Coordination, rhythm, memory, hand-eye coordination and more come from learning the drums!
Oh no! He didn’t say drums did he? The drums are loud! But, the drums are a great instrument for kids to start with (and they don’t have to be so loud). In this post we’ll answer these questions:
1. Why are the drums a great instrument for kids to start with?
2. How can I make drums quieter?
3. What age can my child start learning to play the drums?
4. Do I need to buy a drum set for my child to learn drums?
5. What makes the My Music Workshop way of learning drums fun and easy for kids?
To kick it off, I love the drums! I have been studying, playing, practicing, and performing on the drums for nearly 25 years. I’ve studied at the college level, I’ve played cool venues across the country, been in many awesome bands and been hired to play on quite a few artists’ albums over the years. The drums were my gateway instrument into music, where I learned the skills to pick up and play other instruments. But, I still love and play the drums regularly.
Each person will gravitate toward the instrument that they are meant to play. But, having a well-rounded musical vocabulary on a variety of instruments can be so fun and rewarding!
1. Why are the drums a great instrument for kids to start with?
The drums are a great starter instrument for a variety of reasons. One is that they’re easy to start with. Younger children can learn some basics of playing, feel successful, play along with music and feel like a Rockstar. But, in doing so they will be learning rhythm, timing, coordination, patterns, musical memory, muscle memory and a whole lot more.
Another reason the drums are great to start with is that you don’t need an expensive instrument to get started. At the most basic level, one can start learning some drum basics with a few wooden kitchen spoons and a pillow or carpet.
The next level up is to purchase a pair of drumsticks (about $7 or $8), and a single drum (about $30). Those two things can get them through until about age 6. Children as young as two can start playing the drums. Granted, two-year-old’s won’t necessarily be ready to learn patterns, or anything too complex but they can put sticks in their hands and play. Have you seen a two-year-old face after playing drums for a few minutes? It’s the face of a budding musician, oozing with joy, success and giddy excitement.
Next, there are different levels of playing the drums. Let me quickly explain. For younger kids, less than 5, they can play on just one drum. Once a child reaches age 5 or 6 they can move to a simple drum set, with three or four pieces. After that they can move to what’s called a four (or five) piece kit, that’s essentially a full, real drum set.
2. How can I make drums quieter?
Yes, you CAN make drums quieter! If your child is young and just playing with items around the house, don’t choose a pot or pan from the kitchen as their instrument if you want quiet around the house. Instead give them an older pillow, thick blanket, carpet or let them play on a rug.
If your child is using an actual drum, there are quiet a few ways to make drums quieter. Here they are:
1. Take off the drumheads and put loads of duct tape on the bottom of them, then put the heads back on. Yes, this takes time and effort and can be tedious. It does a fair, not stellar, job of making drums quieter. As an additional “hack” you can tape pieces of foam to the underside of the heads and they become even quieter. The upside to doing this is that the kids will be playing on actual drumheads and thus the feel of the drums will be just about what you’d expect when playing drums. The downside is that they won’t be whisper quiet.
2. You can get mouse pads and place them on the drums. Yes, that’s right computer mouse pads. They are usually inexpensive and come in a few sizes. Check the sizes of your child’s drum or drums and get mouse pads in the same size. For example, many kids drums are 8”, 10”, or 12”. As long as you stick with 8” mouse pads you’ll be good to go. If they come off with playing just use a little double-sided tape under the pad and they’ll stick like magic. You can also get larger mouse pads to fit the exact size of your drums. The upside is that these do a great job at quieting drums. The downside is that the drumheads won’t be as bouncy or feel exactly like drums.
3. There are products that are made to silence drums. They are called “drum mutes” or “drum mute pads.” They fit on drums and cymbals and are essentially made from the same material as mouse pads but they come in packs that are specially sized for drum sets, cymbals and hi hats. They aren’t too pricy ($20-$80) for a set (you can grab some on Amazon HERE). The upside is that they fit perfectly on drums and do a great job of making drums much quieter. The downside is that they take away the tone of the drums and cymbals and playing drums with these on frankly isn’t quite as fun. But they are a good option for those looking to stay sane with a new drummer in the house.
4. Electric drum sets. There are some AMAZING electric drum sets on the market these days! They technology is off the charts compared to just a few years ago. The sound is amazing real (on many of the pricier sets), the feel is great and the ability to play low and high volumes with ease is unprecedented. While these are great there are a few real downsides. One is that a good electronic drum set is expensive. You can purchase a good one starting at around $700, but that where the quality products begin in price. They go up to nearly $10K. Yes, you read that right. A high end “Roland V-Drum” set with all the bells and whistles will cost more than a used Honda. But, you can find used bargains and a few entry level options that are very nice. The great thing about these is that your child can put on headphones, feel like they’re playing Madison Square Garden, plug in their music player and play along and the drum pads are pretty quiet. They aren’t completely silent but they are MUCH quieter than acoustic drums. If you want a good, entry level electronic drum set from Amazon click HERE! You will also need a drum seat and a bass drum pedal to go with this set.
