Learning how to play a musical instrument can be a lot of fun. Often times, music is what defines as it has the ability to reach our souls and touch us in ways that words cannot. If you’d like to start making music yourself, consider trying your hand on drums.

It is a standard percussion instrument that is found in numerous bands. It is also a great instrument to teach yourself rhythms.

When you attend a live music show, the percussionist in the band might catch your attention by playing a drum solo to the beat of the music. But it is also the job of a drummer to make playing drums look easier than it actually is.

If you have made up your mind to learn how to play the drums by teaching yourself, understand that it will be an exciting but tough journey. There are so many musical styles and techniques to learn. But once you master a few of them, the act of playing drums will also enrich your everyday life.

People standing in a row playing on a drum.
The act of playing drums will also enrich your everyday life. (Source: Unsplash).

History of the Drum Kit

Before you dive right into playing, it’s worth learning some things about the history of the drum kit. Questions like why it was invented, where it came from and how it evolved over time should all be basic knowledge that you should know as an aspiring drummer.

Based on archaeological evidence from 30,000 years ago, drums were made by early humans by stretching animal skin. Over the next 29,000 years, the look of the drum remained unchanged. In fact, in the 1800s, the drums and the symbols were separate instruments that required different percussionists to play them within a band.

Less than a hundred years ago, the modern drum kit was finally invented by William F. Ludwig, Sr. of the Ludwig Drum Co. Ludwig designed a foot pedal for the bass drum, allowing drummers to play multiple parts simultaneously. After that, the snare drum and cymbal was invented to join the bass drum. Both were designed to be mounted on a stand so the drummer could sit down while playing.

In the ‘80s, electric drums using MIDI technology was able to play electronic sounds when struck. These early electronic drum kits were more compact and could be plugged into headphones for quiet practice times. A big plus for aspiring and professional drummers who no longer need to find sound-proof roofs to practice in.

Today, drum kits come in more variety than ever and drummers can choose between high-end kits or economic kits that provide more value for your money.

Parts of a Drum Kit

Now that you know some facts about the history of the drum kit, it’s time to learn more about the pieces that make up a drum kit. You will have to know their names and functions well before you start playing.

Drum kits can consist of multiple numbers of pieces. In fact, it is usually described by how many pieces it has and only counting the number of drums while ignoring the cymbals and other hardware.

Another classification method involves adding 2 to the total number of drums. For example, with a drum kit that has 5 toms (a type of drum), then it would be a 7 piece kit. The most common drum kit configuration consists of 5 pieces that are usually made up of a bass drum, snare drum and 3 toms (made up of high, mid and low).

Drums with drum sticks sitting in a dark room.
You should know the names and functions of the pieces in a drum kit well before you start playing.

The Throne

It might sound fancy, but the throne is simply the stool that a drummer sits on while playing the drums. Most of the time, it is a round and padded stool with three legs and adjustable height.

The Bass Drum / Kick Drum

This is the largest drum out of the entire drum kit and is commonly referred to as the ‘Kick Drum’ or just ‘Kick’. To play the bass drum, you will need to use a foot pedal that attaches to the rim, or hoop, of the drum.

The Hi-Hats

The hi-hats are a type of cymbal that consists of a pair of cymbals that close against each other. They can be controlled by a foot-operated pedal and are highly dynamic as they can produce a wide range of sounds.

The Snare Drum

The snare drum forms the center of a drum kit and can be played in many ways. These drums are usually 14″ in diameter and 6″ in-depth and will always have a batter as well as a resonant head which produces the classic ‘buzz’ sound.

The Tom Toms

Tom toms are drums that come in a wide range of sizes ranging from 10″ to 16″ depending on the type of music it is designed for. For 5 piece drum kit, it will usually have a high tom, a mid tom and low or floor tom.

The Ride Cymbal

This cymbal called the ride cymbal is a large and heavy one with 20″ being its typical size. It is usually placed on the right-hand side of the drum kit and is played with the tip of the drum stick which then produces the ‘ping’ sound.

Splash Cymbal

These cymbals are smaller versions of crash cymbals with an average size of 8”. They are great for adding subtle accents. And because of their small size, they can fit in places where other regular-sized cymbals cannot.

Tips on Teaching Yourself Drums

Now that you know how the pieces of the drums work, you can definitely start shopping for your own drum set. If you are new to learning drums, consider borrowing or renting a set first if you are not ready to spend money on your very own drum set.

If you are looking for the self-directed learning route on the drums, there are a few ways you can accomplish this. Below are some ideas and tips on how you can approach a self-directed drum learning path.

Use Online Resources

In today’s digital age, there are so many drum resources online that you might not know where to start looking! Online resources are great for when you want to learn how to play the drums on your own time, if you are looking to take private lessons, or if you are just testing out the waters for your drum education but is not yet ready to make a full-on commitment to the instrument.

Starting off with a quick search on Google or YouTube for “drum lessons” brings thousands of search results for numerous different creators and music conservatoires. On websites such as Superprof, you can also access drum tutors of all experience levels and for all budget levels. However, do pay close attention as some websites may give you dubious or generic, poorly-written information.

Set and Follow a Practice Schedule

Rome was not built in a day, and neither are your skills on the drums. Mastering an instrument takes years of hard work and dedication, which is why it’s important to practice every day. Doing a little work a day will add up to complete mastery in the long run.

If you have other commitments during your day, try scheduling in your drum practice time when you would normally take a break. For example, instead of waking up at eight in the morning every day, consider waking up at seven so you can get an hour of practice time on the drums before starting your day.

If you are determined to master the drums, you’d make time out of your day to work towards your drum learning goals.

Person holding drum sticks playing bass drums.
Make time out of your busy day to work towards your drum learning goals. (Source: Unsplash).

Don’t Give Up!

Like in life, you will run into highs and lows on your drum journey. Some days, you will feel stuck and uninspired, while other days, you will make tons of progress. The important thing to remember here is to never give up.

If you are feeling stuck and in a hole, consider reaching out for help. Talk to your friends who play drums. You can even enlist the services of a drum tutor or teacher to help you out. If you persist through the difficult parts, you will be rewarded with awesome drum skills down the line.

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Former high-school tutor with a passion for science and technology, I now work in the software industry and enjoy reading and learning about all kinds of topics.