THE FIRST BEAT
It’s apparent that investing time into a child’s early musical education equates itself to time well spent. Other than the obvious benefits of them being able to play their favorite pieces of music with joy or having a sense of pride in achieving a brand new skill, it also rewards the child in their growth as an individual, expanding both their mental and physical abilities concurrently.
Playing an instrument in general demands many aspects of critical thinking and problem-solving. Needless to say, if you look at someone’s mind through an MRI machine while they play an instrument, it’ll light up like a fireworks show on National Day (minus the vicious complaints that the show is too short).
From figuring out the proper melody on a piano to making sure you are staying within the tempo of the piece, it puts someone in a situation where they exercise their mind in real-time – through art!
On top of that, learning music actually enables them to fully learn how to physically and mentally co-ordinate themselves (hand-eye coordination) as well as keeping their attention on track while playing through a particular piece of music.
As someone who embarked on his music journey early on, I am eternally grateful that my parents took the time to expose me to the beautifully vast world of music through a very specific medium – the drums.
If you are currently reading this, chances are you belong to the same group of young parents that may be wondering the same thing that you are – Should I enroll my child for drum lessons? If so, what should I be looking out for? What kind of teacher would be good for my child? What happens in a typical drum lesson? Do I need to get that gigantic wooden waste of space and will my neighbors hate me for it?
Fret not, this article will answer your every query.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MUSIC
In a nutshell, the drums are essential to plenty of styles of music. Styles such as Pop, Rock, Jazz, Samba, Reggae, Blues, Soul, Swing and many, many more that I’ll not attempt to list out in one breath. More often than not, most drumming instructors will cater to a more Pop & Rock-centric lesson plan. As most Pop & Rock music puts a lot of emphasis on drums and beats, these genres are a lot more accessible for the early music learner. Through it, they will most likely be able acquire all the building blocks necessary to proceed to the next level in the most timely way.
THE TYPICAL DRUM LESSON
First and foremost, drum lessons begin with a specific amount of time catered to warming up the body. Drumming is a craft that is arguably the most physically demanding, as it requires the player to utilize all their limbs – the right and left arm/hand along with the right and left leg. As such, it is important that a student is well limbered up via doing a couple of quick and easy stretching routines. Tip: warm-up before class!
Once everyone is good and warmed up, a teacher would normally dive into a 10-minute routine of hand-rudiments. What are rudiments? Think of full sentences as pieces of music; the letters and alphabets are the rudiments.
The better a student can execute their rudiments, the better they can execute pieces of music.
Rudiments are the bedrock of drumming as they enable a player to be able to systematically categorize rhythmic patterns and sequences, which are the building blocks to playing the drums.
Throughout the lesson (depending on the current level that the student is at) there will be a certain degree of music theory involved, where the student would have to read music off a score in order to understand what is required of them to play in the song. However, this should not overshadow their practice in being able to play-by-ear. As a student of the drums myself, having a keen ear to single out beats and rhythms just by listening to the music is the most important aspect of drumming (and music, in general).
Lastly, the lesson should fully conclude anything new that has been covered in the beginning. A summary of sorts, where the student will take whatever they’ve learned and put it into a real-time application. For example; if a student learns a certain kind of pattern or beat, it would be put into context via a play-along setting where they play to recorded music. This will allow the student to not only practice what they’ve learned but also to simulate what it feels like to perform in an ensemble – which is also incredibly essential to mastering the drums.
Music is truly a language, and like any language, the student has to learn how to write it, read it, and last but most definitely not least, speak it. Each lesson should holistically encompass this ethos and constantly work the different aspects of learning music as a language.
THE RIGHT AGE
Common questions amongst parents are – What is the right age for me to start my child on the drums? Well truthfully speaking, there is no right or wrong age! As soon as they show interest in it, they can begin their music journey.
