Teaching beginners can be the most rewarding experience. They can often make fast progress in relatively short time.
The DrumLessonResources beginners syllabus focuses on getting students familiar with basic note values, playing basic beats, fills and rudiments and getting them started playing songs.
Once you have got students playing with a reasonable hand technique, focus should be on reading. Reading Rhythms gets students moving through the note and rest values in a systematic way.
The lessons focus on reproducing the rhythms just on the snare drum so students can focus on developing hand technique while studying and understanding the note values. Sticking patterns and rhythmic counting are written to aid understanding. The reading exercises should be played using alternating sticking starting both with the right (RLR) and Left hand (LRLR).
Once your student can play the exercises correctly with good technique then you can extend the exercises by adding a foot pattern. Recommended ones are bass drum on quarter notes, hi-hat on quarter notes, quarter notes with bass on 1 & 3 and hi-hat on 2 & 4.
Rudiments & Technique
Getting students playing with a good basic grip and stroke is the focus here. I get students working on sticking patterns on their first lesson to build hand technique. Although it’s written on the worksheets, I don’t have them play the bass/hi-hat foot ostinato until they have established a good hand technique.
I usually start introducing rudiments once students have basic hand technique working and can read up to reading rhythms 5.
Singles, Doubles & Paradiddles are to get the student familiar with the 3 basic rudiments and to get them thinking about using them to create ideas around the kit. Speed is not the primary concern here.
Flams are a more difficult rudiment to master, stick control is the focus here. Get the students playing the grace notes from a low stick height and the main stroke from a high stick height. Technique and control are the priority, not speed. This is the last rudiment I introduce at the beginner level, make sure students hand technique is correct before working on this.
This is what the students normally prefer to focus on and practice. Here we present rock beats focusing on on eighth note snare and bass combinations with 4 common hi-hat patterns – eighths, quarters, sixteenths with one hand and sixteenths with two hands. Mastery of these basic grooves will allow the students to play a lot of popular songs.
Normally I’ll go through the eighth note beats with the students first, then the quarters, then I’ll do the two sixteenth note variations at the same time. Depending on the student’s ability I may just do parts 1-4 of all four hi-hat variations first and then introduce parts 5 & 6 later as they need a firmer grasp of timing – especially being comfortable playing on the offbeat.
The focus at the beginner level is on 8th note fills and introducing concepts such as sticking patterns, off beat rhythms, bass drum substitution, and flams into basic fills. Obviously, it depends on the student’s reading & technical ability for when I introduce them. If the student can’t play off-beat snare rhythms then I won’t do off-beat fills!
Sixteenth note fills are also introduced and sixteenth note fills part 2 introduces fills using broken 16th note rhythms that are found in Reading Rhythms 7 onwards. Point out to students that the earlier 8th note fills can also be used as 16th note fills. Exercise 11 on 16th note fills 1 is an example of fills from 8th note fills 1 being reused as 16th notes (Exercises 4 & 10).
These are support exercises designed to focus on specific areas that often cause trouble or to help build facility on the kit. Often I will use these as warm-up exercises at the start of the lesson.
Hand & foot co-ordination 1 – great for building co-ordination and bass drum strength.
8th note accuracy – focuses on playing on the off-beat accurately – do with a metronome that can play 8th notes.
8th note bass drum builder – to help build endurance in the bass drum – have them play it repeatedly for 5 minutes.
Sixteenth note fill durations 1 – gets the student playing a 16th note snare drum fill starting on any 8th note in the bar. Once the student is confident get them to move their hands around the kit to create new fill ideas.
Hand speed exercises 1 & 2 – simple exercises to build hand speed. Do them every day & try to increase 1 bpm per day.
Ultimate drum set warm up – great warm up routine to get the student moving between snare & toms confidently – add the feet if possible.