How Much Practice Does it Take to Become a Professional Drummer
The eternal question that torments all of us drummers, isn’t that so?
Sometimes 30 minutes a day can be enough to notice some improvement, but according to Benny Greb, it is more important what you practice and how you practice than how much.
In this article, I will guide you through how much practice it takes to become a professional drummer and suggest some tips and tricks to get the most out of your practice session.
How long should I practice drums a day?
8 hours is better than 3 but how you practice is the most critical factor if you want to improve your drumming.
There’s an excellent book I read recently written by drum master Benny Greb; it’s called “effective practicing for musicians.” In short, here are fantastic tips and tricks on how to practice drums efficiently:
14 commandments of drum practice
- Separate practicing from playing
- Make a practice schedule
- Record yourself
- Put your goals and steps that will get you there on paper
- Measure the progress
- Answer the question of “what is the reward” that you get if you achieve your goals
- Analyze your practice
- Never change your goal; change the approach
- Focus on one by one task
- Consistency is the key
- The best time for practicing is when the chance of practice is highest
- Eliminate distraction
- Use timer
- Practice until you feel comfortable; don’t stop when you can play something
Here is a fantastic way to start (also by Benny):
- Choose your favorite drummer
- Make a pie chart of his/her “weapons” (groove, timing, flow)
- Choose yours, the ones you want to focus on
- Start working on two of the worst
So now that you know that it’s not length but the quality of practice that matters, let’s go ahead and see how long it takes to the intermediate level.
How long does it take to become an intermediate drummer?
If you can dedicate 3 hours of practice each day and make it quality, then a year is more than enough.
Take an additional year to shape the skill.
A practice session can defer substantially from drummer to drummer. Having 1 on 1 lesson will also influence the level of progress. Again we are all different.
Overall 2 to 5 years.
You can reach the skill needed to become semi-professional quickly. That means you’ll be able to play some club, wedding gigs, etc.
However, to achieve more advanced technique, learn to play various genres (and sound like you know what you are doing) and sound good on a recording.
It’s a different game that will take years.
So let’s see how much time it takes to become a professional drummer.
How long does it take to become a professional drummer?
For guys like Tony Royster; 6 years, and for many of us, 15+. It is a personal and immeasurable thing.
How can you measure the amount of talent a person has?
But, of course, you can measure time and quality of practice.
I’ve recently heard Tommy Igoe talking about the popular belief of young drummers that they don’t need to learn notes because they heard Dennis Chambers doesn’t read notes. Tommy responds:
“You are not Dennis Chambers and you need all the help you can get”
What does it take to become a professional drummer?
Although each pro drummer has a unique sound and style, there are many skills they have in common.
To name a few:
- Impeccable timing
- Good technique
- No overplay
- Stick control
- Great flow
- Know to listen to others
To conquer these skills; it takes time, years…
To sound good live; it’s one thing, but in the studio where you can hear your breathing on record, that’s another game.
Start recording yourself early, and whatever you practice, do it with a click.
You can thank me later.
Is it hard to be a professional drummer?
Yes, it is very hard. It takes more than 10 years to truly master some of the drumming skills needed for the job.
However, being a “professional” drummer can be on various levels. If your goal is to do this for a living, it is not that hard, and you can achieve that in a couple of years.
But, the level of Vinnie, Weckl, Gadd… that’s far from just “doing it for a living.”
For that kind of “pro” level you are going to need talent and experience except hard work.
Are drummers in demand?
Not as in the past. Advanced plugins and drum libraries decreased demand for drummers.
To reduce costs, producers rather program drums or use pre-programmed or even pre-recorded grooves and fills rather than hiring a professional drummer.
However, since musicians earn most of their income through touring, demand for a great touring drummer is always there.
Here are a few ways to make money as a drummer:
- Giving Lessons
- Holding Clinics
- Selling drum video lessons/courses
Professional drummer salary
This varies by country and by type of gig/artist. For instance, if you play weddings, you can earn $150+ for a 5-8 hours gig.
If you play clubs it’s around $50+, but if you play clubs with some artist who is a big name, it can go above $500.
For big arenas, gigs tend to be no longer than 2 hours but don’t necessary means you will earn more than if you play a wedding.
Here the pay is $200 or more again, depending on the artist, the country you live in, etc.