PLEASE READ: This article contains excerpts from my upcoming book about how to teach drum lessons. Please enjoy this article and feel free to leave questions or comments at the bottom of this post. if you are interested in learning more about teaching drums then send me an email (email@example.com) with the subject line "Drum Teacher Help" and we can chat.
How To Teach Drums (and make a living!)
Teaching drums is a great way to earn an income as a professional drummer. Not only can it pay well, but it is also a great excuse for being at the drums all day. A well rounded teacher will have knowledge on a plethora of drumming topics so that they can impart the most accurate information possible onto their students. They will be passionate about what they do, so to inspire their students to reach their maximum potential.
What you’ll need to get started
To effectively teach drum lessons, start with the basics: a drum set and drumsticks. From there, build your teaching arsenal with:
- Learning Materials: Method books, exercise sheets, and online resources are foundational. Keep manuscript paper for notations and transcriptions.
- Metronome: A physical device or a phone app will do. Timing is everything.
- Streaming Service Subscription: Use platforms like Spotify to create playlists for student projects and broaden your musical horizons.
- Headphones & Splitter: Invest in quality headphones and a splitter so both you and your student can listen to the same track in real-time.
- Essential Books: Master and stock "classic" drumming books that lay a solid foundation. Be open to other materials your students might bring.
I have two Spotify playlists tailored for my students. The first features songs they've chosen, which we work on using my "cheat-sheet" method and ear training. The second contains tracks I've selected, complete with transcriptions for deeper analysis and theme identification.
Below is my go-to list of essential books for students, complete with Amazon links for current prices. Being well-equipped positions you and your students for success in the drumming journey.
Be knowledgeable and well-rounded
A well-rounded teaching approach comes from a diverse range of experiences in drumming. Whether it's high school band, marching band, jazz, or metal, each experience enhances your teaching toolkit. Teaching from a standpoint of experiential wisdom, rather than just book knowledge, offers students a deeper, more authentic understanding of the subject.
Be transparent about your abilities. Overreaching your skill level can erode student trust. If you don't know something, commit to learning it—either with your students or before the next lesson.
If your experience is limited, broaden your horizons. Take private lessons, join bands, or even pursue a music degree. Involvement in amateur or semi-pro marching bands can particularly refine your skills.
Self-awareness is key. Identify your weaknesses and work relentlessly to transform them into strengths, becoming a well-rounded drumming guru in the process.
Reading and transcribing music are essential skills for a drum teacher. For instance, creating "Cheat Sheets" can simplify the learning process for students, capturing essential grooves and fills. Full transcriptions can be offered for an additional fee.
By continuously improving and diversifying your skill set, you elevate not just your own abilities, but also the quality of education you can offer. (Continued in e-book)
Develop a teaching system that works for you and your students in a general way, but that can be molded to suit each individual student based on their needs, style of learning, and skill level. I always teach three things in each class, no matter the level.
#1 - Hands
This can be anything having to do with hands, including: Hand warm-ups, hand strengthening, rudiments, technique, sticking exercises, accenting, dynamics, and more….
#2 - Coordinations
Work on any sort of multi-limb coordination exercises that have been assigned, including: Grooves from different styles (Rock, Jazz, World etc….), 4-limb independence exercises, Syncopation reading exercises, “drum puzzles” (playing strange patterns with all four limbs to free up their independence), linear hand-foot combinations, and more….
#3 - Musicality
This is anything that directly pertains to playing drums in a musical context, and has little to do with technique.
This can include: Playing-along to music, improvising, analyzing music, phrasing concepts, studying specific drummers, composing drum parts, composing drum solos, and more…..
This is the time to teach your student to get beyond the techniques and to teach them how to (Continued in e-book).
Many musicians and music teachers overlook their entrepreneurial potential, often seeing themselves merely as artists with a side gig in teaching. This mindset can be limiting and financially risky. In reality, musicians are independent contractors responsible for acquiring their own clients—qualities that define entrepreneurs in other sectors.
Investing in skillsets like entrepreneurship, management, and marketing can be as crucial as practicing your scales. Consider taking an accounting course to help manage your finances effectively. It's not just about living in the creative clouds; practical tasks like tracking income and properly filing taxes are essential to your long-term success.
Remember, keeping all your receipts can help you claim business expenses, potentially reducing your tax liabilities. Don't underestimate the business aspect of your musical journey; it can be the key to a sustainable career.
Regarding managing student files (Continued in e-book)
IInspire your students to practice by demonstrating the joy and fulfillment that come from mastering the drums. Consistently emphasize the importance of practice in each lesson to reinforce its role in musical growth.
However, keep in mind that your words will carry more weight if you also commit to regular practice. Students are intuitive; they'll know if you're not genuine and your reputation could suffer as a result.
Lead by example and maintain your own practice regimen to solidify your credibility. Your actions will serve as a compelling testament to the power of consistent practice (Continued in e-book)
When teaching intermediate and advanced students, preparation becomes crucial. While beginners may thrive on step-by-step methods, more seasoned students will have individual needs that demand targeted instruction.
Preparation can vary from reviewing class notes minutes before a lesson, to practicing specific exercises to provide a solid demonstration, or even crafting personalized lesson plans.
Your advanced students are investing in their growth; make sure you're equally committed to their progression by coming prepared. (Continued in e-book)
They say that if you truly understand a topic that you should be able to explain it to a 5-year old. Well this can literally be the case when it comes to teaching drum lessons, as you might be teaching small children the drums. So make sure you have a very strong understanding of the topics you cover so that you don’t talk over peoples’ heads. (Continued in e-book)
Easy to be around
You MUST be easy to hang with, otherwise you will lose students very quickly. There are so many drum teachers out there, whether in person or online, that very few people will tolerate a bad attitude.
Also, if you are not passionate about drumming then you might come across as boring & uninteresting (Continued in e-book)
A strong online presence is essential for drum teachers today. Here are key areas to focus on:
- Website & SEO: Create a basic website optimized for keywords like "(your city) drum lessons" to improve search visibility. A well-structured site can land you on Google's first page, significantly increasing leads.
- Social Media: You don't need a flashy presence, but regular activity on platforms like Facebook and Instagram can work wonders. Posting twice a week can boost your visibility and SEO. Include your website link in your profile and consider promoting your site in drumming-focused groups.
- Community Engagement: Participate in relevant online communities, like local drummer Facebook groups. Regular activity—liking, commenting, and sharing—can lead to new students.
- Word-of-Mouth: Don't underestimate the power of referrals, but complement them with a strong digital footprint.
In today's digital age, neglecting your online presence could result in fewer students and missed opportunities. (Continued in e-book)
Hosting community workshops is an effective strategy for promoting your drumming school and attracting new students. Consider offering a few free workshops or masterclasses initially. This serves a dual purpose: it allows you to gain valuable experience and build confidence in public speaking, while also giving potential students a taste of the quality you offer.
Once you've honed your workshop skills, transitioning to paid events will be seamless and attendees are more likely to perceive high value for their investment. (Continued in e-book)
If you are passionate about playing drums, still consider yourself a student of the instrument, and are interested in passing knowledge onto the next generation of drummers, then teaching is for you!
Thanks for reading this excerpt. if you are interested in learning more about teaching drums then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Drum Teacher Help".