So, maybe you've been having drum lessons for a little while, and you've really caught the drumming bug! Next stage is to get a set of drums so you can practice at home... this is where you will really start to make progress, as practicing between drum lessons will result in rapid progress. For todays post, I will just concentrate on acoustic drumsets, as I've mentioned electronic kits in an earlier post..
There are so many drumkits on the market nowdays that it can be a bit of a confusing minefield for the beginner. If you have a good drum teacher, you could ask them for a bit of guidance, and hopefully reading this this article will put you on the right path.
Firstly, I would definitely suggest buying a kit made by a named brand.... there are many cheaper kits out there that get imported from China..they are fine until you need a spare part etc and then its difficult to track them down. Buy a kit from a company such as Mapex, Pearl etc and you know you will get backup if and when you need it. The starter drum set that I usually recommend is the Mapex Tornado, a well made kit that comes in at under £300 and comes with pretty much all you need to get drumming. Like most of the kits at this price, the tornado is a 5 piece drum set comprising of 5 drums (bass drum, snare drum, 3x tom toms) plus a set of fairly sturdy hardware, a crash cymbal and a pair of hihats...theres even a stool and a set of drumsticks! So, once you get this out of the box, theres a little bit of assembly to do, putting on a few drum heads and tuning... if you arent confident about this, drum stores such as Nottingham Drum Centre offer a build service for a small fee... then you can be sure that your kit has been built correctly, checked and tuned. Then its just a case of finding a corner of your house, putting the drums into position, and then having a good bash... might be worth warning your neighbours in advance (flowers/chocolate/wine often helps here!!).
Noise isnt usually a problem...no-one drumming at home should be hitting the drums so hard as if they are playing to a full house at wembley stadium, so hopefully neighbours wont have an issue. If however the volume does cause difficulties, you can buy Silencer Pads, neoprene rubber mats that come in sets and simply sit over the drums and cymbals, reducing the volume massively yet still retaining the feel of the drums etc.
So you are now all set up and ready to go.....do you need anything else?? Initially no, but in time you may want to add another cymbal, ideally a 20" ride and stand. By this point you will have an industry standard 5 piece drumkit, complete with all the drums and cymbals you would need. Such a set up would be more than adequate for a few gigs, as well as seeing you through your drum exams etc.
There are other options of course...slightly more expensive kits, but here Im trying to show you how to get started on a minimum outlay. The other option of course is the secondhand market via ebay etc... Yes, there are some bargains to be had, but be a little wary especially if you are new to all this. You need to ensure that the kit is in full working order and does in fact come with all the relevant bits...Ive known many people buy such kits on ebay only to discover for example that it didnt have a bass drum pedal and stool, or that the drum heads (skins) were very beaten up and needed replacing. In cases like these, what looked like a bargain soon becomes a bit more expensive, so be careful!
Should you have any questions on this post please feel free to post a comment and i'll get straight back to you! Thanks for reading!
One of the great things about drumming is the camaraderie... drummers always seem happy to help one another and talk drums, and this can be vital for young or new drummers and their progress. On our musical journey we'll meet many other drummers, some of whom will go on to have a great influence on us. For most of us, it was an initial drumming influence (maybe on TV) that made us want to start drum lessons in the first place, and these influences will continue to shape us.
Our first really helpful influence will of course be our drum teacher. A good teacher will encourage us, push us, and ensure that we really make some progress.... Unfortunately a not so good teacher may well put us off, never to pick up the sticks again although this is rare. So finding the right drum tutor is important, and these early lessons will really shape our outlook. However, its the other drummers that you meet over the years that can really have a profound effect on us.
Looking back at my own experiences, i had a great teacher from the age of 11, and he gave me a very solid grounding in playing snare drum and orchestral percussion. Away from lessons I was playing drumkit at home, watching and learning from drummers on TV shows such as top of the pops in the early 1980s. By my mid teens, I came into contact with 2 older guys that I feel were a huge influence on me...both were Nottingham based jazz drummers at the top of their game...Phil Alexander (who presented the first drum clinic i ever attended) and Barry Page. The first jazz gigs I ever went to were thanks to Barry sneaking me into venues such as Nottinghams Cafe Royal long before i was legally entitled to be in there! I would hide behind his bass drum case as he entered the venue and then he'd sit me in a quiet corner with half a lager so I could watch the band! I learnt so much about being a working drummer from him, and met many great musicians. I guess by this stage I really felt that this is what i wanted to do in life, so in a sense the influence of these guys (now sadly no longer with us) was a major factor in the course of my lifes direction.
