Parents’ Guide to Drums

Drum KitDoes your child want to learn drums? Have they ever made a drum kit from nothing but pots and pans using pencils as drum sticks? Are you willing to provide the support and commitment needed as a parent to nurture your child’s interest in the instrument? No idea? Read on…

Why drums?

I mean, why not flute? …or recorder? …or any instrument that isn’t huge, noisy and expensive? Well the answer is pretty simple – no other instrument quite has the same draw as drums. Go and see a live band and you’re instantly inspired by the rhythm and animation of the drummer. It’s one of the oldest instruments on the planet, second only to the human voice – we’ve had an innate need to hit things rhythmically for 165,000 years!

Is my child clever enough to play drums?

Despite all the drummer jokes out there drummers are far from stupid and the reason we put up with the abuse is since we realise explaining our natural superiority is a futile endeavour ;-). Revenge is sweet when we play a simple rhythm and then say “There you go, now you try it.”. In all seriousness it’s been proven that:

  • Experiencing a steady rhythm has a positive effect on cognitive function
  • Scientists who asked volunteers to keep time with a drumstick before taking intelligence tests discovered that those with the best sense of rhythm also scored highest in the mental assessments.
  • Prof Frederic Ullen, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, concluded that there was a link between intelligence, good timing and the part of the brain used for problem-solving.
  • Playing drums and reading music can be an excellent complimentary instrument to help develop mathematical skills, reading and more.

OK I’m sold, what are the bad points?

Snare DrumThe last thing I want to do is put you off but setting expectations at this stage will avoid nasty surprises later down the line. Most of the below ‘myths’ can be overcome with a bit of thought.

  • Drums are loud. Well yes, however loud you think they area, they’re louder. If you want to play an acoustic kit at full volume you really need to be in a detached house with very understanding neighbours and of course hearing protection is essential! BUT there are ways and means of reducing the volume of an acoustic kit, the simplest option being don’t hit them so hard!
  • Drums are expensive. The price of electronic kits is coming down all the time but you’ll still struggle to find a decent one for under £300. A single cymbal on an acoustic kit can cost £300+! Having said that, you can buy a perfectly reasonable second hand acoustic kit suitable for beginners from around £200. Less if you’re happy to do some drum renovation in the process and fixing your own drums is a great way of learning how everything works! Drums are as expensive as you want them to be. A quick search on eBay (at the time of writing) shows a very reasonable second hand complete starter kit that sold for £100!
  • Drums are big.  It’s not practical to re-assemble and dismantle drums between practice sessions so you really need a permanent space around 2.5m x 2.5m for a fairly typical kit configuration. Think about a space somewhere in your house where the drums cause least disruption (both in terms of noise and space).
  • Playing drums WELL takes a LOT of practice.  This one isn’t a myth – as with any instrument, to become good at it you’ve got to practice! Practice should be fun, not a chore though. Treating practice like a punishment is the perfect way to get your child to give up.

Is my child too young to play drums?

Drum KitThis is a tricky one. I remember wanting to play drums for as long as I can remember, probably since I was about 5. However I didn’t start playing until I was 11 and that was a good age to start. I knew my own mind well enough that I had a genuine passion for the instrument and it gave me a good 4 years of playing before school exams etc. took priority. The youngest I teach is 8 and that’s simply because I’m not set-up to teach younger students. Reaching the pedals on a full size kit can be problematic as can having the strength to actually use the pedals. If your child is under 8 years old and you think they’re particularly gifted I’d suggest taking them to a teacher who teaches young students and have some introductory lessons to see how they take to it. Visit your local drum shop and ask them for some contacts who may be able to help.

What’s your view on childrens’ toy drum kits?

This is purely my humble opinion and other teachers may have different views but I would avoid sub-£100 ‘toy’ drum kits. They’re so far removed from a real kit that they’re more likely to put your child off drumming. They’re often very poor quality and missing important parts such as a functioning hi-hat. They don’t sound like real drums and they don’t play like real drums. They’re also hard to upgrade and use non-standard fittings. Don’t get me wrong, if a toy kit inspires the child to take their drumming to the next level then fine, but treat toy kits for what they are – a toy.

Playing drums is fun!

Above everything else playing drums should be fun. As a parent the best thing you can do is to encourage your child and give them the best means within your budget to learn. Encourage practicing but don’t force it.


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