Tips for staying motivated
I have found that about half my job as a music teacher is also being a motivational coach. This is almost double true for beginners (for the most part). It's because playing drums is actually kind of difficult and takes a lot of work. Other skills in life don't necessarily help prepare you, even a background in music. So here is some personal advice on how to stay motivated through those tough moments.
- Appreciate the little victories
Learning the drums is the art of getting good at many smaller abilities. These tiny skills start adding up, and eventually you are able to play beats, which lead to learning songs. The more skills you achieve, the better player you become because you have more tools to use. One small coordination success may seem insignificant at the time, but that little skill will reappear numerous times, preparing you for tougher grooves and fills. Appreciate and celebrate all the baby steps along the way.
- Remember the beats you used to struggle with
In the same vain as above. Never forget the first beats you started and struggled with. They probably feel like muscle memory now because of the work you put into them. In time, the next batch of grooves you are currently working on will too become muscle memory. You worked through it before, you can do it again. Just follow the same process.
- Don't compare yourself to others
This is a big one with a lot of people, including myself. Let me just say unequivocally, there is no single timeframe for learning drums. From my own experience teaching, every single person has their own personal pathway. The best thing you can do is continuously make improvments and continuously stay curious, that will keep you in a good head space. Be kind to yourself, set personal goals, and don't worry about other people.
- Finish a song beginning to end
This is a big one I preach as a teacher. Find a song you really enjoy, (and don't mind listening to a thousand times) and learn it beginning to end. It's not about the difficulty of it, it's about knowing you can play a song all the way through. Then do it again with another song, maybe slightly more difficult. Then do it again, and again, and again. This strategy will be a real motivation hack and one I can personally vouch for.
- Don't over stress about speed
I see this a lot with my students. The parts come together but the actual song is just too fast to play along to. Try not to let that discourage you too much. Achieving speed in your playing can take years. It is a constant push just like going to the gym that eventually will reap it's rewards. Always practice exercises to push your speed, but realize it is a long game.
- Try not to let one tough fill ruin everything
Again, similar to above. Don't feel like you can't play a song because of one or two tough fills. Certain fills can be very tricky even to a seasoned player. Just the nature of fills make them more challenging than beats because you're intentionally switching up what's happening, quickly and briefly. If you find yourself hitting a brick wall during a fill, skip it or simplify it momentarily so that you can play the rest of the song. After you get a general sense of the full song, then dig into the fill and slowly try to incorporate it back in.
- It actually is harder than it looks
If there is one takeaway from this list, it is that drums are legitimately a hard instrument to learn and master. There's a reason why good drummers are always in demand, there are just less of them compared to other instruments. Accept that you are taking on a challenge that not many attempt, and those that do usually spend a lifetime working at. Use the advice above to keep the fire lit even on those hard days. You will have breakthrough moments and will get satisfaction if you just keep at it.