STUDENT RESOURCES:

An Introduction to the Drums

by Trent Renshaw, Music & Arts Lesson Instructor

Tools for Success

Sticks Shop Now >

The proper choice of drumstick should fit the student’s hand comfortably. It shouldn’t be too wide, too thin, too heavy or too light. Typically most students begin in the middle of the sizes with the 5A size.

Practice pad with stand Shop Now >

Every student should have a practice pad to work on technical practice. It is also important to have a stand for the practice pad to ensure proper playing height and posture whether seated or standing.

Snare drum/Drum set Shop Now >

Practicing at a performance volume and being used to the response of playing an actual drum is very important to a student’s development. Practicing on drums also gives the student a better idea of the usefulness of the instrument musically.

Music Stand Shop Now >

Whether students are seated or standing, a music stand guarantees proper posture and also is the most comfortable way to read music while playing.

Metronome Shop Now >

While practicing technique or musical passages that are designated for a specific tempo, the student should use a metronome to guarantee the ability to play a steady speed. It may not be necessary to use the metronome during the learning of new rhythms or patterns, or during more creative practice time.

Basic maintenance

Daily maintenance

In every practice session, make sure that the sticks are in proper playing condition. The stick should not be visibly cracked. For wooden tipped sticks, the tip shouldn’t be flattened or damaged in any way. For nylon tipped sticks, the tip shouldn’t be chipped or cracked in any way.

Weekly maintenance

Evaluate the condition of the drum head(s). Make sure there are no serious dents or cracks in any area of the head. It is also necessary to monitor drum tuning each week. Changes in temperature or moisture in the air can affect the tuning of the drum(s).

Monthly maintenance

Each month sticks will most likely need to be replaced. As previously mentioned, sticks should be monitored daily and a replacement schedule should be decided on according to the natural wear and tear of the implement.

Perform a topical cleaning of your drum(s) every month. With a slightly damp cloth wipe each drum to remove any dust or dirt. Directly after wiping with a damp cloth, wipe with a dry cloth to achieve a shine to the finish or covering of the drum. Also with a dry cloth, wipe all the rims and hardware of the drum. This will bring back their shine and also get rid of any moisture that has built up on the metal.

Bi-yearly maintenance

Every six months take the drum(s) completely apart and clean them using same processes stated in the previous section. Taking the drum completely apart helps remove all dust and debris from the drum and also helps eliminate any moisture from metal hardware. It may also be a great time to replace the drum head(s), but this should be monitored weekly and the proper replacement time is only if significant damage has occurred.

Practice

Proper practice time and routine will guarantee progress on the instrument. It is of the ultimate importance to develop a routine that fits a daily schedule and is fun.

Schedule

If the student is taking a half hour lesson, then it is important for them to practice at least a half hour for each session. To ensure progress, practice sessions should be at least four days per week. Practice should be divided into warm up and technical exercises, and musical patterns

Measuring practice

Outlined is the minimum practice required to progress. Students who want to advance should take it upon themselves, with the direction of their teacher, to practice as much as their schedule will allow. The amount of practice is directly related to the level of performance of any player. With that in mind, it is important to recognize that playing an instrument is artful and exciting, and students should be motivated on their own to practice. As a parent, this is an aspect of your child’s progress to monitor as well

Forming good habits, not bad habits

Holding the sticks

It is very easy to get the hands out of proper position while playing. Throughout the learning process it is necessary to pay close attention to where fingers and hands are positioned on the stick. There are two main grips: traditional and matched (both are pictured below). In either, the fingers should be touching the stick at all times, the stick is to be held at the bottom third of it’s length, and the grip should allow for space between the hand and the stick.

Holding the drum sticks

Using the wrist

When playing, only use more of the wrist and fulcrum to move the sticks. Too often beginners use their arms to play. This makes the volume of the instrument too loud and harder to control. It also is a bigger movement and will make the player use a lot of energy to do a simple task.

Posture

Whether seated or standing while playing, it is important to have proper posture. Keep a straight back. Keep the arms relaxed from the shoulder to the elbow and parallel to the ground from the elbow to the wrist.

Using the pedals

When playing the drum set, keep the feet resting on each pedal. While using either pedal, your foot should remain in contact with the pedal board. Lifting the feet from the pedals shifts the player’s balance and makes playing more difficult to maintain.

Typical “speed bumps” in the road to success

Playing feels uncomfortable

Make sure the snare drum is at the proper height. The drum should be level with the player’s waist, in between the belt buckle and navel, whether seated or standing. For drum set, the height of the drums and cymbals should be based on the height of the snare drum.

Playing is tiring

Students should play using only their wrist and very minimal arm movement. Moving the arms too much can lead to using a lot of energy to play very simple patterns and can make us tire quickly. To proper play the drum we have to build the correct muscles and stamina. As a beginner, it is good to focus on the correct movements and play for the proper amount of time in each practice session.

Playing a song is very difficult

Developing the tempo to play a specific song can be difficult. It is a good idea for the student to talk with their teacher about the steps to playing along with a song. It can be fun and rewarding to play along with music even if the exact pattern heard in the song is not played. Students should feel free to play with music at any point in their development.

Make learning a new rhythm easier

When learning something new it is important to take the time to start slowly and work forward until a musical tempo is reached. This will take a longer period of time for some patterns than others. Make learning easier by playing the pattern at a maintainable speed, instead of trying the pattern too fast or too slow and feeling off balance or confused.

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