DRUM QUESTIONS

When you start learning the drums there are a lot of questions that need answering: what kind of drums should I buy? Where is the best place to learn drums? How do I tune my drums? Do I need to be able to read drum music to be a good drummer? and many more. Here is some information and links to try and answer some of your drumming questions. If you can't find what you're looking for please - Ask a drumming question?  

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DRUM QUESTION OF THE MONTH

The best drumming question we receive each month will be posted here along with Drum Nut's reply for you to share.
Ask a drumming question here

 

QUESTION: May 2016

Hi, 

When I watch videos online about how to properly hold sticks, they all say stick in first joint on pointer finger and thumb on the other side pointing straight up the stick. They also seem to have the backs of their hands pointing upwards. When I hold my sticks, my thumb is at a slight angle to the stick and the backs of my hands are almost pointing sideways (outwards) instead of up. When I try to hold them like the videos, I can’t do any of my rudiments. Is it really important to follow those rules strictly or is there room for differences like mine?

Thanks, Josh.

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hi Josh,

Thanks for your email. I don’t believe there is one correct way to hold your drum sticks. There are many fantastic drummers who all have different ways they hold their sticks.
The two main styles of grips are the Traditional and Match. The traditional grip is usually associated with marching bands, orchestral and Jazz players. One stick is cradled across the upwards facing palm of the hand between the middle and ring fingers. The Match grip is more commonly associated with Rock and contemporary drummers. With this grip both sticks are held the same, palms of the hands facing to the side or downwards.
Within the Match grip there are further subdivisions: The French grip, German grip and American grip. Basically  with the French grip, the palms face each other and the sticks are controlled by the fingers. This style is good for finer, faster strokes. With the German grip the plans face straight down and the sticks are controlled by wrist movements. This grip gives you more power. The American grip is a mixture of both, the plans are at a 45 degree angle and fingers and wrists are used. This grip is seen as the most versatile.
Each grip has it’s merits and it’s really up to the individual drummer and their teacher, to ascertain which grip suits them and the style of music they are playing.

Kind Regards, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: October 2015

Hi,  When playing live with miked drums.Should kick drum remain same volume on all parts of the song.

Thanks, MIke.

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your email. When you are playing live with a microphone in your kick drum it is usual to set the level with the rest of the drum set and the band before you play.
If you don’t have a sound person who will control the levels while you’re playing it pays to have someone stand out front where the audience will be, to listen and adjust the volume before you begin your gig.
Once the level is set you should play your drums as usual. Perhaps you play softly in some parts of the song and harder in others. The microphone is there to make sure the audience can hear the bass drum above the other amplified instruments.

I hope this answers your question.

Kind Regards, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: June 2015

Hi,  Is it possible for me to submit a transcription of a song I've done for publication on drumnuts?

Joseph.

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hello Joseph,

Thanks for your email. Yes, if you send us the song we will consider it for publication on the Drum Music Charts page.

Regards, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: April 2014

Hi,  What is the shell of a drum and how do you measure it.?

Ray.

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hello Ray,

Thank you for your email. The drum shell is the body of the drum, the wood that the skin is attached to. To accurately measure it you must frist remove either the top or bottom drum skin and then measure from the outside edge directly across the centre of the drum. This will give you the width. To measure the depth of the shell, measure inside thre drum from the top edge to the bottom edge. The measurement of a drum shell is usually listed in inches, depth X width. For example a tom tom measuring 12 inches across and 10 inches deep is known as a 10 X 12 tom tom. The width measurement will also give you the size of the drum skin required for that drum. Eg. the 10 X12 tom tom would take a 12 inch skin.

Regards, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: April 2013

Hi,  My son plays the drums.  He gets through a lot of drumsticks as they crack and split. He's been playing for 4 years and is quite advanced. Can you recommend a more durable stick?

Virginia

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hello Virginia,

Thank you for your email. Drum sticks will split and chip- unfortunately it is the nature of wood versus the metal of the cymbals and rims of the drums. There are synthetic sticks, plastic and aluminium that won't decay as much but they do feel quite different so your son would need to feel comfortable with them. With wooden sticks, oak tends to be the most durable but because it is harder it does tend to transmit vibrations more to the hands- again I would recommend your son trying a pair first.

Regards, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: Jan 2013

How do i tell how fast the beat of a song is by just looking at the sheet music?

