Anyone can learn how to play drums. But it may take practice to become a proficient drummer capable of keeping good time. Good timing is the first goal or result, that a complete beginner would strive for. And of course, he would interpret this through basic drum beats and fills.
Knowing that is the first goal, the next step is to choose the right drum set for your skill level. As well as your preferred playing style. Beginning with the basic drum kit setup requirements. Once you have your drums and they’re set up, it’s time to start learning the basics. Again, the most important thing to remember in drumming is that timing is everything.
Each stroke should be evenly spaced, to keep a steady flowing beat that’s in time. But, in the beginning, you may have to build up to playing your first drumbeat. And then focus on playing that same beat in time. So, in the beginning, nothing you play will be in time but playing in time remains the first goal. Rather, playing your first drum beat in time remains the first goal.
- Learn the basics of the first drum beat… The actual physical movements of the limbs.
- Then you practice that drum beat until you can play it in time.
This is a two-step process to a single result. Playing a basic drum beat in time.
As you practice the first drum beat and become more comfortable with the timing. You can start to experiment a little. By that, I mean learn the next basic drum beat until you have earned all nine of the most basic drum beats. And don’t forget to have fun! Playing the drums should be enjoyable. So don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through in your playing. But having said that, this will be something you can develop as you become more proficient.
Basic Drum Rudiments
The basic drum beats of drumming contain the essential component parts. These are the drum rudiments. Drum rudiments are the basic building blocks of drumming. They’re used to create rhythms and help improve coordination and technique.
For example, the most basic drum beat is made up of the first 4 notes. Those 4 notes are played evenly on the hi-hat cymbals using the right hand. At the same time, the right foot plays on beats 1 and 3 on the bass drum (the largest drum – see basic drum setup).
Then the left hand is played on beats 2 and 4 on the snare drum.
Then the left hand is played on beats 2 and 4 on the snare drum.
You can try playing this on the table.
- Start by taping 1, 2, 3 4, using your right hand.
- Then tap your right foot on 1 and 3.
- Finally, tap your left hand on the table on beats 2 and 4.
You may need to play this slow at first (out of time o begin). But you will soon be able to play these combinations of both hands and the right foot in a short amount of time.
This is as basic as it gets in drumming. It’s called a rock beat, basic rock beat, or quarter note rock beat. “Quarter Note” because you are playing 4 beats in a bar. The type of note is called a quarter note.
The beat we described that can now play (?) contains single beats with each hand and foot. Either right or Left (R or L).
This leads us to the first drum rudiment (or building block of drumming).
The first rudiment is called a single stroke roll. That is R L R L, R L R L, etc. (or right, left, right, left, right, left, etc).
There are many different rudiments, but some of the most common include:
- Single stroke roll
- Double stroke roll
As suggested, a single stroke roll is made up of 1 stroke of one hand followed by one stroke of the other hand, R, L, R, L, and so on.
A double stroke roll is made up of 2 beats with each alternating hand. RR, LL, RR, LL, and so on.
A paradiddle is made up of both single and double strokes. RLRR, LRLL, RLRR, LRLL, and so on.
Triplets are made up of three evenly-spaced notes. And they can be used to create a variety of different rhythms. triplets are most referred to as belonging to jazz or swing style drumming. (Although this isn’t strictly the case).
Triplets sticking goes something like this: RLR, LRL, RLR, LRL… and so on.
Drumming and most music is divided into two distinct styles. They are Rock and Jazz. The 9 basic beats I referred to earlier comprise 6 rock-style beats and 3 jazz-style beats. But, this is to make the explanation of drumming much easier and to stop any confusion. In fact, jazz and rock drumming are just drumming. Drumming is drumming! and thus consists of rock and jazz style beats. But when we speak of music, (not drumming). There are many styles including rock and jazz, fusion, metal ska reggae and so n.
In drumming, the rock and jazz division is not really a division. But as suggested it just makes it easier to learn drumming having the division in place. To go into this in more detail you might want to take a look at my first two books. The Rock Drumming Foundation and Jazz Drumming Foundation books.
Back to the point…
By learning and practicing these basic rudiments (sticking variations). Drummers can develop the skills they need to play more complex beats. Rhythms, fills, and patterns.
How to Play Drums Basic Beats
If you’re starting out playing drums, it can be helpful to learn the basic beats of rock and jazz. As described in the two books I mentioned earlier. And by practicing the 4 rudiment sticking patterns mentioned earlier in this article. Like this:
- R, L, R, L, R, L, R, L – (single stroke roll)
- RR, LL, RR, LL – (double stroke roll)
- RLRR, RLL, RLRR, LRLL – (paradiddle)
- RLR, LRL, RLR, LRL – (triplets)
You will begin to develop the foundation on which to build more complex rhythms. In fact, everything I have mentioned in this article so far. Is the complete foundation of drumming. Everything else is born from the knowledge contained here. The better you are able to play everything mentioned above. (Including and especially the 4 rudiments). The better your drumming will end up being.
