Brian J. Harris Method
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Snare Drum First; Drum Set Soon!

In a music catalog, Rodney sees a big drum set with cymbals for only $299. Wow! “Mom! Dad! Can I have a drum set? Can I? Can I? I’ve always wanted to play drums!” Rodney’s parents buy the drums. Without knowing what he is doing, he bangs on them for three months. Now the cymbals are dented; the drums are falling apart. Rodney loses interest. After spending another three months trying to sell the drums for $150, his parents give the drum set to the Salvation Army. They figure the tax write-off is better than the money they can get for the drums.

I often hear the question, “What equipment do we need to get started on drums?” Many students have no background in music and daily practicing. Very few have $800 to $900 to spend on a brand new drum set. If either is the case, I suggest borrowing, renting, or even purchasing a snare drum only.

Practicing snare drum alone allows beginners to experience technique, rhythms, and reading-all very important elements of drumming. Even after a student owns a drum set, I insist that all ongoing snare drum work be done away from the drum set. This avoids distraction by the other percussion instruments staring him in the face!

Once a student can perform “Echo” (page 33 of The Snare Drum Plays The Zoo) perfectly in three or fewer attempts, we begin work on drum set. This goal generally keeps a new student moving forward, week after week, in anticipation of the day he will qualify to play drum set. Depending on the student, this can take from four to eight weeks.

As soon as he achieves this goal, whether he owns a drum set or not, we immediately have an introduction to the drum set. This usually involves playing “Caterpillar Tiger” (page 11 of The Snare Drum Plays The Zoo) around the snare and toms. If there’s time, I’ll demonstrate bass drum pedal technique too. I also make sure the student understands that snare drum work will continue even while working on drum set.

At the end of this lesson, the student is ready to start work on drum set in many ways:

  • He has proven to himself (and often his parents) that he is capable of working toward a long-term musical goal and achieving it.
  • He is still excited about playing drums, even after regular practice for the past one or two months.
  • He understands the importance of working out technique, rhythms, and reading first on snare drum before applying them to drum set.
  • He has had time to research and save toward the purchase of a high-quality new or used drum set.

In my experience, drummers who have no commitment to consistent practice and no money invested in their drums are consistently the ones who fizzle. Students who begin with disciplined study on snare drum, set performance goals, and use some of their own money to purchase a drum set are much more likely to stick with it!

If you'd like to shop for an entry-level snare drum, please see my article, Selecting A Snare Drum.

Check out my beginning snare drum method book The Snare Drum Plays The Zoo for a fun way to get started playing, reading, and writing drum music!

Brian J. Harris Method
Brian J. Harris Method | 4210 North Saranac Drive, Tucson, AZ  85718
Phone: (520) 878-0363 | Fax: (520) 844-8166 | Email:

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