7 Habits That Can Make You A Better Drummer

A guest post by Kimberly Ng of InstrumentInsider.com

better drummer
Photo of Dave Grohl by Craig Carper
In most bands, the drummer is the member of the group that others depend upon to establish and drive the rhythm. Some of the keys to becoming a better drummer include melding the sound together, showing the other musicians where to place the groove, changing the time where necessary and finding the ideal textures to complement each musical moment.
When playing any instrument you must acquire the skill of time-keeping, which happens subconsciously while at the same time you are listening to everything else that is happening. This is especially important when first starting out in playing the drums. Good drummers work toward perfection and, as the key rhythmic member in most popular music groups, will always be in a high demand. Through consistent practice and a strong will to continuously improve, the fruits of drumming can be reaped. Listed below are seven proven ways to make you a better drummer in developing your technique and to take your drumming to another level.

#1. Work with, play with and mutually support other musicians

The members of your musical circle will really help in your overall musical improvement if you let them give you feedback. In your jam sessions they will synchronize with you and help by making suggestions to improve your playing technique. Be sure to discuss ideas with each of them. The musicians you play with will help in giving you valuable feedback which will go a long way in assisting you to become a great drummer. It doesn’t matter if you are in a band or not; you still have the ability to learn by working with others. Any musician teaching you is a great feedback resource and you should acknowledge that they are propelling you to improvement. If you have musician friends ask them to come hear you play and ask for feedback. You never know what helpful tips they might offer.

#2. Learn the basics first before developing your own style

Begin by studying the various genres of music: classical, rock, pop, Latin, jazz, etc. After you have taken some quality time in doing this, pick a one drummer who appeals to you the most in every genre and start focusing on the things you love about their style of playing. Learn how to imitate them. After you get done mastering the basics, try incorporating your own distinct style.
A number of us when we start out always have an obsession of being a “creative and original” kind of drummer. The idea of using other drummer’s licks doesn’t seem appealing at all. Often, new musicians wonder how another person’s creativity patterns may help them. So in the bid to avoid being the copycat type of drummer they go about trying to learn new techniques, creating fills that are “original,” yet they neglect mastery of the rudiments. This is a huge mistake and no one should go down this path. Begin by focusing on the fundamentals as it’s very essential, especially if you are a beginner.

#3. Start keeping time

Just as your computer’s clock keeps the time of day it’s a drummer’s responsibility to keep the time for the song that they are playing. Metronomes, drum machines, click tracks and other time keeping tools are of the utmost importance for drummers. You can also develop your time-keeping skills by playing along with recordings of your favorite songs, or even just by turning on the radio and playing with each tune that comes on. This is a great way to learning because the drummers you will hear have more experience than you and will have already developed a high level of musicianship. Try putting on headphones to hear the time right in your ear.
By working your musical ideas out at a slow tempo you can make sure that you hit every note clearly. Once you can play a whole passage or piece slowly, speed it up little by little (use a metronome) until you can play it at the desired tempo. When learning songs, start with those that are easy and which you love to play. Once you can play a song in its entirety, add your own creativity and branch out to original ideas.

#4. Focus on new ideas and experiences

As mentioned earlier, we see beginners trying to become creative using their own ideas with a total disregard of the fundamentals. Little or no success be realized this way. Just like the greatest athletes, writers and all the professionals at the top, learn to do all that is possible to get the needed exposure to ideas that are the best in your field. Always look for opportunities to building your experience by applying these ideas in a creative context.
#5. Develop both of your hands
When playing either hand percussion or with drum sticks, ensure to relax your hands. For almost every beginner, the dominant hand is usually stronger and the weaker hand needs to be strengthened. Practice using the weak hand in playing beats that are more pronounced while using the dominant right hand in striking softer notes. 

#6. Play Dynamically (Loud and Soft)

Learning to control sound volume and intensity at every moment is one of the great qualities of professional musicians. For drummers, the amount of physical force you apply to the drum will directly impact its volume.Practice playing soft (ballad-like) as much as you can. ForThe drum set is a drummer’s eyes, hands and feet extension and so you should ensure to practice combining them altogether and also separately.

#7. Be disciplined in your practice

Nothing ever came out of being lazy. If you are truly dedicated to becoming a great drummer, nothing will come your way. Practice, practice and practice even harder, the results will overwhelm anyone. Make sure that you are putting in QUALITY practice time and not just QUANTITY. It’s better to spend 30 minutes of focused practice time than 4 hours of distracted playing.
These tips will ensure that you improve your skills as a drummer. Never forget that it always takes effort and work to ensure improvement but in the end, it will be worth it. Physical drumming is a very demanding exercise but it is highly satisfying to fulfill the need within a larger musical context. Finally do not be afraid of trying out your creativity and becoming adventurous.

What else helps make you a better drummer? Post your reply in the comments section below.

Author Bio:
kimKimberley Ng is a blogger, she is passionate about drum music. She’s currently the editor at InstrumentInsider.com Hangful.com  a website for drummers to learn more about hang drum and all types of handpans. You can learn more on Hangful.com’s Facebook page.

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  1. Practice practice practice

    Set yourself a certain amount of time for practice
    Or you won’t get anywhere with your drumming

  2. I like the tips you have here for drumming. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play because it sounds great, so I’ll have to remember this. If I get a set, I’ll be sure to play along with every song I hear, to practice keeping time.

  3. practice your rudiments with a metronome,watch drum videos,listen and score songs,do not sacrifice accuracy for speed always keep to time,have good mentors, develop love and passion for the instrument,keep learning everyday about music in general….

  4. I appreciate it when you suggested learning the basics of drums first before choosing a genre that the person would want to stick with. This is true since the basics are where the other genres stem from. I will mention this to my brother who is interested in learning to play the drums. He is interested in rock, but he is yet to learn the basic beats. Perhaps, he needs a teacher.

  5. I really appreciated this article. I have played mainly congas for 30 yrs, but for the past 3yrs I have been taking formal drum kit lessons. Wow! I really have grown to admire and appreciate kit drummers even more. Taking drum lessons has opened a whole new world of fun and creativity. It has made me an even better conguero and percussionists. GOFOR IT!

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