So you want your kid to be a rock-and-roll drummer. First question one might ask is, “What the hell is wrong with you?” The next seven questions should resemble that one, with slight variations in the expletive employed.
Sooner or later, your interrogators will lose interest and you will be free to pursue the question at hand: How do I make my child a Rock Drumming God? Well, there are two ways, and herein, we will cover both.
THE EASY WAY
The easiest way make your kid a rock drummer is to smack the kid in the head repeatedly with a heavy object. (The same effect can be achieved by fogging your sleeping child’s bedroom with copious amounts of marijuana smoke over a period of several years, but we would never advise you to do something like that. We do, however, have no objection to advising you to smack the kid in the head.)
When you think the child is sufficiently damaged, it’s time to buy him a drum set. (We will continue to use the pronoun “him” and its derivatives since most rock drummers are male. Why? We may never know. And this is not to say females can’t become Rock Drumming Gods. But we’d have to change the title of this article to Rock Drumming Goddess, and that’s a lot of work. So “him” it is.) Set the child down behind the kit and allow him to bash to his heart’s content. In a matter of months, you have pulled all of your hair out and set fire to the drum set. At this point, tell the child to find a home of his own.
He will inevitably take up with a wayward groupie and weasel his way into some low-end rock band, pulling down somewhere around $58 a week. Do not attempt to contact this child. He will ask you for money. Also, never answer the phone again.
THE HARD WAY
The hard way involves lots and lots of practice, a lot more hard work on the road and in the studio, and not just a little charisma, positive attitude and humility. Of course, the first step is learning how to play.
As a drum instructor, I would encourage you to find a reputable teacher. Interaction with an instructor in person is important, especially in the formative years.
There are many online resources as well, many of which do a great job of helping young drummers understand both simple and complex concepts. Drummer World, the DW/Terry Bozzio site Drum Channel and Drumeo are great places to start. Drum videos from Hudson also cover a wide range of skill levels and are entertaining to boot. The child should begin practicing on a pad, shortly after moving to snare drum. When basic hand coordination takes root, the child is probably ready for a small kit.
Do the kid a favor: Purchase a decent drum kit. A junky kit falls apart under stress, and kids have a way of breaking stuff.
This doesn’t mean you have to go overboard, but find a kit with good hardware and a decent sound. GP makes a great beginner’s kit for the little ones. And any mid-level kit from Gretch, Yamaha, Ludwig or DW will do well for teenagers. Soon enough he is going to want to play music with his friends, and a single purchase of a solid kit early on beats buying two or three low-end jalopies.
As the kid progresses, consider a piano or music theory class. The more you child understands music in general, the better drummer he will become. Of course, this is rock-and-roll we’re talking about here, but the best rock drummers are strong technicians, understand a wide range of styles and can effortlessly jump from genre to genre.
Here’s career drummer Mike Mangini playing with rock band Extreme back in the ’90s. He now plays for Dream Theater. You’ve probably never heard of the guy, but he’s one of the most respected drummers in rock. (His solo begins at 1:44.)
THE “GOD” PART
If your kid takes to drumming without A. Bashing his kit to pieces (which may behoove him in certain live performances) and B. getting arrested for too many noise violations, he will surely be attracted to the world of rock-and-roll. We all want to be rock stars, but kids who play instruments are taking steps in that direction.
What we don’t want to instill in our kids is a sense of over-confidence. Though spinning sticks and twirling drum risers look great from the audience, they do not a drummer make. A child that is taught how to work with others, that understands his limitations and, thus, how to improve, and who is eager to work for it is far more likely to make it than the guy who relies on looks, tricks and parental financial backing.
In other words, a confident, self-respecting kid makes a better (and more successful) drummer than the polished hot shot next door with the huge drum kit and massive ego. He will get his just desserts while your kid is clawing his way through the club and studio circuit, ensuring a career in music.
There is something intangible about drumming that rarely exists between musicians. It may have something to do with drumming’s tribal qualities. It may be due to the stereotypes that drummers battle throughout their lives – that they aren’t really musicians, that they are mere knuckle-dragging timekeepers. Drummers seem to bond over their instrument, and this is a wonderful message for kids. Through music you can make connections with other people, connections that run deeper than conversations about the weather. We can make music, together.
That is worth working hard to achieve.