After more than 15 years in drumming I decided to make this Ultimate guide on How to learn drums.
I gathered all the questions young drummers have and all the questions I had to be sure I cover everything.
In this guide you’ll learn drumming essentials for the beginner after which you will be ready to start rocking.
Drummers usually quit out of two reasons, a lack of motivation or lack of time, or both.
So, if you are not planning to quit and you are ready to jump into this amazing journey, stick with me to get all the information beginner drummers need.
- How to learn drums in 14 steps
- 1. Gripping the Drumstick
- 2. Stroke Technique
- 3. Basic Drum Beats
- 4. Developing Rudiments
- 5. Executing Drum Fills
- 6. Hi-Hat Technique
- 7. Ride Cymbal Technique
- 8. Kick Drum Technique
- 9. Reading Sheet Music
- 10. Playing With a Metronome
- 11. Listening to Other Musicians
- 12. Stylistic Playing
- 13. Improvising
- 14. Balancing Your Sound
- 15. Importance of dynamic
- 16. Importance of metric
- 4 Basic Drum Strokes
- Wrap up
How to learn drums in 14 steps
1. Gripping the Drumstick
The grip of the drumstick determines how well you can control it. You should find your balance between holding the drumstick to stop rebounding from the instrument and preventing the drumstick from motion after an attack.
There are many ways to grip the stick, including German, French, and American styles. In addition, all three grips have different hand positions.
My recommendation is American grip, one of three matched grips.
The American grip represents a combination of the German grip’s power and the French grip’s finesse. Hold the drumsticks simultaneously with both hands as opposed to the traditional grip.
All grips require drummers to find a good fulcrum, regardless of which type they use. You can do so by following these steps.
- Divide the stick into equal thirds.
- Take a drumstick and pinch it between the first and second thirds toward the butt of the drumstick.
- Grasp the drumstick with your fingers.
2. Stroke Technique
Drumming is mainly composed of two strokes: rebound strokes and controlled strokes.
The rebound stroke causes the drumstick to bounce off the instrument before returning to its preparation stage.
Controlled strokes control the rebound generated by the stroke while not allowing the drumstick to return to its preparation stage.
You either let the drumstick bounce or stop the bounce. Playing drums can be broken down into these two easy decisions, it is as simple as that.
These types of strokes are excellent for building speed. Practicing rebound strokes can help you focus on relaxation, accuracy, and the economy of motion.
- Relaxation – The muscles must be relaxed when you play. Tensen muscles will not only prevent you from developing your technique correctly, but it might also cost you a severe injury. The key to the relaxed muscle is breathing. It is safe to assume that you’re on the right track if your practice feels similar to meditation.
- Accuracy – Upon striking, make sure your drumstick tip hits the center of the drum. As a result, your brain will train itself to play the part of the instrument that you want, making consistent sounds.
- The economy of motion – To begin the rebound stroke, raise the stick parallel with the playing surface. After that, accelerate the stick toward the playing surface. Strokes are played with a wrist turn, following which the wrist returns to its preparation position.
The controlled stroke is almost identical to the rebound stroke in motion and technique.
There is only one big difference: the rebound is stopped, so the drumstick cannot return to its initial position.
It is essential to get used to using just a wrist, let’s say while playing slow tempos to get more control.
Likewise, using fingers in fast tempos so you can stay relaxed and achieve more speed with less work, that’s what technique is all about.
3. Basic Drum Beats
Every drummer wants to play drum beats. So, to play your favorite song or jam, you need to develop and learn the drumming basics.
There are many ways to perform the basic drum beat using cymbal patterns on various instruments. The best is to start with the hi-hat or ride cymbal, then move on to cowbells, tambourines, and the rim of a drum.
4. Developing Rudiments
If drumming is a language, then drum rudiments are the letters.
Learning drum rudiments is essential to get your “database” filled with information.
Every new rudiment you learn is a step further into new rhythms.
To begin with drum rudiments, I suggest checking out Vic Fith’s article about 40 essential rudiments.
A while ago, I recorded an exercise on How to learn 100 new rhythms with only one exercise.
Go check it out.
Start with the basics like singles and doubles, paradiddles, and flams. However, please don’t overdo it since it can quickly become very complicated.
The single stroke roll – This is the most commonly played rudiment.
Practice the same thing with your right and left hands as follows:
- Leading with your right: R L R L
- Leading with your left: L R L R
Double-stroke roll – This one is a bit more difficult compared to single strokes. For that reason, you need to master the single stroke first.
In double strokes, each hand performs two rebound strokes. This makes an open stroke roll when played hand to hand.
Furthermore, with the double-stroke, you will be playing two strokes per hand as follows:
- Leading with your right: R R L L
- Leading with your left: L L R R
Paradiddles – The paradiddle is a combination of single and double-strokes at once.
