The best age to learn to play the drums is simple: it is when you want to.
There are lots of scientific studies about the brain and how it develops, so I will leave that to the experts. But there are only positive benefits to learning to play a musical instrument. If you are genuinely interested in some of the science then this is a great video produced by TEDEd.
After watching it you will decide that there is no bad time to learn and it is all good.
Nonetheless, It is a really good question and one that I am often asked, by young and old and especially by parents. Let me give you some examples and some thoughts and see what resonates with you.
Michael came to me at 67. He had always wanted to learn to play the drums, but he had never had drum lessons. To be precise it was his grown-up children who bought the first lesson as a Christmas present for their father. Passionate about music the first striking thing about Michael was that he was and continues to be an active participant in music as a concert goer.
Learning to play the drums was a real extension to his appreciation and love for music and he was clearly fascinated in watching the drummers he saw perform. His drum lessons not only gave him new skills, but also gave him a greater understanding and deeper appreciation of music and musicians. Concert going now had more elements for him to enjoy.
Although Michael is still working, he was semi-retired and was really keen to take learning to play the drums seriously. He was not trying to be great, he simply wanted to make progress and have fun. Michael has recently completed both his debut and grade one music grades through the London College of Music, using Gigajam Online Music School.
If you an older person, then do not for one second think that learning to play the drums is not a good idea for you. If you want to do it, then you will develop the skills with me and have great fun. Older learners often come with great learning experience and take on instruction really quickly. They often worry that they may be too old to learn and lack the co-ordination and dexterity. It has never happened yet and I think this age group get an enormous amount of fun and satisfaction out of the learning to play the drums. Inquisitive and keen to progress, these lessons are always great fun for me as I love to see how surprised my older students are at how much they develop.
So what about younger students. At the other end of the age groups, I see, are young children. Parents have the unenviable job understanding the levels of motivation and commitment their children have for the various activities available to them. As a parent myself I understand the tensions here. Parents have much to consider:
Does my child really want to do this?
Is it just a fad or will my child stick with it?
Are they able to cope with the demands of learning a musical instrument: concentrate during lessons, practice at home, manage their tiredness with the demands of modern life?
For me, children of 7 years and above are suitable, in general terms, for learning to play the drums. Young children, though, are so different and, are on very different parts of their developmental journey. Maturity can vary enormously and a one-size fits all, is absolutely not the case. There are the very occasional children where learning the drums can be younger than 7 and I have taught 5 and 6 years old successfully. But in my experience, now 25 years +, such young children are not generally ready for the demands of learning an instrument. The exception would be only if they are super motivated and desperate to have lessons.
If you do have a child even younger and you believe they are gifted, then I am always happy to meet and assess whether I think they are suited to lessons. For me it is so important that they enjoy the instrument and that formal learning does not reduce in anyway their enthusiasm and enjoyment. Where pupils are very young and show a real gift, I would encourage a very light touch so they retain their love for the instrument without it becoming like 'work'. I appreciate that some teachers would be keen to address the technical issues and ensure that they start off 'properly', but quite frankly, there are few 'proper-lies' and techniques are things that develop and can be developed. There is not one correct way of playing the drums - new techniques are evolving at a faster rate than ever, so more than anything they need to learn to be adaptable.
When considering the suitability of lessons for younger children, there are two sides to learning to play the drums I like to reflect upon and impart to parents:
Motor Skills and Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence
The first is their physical ability - their motor skills and bodily kinesthetic intelligence. Can the child co-ordinate themselves reasonably. This is about sitting comfortably, controlling their legs and arms, as well as the finer motor skills such as wrists and fingers for holding the sticks. Control of the drum kit is largely seen as coordination, so this is about developing the body kinesthetic intelligence that we all have. This is more evident and comes more easily to some than others and the reason behind that is, not about how smart we are, but more about HOW WE ARE SMART. This is a big topic, so a nice introduction is here.
This is where I earn my money, as it is my job to work out and approach each of my students appropriately; so they get the learning experience they need from me to develop them. ALL students are different!
Knowledge and understanding
The second is maturity. We all learn differently and we develop and learn 'how to learn' as we mature. I need to understand my student and how they learn. I also need to understand their ability to receive and understand instruction. Some of this is simply experience - their age.
My thoughts on ages for learning to play the drums
So, to conclude:
Below the age of 7
If you are considering lessons for a child below the age of 7, then we should talk, at least and, perhaps, have 30 minutes together when I can assess whether 'formal' learning is beneficial at this time.
Sensible time commitment: 30 minutes a week lesson, late afternoons - 10 minutes practice a day, 10 minutes just playing the kit.
Above the age of 7
For children above the age of 7, in most instances they will be able and ready for short 30 minute lessons and will make demonstrable progress. If your child is keen, but lacks maturity, then there are occasions when I will recommending waiting a bit longer, as the progress they make may be slow and discouraging, putting them off for life. Whereas, if they come when a little more mature, they will get more from each lesson, more easily, and will be heartened to stick with it. Learning to play the drums is fun and really enjoyable, but like all things does require some focus and some discipline.
Sensible time commitment: 30 minutes a week lesson, late afternoons - 15 minutes practice a day, 15 minutes just playing the kit.
11 and rising
These students often make up part of the most fast-paced progressive learning group I teach. Students at this age (generalisation) are becoming more mature, more able to understand concepts and ideas and have had good time to develop their body-kinesthetic intelligence and motor skills. They are more coordinated in short. They are alive to learning and have great capacity to absorb new information.
Sensible time commitment: 30-45 minutes a week lesson, later afternoons, 15 minutes practice a day, 30 minutes just playing the kit
Adults of any age are ripe for learning to play the drums. Whether you are 25 and just never tried it. 35 and want something to develop away from work and the family for an hour a week, as time is precious. 45, when the kids just ignore you now. 60+, when you have genuine time to do exactly what you want. In essence, if you want to learn as an adult - this is the right time.
Sensible time commitment: 60 minute lessons, anytime, 15 minutes practice a day, 30 minutes just playing the kit.
I hope this makes some sense, reassures you that you, or your child can learn to play the drums at any age and most of all - just give me shout as I am always happy to discuss with you what you want from learning to play the drums.