My 13 year-old wants to play the drums

This is kind of funny. I’ve thought millions of times about what an open-minded dad I am. And if any of the kids want to play any instrument at all, that’s fine with me, except of course, drums. Now my 13 year-old wants to play drums.

Not much background to give, but here goes. His older brother is a great guitar player, but the younger boy doesn’t like the guitar. I suggested bass guitar and he nibbled…and ultimately rejected it. Now he wants to play drums.

I should mention that lately when we hear a song he tends to comment on the drum part. Also, he’s been the lead singer in a rock band lately and when I picked him up at their rehearsal spot he showed me something on the drums and it sounded pretty good. Not that I would know good drumming from crap, anyway. I’m especially impressed in that he’s never practiced drums that I know of and certainly never took a lesson.

I should also mention that we have a really neat basement in an area where no one has a garage or a basement, so maybe this is a way to keep him under our supervision a little more for these next few crazy years.

Any thoughts? Comments? Warnings? Funny memories? Advice? Commiseration?

Not sure where you are located. In many places in the US, and more in Canada, there are bagpipe and drum bands. No, it is not rock and roll, but Scottish drumming rudiments are what it takes to be a “real” drummer vs. a hack.

Some of these bands offer free training. Your son will need only a rubber practice pad (virtually noisless) and sticks at first. Also, the band I am associated with is ALWAYS hurting for drummers. A pipe band would also expose him to a pool of clean-cut potential friends.

I played drums all through my teens and still do. My various rock bands practiced in our basement a couple times a week a lot of the time. I told my parents it must have driven them crazy. They said as long they knew what I was doing and where I was it was fine with them. I still managed to be a bit of a pothead but at least I stayed out of bigtime mischief being that I channeled most of my energy into drumming.

A couple of friends got me started and I took lessons with the elementary school teacher who happened to be a drum & bugle corps guy so he got me going on the rudiments which is an excellent foundation as Kevbo noted. Later I took private lessons with a guy my HS band director hooked me up with and did quite well. Most of my instruction was classical and jazz but applying the techniques to rock was simple enough.

AHAhahahahaaaaaaahaaaaahaaaaa! :smiley:

Oh, poor you! Your Parental Doom was sealed the minute you even thought “…except the drums…”, you know that, right? They smell those thoughts, the same way they smell Mama’s sexual arousal as infants and wake up crying just when you’re about to get the first nookie in months.

Kevbo’s suggestion sounds fantastic, though. Actually, any suggestion relating to drums which includes the words “virtually noisless” is as good as it’s gonna get, parenting-wise.

Of course he wants to play drums if you thought that. How else would it happen?

I’d let him if it were me. And I’ve got several friends who are drummers, and had a kid that played various instruments, so I’m familiar with the trials and tribulations.

I’d try to find a good classical teacher - check the music dept at his school for recommendations. Classical drummers can easily learn to play rock, country, jazz, whatever - plus have a good basic foundation of percussion theory and know how to read music when needed. A teacher that will also work with him on what he wants to do, at least part of the time, will keep from getting bored with the other stuff.

Talk to the teacher about what he needs to get started. Generally with kids, I say start small and work up to bigger/better instruments once they’ve demonstrated a long-term interest. Otherwise you’ll spend a fortune on expensive dust-collectors.

I think there are electronic snare sets that can be set to silent for practice or turned up for actual use. Someday he’ll want a real drum set, but that can wait until he’s stuck with it for a while. Or maybe until he moves out - it could be a housewarming gift! :wink:

If you don’t mind turning your basement into a practice room, this could also be a great way to keep an eye on him, get to meet his friends, etc., for the next few years. And you get bonus Cool Parent points!

Get an electric kit. You do not want to hear him learning how to play.

You poor swine.
Shall I pass the hat for a hearing aide for you, then? :smiley:

If he gets an actual drum set, you can stuff pillows inside the drums to mute the sound when he’s practicing. Not sure what you can do about the cymbals though.

You can use towels to mute the cymbals. But seriously do not buy a real kit, you will hate yourself. The folks in the music store don’t even like you playing the drums in there.

I’d like to debate that a little bit (rudimental drumming making someone a “REAL” drummer) but thats an entirely different thread…

Your 13 year old son is showing interest in something, do the right thing and let him pick up a rewarding activity.

In a couple of years he may in audition for bands in school, learn about playing a part in a thing/ensemble that is bigger than himself etc. There are so many benefits here. Im not saying it will stick, but it may, and he may learn so much about the world through it.
If you are going to do this, do it right though, get him a usable kit. (don’t blow thousands here, but make sure its not totally rinky dink, check with local drum teachers…not store clerks and owners, but teachers) Your son has shown that he wants to play drums set, not study classically (right now) so get him lessons with a teacher (so very important.) When you do get him lessons get them with a classically trained teacher who also teaches drum kit. This way he will learn proper technique while still learning how to groove on the drum set and he might get turned on to the classical side of things while he’s at it.

I would avoid drum corps…they are a pretty big joke to most serious percussionists and the most he will really learn is how to compete in a pissing match…missing out in lessons in musicality and having fun.
Do this for your son. My parents did and it changed my life.

As a drummer, I have to say that encouraging him is a good idea. You may be focused on the potentially noisy aspects of his choice, but that’s not the point. The point is that he has found a way in which he wants to express himself . My parents “let” me play drums starting in the 7th grade. They made me buy my first used kit, and tolerated my practicing. Years later when my band and I were selling thousands of CDs and playing gigs with bands my parents grew up with, they realized that they were right to have let me pursue my dream.

