Most drum teachers, including me, will tell you that you can never stop learning the drums. There are always new things to learn and master, and no drummer is ever going to be able to learn all of it.
However, there is a certain point that you can get to where sitting in with a band won’t be a stressful thing as you’ll be able to confidently play a few things to fit in.
This is the point where you can call yourself a capable drummer. The question I’m going to answer is how long it generally takes a person to get there?
The short answer is, it takes most beginners at least 4-6 months to get decent at playing drum basics. To become a good enough drummer, it usually takes at least 10 to 12 months, if not more, even for the quickest of learners. It depends on several factors, most notably the frequency of practice.
The first factor in determining how long it will take you to get skilled on the drums is the source of your learning. Teachers play a huge role in our drumming journeys. Some teachers will go into elaborate detail on topics while others will give you general breakdowns to get you playing quickly.
If you don’t have a teacher, it’s typically referred to as being self-taught. However, you’ll most likely be looking at drum tutorial videos on the internet, meaning the drummers in those videos are technically your teachers. This is why I don’t agree with the phrase “self-taught” being thrown around nowadays.
Learning the drums online usually means that you’ll learn slower than if you had a one-on-one teacher that you were going to weekly for lessons.
In-person teachers are able to keep you accountable and steer you in the right direction whenever you come back for a lesson. As long as you’re practicing the material they give you, I think that having a teacher is the best way of learning quickly.
Speaking of practicing, the more time you put into growing your skills, the better you’re going to get. Commitment and dedication are massive aspects of learning to play the drums. It’s a fairly physical instrument and you need to develop your muscle memory at the early stages of playing in order to get your body used to playing it.
If you’re committed and work on everything your teacher gives you every week, it should only take a few months to learn how to play basic beats and fills at moderate speeds. If you can play basic beats and fills, you’ll be able to play to countless songs.
The more you work on these basic beats and fills, the more interestingly you’ll be able to play them. Your drumming will keep getting better and after about a year you should have a wide arsenal of things to play on the drums.
Musical maturity is something that will only develop at the later stages of your drumming journey. It refers to things that are a bit harder to quantify on the drums such as taste, touch, and feel.
A drummer who has been playing for 10 years will sound a lot better than a drummer who has been playing for 1 year, even if they play the exact same drum beat. This is because the more experienced drummer will have a greater sense of musicality in his playing.
It typically takes several years to get to a point of tasteful drumming. The best way to get there quickly is to listen to a lot of music and play with other musicians as much as you can.
The final point that I feel is worth mentioning is the topic of natural talent. Unfortunately, some of us are just more naturally inclined to rhythm and coordination than others. This means that not everyone is going to learn and master playing drums at the same speed.
I’ve had students who have learned to play a basic rock beat and are playing to music by the end of the first lesson. I’ve also had students that take months to get to that point. The moral of the story is that both students got to the same level. One of them just got there faster because of a bit of natural talent.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t play the drums if you struggle at first. Everyone has the potential to do it. Just don’t feel like you need to learn quickly.
Wrapping up on everything I’ve spoken about, the length of time it takes to learn and play drums well is determined by who your teacher is, the amount of commitment you put into it, and how much natural inclination you have towards playing rhythms and developing coordination between your limbs.
It takes most people about a year to learn drums and play well. However, developing maturity and tastefulness behind the kit could take you several years. Everyone can play a basic drum beat after a short amount of time. Not everyone can play it musically.