How long will it take to learn to play drums?
Many new drum students ask this common question a few weeks into their lessons: “How long will it take me to learn the drums?” The answer depends on what you aim to get out of drumming. If you only want to get to grips with the basics and a few songs it might take a couple months, if you want to be confident enough to play in a band it might take a year or two. There are variables such as how frequently you take lessons and how much you practice between lessons which will affect the amount of time it takes to reach your goals. But all drummers who get to a certain level with their playing see drumming as a lifelong journey of constant learning. In truth, no matter how long you’ve been playing, however expert you become, there will always be more to learn and discover. It’s one of the addictive things about the drums.
The rhetorical answer to the question is the standard “how long is a piece of string?”. However, that’s not particularly helpful and it sounds a bit smug and it doesn’t answer what you clicked here to find out, so let’s instead offer a few practical tips on how you can manage for yourself how long it is going to take you to learn the drums.
Set your goals
Decide on a set of aims that you would like to achieve. It may be that you want to achieve playing a few of your favourite songs on the drums, or to get proficient enough to jam in a band. Over the years at Elephant Drums we’ve taught students from all walks of life with such diverse reasons for wanting to start learning drums. We’ve even taught someone that wanted to learn drums in order to surprise their partner on their wedding day by getting up on stage and playing in the band. We’ve also taught people that wanted to learn to play rhythms in order to improve their understanding of other musical instruments that they were already reasonably proficient in playing. Plenty of people also start learning drums with the sole goal of wanting to do something fun, creative and inspiring and to see where it takes them.
Monitor your progress
With your goals in mind, we can work on how we get to achieve them. Discuss with your drum teacher to find out what steps are necessary to take in the short term (from week-to-week) and in the longer-term. Your teacher will be able to provide feedback on your progress and help push you to achieve your goals. Your teacher will also help you to develop strategies to monitor you own progress and be self-motivated in your practice time.
Give yourself quality time
Remember that it takes time to learn drums well. When you feel like you haven’t made a lot of progress recently, check back over your original list of goals to remind yourself of what you’ve already achieved. You will likely be surprised by how far you have come. To make this even more obvious, you could record some of your practice sessions with an audio recorder or a video camera. It’s a little strange to watch or listen to yourself at first, but reviewing recordings is a great way to find your weak areas and improve them. When you take some time off, go back to lessons you’ve already worked through or songs you can play and remember what it feels like to be in the “comfort zone”. If you have good practice habits and you’re giving yourself quality practice time, you will be making progress.
Get set for lifelong learning
When you’ve finished with drum lessons and you’ve achieved all the goals you set out at the start, you’ll be in a position to take forward your drumming under your own steam. By this time you may have an entirely new set of goals and you will have changed your perspective on drumming and music as a whole (or even on life itself!). These new perspectives will set you up for the next step in your journey of lifelong learning.