In this article, I’m going to share with you the fastest way to learn the drums. This is useful for any style and anything you want to learn. I’ll show you how to save precious time by connecting your drum practice to how your brain and body learn.
Are the drums hard to learn?
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When you practice drums, do you struggle learning new drumming patterns? Is your coordination holding you back from playing the drums the way you want to play them?
Sure, playing drums involves more coordination between our limbs than most any other musical instrument but are they actually hard to learn? I don’t think so. I believe it’s how we practice drums that determines if we learn new things easily.
I’ve taught well over 10,000 drum lessons and figured out that practice speed is the most important factor in how fast we can learn the drums. With all of my students and even myself, how fast we try to play new drum patterns directly affects how fast we can learn them.
Check out my article about 5 things that can help you become a professional working drummer.
Drum set for beginners – Play it slow to learn the drums fast
My drum practice time now, is much different than when I was a beginner. In my younger years, I wasted so much practice time playing things too fast.
Nowadays, if I have to learn something complicated on the drums, I play things really, really slow. In fact, I would be embarrassed in the past if anyone heard me play like this. I sound like a complete beginner practicing things this way.
In fact, every time we learn something new, we are a beginner at that new thing. So the mantra I share with all of my drum students is, “You have to play the drums slow to learn the drums fast.”
So how are drums played and learned?
Drum set playing typically involves using our arms and legs. There’s a lot of coordination involved to play even the simplest beats and drum fills. Now, let me explain why you have to play things slowly when learning something new on the drums.
Your brain is flexible and it’s going to learn whatever you teach it. It will learn the sound, muscle movement and the coordination of anything you’re trying to do.
For example, if you’re working on a new hand pattern and try it five times in a row at a speed that’s too fast for your brain to learn, you’re going to mess it up every time. If you’re going too fast, your brain doesn’t have time to figure out the new coordination you want to play.
Basically, what you’ve done by practicing too fast is teach your brain to play mistakes. So that’s exactly what you’re going to play!
To play that drumming pattern correctly, you’ll now have to undo all that you’ve learned so you can play it the correct way. It basically ends up being a wasted practice session.
No time is on your side
Instead of playing new things in a particular tempo or time, try playing them with no tempo or metronome. As drummers we’re always focused on improving our time. When learning a new drum pattern though, you don’t have to focus on time.
Instead, just focus on the movement, the coordination, and the sound of what you’re trying to achieve. Just play things really slow focusing on every little motion. Concentrate on every sound that you’re making.
It feels slow but now you can learn the drums fast
Practicing this way, will help you play new things correctly every time you play them. From teh start, you’ll be teaching your brain and your body what you actually want to learn with each stroke of your drumstick.
At first, it may seem like this method is taking a lot of time to get things. It does seem kind of tedious when you’re starting off.
The reality, however, is that you’re going to achieve greater speed and solid muscle memory faster. Your muscles will remember the motions that you’re performing so much faster than if you tried to play things fast from the beginning.
Trust me on this. Try it. You’re going to see that it works. It’s absolutely incredible. This is how you learn drums fast!
After you get things down with no time or tempo, you can then gradually add time practicing with a metronome or backing tracks for drums. This graduated process is like building a foundation for each new drumming skill you want to master.
All of my drumming courses at jazzdrumschool.com, teach you how to play Jazz drumming patterns out of time to learn them right the first time.
Small changes also need to be learned
Another thing that’s interesting is, if you’re working on drum set grooves and change the position of your hands, your brain is going to have to encode that change.
For example, let’s say you’re nailing a groove with the right hand on the right ride cymbal. You then want to try playing the groove with your right hand on the left ride cymbal.
In the beginning, your brain may think that it’s a totally different groove because your body movement, hand position and the sound have all changed. It’s like having to re-learn the whole pattern again just because of the changes in body movement and sound. So again, you want to go very, very slow.
It’s amazing to me that most drummers don’t know how our brain learns. This is why I wanted to share this article with you.
Check out my article about goal setting for drummers to learn how you can learn more faster in your drum practice.
A relaxed brain is a learning brain
A relaxed brain learns new things faster. If you’re not feeling any pressure from yourself or your drum teacher to learn a new drum pattern, you’ll learn it faster.
This is because when we are relaxed, our brain is not in that fight or flight mode. There’s no stress disrupting the thought function in our brain. All of the learning receptors in the brain are wide open for business and ready to learn drums fast.
I always teach my drum students in a relaxed way for this reason. Pressure and stress are counter-productive for learning. Here’s one of my YouTube videos to see my relaxed teaching style.
Take a break to learn faster
So what if you’re going slow and you’re nailing your drum parts but you’re a little frustrated because you really want things to go faster? Take a break.
Even a 5-minute break will relax your brain. Focus on something completely different like watching TV, listening to some music or talking to somebody about something unrelated to drumming. Just get your mind off of the drums.
Your brain and body will then relax. Your brain is also going to marinate on what you’ve been teaching it. It’s going to do that for a while. I’ve read studies that this can happen for up to 48 hours after you’ve been learning something! I’m not sure it’s that long, but it’s definitely a long time.
Your brain is always learning
Your brain really is incredible. It will keep processing information to help you learn what you need to learn. If you think about it from a survival perspective, it’s important for the brain to learn. It keeps us out of danger and helps us acquire knowledge that is important for us to succeed.
So take that 5-minute break and when you return to your practicing, you’re going to be able to do it. I’m not kidding you. Almost 100% of the time my students can do it.
I distract them for a few minutes when I can see that they’re getting a little frustrated. We usually talk about something unrelated to drumming and they think I’m going off topic.
Many times they’ve told me they were thinking, “What’s he doing? We’re wasting drum lesson time.” 5 minutes later we return to the lesson material and it’s much easier to play. They look at me like, “I can’t believe I just played it!!”
Your brain is ready to help you learn drums. You’ve just got to give it a chance. Knowing how it works will help you use your brain better to learn the drums faster.
Learning the drums requires more coordination than most other musical instruments but practicing slow will help you piece things together efficiently. You can then spend 100% of your practice time learning how you want to play rather than re-learning mistakes.
This practice method takes some patience in beginning but will pay off quickly as you see the results. Keep practicing slow and KEEP ON DRUMMIN’!
Have you tried practicing drums slowly?
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