After leaving school, I got more into playing kit and less into the orchestral side of things, and was looking to have some drum kit lessons. Again, fate played its part and I was introduced to another prolific Nottingham drummer, Andy Ferguson. Andys playing really knocked me for six....great funk grooves that I had never encounted before, and this set me off on a whole new musical direction. I gained so much from Andy, and began listening to new musical influences such as Phil Gould (Level 42) and Dave Weckl (Chick Corea band). These were really exciting times, and in addition, Andy was a great pipe band drummer which again blew my mind a little..he'd play these incredible snare drum patterns that fascinated me. I used to badger him all the time to show me new beatings, I really couldnt get enough! And massive to respect to him, as he always took time to show me.. So once again an almost chance meeting led to a drummer becoming a major influence on me, as I continued with the pipe band drumming which eventually took me all over Europe.
There have of course been many other great influences on me over the past couple of decades. Ive been fortunate to meet so many great players and formed some wonderful friendships, but its the encounters from my early musical career that really stand out in my mind and I will be forever grateful to those guys.
So, if you are new to drumming, listen to as much music as you can, and really vary the genres...you might just find something new, fresh, and inspiring where you least expect it. Try and attend drum clinics or live gigs.... watch and learn from the drummer and if possible have a chat after the show. Most drummers will be more than happy to talk drums and you can learn from every drummer, so be receptive.
And to any established drummer, I would say....be that great example. If a young or new drummer approaches you, give advice freely whenever you can. One day they might just look back and acknowledge the influence that you had on them....
There was a time many years ago when electronic drums were something of a novelty.. great for adding a bit of visual effect on Top of the Pops, but definitely sounding nothing like a real drum set. I remember all too well the rise of the Simmons electronic drums in the 1980s, with their distinctive hexagon shaped pads, and how excited we used to be when the latest model came out with loads of extra knobs, buttons, and flashing lights.... but looking back they never sounded like acoustic drums, and certainly didnt play like them..... you could play 20 fast notes on the snare pad and only a dozen would be picked up..... and you could forget about dynamics and nuances....these things were all or nothing! In short, they were a bit of a gimmick, but the seed had been sowed....
Fast forward a few decades, and electronic drums are now a mainstream instrument, used by serious drummers both live and in the studio. Technology has caught up with the playing demands of drummers, and todays electronic drum kits are responsive, sound great, and are cheaper than they have ever been. Now featuring digital samples of real drum and percussion instruments, these digital drum sets put a huge collection of sounds at the drummers fingertips (or should that be stick tips!).....want to sound like a rock kit with deep toms and big cymbals?...easy..... how about an open, jazz kit sound?....no problem...... maybe looking for some high pitched drum n bass sounds?... its all in there!
For this reason, electronic drums are now widely used, and especially so in homes, practice rooms, and tuition studios. Simply plug in a set of headphones and play to your hearts content.....you get to hear all those great digital drum sounds, and your housemates hear nothing! Certainly for home use, the electronic drum kit has become king. They are responsive enough now to pick up all the notes that you play, and will even reproduce drum rolls etc smoothly and evenly. As an added bonus, not only are they quieter than their acoustic counterparts, but they often have a host of useful features for practicing built-in.... click tracks so you can check your timing with the on board metronome, play along backing tracks to jam along to, and often the facility to hook up to a laptop and use tuition software (or programs such as Rolands Friends jam). So, they are the perfect kit for anyone taking drum lessons and wanting to play at home.
But what about acoustic drums? Well they will certainly be around for years and years to come, and definitely have their uses. Firstly, for drummers who want to take a kit along to a band practice or just jam with friends in a garage, an acoustic kit is self contained and wont require a large external amplifier in order to be heard over the bass and guitars etc. . Secondly, as far as responsiveness goes, nothing beats a real drum. And thirdly...... appearance. To many people, seeing an electronic drum set on stage just doesnt look right......maybe you just cant beat the look of all those drums, surrounded by chromed hardware and shiny cymbals!
So, there are pros and cons for both electronic and acoustic drumkits...Over the next few weeks im aiming to produce some videos demonstrating the features of various electroninc kits and showing you what exactly you are getting for your money. Meanwhile, if you have any questions regarding any of this, or are looking for product recommendations, please feel free to get in touch and drop me an email at email@example.com