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Play Your First Song with Drumsticks

You are now ready to play your first song using drumsticks on a real or close-to-real drum set using what you’ve learned in previous lessons!  Let’s quickly review what you know and how you can use it.  You’ve learned how to sit at a drum set (see “A Time, A Place and The Parts Of A Drum Set”).  You can play a basic drum beat to a favorite song by tapping your feet and slapping your hands on your legs (see “Your First Drum Beat (No Drums Required)”).  And you know how to hold drumsticks (see “How to Buy and Hold…Drumsticks”).  It’s time to put all of your skills together and play a song. We’re following a plan to play drums in 4 weeks and this is Lesson 5 of 12.  See the complete Plan by clicking here.

If you have a drum set, place a seat behind your drums and skip over the instructions below to the next section.  If you don’t have a drum set, you need to work on the “drum cave” that we talked about in “A Time, A Place and The Parts Of A Drum Set.”Vic Firth Double Sided Practice Pad  You will be using three chairs and two stacks of telephone books to simulate the feel of a drum set.  You can also use two drum practice pads on top of one or more telephone books.  It is good to use practice pads because they feel like real drums when you hit them.  Your stick will bounce back like a real drum.  When you hit a telephone book your stick will not bounce back.  I recommend the Vic Firth Double Sided Practice Pad.  It’s a two-sided practice pad that has soft rubber on one side (quieter) and hard rubber on the other side (so that you can easily hear every stroke).  You can lay the practice pad on a hard surface (like a chair or book) or directly on a drum if you want to do some quiet practice.

Follow the instructions below to set up your practice drum set:

  1. Place the 3 chairs close to each other.  Sit in one of the chairs with your feet flat on the floor as described in “Your First Drum Beat (No Drums Required)”.  Your right foot will be on the “bass drum pedal” and your left foot will be on the “hi-hat pedal.”  Make sure you are close to your music source.  You may need a table or a 4th chair to hold your CD or MP3 player.
  2. One of the chairs will be your “snare drum”.  Place it between your legs, making sure that your legs are about 16 inches apart.  You may need to turn the “snare drum” so that a corner of the chair seat is pointing toward you.
  3. Place one or more telephone books on the chair so that the top of the stack is about 2 inches above your leg.  You want to be able to hit the middle of the book with your left drumstick without your hand hitting your leg.
  4. Put the edge of the other chair to the right of your right knee.  Put one or more telephone books on the chair so it’s about the same height as your “snare drum.”  This will be your “ride cymbal.”

You’re now sitting behind a real or practice drum set.  Pick up a pair of drumsticks and play the drum beat that you played for your last lesson (“How to Buy and Hold…Drumsticks”).  Your feet will be the same they were in the last lesson but your hands will be playing your “snare drum” and “ride cymbal” instead of your left and right leg.  Try playing the beat on your “drum set.”

Okay, now try playing that beat to a song.  One of your roles as a drummer is “timekeeper” and it is your job as “timekeeper” to count the songs off so the band starts together.  This is done by you counting to four and tapping your sticks together as you count.  Follow the instructions below to learn how to count off a song and play the song with drumsticks:

  1. Start the music (using your song from the lesson “Your First Drum Beat (No Drums Required)”) and count out loud in time with the music (“one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and-one-and-two-and…”).  Count out loud until you feel comfortable that your counting matches the beat of the song.
  2. Counting in time with the song (starting with “one”), click your sticks together four times, once for each number you count (on “one”, “two”, “three” and “four”).  Do not click your sticks together when you say “and.”  Try it several times to practice, always starting with “one” and clicking only four times.  There is no need to restart from the beginning of the song each time.  Let the music play and restart your counting anywhere in the song.
  3. Now, click your sticks together four times but this time, start to play your beat on the fifth number (that is, the next time you say “one”).  On “one”, you should be tapping your right foot down (the “bass drum pedal”), tapping your left heel down (your “hi-hat pedal”) and tapping your “ride cymbal” with your right hand.  It may take several “false starts” to get the hang of it but keep trying.

Continue to work on your count offs so that you start playing exactly with the music on the count of “one.”  Try playing different songs at different tempos.  This will come in handy when you get together with other musicians.  They will be impressed that you can take charge by counting off songs at the right tempo (speed)!