Jamie

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hi Jamie,

Thanks for your email. The speed of a piece of music is indicated by a BPM (beats per minute) reading usually marked at the top right of a piece of sheet music. It will say something like "Quarter Note" = 120bpm. This relates to the tempo marking on a metronome. If you have a metronome set it to 120 and you will be able to hear the speed of the quarter notes for that piece. If you don't have a metronome you can use the drumnuts online metronome

If a piece of music doesn't have the tempo indicated with a BPM reading you can always listen to the original recording to get the speed. Start the recording of the song and then adjust your metronome until it is clicking an even beat with the song.

I hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting drumnuts.

Regards, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: Sept 2012

What is the best way to learn songs?  I have been pieceing them out and trying to learn each individual part (i.e..beat, chrous, fills, etc...,) but then when I go to put them together, I end up failing at something because I left out notes.  I almost feel overwhelmed when trying to remember so many notes.....playing metal like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, etc... you really can't read the music as you play; unlike marching band music. 

Chris

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hey Chris,

Thanks for your question. I don't think there is a 'right' way to learn a song. Everybody is different in what works best for them. Some people find it easier to learn by listening. Others prefer written music. Sometimes it can be a blend of the two. I think it's important to find what works best for you.

To be truly comfortable playing a song you need to know it well. Start by listening to the song often, get to know the parts of the other instruments, vocals etc. Also familiarise yourself with the structure (or arrangement) of the song- verse/ chorus/ bridge etc.

The drum part of a song will usually comprise of a few different drum patterns (or beats) linked together with fills. By far the best place to start learning is with the drum patterns. There's no point being able to play a couple of blazing fills if you can't hold down the main beats of the song as these provide the feel or groove.
When you're working out the patterns start by listening to the original song- often checking with a live clip of the band is a good idea too as sometimes drum tracks can be layered in the studio or enhanced with drum machines. Once you've done the obvious, like working out the time signature of the song and counting the beat, if the pattern isn't straight forward then I would recommend writing out a bar of music and filling in the beats progressively from the 1 count. Or even the drums individually- for example just work out the kick drum part, then add the snare. When you've worked a pattern out, try it with the recording- play along- you'll soon feel if you have it right or not.

When working out drum fills probably the most important place to begin is working out where they start and finish in relation to the beat of the song. Listen over to the track, tapping your foot to the beat and counting to establish where the fill starts and ends. Then like the patterns work the beats of the bar out progressively from the count of 1.

I agree that playing with most bands you don't want to be reading music so when you've worked out the parts memorise them and put the music away- that way you can let go and really enjoy the song.

I hope this answers your question- keep practising and thanks again for visiting drumnuts.

Regards, Drum Nut

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QUESTION: Sept 2011

I am just starting to play the drums. What would be the best way for me to start. And should i start with a kit right away or should i start with the djembe or somen first to get the beats down.

Devon

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hi Devon,

Thanks for your email. The best way to start learning the drums is to buy a drum kit and start playing along to music. Then get yourself a good teacher and learn to read music. And from there start playing music with other musicians. This is by no means the only way though.

 It is quite possible to learn drums without a drum kit. Many students do it and buy their own kit only when they are sure that they are going to continue learning. In the mean time the only equipment you need is a pair of sticks and possibly a practice pad.

Finding a good teacher is really sound advice too. Check out the drumnuts questions for advice on choosing a teacher.

Learning rhythms on a Djembe or other hand drum can be good preparation for playing the drum kit but using sticks on a practice pad would be more beneficial long term.

I hope this answers your question. Good luck on your journey learning the drums. Maybe we'll see you in the drumnuts Legends Gallery one day!


Regards, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: Feb 2011

What should a drummer of 4 years, taking private lessons and having a steady practice routine, be able to do? 

Sherry

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hi Sherry,

Thanks for your email. There is no universal level of achievement for a drum student of four years. As with any subject students often learn at different rates. The age of a student and the course of study that the teacher chooses are other factors that can influence progress.

As a guide, in our opinion an 'average' drum student of four years should be confident in the basic drum rudiments; single and double stroke rolls, flams, paradiddles, drags etc. Able to demonstrate their abilities across a number of musical styles, both drum patterns and fills. Aware of musicianship skills such as dynamics, timbre etc. And competent in reading drum notation and music charts. They should also have been encouraged to engage in musical performance with other musicians by this stage.

Graded music exams are by not for everybody but as a bench mark of progress they can be a good indicator. Most drummers who've had four years private lessons should be around a Grade 5 level of learning. Some will achieve this a lot sooner and other slightly later. Grade 5 Drum Exams

I hope this answers your question. Thanks again for visiting drumnuts.

