How to learn to play the drums as a Riot Grrrl beginner
How to guides: It’s hard to understand why women are such a minority in the drum world. Bevin from The Valentinos tells you how to pick up the sticks and learn the fine art of drumming.
It’s hard to understand why women are such a minority in the world of drumming – not only do we have as much ability to play as guys do, playing drums is really just that – playing – and so much fun! The idea of ‘male only’ instruments is so absurd in today’s society, so I challenge you musical mooks to pick up a pair of sticks and take a seat behind a kit.
Calling all drummers – have you got rhythm?
Rhythm is essential if you’re going to become a drummer. You can have the fanciest kit and cymbals in the world, but to play well with a band you’ve got to be able to keep the beat! If you’re one of those people who finds themselves uncontrollably tapping on your knees/desk/cat whenever you hear a song that you like, it’s a good indicator that drums are for you!
Also, do you feel music on a physical level, does it make you want to dance and let out this energy? Of course, you don’t have to be a good dancer to be a drummer (and I am a prime example of this!), but being able to really feel the rhythm in music is the key to playing drums.
How to choose your first drum kit
So, if you’re pretty confident you’ve got the raw material for becoming a drummer grrrl – arms, legs, rhythm and passion! – your next mission is to get yourself a drum kit. It’s never a good idea to rush out and buy an instrument without being sure you’re going to stick with it, especially one as pricey as drums can be, so if you have a friend or relative with a kit, get yourself over to their place and ask if you can have a go. Hopefully they’ll be willing to let you mess around for a bit, and maybe even teach you a simple beat.
If you don’t have a friend with drums, there’ll always be a set of drums on display in a good music shop – you’ll have to mess around with the drums in public, but if you explain your situation, the staff will be sure to let you have a go and even give you some tips. After all, they do want to sell those drums!
If, as I did, you fall in love with your friend’s drums and are itching to play again as soon as you leave, consider where you live – is a noisy drum kit realistic if you live in an apartment or with family? While an acoustic kit is ideal, you could buy an electric kit to avoid the angry phonecalls.
Price could also present a problem – drum kits can be quite expensive. However, choosing to buy second-hand drum kits and browsing classifieds could find you a great deal.
Alternatively, you could revert back to your childhood days, get out some pots and pans and try and master the skills of bucket drumming to become a SUPER COOL STREET DRUMMER!
This is on my list of things to do before I die.
Making friends with your drum kit
To begin learning to play the drums, the best thing to do is to have a few one-on-one lessons with a teacher to get you started in the right direction. The internet also has endless video lessons and tips to watch and learn from.
First you need to master some basic beats and fills. After putting the hours of practice in you’ll get to a point where you can google for drum sets and drum tabs to expand your rhythm repertoire.
You’ve graduated, drummer grrl! Next step – making friends with a band
Then it’s time to get out and start making music with other people. Get together with some musical friends – or if you’d rather, it’s also quite easy to find bandmates online on forums. Post an ad in a music section of a messageboard stating your level of experience, favourite bands and location – there are always people out there looking to jam.
It can take a long time and many attempts before you find bandmates that you really gel well with, but every band practice you have and every gig you play, no matter how disastrous, counts as experience and helps you to improve.
And there you have it, drummer grrl. While you’re bound to come across the odd ignorant cynic from the ‘girls can’t play drums’ school of thinking, with practice (and everyone needs practice) you can have your sweet revenge on this attitude. Don’t rely on being a rarity and a novelty to get you by – channel Sandy West, Meg White and Cindy Blackman, then practise until you earn your place with them as an awesome musician.