So you’ve decided to take the plunge because you just fancy a change, or perhaps your band could never find a reliable drummer in the past and you’ve decided to take matters into your own hands.
You would describe yourself as a competent musician. You’ve been playing guitar for years, after all. How hard can this thing be, really?
You sit down at the drum throne. You pick up the sticks, and go. Only something’s not quite right. Instead of the sick, syncopated beats that are perfectly in time, you sound more like your nephew when he throws a tantrum at the dinner table.
What the hell happened, you ask yourself.
It’s true that you’re going to need to spend a lot of time practicing before you’re even halfway as good at drumming as you are at shredding – but don’t worry. Being a decent guitarist actually gives you a few advantages compared to just going in blind. With that in mind, here’s a few tips to help you get started drumming if you’ve only ever played guitar.
Use a metronome constantly
When you practice playing guitar, you might not bother with a metronome every single time. Sometimes it just feels nicer to go with the natural flow you hear in your head instead, and this can lead to some really nice authentic grooves. With drums, that goes out the window. Every single time you sit down to play, you better have that metronome set, and set slower than you normally would.
This is crucial to developing the level of timing you will need to be a good drummer. You’re not expected to be a robot – you still need a have a little swing, but good timing is non-negotiable.
Handling time between b e a t s
As a guitarist, you won’t always think about the pauses in between the notes you play. Since drums don’t have the same sort of sustain as an electric or even acoustic guitar, you’ll be working with a lot of tiny little pauses in between the beats, even if you’re playing at super speed with gratuitous use of cymbals.
Pay attention to where the sticks are as you lift off the drums, what’s known as the upstroke. By keeping your movements tight and coordinated, you’ll find it much easier to keep in time and not need to rush around so much. Drumming is physically tiring, so you’ll always help yourself to conserve energy this way.
If you ever took formal guitar lessons, you’ll remember how important it was that you kept your back straight when playing.
As a drummer, this goes double. You’ll essentially be engaging in a full body workout for long stretches of time, and if you’re not sitting correctly you can do quite a bit of harm to both your technique and yourself.
It’s also important that you remember to stand up and have a walk around whilst practicing. You should do this at least once an hour for five minutes.
Getting started as a drummer if you’ve been a guitar player for a while isn’t so different. Your patience and determination to master a new instrument will have the biggest impact on your progress. You’ve probably forgotten just how difficult it was when you first started learning to play guitar, and going through this initial phase of learning can be quite daunting when you’re used to being able to pick up your instrument and sounding great.
But I encourage you to stick at it. No matter how frustrated you get, you’ll be far more annoyed with yourself if you give up.
And remember to use the metronome!
This post is contributed by Zing Instrument’s editor Zac Green