Many drummers try to take the "short cut" when learning to play the drums. The short cut is when someone glosses over the (perhaps boring) coordination-building exercises and instead focuses mainly on learning to play songs. Are you guilty of taking the "short cut"?
If so, all is not lost. Learning to play songs is an important part of your practice routine. You can rest assured that your drumming skills have improved as a result of your hard work.
HOWEVER (you probably knew that was coming), songs lack something very important when it comes to improving your drumming skills: They aren't designed to train. While songs are fun, motivating and an important part of the learning process, they don't serve the purpose of training you, on their own. The drum parts serve the sole purpose of supporting the song.
Method books, on the other hand, are designed to train you. They present coordination exercises in a logical order to gradually build your coordination and skills in a fast and efficient way. They're written and organized by professional teachers with the main goal of supporting your learning.
Notice that in the first paragraph above I used quotation marks around the phrase "short cut." That's because it only works as a faster method in the beginning. If you spend time working through method books to build your coordination and skills, you'll eventually be able to learn new songs much quicker because you will have already mastered many of the skills needed to play them.
So, what role do songs play in the learning process then? Why are they important? Songs help you learn how to apply your drumming skills in a meaningful and supportive way. By studying the many different ways these skills have been used and continue to be used, you're jump-starting your own creative "drumming battery." You can build off the foundation that drummers of the past and today have laid, creating your own, unique drumming voice.
Regardless of the learning approach you use, the ultimate goal is to be able to play along with songs. Dividing practice time between learning songs and coordination-building may be a slower approach in the beginning, but it will have exponential results later on, making it the true short cut.
Looking for a method book? Check out our method books with hundreds of coordination exercises as well as real-world examples from chart-topping songs.