How to Become a Better Drummer
by Dave Pearson
“Practice makes perfect” is one of the most played out sayings of all time, but it's the truth. I talk to kids all the time about music, they tell me how they play Rock Band or watch bands on MTV and how they know they can play drums just because they do it on a video game. So their mom will go out and get them a drum set and they will play for it for a week or two then give it up and go back to the video game. The reason for this is that they wanted to play the drums for the wrong reason; they thought it would be easy. The truth is that its not easy to learn how to play any instrument, it takes a lot of time and motivation. You have to really want to learn how to play, and be willing to put in the work. The more you play and the more you learn, the easier and more fun it becomes.
What really helped me become a better drummer was inspiration. I would listen to my favorite CD or watch videos of my favorite drummer. Then I would get all hyped and go rock out on my drum set for hours. It’s all about being excited to play and learn. Talking drum lessons also helped me out a lot, it taught me discipline and techniques, rhythms and time signatures that I would never have found out on my own. Playing with other musicians, especially musicians that were better than me, also taught me a lot about jamming and improvising and being the backbone of the groove. This was all practice and before I knew it I had people telling me that I was a good drummer or I can really “rock out,” it was a great feeling.
One of my favorite drummers of all time is Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I have learned so much from listening to and watching him play. I learned a lot about dynamics from Chad’s playing, he is really good at playing loud when necessary and soft when appropriate. I learned how to play like Chad and then developed my own style from there; they same way that Chad learned how to play like the English drummers from the 60’s and 70’s. It is important to look up to musicians that you like and draw inspiration from their style.
Chad Smith was recently interviewed by Modern Drummer magazine where he gives tips for becoming a better drummer; the excerpt below is taken from the interview:
Any tips for becoming a better drummer, the Chad Smith way?
[Laughs] Well…practice. I know it sounds boring, but so many kids that I run into don’t want to put the time into it. They’re busy playing their video games or whatever, but if you’re really passionate about it, there’s no shortcut. Kids see bands on TV and think, “I can do that!” and figure if they get a drum set, in two weeks they’ll be on MTV. You’ve got to put in the time, energy, and effort—and you have to want to do it. I was never forced to play the drums, I always wanted to because I loved it. My mom used to come home and I’d be in the basement all day playing, and she’d be flashing the light on and off to stop. [laughs] But if you love music—whatever it is, guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards—you must put the work into it.
I was also fortunate because my brother was older and I got to play with people who were a bit older. When you’re a young musician, playing with people who are a little bit better helps you—if they’ll put up with you. [laughs] And take lessons from a good teacher. If you can find someone you really like and respect, and they take an interest in you, that would be a good thing. It’s easy when you’re young to just play what you like. And I did that for a while, just playing with all the same records. But with a teacher you’ll learn to play different styles, and you’ll progress faster. (www.moderndrummer.com)