However, there is a tiny little setback when it comes to drums. A child can be of any age however they should be at a certain height as the instrument itself is a huge one (even at its smallest manufactured size). That being said, normally a child who is between the ages of 6-8 years old is more than ready to pick up a pair of sticks and hit the skins.
For parents who’s kids are a little slower on the growth scale (much like myself) – there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. What you can do is start them will a little toy drum kit at home, where they can cultivate the interest on their own while those bones and muscles are growing. That way, once they have reached a certain height and they’re able to fully reach all the different components in a standard drum kit easily, they’ll be all up and ready for lessons.
DIFFICULTY, MOTIVATION AND RESULTS
Another common question that comes up is – Are the drums hard to learn? How can I motivate my child to play the drums? Each and every instrument comes with its own variety of challenges. When it comes to the drums, it isn’t a difficult instrument to start playing. However, much like other instruments, it requires patience and practice to fully master it in the long run. My best advice to parents is to not look for results as a marker for the significance of early music education. Music serves a much bigger purpose and the process of learning, enjoyment, and self-discovery is the reward.
That being said, motivation is also a key factor is ensuring that your child puts in the time to practice their craft. The more invested the child is in the instrument, the more discoveries he/she will make on their own accord. I remember being a young boy and constantly wanting to discover more music, learn more new things so that I can play them effortlessly. This resulted in a very conducive environment where I would gather all the information that I get from lessons and putting them into my own perspective and applying them to my own inspirations.
The greatest thing that can come out of taking music lessons is not to be a great musician, but to gain the quality of understanding through art along with the effort and patience that it takes in order to achieve a goal – be it a complicated piece of music or a simple little jingle that makes you bop your head every now and then.
BUYING A DRUM KIT
By its nature, the drum kit is quite a hassle of an instrument to handle – especially so at home. It is technically a bunch of small parts and key components (cymbals, drums, stands, clutches, pedals) bundled up into one big chunk of musical goodness. On top of that, for home use, it is not the most friendly instrument to have around as the traditional acoustic drum kit is costly to mute and even if it is, it’s still pretty loud and might cause a rift between you and your neighbors.
Thankfully, we are in the 21st century. Digital drum kits are widely available and they are much more economical in terms of cost, space, overall noise reduction, along with the added benefit of having a multitude of drum sounds to play with. They’re able to be used via an external speaker or even just with a set of headphones. A Yamaha DTX402K electronic drum kit costs about $600.00 and is a perfect starting kit for home practice.
That aside, even if having a drum kit at home may not be the most suitable situation, parents may purchase the next best thing -practice pads! These would go for less than $100.00 and would definitely enable a student to practice their hand/leg rudiments easily as the skills are transferable to a drum kit.
THE LAST BEAT
All things considered, having music lessons early on can only benefit a child’s growth even if they don’t fully continue on and be the next Neil Peart or the next Buddy Rich (I’m still trying). The micro-lessons that they learn through putting things together and executing specific things on the drum kit are skills that can be transferred to any other form of cognitive thinking and problem-solving. Needless to say, they will enjoy discovering new forms of music to play to, as well as be able to speak with the terminology of music that will definitely add up to their identity in the long haul.
On top of that, they will gain personal confidence from achieving a skill that is uniquely their own, along with being able to perform music that they love, for themselves and for their loved ones.
What kind of music should I get my child exposed to?
– Anything and everything. The more they’re exposed to, the more then will absorb and subconsciously adapt into playing their instrument!
Should my child pick up another instrument while learning the drums?
– Yes. Preferably a melodic Instrument that they can put together with the rhythmic knowledge they learn from the drums.
Is it compulsory for my child to take exams?
– No. It is encouraged if he/she is interested in it, however, it is not a necessity – especially during the early stages.
What is the best age for my child to start?
– 6-8 years old for drums as a rule of thumb.
Can adults do it too?
– For sure, there are plenty of adult students who take up the instrument as a hobby and enjoy the time they have to play the music they’re passionate about.