“Mum, I want to learn to play the drums”.
It’s strange how some sentences have the power to evoke fear in a parent when spoken by their child.
My son Jamie (JJ) is eight years old. I have to admit, he does enjoy hitting things with sticks so maybe I should have seen this coming.
I took a breath and said, “Wow, drums! Really? Why the drums?”
Apparently, in music class at school, he put his hand up to play in the school band. After trying a few instruments his teacher told him he was a natural drummer (btw, I know where his music teacher lives…).
My dreams of quiet afternoons, with the children playing outside with the dog, shattered in that moment.
I have always considered myself rational and yet open-minded. I told him I would like to speak to his father and we could revisit ‘this drums thing’ in the morning.
Phew! He went outside to play and I went straight to Google. My first search was, ‘Can you practice the drums quietly’.
Contributed by Sarah Jenkins for the Roland Australia Blog
The benefits of learning drums as a child
As mentioned, I am a big fan of online research. I don’t know if I would trust Dr. Google to diagnose a pain in my chest, but I definitely search for answers to life’s other challenging questions.
I have to say, my drums research came up with some surprising results.
To start with, there’s a ton of good reasons to encourage your child to take up drumming.
Apparently, drums are:
- An actual instrument. Many great musicians learn to play the drums and consider them as ‘the perfect primary instrument that compliments all other instruments’
- Good for physical fitness – here’s an article
- Great for mental acuity, co-ordination, and dexterity
- Excellent for improving social interaction and listening skills
- Much better than video games for mental health, especially in children
And then I found the Holy Grail.
They had me at ‘fairly quiet’!
I guess part of being a parent is being able to do a cost and benefit analysis on contentious decisions.
In the case of introducing a drum kit into our home, my main concern was definitely the noise. Admittedly, things are already a bit rowdy around here… but drums? Really? I couldn’t even imagine what learning to play the drums sounded like.
On the other side of the ledger, I want to encourage my children when they find an activity that they like. I am always hassling them about their studies; it seems only fair that I also try to make their lives enjoyable.
The turning point for me was reading an article by a music teacher. She said that if your children show any interest in music at all, please support them. She has seen children’s lives transformed by learning an instrument, many times.
It’s hard to argue with the professionals.
That night I mentioned JJ’s drumming ambitions to my husband and, no surprise, he was all for it. (I seem to remember an abandoned drum kit in his bachelor pad when we met…)
So, the next morning we gave the thumbs-up to JJ. Of course, if we ended up buying him a drum kit, it would come with a few conditions.
He would have to:
- Take great care of the drums
- Go to drum lessons and practice regularly
- Make his bed for the rest of his life
And so the journey began…
We received the official letter from the school asking for our consent to allow JJ to come to school early, twice a week, and practice with the school band. So proud, our son the muso!
They also suggested we find him a drum teacher as soon as possible (great advice!). The teacher could recommend a beginner’s drum kit (please be electronic!) so that he can practice at home.
So, me being me, I went online and found a local music school that taught the drums, and I booked a lesson.
‘Our’ first drumming lesson
I went with JJ to his first drums lesson to meet his teacher, Toby.
I must admit, Toby made it all sound pretty exciting. He knew JJ’s school well, and had taught several of their students in the past. We talked about lots of things including the role of a drummer and the commitment required to get good at playing.
Pause before you buy
I asked Toby about the best drum kits to learn on and he said,
I have to admit, the idea of tapping away on rubber pads didn’t really excite me (I mean JJ) so I pressed on about buying a drum kit.
Toby agreed that electronic kits are a good fit. The advantage of being able to practice with headphones and not disturb the rest of the house was important, especially when you are first learning (yay!).
That being said, he did suggest getting a good kit. Apparently, the cheaper electronic kits aren’t that great. A mid-range kit will have ‘better sound and feel’ and will encourage JJ to play. Importantly, they connect to heaps of learning tools that will keep things interesting. Also, if JJ decides he doesn’t like the drums in a year, a better kit will hold its value.