Flams – It is that rudiment when the drummer strikes a grace note just before hitting the primary stroke. Using flams, drummers can thicken the notes they play and produce a longer note than could be achieved with only a single stroke.
5. Executing Drum Fills
Drum fills are short improvisations between parts of a song, it is a drum solo that fills in the gaps between musical phrases.
Drum fills are a crucial part of playing drums, and they can be easily mastered with practice.
Drum fills offer some of the greatest satisfaction. Playing drums can make you feel very powerful but don’t get carried away.
Thanks to the drumming basics, we can stay grounded while stretching our legs while performing. However, try to avoid playing fills that do not fit the song’s style or those fills that are satisfying your ego. Make it less about you and more about the music.
6. Hi-Hat Technique
Hi-hat techniques consist of different motions that produce different sounds. This technique should complement other drumming techniques, including identifying accented and unaccented notes.
The drumming basic for hi-hat includes accented notes performed with the shoulder of a drumstick on the cymbal edge.
The unaccepted notes are struck with the tip of the drumstick on the top of the cymbal.
7. Ride Cymbal Technique
The cymbal’s sound will be determined by how you play it. So even though there are numerous ways to play a ride cymbal, let’s stick with a French grip approach for drumming basics reasons.
What might be the most identifiable thing for French grip is the thumb on top of the drumstick. As you approach the ride cymbal with your arm, slightly pronating your wrist will allow more ergonomic positioning.
The wrist turn won’t occur at the joint where your hand meets your arm since your thumb is facing up. Instead, rotation of the forearm will be the action that performs the stroke.
Let the drumstick rebound from the cymbal and use your fingers to achieve desired control over your drumstick.
8. Kick Drum Technique
There are two basic kick drum techniques:
- The heel-down technique that generates power through calf muscles and ankle movement.
- The heel-up technique that gains strength from the mass by using the whole leg.
Although some drummers argue which technique is better, developing both is essential, especially when learning the basics!
The benefit of learning the heel down technique is that you gain extra power and control upon raising your heel off the pedalboard.
In a sense, it is similar to raising your arm to add to the mass of a stroke when drumming with your hands. It is part of the Moeller Technique.
Using the heel down and up technique together can achieve a broader control range over your kick drum.
9. Reading Sheet Music
Drumming basics are easier to learn because they are symbols that show how to divide a beat.
Although reading music can be somewhat intimidating, it will be easy to learn the basics if you can learn the simple fractions.
For instance, 4 beats are standard time measurements.
Each beat can be represented by:
- One whole note
- Two half notes
- Four quarter notes
- Eight eighth notes, etc.
Reading sheet music allows you to access a wide range of drum methods.
10. Playing With a Metronome
A drumming fundamental that cannot be compromised is playing in time.
The quality of your performances will not matter if you are not on time, and the metronome is the most straightforward tool for achieving this goal.
They are an essential tool for drumming practice of any kind.
For example, you can use a metronome when playing a pad to improve your stroke technique or when playing drum beats to improve your groove.
Using a metronome will fine-tune your internal clock.
11. Listening to Other Musicians
You should listen to music with a critical ear. This doesn’t mean that everything you hear should be analyzed and critiqued.
But instead asks questions about how the musicians are playing, their technique, why their groove sounds so good, etc.
It is trying to understand the music to become just as critical of the music you play. Developing this skill is one of the best ways to become a successful player.
12. Stylistic Playing
The drummer is one of the most critical factors in establishing the band’s feel and style.
The feel can range from more straight-laced to more swung, varying in degree from one extreme to another. For drummers, the ability to control the feeling of various styles is essential.
Drum styles are typically adaptations of traditional rhythms. This is why mastering the essential parts of a drum set requires knowing and understanding the traditional rhythms.
Drum solos are your time to shine and show off your skills while creating something musical on your instrument.
Here are some tips for developing a drum solo.
- Have patience – Not every minute of your solo needs to be memorable. Snip away at beats in each measure until you put together some ideas you’d like to develop.
- Use themes – After you have an idea, make it into a theme that can be played on different instruments. Continue the solo development with more variations on the theme.
- Use rudiments – For instance, use rolls to make your notes last longer or paradiddles to access different instruments.
- Leave space – This goes hand in hand with patience. Empty space can create an impression of excitement when used strategically.
- Create energy – One way to create energy is by the contrast between busy and conservative playing. Tempo and dynamics are also effective ways to do this.
- Dynamic – Increasing and decreasing the dynamics at key phrases in your solo can add energy and excitement.
- Include grooves – Many of the best drum solos begin with a groove, followed by fills that create new grooves or fills that become increasingly complex.
14. Balancing Your Sound
One of the most crucial drumming basics is how loud you play the cymbals in relation to the drums. However, not a lot of drummers pay attention to this.
When playing the basic drum beat, make sure that the cymbals are quieter than the drums. When changing the volume of instruments, make sure you do not lose tempo or intensity. You can repeat this exercise with the snare and kick drum.
