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Learning drums is difficult. Like learning any musical instrument, there’s a slew of challenging things to memorize. You need to be able to keep time, read drum notation, move each arm and leg independently, and much more.
If the thought of learning all that didn’t cause you to throw your drum set on Craigslist, then you’re in luck! YouTube has a wealth of channels filled with free content that’ll help you get your drum chops up and running. Even if you don’t know how to properly hold your sticks, you’ll be able to at least get a basic grasp of the concepts without spending a dime!
Some Important Notes
Before we jump into the channels, we need to touch on a few important things.
Most importantly, there is no substitute for a professional music teacher. Yes, you can learn a lot from videos and books, but having someone who can analyze your technique and help you get started is invaluable to progressing. You could be building bad habits without knowing it.
I started playing drums about five months ago, so I am by no means a professional. I started with just online lessons, and I decided to sign up with a local instructor for a couple of months. During that time, he pointed out lots of little things I was doing wrong, and now that I’ve canceled the lessons, I carry those basic teachings on my form with me as I learn. If you can afford it, it’s definitely worth finding a local teacher or getting one-on-one lessons online just to fix some of those beginner issues.
Another important thing to note about using YouTube is that you don’t have any structure. You’re going to want to jump from lesson to lesson.
If you’re willing to spend a little money, many of the channels below offer subscriptions services that’ll provide you with more lessons and little more structure. For example, you shouldn’t try to learn swung 16th note grooves in 5/8 before you learn a basic 4/4 rock beat (if that made sense to you, then you might already be a step ahead).
Drumeo is one of the leaders in online drum lessons and its YouTube channel features tons of education. You don’t get all the stuff you’d get as a Drumeo member, but don’t let that stop you!
Just to give you an example of the type of stuff you’ll find, here’s a video called “How To Play Drums — Your Very First Drum Lesson.” It’ll teach you some basics, and you’ll actually play a beat by the end.
Obviously, that’s a video meant for someone who’s never played the drums before, and there are plenty of other videos for beginners, too. But it goes beyond that. Plenty of intermediate and advanced lessons are on the channel. For example, you could use the video below to work on getting that hi-hat to open and close smoothly in your beats:
Many lessons are taught by Jared Falk and Dave Atkinson, as they’re the founders, but there are tons of guest teachers, too. In fact, some of the instructors are featured below!
The only drawback to Drumeo is that it does tend to give you the sales pitch for Drumeo Edge in its videos. Obviously, that’s how the company makes money, and I’ll admit the sales pitch worked on me and I signed up. But you easily ignore those and just enjoy the free content!
2. 180 Drums
There are literally hundreds of lessons on this channel. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at it for years, there’s plenty to learn here. Like Drumeo, this is the YouTube channel of a premium drum lesson site, but they don’t seem to push subscribing quite as much.
Additionally, there are quite a few different teachers offering lessons on 180 Drums, so you can get some fresh perspective on things.
Do you want to learn jazz? There’s a lesson for that.
Hip hop? Sure!
Want a faster foot for metal? Done!
You get the idea.
In terms of viewers, this channel is a bit on the small side when compared to the others on the list. However, it’s anything but small when it comes to content.
As of this writing, Alex is approaching 300 lessons on his channel, and there are no signs of him slowing down. You’re definitely going to want to check out the playlist section, as he’s organized many of the lessons there. You’ll find beginner, intermediate, and advanced playlists, as well as some focusing on specific topics such as fills, hand speed, and so on.
Basically, if you’re looking for a solid channel without as many of the corporate ties, this is worth a subscription.
Mike Johnston is the owner of MikesLessons.com, which is a fantastic premium lesson website. I was a little reluctant to put his YouTube channel on the list, as it’s a bit light on content. Obviously, most of his videos are locked behind his website.
However, the quality of the videos and Mike’s incredibly motivating teaching style make the videos that are there can’t miss. There’s just something about that way he teaches that makes you want to get better, and that’s certainly evident in the videos on YouTube.
Many of the videos here fall on the intermediate side of things, so it might not be the first channel you jump into, but there are some basics covered as well. One thing he really does well is dealing with practicing more effectively, which is important for learning any new skill. Check out the video above for a solid example of that!
This one’s a little different than most of the others on the list, as it doesn’t really focus on specific aspects of drumming. Instead, The Drum Professor focuses on breaking down the parts of popular songs to help you learn to play them.
Here are a couple popular songs you can learn:
- AC/DC “Back in Black”
- Slipknot “Psychosocial”
- Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
- Metallica “Enter Sandman”
I really recommend learning “Back in Black” as your first song, as the core groove is just a basic 4/4 8th note rock beat. It’s a song you can play quickly and really give yourself a confidence boost!
You’ll often find Stephen Taylor as a guest teacher on Drumeo, but his personal channel is absolutely packed with incredible content — and unlike his lessons on Drumeo Edge, they’re free!
What I really like about this channel is that videos tend to take on a different perspective and focus. Instead of a lesson on 8th note beats, you’ll find a lot of stuff like 3 Tips For More Effective Practice, PUNK ROCK DRUMMING: HOW TO NOT LOCK UP, and so on. You’ll also find more traditional lessons such as Improving Your Ghost Notes, How To Play A Drum Solo, and plenty more.
7. Vic Firth
Vic Firth is one of the leading makers of drumsticks, and its website features a wealth of lessons, play along tracks, and much more.
Like the website, Vic Firth’s YouTube channel is packed with lessons from professional drummers. It’s kind of like a best of YouTube as far as drumming is concerned.
The only reason it’s not the first channel listed here is because it’s a little messy and all over the place. There are thousands of videos on the channel, and finding something specific can take a little effort.
I’ve found that the best way to use it is to pick a topic you want to learn and use the search option within the channel to find lessons on that subject. For example, search “Rudiments,” “Syncopation,” “32nd Notes,” or whatever you want, and you’ll find tons of stuff to learn.
Bang on Stuff and Make Music!
Drumming is an expensive hobby. Between drums, cymbals, pedals, sticks, and everything else you need, you can go broke. But thanks to the power of YouTube, you can save a lot of money on lessons! There’s a wealth of information and teachings out there that won’t cost you a dime. Becoming a skilled self-taught drummer is easier than it ever has been. And beyond music, you can learn a bunch of new skills on YouTube.
If you’re interested in other types of educational videos, take a look at these fascinating YouTube channels!