He recommended a music store for us to check out.
Buying a Drum Kit
I spoke with my husband when we got home and we decided to go shopping on the weekend for a drum kit.
Recommended Article: Beginners Guide to Buying a Drum Kit
Recommended Article: Should I Learn on an Electronic or Acoustic Drum Kit
To summarise (not justify!), here are the reasons an electronic drum kit is the best fit for us.
An electronic kit:
- Is fairly quiet – you can practice with headphones – Recommended Article: Reducing electronic drums noise
- Has a similar feel to traditional acoustic kits (so our son could easily transition to the drum kit at school)
- Comes with learning software and access to online resources (more about this later)
- Sounds great and come with lots of different sounding drum kits to keep things interesting!
- Can even record your performances and connect with Bluetooth
We went to our local music store on the Saturday and had a look around. I have to admit, the look on my husband and son’s faces kind of made it all worthwhile.
They were excited! After trying almost every drum kit in the shop, they both agreed on the first one they tried. Sort of reminded me of my shopping. We also bought some headphones, drumsticks, a base-drum pedal and a stool.
With much excitement, we loaded everything into our car and headed home.
And so the fun begins…
The boys set up the drum kit in our spare room downstairs. The room has carpet on the floor and now, a few drummer posters on the walls (recent additions).
So far so good. The only ongoing cost to-date has been a few drumsticks. Our Labrador is pretty sure that all sticks belong to her.
Best way to learn the drums
a. Get a teacher
As mentioned earlier, this is a no brainer.
JJ is loving his lessons with Toby. I have to say, I am impressed at how quickly he’s improving. He has been learning the songs for the school band and also playing a few rock classics that I like.
The most important thing is, Toby helps structure JJ’s learning. He has JJ practicing his ‘rudiments’ to improve technique, gives him new exercises each week to complete and encourages him to play along with his favorite songs.
b. Practice with the school band and ‘jam’ with friends
Playing with the school band on regular basis keeps JJ focused. In a way, he gets better so as not to let the other band members down. I’m looking forward to the concert at the end of the year.
At Toby’s music school they have a program where young musicians form bands and rehearse together once a week. It’s impressive! Older musicians mentor them and they learn about song choice, writing music, recording and even gigging!
I sort of wish I could join myself!
c. Online tutorials and videos
Things were not like this when I was growing up! There are an unlimited number of free tutorials that cover everything you need to know when learning to play the drums.
There are also some great courses that take you through a more formal structure.
Here are some that ‘we’ have looked at:
1. Melodics – Both free and subscription –
JJ loves this because it’s like a game. Even the free version will teach you heaps for a year! Works especially well with a Roland electronic kit.
2. Udemy – Beginners course costs about $20 and is great value
Includes over 10 hrs of video instruction and covers everything you need to know as a beginner. Here’s a link:
3. Drumeo – Again heaps of free content and lots of inspirational videos!
There is a whole section on Rudiments with 40 free videos. JJ really likes this one too!
d. Practice the Basics – Rudiments
They also have the potential to drive you crazy in the car on the way to school.
With names like Paradiddle, Flamacue and Dragadiddle I sometimes wonder if JJ is making progress or possibly regressing.
e. Put on headphones and play with songs you love
At eight years old, I am surprised that JJ already has a list of songs that he loves to play. I didn’t really have a favourite song until I was about 12.
He can play the same song over and over again. This is his happy place! I’m grateful for electronic drums.
The final word...
I never thought that I would be a ‘drum mum’. I’m not even sure if it’s a thing.
If your child tells you that they have just joined the school band, I hope that you are able to encourage them. I’ve seen my son discover something that he really loves. He is in two bands and has ‘muso’ friends that he can’t wait to get together with.
Another plus, JJ now makes his bed! And in all honesty, our house was never that quiet anyway.