Learning to play the drums is a lifelong journey that never quite ends. However, there are certain points where you can pinpoint levels of proficiency with your drumming, and it’s possible to get a general assumption on how long it takes to get to those points.
In this guide, we’ll break down how long it will take you to get to the beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages of drumming. We’ll also break down a few aspects that you’ll work on within those stages.
One of the best things about drumming is that it doesn’t take very long to learn how to play a few basic things. Most drummers can play a few songs after their first drum lesson, meaning that it only takes a day to learn the most basic aspects of drumming.
We’d say that most drummers stay in the beginner phase for about a year after starting. That time is typically longer for children.
Here’s what drummers work on in the early stages, along with how long each of these topics takes to get a grip of:
Rudiments are hand patterns that train you to have good control with your sticks. You’ll be able to play the most basic ones at slow tempos on your first day, but it will take a few months before you can play them comfortably at high speeds.
Learning to apply those rudiments around the drum kit may take even longer, as it’s harder to play the patterns on different surfaces than it is to play them on a practice pad.
Beginner drummers will only work on basic rudiments like single strokes, paradiddles, and double strokes.
Most drummers are able to play a few basic drum grooves within weeks of learning. The initial hurdle is being able to separate your hands and feet. Once you get that down, there are hundreds of different combinations to play to create various grooves.
It takes a bit longer to be able to play those grooves at high tempos, though. Most drummers are able to play quick grooves after a few months, while others take a year or two.
Playing drum fills is a bit more challenging than playing repetitive grooves, as you need to fit them in within grooves without going out of time. So, the process of learning to play fills comfortably takes a bit longer than learning to play grooves.
Again, this can take weeks or months, depending on the drummer. It usually takes up to a year for a drummer to learn several good drum fills that they can use for any groove.
Subdivisions are a concept that is quite hard to understand, and beginner drummers need to learn about eight notes, eighth note triplets, sixteenth notes, and sixteenth note triplets. Having a firm understanding of these is also something that can take a year or two.
The intermediate stage is where most drummers in the world sit for lengthy periods. It’s the most diverse stage, as many drummers never break through to advanced drumming. To get to an intermediate level of drumming, it usually takes drummers anywhere from one to five years of learning.
The intermediate phase is where you learn to play odd time signatures, improve your musicality, and play with other musicians.
Here’s more information on those aspects of learning:
Odd Time Signatures
Odd time isn’t something that every drummer learns, as most music is in 4/4 time. However, learning to play the drums in odd time signatures is a great way for drummers to improve their skills and understanding of music and drumming.
Playing in odd time isn’t something that new drummers learn about in the first few years. It’s something that drummers start to delve into three or four years in, especially if they’re interested in odd-time music.
Playing with Other Musicians
Playing with other musicians is something that many new drummers do from the very beginning. It usually takes a few years for drummers to become comfortable playing in band settings, though.
A cool thing about playing with other musicians is that it speeds up the learning process. Drummers who play with others improve a lot faster than drummers that don’t.
Musicality refers to how a drummer sounds when they play the drums. Most beginner drummers sound very average in their first few years of learning to play.
It takes around five to ten years for drummers to develop a unique voice behind the kit, and that’s when their playing starts to sound very good.
Many drummers never reach the advanced stage of playing, so it’s difficult to give an exact number of how many years it takes to get there. Some drummers only take three years to get there, while others take up to ten years.
It’s all about how dedicated a drummer is and how much they push themselves to improve their drumming skills.
Here are two very important aspects of advanced drumming:
Complex Subdivisions and Phrasing
Advanced drummers learn how to play subdivisions like quintuplets and septuplets. Mastering these is incredibly challenging, and it takes years of practice to get to a point where you can play them comfortably.
Freedom Around the Drum Kit
The biggest tell of an advanced drummer is when they have complete freedom around the drum kit. This is when a drummer can play anything that they think of in their head.
Most advanced drummers can listen to other drum parts and then easily figure them out and play them on their own kits.
Getting to a point like this typically takes 10 to 20 years of learning the drums.
Final Thoughts on How Long It Takes to Learn Drums
All the figures we mentioned above are general estimates. The amount of time it takes to learn the drums depends on how much effort you put into it. Drumming is centered around muscle memory, so you need to constantly practice and play things over and over to improve.
Here’s a quick recap of the general estimated times of how long it takes to learn the drums:
Beginner drumming – 1 week to 5 years
Intermediate drumming – 1 to 10 years
Advanced drumming – 10 to 20 years