I’ve Been Playing The Drums For More Than 15 Years: Here’s What I Learned

Playing the drums for over 15 years

I’ve been playing the drums since I was a teenager.

Being a 31-year-old woman now, I’m still in love with this instrument.

When I was younger, I also dreamt of being a drum teacher.

Helping others create a more joyful life thanks to the power of music:

This is my motivation to this day on.

Drumming is love, so it’s always a good time to share it.

I also feel outstandingly blessed to say:

In 2023, I’ve been teaching drums (and other instruments like the cajon) for 10 years.

Therefore, it might be the right time to share some of my most important learnings with you.

With that said:

I’ve got over 15 years of drumming under my belt.

What did I learn during this time?

1. Actually, There Is A “Secret” Formular To Learning The Drums

Is there a secret formular to learning the drums?

I’ve heard this question a lot over the years.

Also, I asked it myself various times.

Maybe you’re still in search of the perfect drumming formular, too?

After over 15 years of drumming, I’m able to say:

Yes, there is a formular.

It’s not secret in terms of being secret, but still, its ingredients are sometimes overlooked.

So, our drumming formular is made of

  • understanding and enjoying what you do,
  • persistence as well as resilience,
  • a big cup of willingness to learn
  • and dedication.

Looking at this formular, it becomes clear:

Everybody can learn to play the drums.

The level of quality time and effort you invest makes the difference.

I’ve also found out that the more people enjoy drumming, the easier it becomes for them.

This makes sense.

After all, happy drummers will spend more quality time playing and practicing.

This, in turn, helps them to sharpen their skills more effectively as well.

2. Talent Is Overrated When It Comes To Playing The Drums

Perhaps you looked out our drumming formular and wondered why I didn’t mention talent.

Did I forget about it?

No.

I just don’t think it’s that important for playing the drums.

Let me explain:

When you’re considered as being talented, it’s said that something comes easy to you.

People likely have many talents, you can also call them strengths or maybe even gifts.

Talent often indicates you simply can do something because you can do it with natural ease.

It’s assumed:

Thanks to your talent, success – in many ways – will come easy to you.

And here’s the big problem I have with the “talent for drumming”:

I’ve NEVER seen or heard any person being a great drummer from scratch.

Everybody needs to practice.

Everybody!

Sure, there are those people who don’t need to practice overly long to learn a certain thing.

That’s the talent, for starters.

But sooner or later, everybody will need to sit down and just do the work.

There simply is no short-cut to become the musician you’re able to become.

A talent for drumming is nice to have, but it’s only a small fraction of the musical journey.

In the long rung, dedicated work and passion will help you reach your drumming goals.

Remember:

You can not change the amount of talent you were born with.

But you can always change what you do with your time given.

Don’t worry about a “lack of talent” for drumming.

Instead, think of what you’re actually able to change about your playing.

You don’t need to agree, but I will say it again:

Talent is overrated.

There is so much more to playing the drums.

Speaking of:

3. There’s Always More To Learn

More

  • speed,
  • precision,
  • feeling …

Each time you practice, you can and will learn something new on the drums.

You’ll never get the 100 % of drumming.

After all, we’re mortal.

So, there is always more to learn during a drummer’s lifetime.

Keeping this in mind not only feels really relaxing to me.

It also motivates me to keep on learning:

How far can i go, and which kind of drummer will I finally become?

If I find my answers sometime in the future, I will celebrate – and hopefully be able to learn just a little longer.

4. The Current Drumming Exercise Is The Most Important One

Not long ago, I wrote about the most important exercise for drummers.

To make it short:

The most important exercise is the one you’re currently working on.

Maybe it’s a

  • single beat,
  • drum fill or
  • certain drumming technique.

No matter what you’re practicing right now:

It’s the next step towards your drumming goals.

For this reason, it’s the most important exercise.

Thing is:

You can learn everything from the drumming basics to the most complex stuff.

In between, there’s A LOT.

So, I can’t give you a certain exercise that was the game changer for me.

Each of them adds up.

I can imagine that some drummers might be disappointed.

But hey, I might be wrong, and you should always make up your own mind.

Maybe I will do so in the future as well, who knows.

For now, however, I’m a 100 percent sure:

The current drumming exercise is the most important one.

5. Playing The Drums Is Simple, But Not Easy

In my opinion, everybody can learn to play the drums.

It really doesn’t matter

  • where you come from,
  • how old you are or
  • what’s in your bank account.

As a consequence, it’s an instrument you can simply approach.

  • Sit down,
  • grab a pair of drum sticks and
  • start drumming –

it can be as simple as that.

However, you soon you will notice:

Playing drums might be simple, but that easy.

What do I mean by that?

Learning your first beats or drum fills is great fun.

You invest maybe a few hours of concentrated practice time, and you will be able to play your first drum rhythms.

On the other hand, you will still not sound like the pros.

There’s more to it.