5. You can change the drum heads on a drum set to mesh drum heads that drastically quiet the sound of the drums. A drum brand, Remo, makes a product called "Silentstroke" drumheads (get them on Amazon HERE, make sure to get the right sizes for your drums). It's a bit of a process, especially for someone who's never changed drum heads, but it's doable and well worth it to save your ears. You can also use cymbals that are mesh and much quieter than regular cymbals. Reputable cymbal company Zildjian makes a product called "L80 Low Volume Cymbals". I've used these and they are very good! You can pick them up on Amazon HERE.
3. What age can my child begin learning to play the drums?
The great thing about the drums is that a child can play and enjoy the drums when they are very young, say 2 or 3. At My Music Workshop we say that children can start our drum lessons, which start with one drum before moving to the full set, at age four. For a child to be ready to play the drum set I’d suggest they be 4+. The coordination can be a bit tricky, when adding feet to the equation, but it can be done by four year old’s who love drums (I’ve seen a lot of four year old children who have drumming in their blood and just take to the drums).
4. Do I need to buy a drum set for my child to play the drums?
First off, this depends on the age of the child. Remember, younger kids can start with one drum. This will help with hand eye coordination, patterns, left and right hand and so on, and will lead perfectly into playing the full drum set later. In fact, because the drums aren’t one instrument (there is drum set, marching snare drum, timpani etc. etc.), a young drummer may choose to play a single drum, like the snare drum for marching band. Not all great drummers are drum set players. I had a teacher at music school who was a snare drum champion. His class was called hand technique and he wasn’t the greatest drum set player. He was however, an absolutely mind blowing snare drummer who made my jaw drop every time I watched him demonstrate our new lesson (he liked to show off a bit too, which was fine by me. I loved his playing!). So, learning drums can be kept to a single drum or can branch into the drum set. The drum set fits more modern music, tends to be more versatile, in my opinion it’s more fun, but some people will choose to play other styles of drums (even hand drums like conga, bongo, cajon and djembe are popular). If you want my option and you don’t know which direction to go, and you’re willing to live with a drummer in the house, have them learn to play the drum set. An awesome drum set for kids is the Ludwig Pocket Drum Set, available on Amazon HERE.
1. What makes the My Music Workshop way of learning drums fun and easy for kids?
This is where I get really excited! My Music Workshop started as a program that taught pre school aged children. We later evolved to teach instrument lessons, older students and more but our time with young children gave me a lot of creative ideas when it comes to teaching kids advanced things in easy to learn ways.
I really wanted to teach my young students’ patterns. Patterns that used combinations of drum strokes (a drum stroke is when you hit a drum. One hit = one stroke.). But, most of my young students didn’t yet know their left from their right side. This posed a bit of a problem when I wanted them to play Right, Right, Left, Left, or, Left, Right, Right, Left.
What we came up with was a color-coded system. It starts with the playing surface itself. In our classroom classes, we used a pad that goes over the drums and can be played directly on. These pads have a big blue dot on the left part of the pad and a big red dot on the right side of the pad. Our at home music program has a printable drum cut-out. That, when cut out, fits perfectly one a drum and has two holes. One on the left, one on the right, with blue or red rings around them.
The pads correlate with musical notes that we also color blue or red. Now a pattern that would be Right, Left, Right, Left, becomes, Red, Blue, Red, Blue! Voila, color coded, fun, easy to follow AND it’s teaching kids to read music while playing an instrument. This is the system that we use at www.MyMusicWorkshop.com, and we’re very proud to offer it to our students in our drum lessons area.
You can give My Music Workshop a try for free by clicking HERE. We offer instrument lessons for Piano, Ukulele and Drums and a whole ton of other musical lessons activities, worksheets and more that make learning music fun. My Music Workshop is built for students ages 4-10 at any ability level.
We hope to see you there soon!
Elias Berlinger is the co-founder of My Music Workshop, a music education company based in Southern California. Having taught music to thousands of students ranging from toddlers to senior citizens Elias has an understanding of what it takes to start playing an instrument at any age. Many of his former students include sports and music celebrities and their children. Elias, along with his musical wife, who is also a teacher, Lianna created My Music Workshop in 2009. It’s a world of learning music available conveniently online. Be sure to check it out here if you haven’t already!