Monday, June 27, 2011

5 Things Every Drummer Needs to Do!

1. Practice what you're bad at.

This is something that I wish I had learned many years earlier. Many times during "practice," I catch myself playing licks and grooves that are comfortable and already sound good; its only natural! The problem is that when you do this, you aren't growing. To actually make marked improvements you have to single out and focus on the things that you can't play. This is not easy, but if you do so your abilities will grow in leaps and bounds!

2. Play with a metronome.

Just... do it. It is a necessary skill. If you're tracking an album, it will be with a click. You have to be able to do so. At first, you will think that the metronome is broken. I'll let you in on a secret. Its not. Eventually, the click will become your best friend, and it will feel like another bandmate. Only this bandmate is always on time.

3. Wear hearing protection.

This is something I would really like to emphasize. I went for many years without using any hearing protection, and now, at the age of 20, I already have mild tinnitus. Don't do that to yourself. There's this idea that playing loud drums in front of a wall of amps without hearing protection is somehow awesome and cool. Quite frankly, thats just stupid. Being deaf or hearing a permanent ringing or buzzing sound is the opposite of cool.

4. Get a good teacher.

Now, hear me out on this one. I, Luke Snyder, have personally never had a teacher. I simply watched great drummers, listened to great drumming, bought drum DVDs and books, and watched my performance on video and in front of a mirror. The most important thing for growth is to practice regularly and work on your weak areas. However, a good teacher will make everything easier.

If you get a good teacher, they will give you both short term and long term goals. They can immediately show you new grooves and licks that you can work on, while also giving you concepts and ideas that you can take as far as you want. Even better, they will watch what you're doing and point out mistakes. When you are doing things wrong yourself, its much harder to see them. Essentially, a teacher can speed up the learning process drastically. Honestly, I wish I had been working with a teacher during my early learning process, I would be advanced far beyond what I am now.

5. Just have fun!

Just kidding, doesn't it annoy you when people give you a list of things, and the last item always says to have fun? Its kind of... patronizing. And its like a lazy throwaway type deal; "Well, I can't think of a fifth point, so I'll just tell them to have fun!" Or maybe I'm the only one that feels this way. And of course, it is important to enjoy what you're doing. Anyways, on to the real number five!

5. Learn how to read music.

I feel like being able to read and write sheet music is actually looked down upon by some people. Its sort of like if you can read music from a sheet, people think you can't put any expression or emotion into your play. Thats just silly! Reading and writing music is an invaluable tool; it opens up vast new worlds in your mind. Once you can read and write, you can share rhythmic ideas with other people in a clear and concise way, and you can also read and understand other people's ideas. Plus, its actually very easy to do! In fact, we'll go over how to read rhythm notation in future articles. Once you get the hang of it, you realize that its actually quite simple and fun!

So how about you? Do you agree with this list? Give me your top 5!


  1. Great advice Luke! #3 is my #1! HEARING PROTECTION IS A MUST! If you can`t hear it, how can you play it?

  2. @Wanderer

    I can understand wanting that at #1, it is extremely important! Honestly, it was super hard to put these in order, as I look back on it already and I'm questioning it! Haha, oh well... thanks for commenting!

  3. Great article, Luke. I have one that I'd like to emphasize on, which ties your points 2 and 3 together: When recording with a click, listen to only the click in the headphones (and whatever instruments you're playing to) but NOT have your drums monitored through that head set. What I've noticed this accomplishes is that it makes you hit the drum harder and way more solid. When people hear themselves in their headphones, it's too easy to hold back and not hit the drum properly because they hear everything too easily. That's when the engineer has to start using samples because half the hits will be too weak to cut through the mix. Also, when you can't hear the drums in the cans, each drum hit will tell you when you've hit it right because you can just feel the vibration travel through your body when the stroke is solid. It's hard to explain, but all my hits sound perfect when I do this in a recording. Give it a try, and you'll be amazed at how much better the drums sound. ;-)

  4. @ Anonymous

    That may be true for some styles that require that kind of power and energy, like rock or punk. But you still have to be able to hear yourself, its just that if you're hitting that hard it'll still cut through the isolation, haha. And of course, like you said, you feel the time through your sticks.

    But yeah, turning down the monitor mix in your phones is a surefire way to force you to play with more powerful strokes! I've actually done that a lot recently, I've never been a heavy hitter, and I'm changing that a bit now.

    On a similar topic, there seems to be a widespread idea that drums and cymbals don't sound good unless you really bash them, I don't know where that came from! Take Gavin Harrison as an example, his drums sound about as good as possible in in my opinion, and he really doesn't hit that hard at all.