The most important thing to remember is that the drums are an interactive instrument. So don’t be afraid to experiment and find what feels natural for you.
Here are a few basic ideas you might want to experiment with as you develop:
The four-on-the-floor beat is probably the most basic drum beat there is. It’s simply a matter of playing the bass drum on every beat. You can jazz it up by adding in some hi-hat or cymbal rhythms, but the main focus is on that steady bass drum pulse.
The rock beat (already covered above) is another essential drum beat. It’s usually played with a backbeat on the snare, meaning that you hit the snare on beats 2 and 4. Meanwhile, the bass drum is played on beats 1 and 3, (or 1, 2, 3, and 4). Again, you can add in some extra cymbal work. But the main thing is that the “backbeat” on the snare drum remains constant. Along with the pulse of the bass drum.
Once you have these basic beats down. You can start to experiment with different variations. Adding in fills, changing up the bass drum pattern, and mixing up the snare pattern. These are all great ways to add your own style to these basic beats. So get out there and start exploring!
But remember this. Timing should always be above any intricacies that you might play.
Basic Drum Patterns
Drumming is a great way to let off some steam and make a little noise or a lot. And if you’re just starting out, it can be tough to know where to even begin. One of the best ways to get started is to learn some basic drum patterns as I have suggested here. As you begin to practice what I have mentioned here. You will discover that all drumming (at the beginning at least), is a bunch of patterns. Stick and hand combinations, coordinated with various right and left foot combinations.
Drumming is made up of various patterns.
You may see this in a rhythmical numerical way or a series of movements and/or sounds. Either way, when you practice you are by definition programming. You’re programming the computer or the drummer within you. When he is sufficiently programmed. He can then begin to interpret various songs when he plays the drums.
And once you’ve mastered the fundamental rudimentary beats, fills, and techniques. You’ll be able to add your own personal flavor to your playing, adding dynamics as you see fit.
So what are you waiting for? Get those sticks ready and let’s get started.
Basic Drum Fills
As you progress with the basic beats mentioned above and within the two books I mentioned. (If you decide to go that route). You will no doubt want to get more complex with drum fills. Drum fills are an essential part of any drummer’s toolkit. They can be used to add interest and variety to a song or to break up the monotony of a steady beat.
But, creating interesting and effective drum fills can be a challenge. One way to get started is to focus on the most basic drum fill possible. That is a full bar of 16th notes (4 beats in a bar of 4/4 music are equal to 16 x 1/16th notes in a bar. Or 4 x 1/16th notes per beat in a bar of 4/4 music). I won’t go on to explain this further as it’s covered extensively in the books I mentioned earlier.
Suffice it to say that after understanding the theoretical time signature. (especially 4/4). Playing more intricate drum fills is completely dependent on your abilities. Your knowledge of how to play drums along with your ability to play combinations of patterns between the hands and the feet. Combinations and variations of each. To explain this more fully I would need a complete book on the subject of how to play drums. So only mention it briefly here. But the rudiments are the first stepping stone to better drum fills.
With a little practice, the most basic 1/16th note drum fill can open the door to you creating better drum fills. Drum fills that add excitement and energy to your playing. In the beginning, keep practicing the rudiments. And then try adding combinations within those rudiments. Such as playing each right hand on or instead of the bass drum for instance. That is to say, instead of or, in unison with the right hand.
How to Play Drums – Some More!
Anyone can begin the journey to learn how to play the drums, regardless of age, size, or musical experience. But sustaining the required practice can be difficult. Discipline and determination play a big part in learning to play the drums.
But essentially, all you need is a good sense of rhythm (which you develop as you go). And a willingness to have a little fun for a while as you become acquainted with the basics. You can then move into a more serious development stage. As you come to know the basic foundations of drumming.
So, sit down at the drum set and get comfortable. Place your hands on the drum heads and adjust your seat so that you’re in a comfortable position. Next, start by striking the drums lightly with your sticks as described above. And return to this position again and again until you have the basic concepts mastered. To some degree at least.
Conclude This Session
They say that “practice makes perfect”. This is still true despite the latest promotion of “perfect practice makes perfect”. But the truth is that in the beginning, it’s more about learning what you need to know. Which is more in line with “practice makes perfect”. Then when you have the foundation of drumming down to some degree of perfection. You can then make the shift into “perfect practice makes perfect”. As you begin the never-ending journey towards perfection.
So what, if any starter points might you have for a complete beginner? Without going into massive detail and a complete drum lesson? I’d love to hear them, so write your comments below or give a beginning drummer an even greater chance of success.
Thanks for being here.
The Drum Coach