Regards, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: Sept 2010

What's the best way to practice to a metronome?

Dion

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hey Dion,

Thanks for your email. If you are new to using a metronome with your drum practise it's probably best to start simple. Set the metronome to a moderate tempo say 60bpms and try playing crotchets or quarter notes on the snare drum alternating between your right and left hands. You should be aiming to get the strike of the drum right on top of the click of the metronome. This is a great test- if you get it right you'll find the sound of the metronome seems to disappear! It's quite strange and you might think the metronome has stopped but keep going.

Once you get comfortable doing this try increasing the tempo up to 80bpms, 100bpms and so forth. Also try different note values over the click of the metronome. For example; play eighth notes or quavers while the metronome clicks a crotchet beat- two strikes of the drum for one click of the metronome. Or sixteenth notes (semi quavers) which will be four strikes of the drum to every click of the metronome.

As you get more confident working with a metronome you can be more adventurous with your practise. Try playing drum patterns on the drum set or more complex rhythms on the snare drum. You can also try 'playing around the beat' which means playing slightly slower or faster than the metronome click. This is called 'dragging' or 'pushing' the beat and can be a useful skill to develop.

Playing along to songs on your Ipod or a drum loop on a drum machine are fun alternatives to using a metronome too. Or try playing along to one of the metronomes on the drumnuts metronome page.

I hope this answers your question.

All the best, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: May 2010

Why do some people put black tape in the middle of their drum heads?

Ed.

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hey Ed,

Thanks for your email question. People sometimes put tape on their drum skins to dampen the sound. Often a drum (especially a big one like a floor tom or bass drum) will have a long overtone when you hit it- like an echo. This is caused by the skin and drum shell vibrating or resonating from the sound waves after you hit it. The black tape you see on the drums stops these vibrations lasting so long and so 'deadens ' the sound of the drum.
Some people like this others hate it. Best thing to do is experiment on your drums and see what you like the sound of. Often a better way to get rid of unwanted overtones from a drum is to tune it properly. See the drumnuts tuning guide for help with this.

I hope this answers your question.

Thanks, Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: Jan 2010

hey there,i am left handed but right footed!! what drum set up would you recommend? need help
thanks.

Steve

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hey Steve,

Thanks for the email.

The most common set-up for a left handed, right footed drummer would be to play a standard right handed players kit with open hands. In other words don't cross your arms to play the hi hat. Many right handed players also opt for this position.

The only issue you may have is going round the toms with this setup- as they will still be in a right hand direction from high to low. An option for this would be to swap the two mounted toms on the bass drum around (assuming you have a standard 5-piece drum kit) and to place the floor tom to the left of your hi hat.

The most important thing to consider is whether you are comfortable. Don't sacrifice comfort for image or the way you think the drums "should" be setup. Play around and try different setups. There's no rules- just whatever enables you to play the drums the best.

Hope this has helped. Have fun.

Drum Nut.

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QUESTION: Nov 2009

Hi, I'm Matt from England and I've been playing drums for around four years now. I've decided I need to take my hobby to a higher level- but I can't find a band at all. I've tried online sites such as 'formingbands.co.uk'; however I don't trust the safety of them so I don't use them anymore.
The main piece of advice I'm looking for is how I can be a successful drummer, my main objective is to be in a successful band but I am limited for choice.
Is there any other jobs/ careers I can take other than being in a band? as playing drums is my one talent that I have.

Regards,

MP

DRUM NUT SAYS:

Hey Matt,

Thanks for your email.

It's great you're looking for a career in music with your drumming and yes there are quite a few options for having a career with your drumming apart from just being in a famous band. For example- teaching drums, being a drum tech, a session drummer or working in a drum shop.

I would suggest that you do continue looking to join a band though as when you are a drummer nothing beats actually playing with other musicians. And if you want to do any job related to drumming you'll find it much easier if you have experience playing drums in a band.

If you're still at school that is a great place to get bands together, either with friends or by advertising through school. Talk to your music teacher too as other students maybe looking to form a band.

If you're not at school try putting an advert in your local music shop- most musicians have to visit a music shop at some point so you're bound to get a response.

The best piece of advise though is 'Don't give up!' Keep playing and practising and looking for that band and things will work out for you. Maybe one day we'll be adding you to the Drum Legends section of drumnuts :)

All the best, Drum Nut

 

 

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 Drum Teachers

Can I teach myself the drums or do I need a teacher? Yes you can teach yourself the drums, many great drummers are self taught but learning from a good teacher can greatly increase your chances of being a good drummer.
How do I choose a teacher?

