When you are learning the drums, it seems as if there are so many things to focus on. From developing coordination, counting skills, sight-reading, and essential technique, to formulating practice plans - it can be hard to know where to start. The most important thing of all is having fun and enjoying the experience. You'll soon find that many of these things naturally fall into place with the right guidance.
Timekeeping is a top priority, and as drummers, this is actually our primary job. When we talk about good timekeeping, we refer to the ability to maintain a steady beat at the required tempo, without speeding up, dragging, or slowing down. It seems very straightforward but can often present a significant challenge to beginner drummers. Some people have naturally good timekeeping skills, but most of us need to work on it. The good news is that you will be developing these skills, sometimes subconsciously, from day one by following our curriculum.
To help you further, here are five tips for developing good timekeeping.
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1. Play slowly.
During your first free lesson, we'll show you how to play a fun and popular drum beat and consistently stress the importance of playing slowly. Many beginner drummers have a natural default tempo that they start at, and more often than not, it is too fast. Slowing things down allows you time to think about the steps you are going through. Many beginner drummers will start a beat at a slow tempo and gradually speed up after a few measures, and it is essential to control this. While it sometimes seems easier to play basic beats faster in the early days, slowing down requires a higher degree of accuracy and will lead to better control, technique, and timekeeping. Don't be in a rush to play your first beats too fast. Speed is a byproduct of control, which must be patiently built over time. This article explains more. You'll have a lot more fun if you take things slow and steady.
2. Count out loud.
This is so important, yet this is something that most beginner drummers often neglect. There is a direct and proven link between counting out loud and developing good solid timekeeping. Not only does counting help you with your overall coordination, but it also helps you lock-in better with a metronome and gives you an obvious audible cue if things are starting to speed up or slow down. In the early days of drumming, counting in your head is unreliable. It won't always be that way, and as you develop your playing and your inner-clock over time, you will rely less on counting.
3. Use a metronome when you are ready.
A metronome is a device that sets the beat's tempo, measured in beats per minute, and abbreviated to bpm. Practicing with a metronome will help you develop good timekeeping, but we generally recommend that you are confident playing basic drum beats first. While it will ultimately benefit your drumming, a metronome can be somewhat distracting in the early days of playing. Once you are satisfied that you have control over the beat you are developing at slow speed, try playing with a metronome at 50 bpm, and be sure to count out loud. In fact, it's a good idea to count along with just the metronome before you attempt to play the beat. The closing comments in our first free video will coach you through how to count with a metronome. There are plenty of good metronome apps available, and many are free.
4. Learn to read basic music notation.
As outlined in this article, there are many benefits to learning to read music. For timekeeping, it is essential because learning to read music facilitates an understanding of rhythm. We learn rhythm through counting, and as discussed, counting out loud is one of the best things you can do to develop good timekeeping skills. The ability to count your drum beats and drum fills will help you play accurately with a metronome. Learning to read music notation will also help you understand the sticking concepts that build control. The more control you have over your playing, the more likely you will play with good timekeeping.
5. Play along with songs.
One of the best things you can do to work on your timekeeping, and certainly one of the most fun, is to play along with some of your favorite songs. Don't pick anything too fast to start with. It's always best to try something in the 50-70 bpm tempo range once you become confident with the basic beat you see in our first video. It's perfectly ok to simplify drum parts if it makes it easier to play. You'll certainly have more fun with this approach.
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