One of the biggest milestones for beginner drummers is that great moment when you can play along to a song. Furthermore, if you approach this the right way, it may not be as far off as you might think. At Drum Ambition, all of the beats and fills that we give you in our carefully structured curriculum prepare you for this goal. After all, playing drums on their own is awesome, but playing along to music, and playing with other musicians is next-level fun!
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In Module 1, Lesson 1, you will learn how to play a basic rock and pop beat. This is the foundation for so many songs, and a great place to start. The chances are, many of your favorite pop and rock songs are variations of this 8th note drum beat, so working on this video is highly recommended. Before we dive-in, be sure to check out my recommended play-along list at the foot of this article.
The trick is finding songs that are not too fast, or overly distracting with frequent complex drum fills. Let's take three song examples that I think fit the bill: "Yellow" by Coldplay, "High Hopes" by Panic at the Disco, and "You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift. We can't embed the songs due to copyright restrictions, but you'll easily find them on your favorite online streaming service. "Yellow" is always a favorite of mine in my teaching studio because it is mid-tempo, and literally has no drum fills at all. That is actually very unusual, but musically perfect for this particular song. It just allows you to focus on the beat, and play along with no distractions. The Panic at the Disco and Taylor Swift songs were chosen for their current popularity, and relaxed tempos. These are good examples, but there's nothing stopping you picking your own. Just try and find ones that tick the boxes on tempo and lack of distractions.
If you listen to all three of our examples, you will hear that they all have different things going on in terms of the hi hat, snare and bass drum pattern. But, also notice how you could play along to all three of these songs using just the drum beat you learned in Module 1, Lesson 1. This is absolutely critical to understand - simplicity is key. There is nothing wrong with simplifying a part so that you can play along, and have fun. In fact, I always say that in this case, simplification is a skill, not a short cut. As you work through Modules 1, 2 and 3 over time, you will be armed with the skills necessary to play songs closer to the original parts. In the meantime, jamming what you can play to the songs you enjoy will help you develop important skills, but most importantly, have fun. I always recommend simplification and fun over perfection and too much attention to details that may not be important straight away. If you lose the fun element of this journey, you may soon lose the motivation to play.
As you become more experienced later down the line, you can source the sheet music to your favorite songs and set yourself the challenge of reading the part, and playing closer to the original track. This in itself is a fun exercise because you are putting to use the music notation you have learned along the way. With that said, it is very important to manage your expectations here. Reading charts is a skill that comes much later in your drumming adventure, after you have had fun working on the ever important foundation lessons presented in Modules 1, 2 and 3 of Drum Ambition. By working through these Modules and developing a good practice plan, you'll also be able to work out many drum parts just by listening, and applying what you have learned, whether you use a drum chart or not.
Simon's recommended play list.
TIP: Remember the points made on simplification in this article. The first step is to just play a comfortable drum beat with some of these songs. Don't get too concerned with drum fills, stops and starts, and other distractions that prevent you from the Number 1 goal: having fun!
- Coldplay - Yellow.
- Queen - Another One Bites The Dust.
- Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk.
- Panic at the Disco - High Hopes.
- Taylor Swift - You Need to Calm Down.
- Lady Antebellum - Get to Me.
- Jason Aldean - Crazy Town.
- Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar.
- No Doubt - Hella Good.
- AC/DC - Back In Black.