If you're looking for a great way to impress people, here's the best advice you might ever get: Learn To Play Drums. Imagine sitting down to a drum set and effortlessly breaking into a killer funk beat. Everybody within earshot would instantly focus their attention on you; granted they'd have no choice, considering the volume, but that's not the point.
The fact is, Learning To Play The Drums is not difficult. I've been playing them for years, and even spent time on the road as a drummer-for-hire. If I can do it, anyone can. And I'll show you everything you need to know to get started.
To start, you don't even need any drums! How cool is that? While you'll eventually want a drum set (or as the drummer community says, "Drum kit"), you don't need one to start off with. Of course if you've got some extra money burning a hole in you pocket, by all means go buy one, it'll provide plenty of inspiration and motivate you to practice. But don't feel like you need one. At least not at first.
What You Will Need:
2. A Practice Pad
Let me explain a little more about each of these so you can make an informed decision when you buy. But also keep in mind that both of these are relatively cheap, at least in terms of musical equipment. You should be able to pick up a great pair of drum sticks for under $15 and a decent practice pad for about $25. Yes, for less than 50 bucks you could be well on your way to making a name for yourself as a rock 'n roll drum god!
Choosing The Right Drumsticks
Drumsticks come in several sizes and are produced by several manufacturers. Ask 100 drummers what the best drumsticks are and you'll get 101 different answers (we drummers aren't known for our math skills). You'll want to find a pair that works for you, not what your favorite drummer recommends.
Generally speaking, drumsticks are sized by thickness. Though the length does vary too, I'd recommend finding a thickness you like first, then experimenting with different lengths later. The best way to do this is to visit your local music shop and check out their drumstick selection. Hopefully they'll stock multiple sizes made by several different manufacturers. Ask to see a practice pad (they should have one available for this purpose) and hold the sticks between your thumb and first finger and find tap the pad a few times. Note how the stick feels in your hand, and how it reacts against the pad. Now try several more pairs until you find the one that's best for you. Don't worry about making a big decision at this point. You can always buy different sized sticks later, you're career as a drummer won't forever be defined by the sticks you choose at this stage. In fact, many professional drummers constantly change the size of sticks they play. Heck, even I've rarely stayed with one size for any considerable length of time.
One of the biggest arguments in the drumming world is the choice between Nylon Tip Drumsticks and Wood Tip Drumsticks. The truth is that, like most things, it comes down to personal preference. There is no "this one is better than that one" final authority, it's just opinions. I'd recommend spending time playing with both so that you can decide which is best for you. But at this stage in the game, I wouldn't worry too much about it, just pick one and go with it.
For those who just have to know, here are some subtle differences between the two:
Nylon Tip Drumsticks rebound much faster and provide a higher-pitched "ping" on the cymbals. They have been marketed as more durable than wood tip sticks, but my experiences are exactly the opposite.
Wood Tip Drumsticks don't rebound quite as much and provide a beefier "thud" on the drum heads and cymbals.
Almost all drumsticks are made from wood, usually hickory. Though you might find some alternative woods out there, as well as some composite materials. I wouldn't worry about finding your perfect wood just yet, as any will work. I would recommend, however, staying away from non-wood drumsticks. While they do have some tonal advantages, they are more difficult to control, and aren't the best choice for a beginner. And personally, I've tried almost all of these composite sticks and I'll stand up in court and say that I'll choose wood drumsticks any day.
Finding A Good Practice Pad
While you can start learning the drums without a drum pad (or even drums), I don't recommend it. Playing on flat, hard surfaces like counter tops or tables is better than nothing, but it won't feel anything like a real drum; and subsequently, will get discouraging. Considering how cheap Drum Pads are, I can't recommend them enough for someone just starting out.
Drum pads come in a variety of configurations and materials. The most widely known is the standard Remo brand practice pad, which features the gray metal outer ring and a striking surface that somewhat resembles a real drum head. This is an excellent choice, as the action is very similar to striking a real drum.
Personally, I prefer drum pads that actually "snap" when you strike them, like a real snare drum. That's because a handful of ball bearings are placed in the pad, and they bump into each other every time you hit the surface. I like these because they not only feel realistic, but they sound realistic. Psychologically, that makes a big difference to me. Several manufacturers make these, and I've played most of them and think they all work very well.
I would caution any beginning drummer away from the floppy rubber drum pads. These were initially designed to sit on the top head of a drum (and for that purpose they are okay), but somewhere along the line music shops began selling them as stand alone drum pads. They don't feel anything like a real drum, and in many instances they are actually more expensive than the other types - which, in my opinion, is two strikes against them right from the start.
The Right Drum Equipment
Now that you've got a great pair of drumsticks and a killer practice pad, you're ready to start learning the basic fundamentals of playing drums. Just remember that 10 percent of drumming is ability, the other 90 percent is attitude. As you practice, imagine yourself rocking out on stage as the drummer of the world's hottest band. Think of the stage lights, the sounds, the attractive gals (or guys) eye balling you from the front row.
In other articles of this series, I'll explain everything you'll need to know about playing the drums.