Try to find a teacher that is recommended by someone who has been learning for a while.

Meet the teacher and see if you get on together.

Don't be afraid to ask the teacher what their background is- how long they've been playing and how long they've been teaching and where.

In music education you generally get what you pay for- cheap drum lessons are not always a bargain.

How do I find a teacher?

Ask about your school's itinerant music programme.

Check out  the Drumnuts Drum Teacher Guide

 

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 Buying Drums

Can I learn the drums without a drum kit?

Yes you can learn the drums without a drum kit but it is difficult to get motivated to practise and not as much fun.

Sooner or later if you want to be a drummer you've got to get drums.

When should a beginner get a drum kit?

In an ideal world, from the first lesson but this is not always practical. It makes sense to see if you enjoy drums and you're going to continue playing before buying.

Compared to other instruments, like trumpet or saxophone, a drum kit is fairly cheap. Drums also hold their value well if it comes to reselling.

If a student is taking lessons and still practising regularly after 6 months without drums then they deserve a drum kit!

Where's the best place to buy drums?

The best option for beginners kits is still probably a good music shop. With a shop you can refer back to them if you need any assistance or have any problems with the gear.

Beginner kits are so cheap new that you're not going to save a great deal by buying second hand.

This however does not apply to intermediate level kits or cymbals. If you're in the market for either of these then internet sites like Trademe.co.nz or the Trade & Exchange are definately worth checking out.

Check out the drumnuts drum kit guide

 

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Hiring Drums

Can you hire drum kits?

Yes you can hire drum kits for a monthly fee. Some places offer the kits complete with everything down to sticks and stool.

Check out the Drumnuts Drum Hire

Is it good idea to hire drums before buying a set?

Beginner drum kits are so reasonably priced now ($500 -$600) that it's not good value to hire drums. After a few months hireage fees you could buy a drum kit new- and if you decide not to continue playing you can easily resell the drums.

Why do places hire drums then?

Some people prefer not to have the hassle of buying and selling a drum kit.

Other people hire a beginner kit for a short time and then when they buy drums go straight to an intermediate kit.

 

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 Setting up a Drum Kit

How do I assemble my drumkit, it came in pieces?

If you buy your drums from a shop try and arrange for someone to set them up for you while you watch when they are delivered or go through it with the sales person in the shop- take notes or photos.

Check out the Drumnuts Drum Set Up Guide

How high should I have my snare drum, tom toms, cymbals....?

It all depends on you. How tall you are. How long your legs and arms are etc.

A lot of people set their drums up with 'style' in mind rather than playing. Make sure you are comfortable, can reach everything and don't have to compromise good technique (the way you hold your sticks and move your arms, hands and wrists) for the sake of looking cool.

Once you're comfortable- then try and look cool :)

I'm left handed- do I set my drums up differently?

Most left handed drummers do set their drums up opposite to right handers e.g snare & hi-hat on the right hand side and floor- tom & ride cymbal on the left.

However some 'Lefties' prefer to keep the drums set up right handed and to play 'open handed' e.g they don't cross their sticks over to hit the hi-hat. They are then actually playing left handed but right footed as their right foot is playing the bass drum pedal.

I recommend left handers change the kit around but certainly try the other option too. In the end it comes down to what feels right for the individual.

The main thing is don't let anyone tell you that the drums have to stay 'right handed' - this is not true.

 

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 Tuning Drums

Can you tune drums?
Yes you can tune drums. By tightening or loosening the skins with the tuning rods on the rim of the drum you can change the pitch or tone of the drum
How do I know if my drums are in tune?

Do they sound good?

Is your smallest tom-tom a higher pitch than the larger toms?

If you answered no to either of these questions your drums need tuning

Does your snare drum vibrate excessively when you hit the tom-toms or bass drum?

Do any of your drums 'whine'  or ring after you hit them?

If you answered yes to either of these questions your drums need tuning

How do you tune a drum?

By tightening or loosening the skins with the tuning rods on the rim of the drum you can change the pitch or tone of the drum.

Check out the Drumnuts Tuning Guide for more information

 

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 Reading Music

Do I need to read music to play the drums?
No you don't need to read music to play drums- just as you don't need to read words to be able to talk.
Why do people learn to read music then?

The same reason people learn how to read words; it greatly increases your ability to communicate with other musicians and it speeds up the learning process.

(How?) If you can read music your teacher can go through the first exercise on a page with you and then you can do the rest by yourself at home- rather than having to show you each different beat or rhythm.

