How To Play A Basic Rock Beat On Drums

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To learn how to play a basic rock beat on drums, let’s begin with a question that reflects the title of this article. “How do you play a basic rock beat on drums?” For those in a rush, let’s go right to the point and answer that question. Then by the time you finish reading this article, you will be able to play a basic rock beat on drums.

  1. Start by sitting at a table that rests on a hard floor of some kind.
  2. Then when you are ready, begin by counting from 1 to 4 over and over 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on.
  3. Next, tap the 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the table in front of you using your right hand.
  4. Now, lift your right heel away from the ground so your toes are resting on the hard floor covering.
  5. Then lift your toes off of the floor and tap your tight foot on the numbers 1 and 3.
  6. When you feel comfortable, use your left hand to tap the table on beats 2 and 4.

Congratulations, you have played your first rock beat played in 4/4 time. But now another question arises.

How To Play A Basic Rock Beat On Drums –  What Is a 4/4 Drum Beat?

Well, that’s easy. A 4/4 drum beat is exactly what you played on the table before you. But what does 4/4 mean? The first number 4 tells us that there are 4 notes in each bar (the 4 taps on the table using your right hand). The second 4 tell us what kind of notes they are.

So, if there are 4 notes in every bar of music, then the 4 notes represent 1/4 (quarter) notes. The second 4 then tell us that each note is a quarter note because the 4 notes divide the bar of music into 4 parts. Or notes. (taps on the table).

What Is The Basic Drum Beat?

In drumming, there are fundamentals that are vital to the more advanced concepts. In our case, there are techniques and drum beats that are vital to all other more advanced drum beats. The beat you played is the most fundamental drum beat. It’s the most basic drum beat you will find, and that being so, it is the most basic drum beat that all others come from.

And so, this basic drum beat deserves a little more depth of understanding. So let’s dig a little deeper into this fundamental beat.

Mastering the drums and becoming an expert takes time, dedication, and a whole lot of practice. To achieve an advanced level of playing, you’ll need to work hard at refining your drumming for many years. But, that doesn’t mean you (or anyone else) can’t learn to how to play a basic rock beat on drums with a rhythmic flow. One that’s actually quite popular and common in many famous rock songs.

In fact, this drum beat will allow you to play along to approximately 80% of all songs.

As a reminder, the bottom number in the notation signifies the type of note used to divide the beat. In this case, the “4” indicates quarter notes (an “8” would mean eighth notes, a “16”, sixteenth notes, and so on).

The top number tells us how many of that particular note there are in a measure of music with that time signature.

In 4/4 time, there are 4 quarter notes per measure.

In 6/8 time there are 6 eighth notes per measure, 3/4 tells us that there are three x quarter notes per measure, and so on.

As I mentioned, 4/4 is the most common time signature found in most rock music and so it’s a good idea to be familiar with it.

Rock Beat Right Hand

So, let’s get to learning that simple drum beat. If you have a drum kit, that’s great but you don’t even need any real equipment at all to get the feel of this beat. To start off, take your right hand and tap out an even rhythm on a desk or table. Every four beats you tap will equal one measure of music. (that’s right, these beats are representing those quarter notes I talked about earlier).

If you do have a drum kit to play on, you’ll want to play these hits on the hi-hat. Make sure you press your foot down to tighten the hi-hat sound.

Rock Beat Right Foot

Next, we’ll add in the bass drum. If you have a kit, you’ll be using your foot on the pedal to trigger the bass drum. If you don’t have a kit, tap or stomp your foot on the ground. For this beat, you should hit the bass drum or tap your foot on every first and third beat of the measure. Or 1 and 3 of the 4 count.

So, you’ll hit the hi-hat/desk with your right hand while you hit the bass drum/floor with your right foot. Then you’ll hit the hi-hat/desk by itself and then repeat that two-step process.

Rock Beat Left Hand

To finish up the beat, we’ll add in our snare drum with your left hand. Again, this can be a table or desk or an actual snare drum if you have a drum kit.

For this beat, you’ll want to hit the snare on beats two and four along with the hi-hat.

So, our beat becomes bass plus hi-hat. Followed by snare plus hi-hat, followed by bass plus hi-hat followed by snare plus hi-hat.

This is one measure of music that you then repeat. Repeat it over and over until you can play it well.

Congratulations, you’ve played a common rock drum beat. The most basic drum beat there is.

If you’d like to spice things up, you might add a cymbal crash on the “1” of every fourth measure. (assuming you have an actual drum kit).

If you’re playing on the table, then play that first note louder than the rest to signify the crash sound.

A More Complex Drum Beat

You might also want to try playing eighth notes on the hi-hat while leaving everything else the same. In that case, you’ll be hitting the hi-hat 8 times per measure instead of four. And instead of counting “1, 2, 3, 4” for each measure, you will count “1 &, 2 &, 3 &, 4 &”. Where the “&,” represents lone hi-hat hits without the bass or snare.

You can find many songs by many groups featuring this simple beat and other beats that are very much like this one.

The key here is, that even though the beat is simple, it works with the music. Try tapping along to some standard rock-type tunes and you’ll see what I mean. Have fun with this simple yet effective rock drum beat!

Most drummers spend a lifetime perfecting it from every possible angle. Because it is the backbone of all other drum beats.

You can then take this a step further and gain more detailed information. And, access audio demonstrations in the Rock Drumming Foundation book available on Amazon. It takes you through the whole beginning process of learning how to play the drums. And includes the six most common drum beats that form the foundation for all others. Of course, all building upward from the initial drum beat you learned to play here.


It’s worth saying again that this rock beat is the most fundamental drum beat. More complex beats and fills are variations of this one beat.

How did you get along? Did you play this basic drum beat without any effort or did you find it a little awkward? Let us know in the comments below.

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