The ability to learn songs quickly can make you indispensable as a drummer. These eight tips will help you learn songs far faster than before. You don’t need to use them all, just pick and choose whatever works for you!
This article is sponsored by Drumeo, which I consider to be the best resource for learning drums online. For a limited time, Drumeo is offering free sheet music for 100 of the most iconic drumming anthems. All are streamable with options to enable or disable the metronome, loop certain sections, and lower the BPM for practice. There is even an option to turn off all other instruments, so you can hear only the drum parts.
- 1. Use Note-For-Note Sheet Music
- 2. Chart the Song
- 3. Focus Your Practice on the Essential Elements of the Song
- 4. Air drumming is underrated
- 5. Watch Video Tutorials
- 6. Watch Live Performances
- 7. Record Yourself Playing the Song
- 8. Learn the Signature Grooves of The Genre
- Why do you need to learn songs fast on the Drums?
1. Use Note-For-Note Sheet Music
If you know how to read drum notation, then try to get your hands on some note-for-note sheet music for the songs you want to learn. It’s one of the best ways to help learn songs quickly.
Even better, when you’re using playback tools like that included with Drumeo, you can stream the track, loop certain sections, and more. Drumeo are offering note-for-note sheet music and playback tools for 100 of drumming’s most iconic songs for FREE. Get them while they’re available!
2. Chart the Song
You can also try creating a drum chart or a “song sketch”. Just listen to the song very carefully and write down the most important parts.
This includes writing down the tempo of the song, the structures, and the measures. Once you have the chart you can start playing along to the song and figure out the rest of the details as you’re going along.
You don’t need to write down every single part of the song, as that would be too time-consuming. Instead, write down the most important sections, as well as parts that you think you might forget.
3. Focus Your Practice on the Essential Elements of the Song
Once you have the chart written out, or if the sheet music is available on Drumeo, you can start jamming to the song as soon as you can. Try to figure out the dynamics and feel of different parts of the song as quickly as possible.
This is the time to get into the song without obsessing about getting it perfect. The task here is to play a simplified version of the track and try to get the dynamics right.
Also, you may choose that you don’t always have to get the song exactly as it is in the recording. If you’re playing in a covers band and you have a tall order of songs to get through in a short time, then nailing the fundamentals of the songs might be the most important thing to focus on.
4. Air drumming is underrated
As a teenager, I learned many of my first songs without a drum kit! I just had a pair of drumsticks in my hands and air-drummed along. By the time I got behind a kit, I knew the entire songs from memory.
Actively listening to the tracks can really help you internalize the grooves and fills for when you get a chance to practice them on the kit.
Turn your commute to work or school into a listening session, take notes on the bus, and spend as much time as you can listening to the songs. It can make a big difference.
5. Watch Video Tutorials
Nowadays, you’re unlikely to stumble upon a popular song that doesn’t have a video tutorial on YouTube. For example, in Drumeo’s video above, Dave Atkinson does a great job breaking down 5 levels to playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on drums.
These types of video tutorials can give you some really good tips and insights into how to approach learning the song for your skill level. So just get your drumsticks ready and follow along.
6. Watch Live Performances
If there are any tricky parts to the song and you can’t find any sheet music or tutorials, then try to find a video of a live performance. This can be a great opportunity for you to see what the drummer is actually doing in different parts of the song.
There are also videos of songs with isolated drums, which are a great way to focus on the drums and see what exactly the drummer is playing.
Be mindful when you are watching a music video instead of a live performance, as the video editor might not be that familiar with drumming and might cut some parts incorrectly.
Also, be mindful that drummers may improvise a lot during their live performances, so if you want to play a song exactly as-is, then try to focus on one version!
7. Record Yourself Playing the Song
Give yourself more objective feedback by listening to a recording of yourself playing! Even just one listen-through might be enough to help you figure out the main areas that you need to work on to really nail the song.
A simple phone recording will easily do the trick, but if you have a drum mic setup then all the better. You just need to be able to hear yourself play the track with reasonable sound quality.
8. Learn the Signature Grooves of The Genre
You might have noticed that a lot of the arrangements and grooves are quite similar between different songs of the same genre. That’s true with many genres and styles of music, and we can take that as an advantage to help us learn the songs faster.
If you’ve played rock, pop, and blues music, you have definitely played a song with this song structure before, commonly known as “ABABCB”. That simply refers to verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. Once you are equipped with this knowledge, it can be easy to recognize basic song structures.
Also, certain genres make very regular use of particular grooves, such as the basic rock beats for rock music or heavily recurring beats in EDM music.
Why do you need to learn songs fast on the Drums?
If you’re ever planning on becoming a studio/session drummer, you need to learn songs fast. Touring drummers may sign contracts only a few weeks before tours, and they have to master all the songs within that time.
Also, by learning a lot of different songs to play on the drums, you are improving and stretching your overall drumming skills. Experiencing and learning different genres and styles is very beneficial to every drummer.
Most importantly, being able to learn songs fast on drums gives you far more time to focus on improving other aspects of your drumming.
The ability to learn songs quickly can also give you the confidence to get out there as a drummer and get gigging experience as soon as possible.
As a drummer, you may be required to learn a lot of songs in a short amount of time. Use the tips in this article as a starting point, and you’ll eventually figure out a system that works best for you through a bit of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a few different approaches.