It takes a lot of dedicated practice time to master the art of playing the drums.

See, drumming is simple – but not that easy after all.

6. Cooperate! Being A Jerk Won’t Help Your Drumming Career

Being a drummer for over 15 years now, I met a lot of awesome musicians.

There were the absolute pros and total beginners.

All of them were great personalities.

Well … ok, almost.

Now and then, somebody acted like a jerk.

I’m not into gossip.

So, I will just share this personal advice:

Treat other people just like you want to be treated.

It’s crucial to cooperate, network and have good relationships with other musicians.

If you’re acting like a jerk, few people will likely want to jam or work with you.

Sure:

You certainly don’t need to be a people pleaser.

It’s totally fine not being liked by everybody.

But being respectful to others should be a no-brainer.

7. Your Drumming Style Will Not Be For Everybody – And That’s Fine

Looking past the last couple of years, many people loved my drumming style.

Others couldn’t care less about it.

And some people really didn’t like it at all.

Big deal?

Nope, totally normal.

People will love, don’t care about, or dislike what you and I do.

Some people will also dislike you as a person for personal reasons.

Again, this might sound scary, but it’s absolutely normal.

So, as you can’t change people’s thoughts, it’s a wise thing to simply accept them.

Of course:

I’m talking about standard disliking here, not despicable behavior such as bullying or harassing somebody.

I’m not in the position to give any advice here.

8. Stay True To Yourself

For me, it’s a no-brainer to treat other people the way you want to be treated.

At the same time, it’s important to stay true to yourself.

Self-love and self-care are a key element to not only be a successful drummer, but also a happy one.

Staying true to yourself is crucial.

After all, you’re the one that has to live your life.

It’ll better be one you enjoy, playing the drums or not.

So, be nice to others, but also be nice to yourself.

Being a drummer or musician in general, you definitely don’t need to be perfect.

After all, perfection is an illusion.

You also don’t need to be a people pleaser to be successful, or enjoy a fulfilled career as a musician.

9. It’s About How You’re Playing The Drums

You know the Money Beat or Queen Beat?

Both of these drum grooves are as catchy as they seem to be easy to learn.

Again, the sound and feel makes the difference.

Being a drummer for over 15 years, I definitely learned this lesson:

It’s way better to nail an “easy” beat than to play complex stuff “somehow”.

Also, it’s more fun.

Sure:

In the end, you’re playing the music.

If it lives-off complexity, your drumming should join this conversation as well.

But you definitely don’t need to add artificial complexity to music to make it sound and feel great.

10. You Become A Different Person Playing The Drums

You know them drummer jokes?

Besides of being funny sometimes, they also hide a spark of truth in them.

After all, playing the drums changes you as a person.

It does not make you better or worse or anything.

Playing the drums just opens your mind to a whole new world of possibilities.

It’s like stretching yourself in another direction.

If you want to learn how to play the drums, you will need to improve your

alongside other skills.

This changes you as a person.

And yes, I think in a good way.

11. Taking Things Too Serious Can Be Harmful

Playing the drums is a superb way to spend your time.

However, things can get a little too serious as well:

You might stress about sucking as a drummer.

Perhaps you regret waiting “too long” to learn how to play the drums.

Or maybe you’ve become highly competitive and compare yourself to other drummers.

Bad behavior?

Human behavior!

But as natural as it comes to most of us, such behavior can be harmful.

Taking yourself too serious playing the drums can make you stiff or feel bad about yourself.

It can also drain the fun of making music.

Give you constant muscle tension.

Or bring up other issues.

Sure, I DO NOT say you shouldn’t be working on your plans and goals.

Definitely not.

Sometimes, however, letting go realy is the secret to a fulfilled life as a drummer and beyond.

12. It’s Not That Important How Long You’ve Been Playing The Drums

I’ve been playing the drums for over 15 years now.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter.

Why so?

Making music, playing the drums, is no competition.

(Even drumming contents like Hit Like A Girl for me are there to cooperate, not to compete with somebody. Again – personal opinion.)

So, drumming is

  • passion,
  • love and – for me –
  • a part of my freelance working.

However, the most enjoyable aspect of playing the drums has to be this one here:

It’s simply fun.

You definitely can have a superb time drumming the first time you grab a drum stick.

However, time is relative:

A drummer can “just” play for 5 years, but if he or she practices 8 quality hours a day, the results will be outstanding.

So, a number stays a number.

It doesn’t matter how much time you spend on the drums.

The way you spent it is making the difference.

13. Uniqueness Is Your Biggest Strength

What would I change in my personal drumming journey?

Would I start playing the drums earlier?

Get more drumming lessons and visit more masterclasses?

Would I invest more in my equipment?

Actually, no.

Looking back, I’m totally satisfied with how everything worked out for me.

I wouldn’t change anything.

Or, wait!

Actually, I would.

