If you are an active drum teacher, I would like to personally welcome you to this site. I hope that it becomes a valuable resource for you and your students.

Teaching Drum Lessons

Drum sheet music can be a great learning tool. You can use the strategies in this article to help your students make the most out of each chart.

I began teaching drums when I was 21, and at that time it was a great learning experience. I literally had to keep three steps ahead of my students to remain credible. Fortunately, my students were also young, and we learned together.

I have used drum charts over the years as supplemental material for my students, and it really brings fun to learning. And fun was one of the reasons you and I got started on the drums, right?

On one level, these charts tell us what drummers do. Upon repetition and reflection, we begin to see why they do what they do. More chart reading will obviously bolster a student’s reading skills, while awareness of time and feel also become integrated.

You can see all the charts I use with my students in our library of drum sheet music. In addition, here are some ideas on how to use drum charts with your students that I have found particularly beneficial for my own:

1. Discuss the historical context.

  • Who was the band/performer?
  • Year released
  • What styles were prevalent at that time?
  • YouTube has great videos for just about every chart offered on this site. Many of the videos are period pieces that give us a sense of that particular time and place.

2. Read the chart while just listening to the recording.

  • This is particularly helpful on charts that are more difficult.

3. Discuss the style.

  • Is there a basic beat, or is there much variety?
  • Loud or soft, fast or slow, or are there changes?

4. Discuss the form.

  • What form is being used? AABA? 12 Bar Blues? Something else?
  • What repeats are being used? 1st & 2nd endings? D.S. or D.C? Coda?

5. Have the student play the chart.

Follow along and make note of any discrepancies to correct. I have software that allows you to slow a recording down without changing the tempo. This is great for an extra challenge, and also a help for students having trouble with a chart.

6. Don’t let advanced students slide by on the easier charts.

A chart is a chart! If a student is “too good” for a chart, videotape him. That clears the mind considerably. Can you imagine Hal Blaine, Gary Chester, John Robinson, Jim Keltner, or any other session pro pull that attitude. Actually, the more I think about it, there is no song on earth that we are too good for.

7. Record the student.

Recording any student is a great way for that student to listen to himself objectively. I remember being shocked at the way I truly sounded when I was in high school. I realized I had a long way to go.

Of course, mistakes are a natural part of any learning process. But one thought that all too often goes unnoticed is that it is the way we go about making mistakes that largely influences how well we learn, and thus what type of a musician we are. For more on this, and how you can maximize your students’ potential by encouraging sincere and thoughtful mistakes, read my article on solving musical problems during practice.

Hey, I’ve still got a long way to go. Let’s get there together. You can let me know how you’re getting along, as well as any questions you’d like to ask or advice on strategies that have worked for you you’d like to share, using the comments below.

Your fellow drummer and teacher,

James Morton