be a drummer that has not taken any ideas to be like another.
    2. I would like to be a drummer "original", I mean I can make and invent my own rhythms and grooves.
    3. In short words: I want to learn without copying from any other drummer.

   This is a common question, particularly from younger drummers. How to get better without instruction? Well, the painful truth is that while you can improve without formal instruction, proper drum lessons will give you the foundation you need to build your own individual technique.

   Imagine a house without a concrete foundation: just some 2x4s and old, rusty nails. The thing may stand for a while, but when the pressure comes, it will eventually fall. Sure, some drummers can make do without the right foundation, but most can't. It's a bad gamble. Getting proper lessons now while you're still young will keep you from practicing bad technique.

   Lessons will teach you good technique, how to read music (essential if you plan on making drumming a career), and the foundational rudimentary exercises upon which all rhythms are built. Once you have these down, you can then work on developing your individual style.

   It's a helping tool to the beginning drummer, and a guide to all levels of drummers for better playing.

   I took drum lessons starting in second grade. I stopped when the teacher I had was trying to make me into a marching band drummer. Now I'm 32 and still have the same love for the drums. Is it still possible to learn to play the drums at my age?

   Heck, yes! Anyone can learn to play the drums at any age! You may not be as flexible as you once were, but you're older and wiser now, and you should find it intellectually easier to approach the instrument. Some people say "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". Well, that depends on how willing the dog is to learn new tricks! If you want it bad enough, you can do it.

  • Jeremy Schneider writes:
   I'm 37 and I never even touched a drum until Christmas two years ago. For years I made comments about how much fun drumming looked like, and two years ago my wife saw to it that some drums showed up under the tree! I got some books and a Tommy Igoe video and hit the ground running. Our church had lost our drummer and our music was dry without it. I started playing with the worship team in April, after 3 months or so of practice and learning, and that has been one of the highlights of my weeks for nearly 2 years now.

   I've never had a lesson. I'd like to, as I'm sure I need some fundamentals work, but it just hasn't been in the schedule with work, family, etc. I did take classical piano as a kid for quite a few years and got pretty good, but lost interest and play occasionally now. I know that musical foundation has helped me alot with drumming.

   Learning at 32? Sure, just do it!

   I have a weak left hand. How do I strengthen it?

   First thing you should do is get into a regimen of strengthening exercises. Get a pair of those squeeze wrist exercisers (the ones that look like big springs). They're pretty cheap. Spend more time on your weak hand.

   Work on single-strokes with one hand: start with your strong hand, then move to your weak hand. See how fast you can go. Do three reps of these a day, alternating hands (do 4 with your weak hand). This will strengthen the finger muscles.

   Start working on some of my ambidexterity exercises. These will help even things out a bit.

   I am trying to learn jazz. What are the best ways to learn?

   As with any style of music, one of the best things you can do to learn is to listen to it (a lot). Assimilate it into your subconscious, then it will percolate out.

   Learn the basic jazz/swing ride rhythm: this is a foundational groove for the genre.

   Also, learn DYNAMICS! Jazz is primarily a quiet genre, and you have to give the other musicians space to play in. If you dominate the mix, you won't go far.

   How do you know what playing level you are on?

   A very interesting question. How to judge your playing ability in comparison to others. I guess the best way to do this is to listen to other drummers and objectively determine how you fit into the "spectrum" of drumming ability. This will require a great deal of honesty about yourself, something just about everyone has problems with from time to time!

   Another way is to get an "outside" opinion, usually through a good instructor. He or she will give it to you straight!

   I am interested in learning how to play the drums. How much would it take to start off learning how to play (buying drums (how much is the most basic equip?)). Also how would I go about learning? Can I teach myself or should I find an instructor somewhere?

   If you love drumming, you'll start playing on anything you can find (chairs, books, your knees...)!

   Some folks get hung up on having a "drum set", but this isn't necessary to begin drumming. Get yourself a pair of sticks and a practice pad. If you can afford a snare and stand, then get that, preferably a name drum (Ludwig, TAMA, Yamaha, Brady,...) because you'll wind up keeping it for the rest of your life - it's a good investment!

   Start off by learning rudiments, and learning to READ MUSIC. Yes, you should find a good instructor to get you through the first year or so; it's a good idea to learn the basics from someone who knows. Many folks who teach themselves wind up with poor technique, and this can hamper your development. It's a small price to pay to lay a good foundation.

   When you're ready to buy your first kit, take your time! There are many good starter kits out there by name manufacturers. Get one you like, not one you'll settle for! If you have to wait a bit to save enough money, then hold off and continue with the rudimental studies. Pick up a conga and work on some ethnic rhythms!

  • A Reader writes:

   I dont know too much about drum instruction because my father taught me (he played drums in the 70's with a country band). He taught me paradiddles and telling me to kick my sticks high to get the full range of motion. I practice to faster paced music and being completly honest i think i do ok compared to what i once was. IF you dont have an instuctor of dont know somebody that can teach you GET SOMEBODY!!!. It really pays off!!!!!!!!!!!!

   How do I develop the ability to do good fills?

   I think of fills as an extension of the rhythm I'm currently playing. I think that's where most drummers who have trouble with fills have their basic problem: fills become something totally separate from the rest of their playing. They get all psyched up for them and treat them almost as a separate piece of music.

   It's important to remember that a good fill compliments the music: it's not a mini drum solo. Try this: play without fills for a while. Then, when you feel comfortable, continue playing your current rhythm patter, but play it with a couple toms. For instance, if you're playing a shuffle beat, throw out your right hand on the toms once in a while. This will create an interesting variation in the rhythm pattern, but it won't cause you to get all uptight thinking "I'm playing a fill! Oh, NO!" But, guess what? You just did! It should have felt natural.

   Once you use this method of getting over your hang-up, you can then work some fill routines into your practice sessions.

   What is a ghost note and how do you play it?

   A ghost note is simply a note that is played "quieter" than the surrounding notes. They are very important in Funk drumming, and if they are applied correctly they tend to make the rhythm feel "lighter", "bouncier", and drive it forward with a good deal of energy. They're not hard to master. Listen to some funk drumming (Toto's "Rosanne" is a great funk rhythm, with plenty of ghost notes).

   What is a swing feel?

   Swing is something that comes from Big Band and gravitated into jazz. It's hard to describe in words, but the basic idea is a derivative of triplets. Triplets are playing three notes to the value of one, so quarter-note triplets would have three notes for every quarter-note. They sound rather interesting.

   If you set up a rhythm of triplets like this:

1 2 3   1 2 3   1 2 3   1 2 3  |  1 2 3   1 2 3   1 2 3   1 2 3
   1        2         3        4     |     1        2         3        4

where the top line is the triplets and the bottom line is the quarter notes (the | is the bar line - there are two measures here), a swing rhythm would look like this (only play the numbered notes):

1         1    3   1         1    3  |  1         1    3   1         1    3
   1         2         3        4      |     1         2         3         4

   Take a repeat at the end of the phrase. The rhythm should "bounce" and feel light under your hand. If you do it right, you will "feel" the swing, and you'll know you have it.

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