Is learning to read music hard?

Definately not. It is very logical- the notes on the page of music tell you when to hit the drum the rests tell you when not to. It really doesn't get a lot harder than that.

Check out Drumnuts Music Theory

 

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Electronic Drum Kits

Can you learn drums on an electronic kit?

Yes you can but you will certainly notice a difference when you play on an acoustic kit again.

Some students with electronic kits find it hard to reproduce the beats they've learnt at home in lessons because the feel and sound of the drums is so different.

Are there any advantages to having electronic drums?

The biggest advantage is that you can wear head-phones when you practise and so noise is no problem to others.

Also you can easily adjust the volume to play along with  your C.Ds or MP3s.

They also have a great variety of drum and percussion sounds which can be inspiring and fun.

Would you recommend electronic drums?

I wouldn't advise a beginner to learn on electronic drums but if the choice is between that and no drums - go electronic!

 

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 Drum Sticks

Are there different types of drum sticks?

Yes there are many types of drum sticks. Different weights, lengths, shapes and ones made of different materials.

Check out the Drumnuts Drum Stick Guide

How do I choose the right stick for me?

Go to a drum shop with a large range of sticks and try them out.

If you are a beginner ask for beginner or student sticks, the difference in price between these and a professional stick can be considerable.

The size of your hands should be considered when choosing a stick. Anything between a 7A to a 5B weight is usually good for a 10-12 year old.

Make sure the stick feels comfortable for you.

Some sticks have plastic ends- are they better?

They're not better- just different. The sound of the plastic on the cymbals will be different from wood and certainly the ends won't chip but apart from that either one is fine.

 

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Cymbals

Why don't my cymbals sound very good?
Most beginner drum kits come with very cheap cymbals and the difference between them and a quality cymbal is very noticable.
What are some good cymbal brands?

Zildjian, Paiste and Sabian are three brands that make quality cymbals from their budget range up to profesional models.

There are other brands of good student cymbals out there too. Tama and Yamaha both make decent student cymbals to go with their drum kits. Meinl is another good student brand

How do I choose a cymbal that is right for me?

You can buy cymbals in student sets where the choice has been made for you and these are generally good value for money.

If you're choosing a cymbal individually once you have decided on a good brand use your ears and choose one that you like the sound of. Make sure you try it out with a drum kit.

Check out the Drumnuts Cymbal Guide

 

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 Drum Practice

How often should I be practising drums?

The more you practise the better you will play so it depends how good you want to get.

A good recommendation for a beginner age 10-12 years is 20 minutes 3 times a week but some teachers will say everyday.

Although some discipline is needed it is important that you enjoy practising. Quality wins over quantity every time.

What should I practise?

If you have a teacher discuss this with them.

Remember to practise new things or things you can't play yet. Don't always play things you're good at.

Practise a variety of material; rudiments, drum patterns, a song chart.

Practise with and without written music

Practising is boring, how can I make it more interesting?

Use a metronome and test yourself on beats at different speeds.

Play along to a C.D or MP3 of songs that you like.

Use the C.D as a metronome and practise rudiments or drum music you don't enjoy to your favourite song.

 

 
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 Sound- Proofing

 

How can I make my drums quieter?

You have two options; either soud-proof the room that you play drums in or dampen the sound of the drums

Sound-Proofing a room properly can be a tricky and expensive operation but there are simple things you can do to reduce the sound escaping

Closing windows and drawing curtains is the most obvious thing and it makes a big difference

Placing a mattress (or any large, dense object) infront of the drums will help

Hanging pieces of carpet on the walls or from the ceiling around the drums will also reduce the noise

What about dampening the drums?

The easier way of reducing the noise of the drums is to dampen the drums themselves

This means putting foam or material either inside the drums or on the skins

The problem with this is that it effects the sound and feel of the drum when you hit it

What are sound-off pads?

They are a brand of foam pad that sits on top of the drums and reduces the noise

They are very effective and the feel of the drum skin is still relatively bouncy

Check out the different brands available as they do differ in quality and price

So what's the best option for sound proofing?

1st choice would be sound-proofing the room

2nd choice would be placing shaped pieces of foam inside the drums- it dampens the sound of the drum without effecting the playing surface (you can still roll or buzz)

The down side is you've got to take the skin off the drum every time you don't want your drums dampened.

3rd choice would be the sound- off pads. Easy to put on and take off and not a bad bounce

Also try talking with your family or neighbours and check if there are times when it's not good for you to play- be considerate