Looking back, I’d love to say to my younger self:

“Manu, you’re perfectly fine the way you are. It’s ok to make mistakes. You’ll learn the most thanks to them.”

As human beings, we’re all unique.

As drummers, we’re unique as well.

That’s our biggest strength.

Call it

  • asset,
  • USP
  • or whatever you like.

Nobody can be playing the drums like you do.

You’re an original.

Everybody is an original.

Understanding this made a huge difference for me.

Also in terms of Marketing.

Maybe it does for you as well?

14. Stay Away From Perfection – It’s An Illusion

A lot of people are afraid of making mistakes.

After all, that’s what many of us took away from school:

Mistakes are bad. You need to avoid them.

Is that really so?

If there was a “perfect” world, maybe.

But we obviously don’t get a perfect world.

Perfection is an illusion, even in nature.

So, how could work perfection in terms of playing the drums?

I’m sure you know this scenario as well:

You show a drumming video to a friend of yours.

In your opinion, the performance is simply great.

PERFECT!

For your friend, however, it’s only good.

He or she could even dislike the drumming.

Who’s right?

Both of you are.

If something’s great for you, it is for you.

If something’s great for another person, it is for this person as well.

After all, everything comes down to our own unique perception.

It’s about our own perspective.

That’s why perfection – in drumming and beyond – is an illusion.

15. You Can Definitely Make Money Playing The Drums

We’re all starting out as drum beginners.

Eventually, some of us decide to professionalize and play the drums for a living.

But can you really make money drumming?

As this question pops up A LOT, here’s my answer:

Sure, you definitely can earn money playing the drums.

Also a lot of money.

After all, why shouldn’t you?

Working as a musician is a profession like any other profession in the world.

If you manage to bring value to the market, serve people’s needs, you will earn money.

However, working as a freelancer or entrepreneur is not for everybody.

At least here in Germany, freelance

  • drummers,
  • drum teachers and
  • drumming entrepreneurs in general

are their own bosses.

This brings up great chances, but also challenges.

Nevertheless, it’s a 1,000 percent possible to make money playing the drums.

16. There Are Things You Shouldn’t Compromise On

It’s fine to compromise on some things.

For example, you don’t need an expensive kit to enjoy playing the drums.

At the same time, there are things I wouldn’t compromise on (again) including

  • high quality drum sticks,
  • making time for practicing or
  • buying an ergonomic drum seat.

I also wouldn’t join a band just to be part of a band.

Some compromises are fine or turn out as a lovely surprise.

Others just stink.

So, it’s up to you to say no when no is the best answer to something.

17. Playing The Drums Slowly Can Be As Challenging As Playing The Drums Fast

What I found out playing in one of my first bands is this lesson here:

Playing the drums slowly can be just as hard as playing the drums fast.

In fact, some drummers describe it as way harder.

That’s because of the micro and macro timing:

Whenever playing medium paced sixteenth notes, for example, the 16th micro-timing often is easier to play in time.

You simply have less space between the notes, reducing your choice of actually making the stroke.

A slower tempo naturally enhances the space between the notes and rests in music.

Drumming really slowly and equally right on spot becomes harder for this reason.

Of course, this doesn’t has to be the case for you.

I just noticed it with myself playing the drums, but also others comfirmed it.

18. The Click Really Is A Drummer’s Best Friend

Of course:

When writing about

  • tempo,
  • timing
  • or note values,

I can’t help to mention the click or metronome.

It’s such an important tool.

Unfortunately, especially beginners on the drums tend to avoid practicing with the click.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand it.

After all, it’s something you have to learn and get used to.

On the other hand, integrating the click into your drumming routine will pay-off greatly.

So, if you haven’t tried the metronome, maybe you want to do so in the nearer future.

Remember:

Just give it a try.

If you don’t like it, nobody can force you to use the click.

19. You Don’t Need To Be A Great Drummer To Make An Impact

I just looked at the word count for this guide, and saw around 2,500 words.

Obviously, I’ve learned a lot by playing the drums for over 15 years now.

I could also continue sharing other lessons or insights in my progress.

But for today, I think it’ll do. 🙂

However, one last learning needs to be shared:

You don’t have to be great to make an impact as a drummer.

What do I mean by that?

Many people think they are “just” an average drummer.

Good.

Normal.

I actually think of myself like this as well.

I’m a passionate and good drummer after all these years, but certainly not the best one out there.

(And who’s the best, anyway?)

Big deal?

No, not all.

I don’t need to be great to make an impact.

I just need to be myself to help and inspire others.

The same goes for you.

You also don’t need to be great to make a difference in this world.

Sure, you can be as awesome as you like!

However, I’m a 100 percent sure that you already are make an impact just by being yourelf.

For me, you definitely do.

After all, you read this guide up to this point.

This really makes a difference for me.

So, thanks for your time and let me know:

What was your most important lesson playing the drums so far?

If you want to, share it down in the comments below.

Cheers,

name manu drummer
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