As far as the kit goes, you can get a Pearl Forum kit (name brand, entry level, not great but adequate) for about $350. You can get a pretty high quality used kit for not a whole lot more, if you can find a deal on one.

Muting the drums is possible, and can be done (cymbals included) for around $30, but I think it’s much better to just set a specified time for your son to play during reasonable hours. If he quits, he quits, but if he sticks with it, you have to encourage his perseverance.

An electronic kit (while pretty darn quiet) can be anywhere from $700 to $3400.

I was self taught, with the exception of the percussion instruction that I got at school. A teacher would be good for him, but it can tend to turn some people off. Once it starts to seem like fruitless work, interest tends to go down. When I took a handful of lessons, I had already been tooling around on my kit for a few years, and the instructor gave me a drum solo that was around my skill level rather than make me do endless exercises that a 6th grader might do.

I am a practicing drummer, I’ve sold drums, and even done a little teaching. I’ve also helped a few dopers with their drum questions as far as equipment goes. I’d be happy to help you out with choosing a new or used kit, and whatever else you need. I don’t sell drums anymore or work for a company that does, so I can give you an objective cost effective recommendation. Email is in the profile.

Let the boy play drums

This advice is generally what I’d side with. There’s many bad drum teachers out there, ones who can teach a kid to hammer out 4/4 rhythms, and to hammer them out slightly louder, and then slightly faster, and that’s it. Having basic all-round percussion skills, and a solid musical background, will enable your son to apply himself to more situations. This is so important, given that nobody knows whether his future interests may lie with orchestral percussion*****, or electroacoustic free improv, or death metal, or…you get the idea.

***** A good example of how the drum kit is one part of a much wider set of skills: in orchestral pieces such as Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, a kit is added to the standard orchestral percussion. Any percussionist should and will be able to play that part just as they can swap to any other instrument in the section.

Thanks so much for the responses so far. Very helpful, very entertaining.

One quick question…I like the idea of buying him a cheapo starter set. Good enough to use, bad enough for him to work hard to earn something better. BTW, this is the strategy that worked well in making his brother a great guitar player. has some sets for about $300. Is this about where I should start looking?

Thanks again.

I don’t have any experience with those Pulse kits, but they do have cymbals and stands, so that’s a big money saver. It doesn’t look like it comes with a throne, so you’ll have to spring for one of those. I can’t tell if it comes with a kick drum pedal.

I imagine they’ll be good for getting started. Unless he’s going to be climbing on them they should hold up.

If possible, have an experienced drummer take a look and make sure they’re set up correctly and everything’s nice and tight. I addition to having everything in a comfortable playing position you don’t want cymbals tipping over and drums flopping around on their mounts.

My son-in-law and I discussed this just last night. Our thinking went like this: If you buy a set for $300, you’re handicapping him with tuning problems and bad hardware. If he decides to quit, you’ve bought three hundred dollars worth of firewood. If he decides to keep playing he will want to trade up, but no one will give him anything for the cheap set.

If at all possible buy a set in the 700 - 900 dollar range. They will play the way they are supposed to with out his having to learn to compensate for their weaknesses. If he decides to keep playing, he won’t have to worry aout upgrading before he knows enough about what he needs to choose the next set wisely. And he will get a much better return on investment when (if) he does decide to upgrade. Which is good news for you if he decides he doesn’t want to play after all. The better kit will get more of your money back (not all, of course, but more than the cheap kit which you would probably have to give away.)

To address the loudness concerns: These have saved sanity in more than one student percussionist’s home.

I seem to be contradicting dnooman, but I’m not, really. The Pearl Forum kit he mentioned is alright and certainly adequate but the cymbals…Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi. Most “starter pack” cymbals are CRAP cymbals. (I may be mistaken, but in most on-line catalogs I’ve seen, the price for a set of drums “does not include cymbals or hardware shown”.) So add the price of a good set of cymbals (cymbals depreciate even worse than drums) and hardware and you’re nearing the price range I recommended in the beginning.

I hope this helps (and makes sense; I should have been in bed two hours ago). Any other questions you might have, I’ll be happy to tell you what I know. (I’ll get some sleep first and maybe can actually help.)

For the record, my parents bought my first drum kit when I was about the same age as your son. I’ll be fifty next month and playing drums has been an integral part of the happiness of my life.
ETA: Amazon is not a music store. That Pulse kit is the $300 firewood kit and the cymbals are garbage can lids. Don’t buy that kit.

I’d recommend asking your local music store about used sets. You can get a much better set for the same amount of money buying a good used instrument.

Pawnshops can also be good, but only if you know what you’re doing or have help from someone who does.

use criaigs list…look for anything pearl, tama, yamaha, but do it in the cheep… make sure they come with hardware (hi hat stand, bass drum pedal as well as cymbal stands), cymbals, and a throne would be nice as well, if you want someone to take a look at what your buy before contact the seller, send me a PM. I’m happy to do it

This is great. Studying music really helps people understand math. (Music is full of frations)
Just buy practice pads.

And a metronome for God’s sake. It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned that damned drummer were two seperate words.

In terms of cymbals for a thirteen Y/O drummer, those cymbal starter packs are fine…hes not playing live shows, hes not recording, hes just playing with his band, the cymbals cut through the band and sound pretty all right.
Avoid the mute pads…Its like playing a Saxophone with a sock in the bell. It turns a lot of students away from wanting to play the drums, because, dammit, they just don’t sound like drums. Set up a cut of hour for the drums, like 8:00/9:00, if hes really into it then get some mutes for the kit so he can play past that time. Don’t use mutes as a starting point.