When is the right time to take drum lessons?

  • tim kaneOne of the most frequent questions I receive as a professional drum set and percussion instructor is when exactly students should begin formalized training. Naturally, as a parent of two young boys myself, I understand there could be a lot of questions and possible anxiety you may feel before making an investment of this sort. So please allow me the opportunity to help you here in this column.

First of all, I want all prospective drum students to understand that if they can’t devote some personal time to practicing at home in between formal lessons each week, then they are not quite ready yet to take drum lessons. Students should at least own a snare drum – if not full drum kit – and be willing to carve out some time from their busy lives to play for at least 30-60 minutes each week on their own. At home practice can be done in increments of say 15 minutes a day. Otherwise, the formal lesson becomes the practice and really no true progress will be made. Starting age for drum students is usually around eight years old, and I highly recommend joining band at school.

Not every drum instructor will tell you that undeniable truth about home practice, but I’m committed to being upfront and honest with all my students and parents. I’ve seen a few younger students begin drum lessons, only to not practice at home, and then drop out three months later because their skills are not improving. The parents are then left with a drum set collecting dust in the bedroom. The kit becomes a toy holder. Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to learning an instrument.

Please know that I often help new students select and purchase drums at a reduced cost through music store owners I know locally. Don’t go out and buy a $1,500 kit brand new. There are plenty of good used kits that come with everything included. And if noise is a concern, don’t let it be. There are any number of low-cost drum muffling products on the market that will save your ears and sanity.

Now, if a student can commit to a regular at-home practice schedule, I provide a steady dose of beginner through advanced learning materials – both written and audio/visual – that students are assigned to work on each week. This is fun and challenging material that is custom designed for the skill level of each student, and it becomes part of the actual lesson plan. I track progress in written form weekly. We don’t just jam along to songs for the entire lesson. We actually learn what it takes to be a good drummer.

As students hopefully progress in lessons, they should “graduate” from their assigned drum teaching book and then receive more difficult material. However, I never push a student beyond his or her ability. Learning the basics is critical to a lifetime of good drumming.

Lessons should include learning and refining students’ rudimentary and sight reading ability, eliminating bad habits, improving dynamics, creating better drum fills, soloing, playing with other musicians and drummers, composing original parts, learning multiple musical styles, understanding the mechanics of song structure, and building a personal signature playing style. Ear training is enhanced with drum play-along songs. I often video record lessons so students and parents can review progress. And this is just the tip of the learning iceberg.

How long drum lessons should last in totality depends entirely upon the skill level and willingness of the student. I have current students that have been with me for several years on a weekly basis. Other more advanced students and some adults take lessons for only a few months, learn what they need to, and move on. It all depends upon the student’s learning curve and budget.

My job is to eventually put myself out of business because of your eventual drumming success. So I don’t put a time frame on lesson duration. I recommend weekly lessons of 45 minutes to one hour in length. Thirty minutes is not enough time to convey what’s needed.

If you have more questions or are still on the fence about whether drum lessons are right for you or your child, try one with me for free.

Thanks for reading and keep on drumming!

-Tim Kane

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