When you focus on the different instruments and volumes, your hands and feet will be trained to respond to musical situations more appropriately.
After we have thoroughly covered all things you need to be aware of when start drumming, we can move on to the practical part.
I prepared special tips and tricks that made me a better drummer, as well as videos that will help you learn essential drumming basics in less than 1 hour!
15. Importance of dynamic
Dynamic is the space between loudest and the quietest note. The whole point is to lower done the volume of the quiet one and make a larger range between those two notes..
This is one of the main characteristics of professional drummers, they all have mastered dynamic.
This will make a difference in studio recording, where you can hear every detail
I found this video of one of my favorite drummers Vinnie Colaiuta explaining this, check it out…
16. Importance of metric
Metric is the distance between two notes. So, metric is the space distance while dynamic is the volume distance.
Our bad metric will make the groove bad because some notes are not where they need to be. They are played faster or slower than to so in rhythm context they are off. Here is the example.
I hope you realize how this things are important in drumming. Become a true pro means having a perfect metric.
There are plenty of drum exercises designed to improve your metric but here is the best one by my modest opinion. It is called 10 by 10 and it’s the best exercise for drummers I was able to learn in 15 years.
4 Basic Drum Strokes
1. DOWN stroke
You start in an up position and you finish all the way down after you hit the drum.
2. TAP stroke
Your stick is in the down position so you hit one gentle, quiet tap.
3. UP stroke
You are starting in a down position going up. On your way up you need to hit tap as quiet as you can.
4. FULL stroke
You are starting it an up position, hitting the drum and ending in the same position
Now you need to combine all these strokes. So, down,tap,up,full. Practice this at 50 bpm and increase the tempo slowly..
How much are drumming lessons?
Recently I entered Dave Weckl’s website to see how much it costs to have a one on one online lesson with one of the best drummers in the world. It’s $250, and I think that’s about how expensive it gets.
But if you ask me, there is no need to have a lesson that expensive unless you have already learned “everything” and need to clear some things with a guy who’s already been there.
I don’t prefer group lessons, so if you stick with one-on-one lessons, either private or online, they go from $20 to $100.
What is linear drumming?
Linear drumming is a term for drumming without unison strokes but each stroke for itself.
The genre with the most linear drumming is funk, and the drummers known for linear drumming are Steve Gadd, Mike Clark. David Garibaldi.
Let me give you an example of linear drumming.
Let’s take a basic paradiddle as an example:
Played linearly can go:
FF meaning foot, foot
That’s just a straightforward example of linear drumming. Let’ say I play.
That’s not linear drumming anymore.
I hope you get the point.
How to practice drumming without a drum set?
Learning correctly basic rules is essential for your drumming in the years to come.
Not having a drum set shouldn’t stop you from learning:
- How to hold drumsticks
- Wrist control
- How to sit properly
- How to stay relaxed
- How to breathe properly
- Various rhythms
- Drum set notes
- Linear drumming, tuplets, phrasing, dynamics, and a lot more
Yes, all these things you can learn with just a pair of drumsticks, and if you get a drum pad, you can practice finger control and finger technique.
Some master drummers like Dennis Chambers suggest practicing on pillows.
I know all these terms are new to you but don’t worry, I will explain more as we go through the article.
Who invented drumming?
I will not harass you with complete drum history but do a quick summary:
- Different percussion parts were found in ancient Asia, Africa, Greece, etc
- The snare drum was invented in the 13th century in Europe
- The Bass drum was invented in 1909 by William Ludwig
In the years to come, all these elements came together and formed a drum set we know today.
So, there is no one guy who invented neither drumming nor drum set, it is one continuous process, and drums evolved through the years.
If you want to find out more about drum set history, I suggest you check this cool article I found.
There are few crucial “rules” in drum practice that can make a substantial difference in the end result.
Concerning how you apply these “rules,” you will shape your drumming.
For instance, if you are not used to practicing slowly, it will take a lot more time to learn new things due to the brain’s disability to process the information.
Here are the rules I learned throughout the years and the same rules that I heard master drummers talk about.
Practice slow – I already mention how practicing slow is essential.
Nowadays, you have many smartphone metronome apps.
Two of my favorite ones are the Soundbrenner metronome app and Benny Greb Gap Click.
Set tempo to 50 BPM (beats per minute) and give your brain enough time to process new information.
Practice rudiments – getting literate as a drummer is very important.
Knowing what you play and knowing what you’ll play before you play it can make you a better drummer.
Practice time – It’s up to you, if you have 8 hours per day great, if it is 30 minutes, fine but make sure it is quality and focused practice.
Practice with music – it is best to start drumming with a band if you don’t have one.
Practice drums along with your favorite songs and try to mimic the drums.
Practice technique – The better your technique is, the easier it will be to perform, you will not get hurt, you will be able to play complex stuff, and your sound will get better.