Drummers Stick Together: Drum Tips and Advice for Beginners



When you’re learning drums, sometimes you need some motivation to keep practicing and stick with it. In our “Drummers Stick Together” series, veteran drummers share their stories and offer their advice and wisdom for beginners…

Dallas Ybarra is the drummer for the Los Angeles-based band The Public Trust (@MichaelTRossi). He has been drumming for over 20 years. Here, Dallas shares how he got started drumming and what keeps him motivated to continue to develop his craft.

How long have you been playing drums? What made you get started?

I actually started on guitar at age eight, then started learning drums when I was nine. My little brother started on drums first, and after watching how much fun he was having and learning a bit about the beats, I tried it out for a bit and decided to switch.

Twenty years later, here I am!

As a beginner, how often did you practice? What was hard or challenging for you when you first started?

Hmm practice… in the early stages I mostly found myself in musical environments. Most of my time was spent playing the basic beats with the school jazz and concert bands, or in the garage with my buddy on guitar.

When I was by myself, I would be in my parents garage, always learning new and more complex beats.

The most challenging thing was playing with other new, beginner musicians, and trying to stay in time!

What do you love most about playing drums?

It’s an evolving relationship with the drums. First it was just banging on stuff, then it was jamming with my friends making music.

After years of playing, I would have to say the underlying layers of rhythm are the part I love most.

Whether it’s within my own drum grooves, or the different layers of rhythm between the instruments and vocals, it always makes me smile when we all find our voice in the groove.

Which musicians inspire you, and why?

I’ve found a ton of inspiration from my band mates; we always try to push each other to the next level. My little brother Dustin was my original inspiration to start drumming. My little sister Darian is killing it on the piano as I write, and I remember when she just started learning. 10 years later, she runs up and down the piano like a mad scientist. She is currently working on “Sonata Pathetique” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Another source of inspiration came from a book written by one of my favorite bass players, Victor Wooten. It’s called “The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music.”

The list is always growing when it comes to inspiration. I’ve found inspiration can come from any aspect of music and life. Some from showmanship guys like Frank Zappa and Steve Vai and their variety of band mates. Other inspirations come from high-energy bands like Pantera, Meshuggah, or IWrestledABearOnce.

I started out learning how to play Nirvana, Green Day, and Metallica songs then moved on to more complex music. Then there are some amazing players that posses a sweet finesse on their instruments, guys like Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd, Bela Fleck, Jason Becker, and Jaco Pastorius.

As a member of a band, the drummer is looked to as the time keeper. How do you learn to take on this role?

Time keeping is definitely important. Over the years I’ve found it to be a split job between the bassist and drummer. There’s a time and place for “the shred” as opposed to keeping time, but it all should be within balance and the mood of the song.

An example would be a slow ballad. At the climax of the song, you wouldn’t play a bunch of fast notes across your 10-piece kit (but if the composer wants it then of course), but rather you would play more of a dynamic increase and more swelling of the cymbals, and that could be considered your “shred” for that particular song.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to learn to play drums?

Just remember that the end result is music. Playing songs and studying things like technique, rudiments, and theory is important, but these things are learned over time. Just think of those as adding a fresh take on your vocabulary; it will help you articulate your desired voice.

What about advice for drummers who want to join a band?

Know your passion, play what you love as it will keep you inspired. Try to be a musically diverse drummer, jam with as many people as possible and in as many genres as possible. It will help you to develop your voice in the long run.

If you’re looking to start a band, definitely start with friends. You already have the most fun with them anyway, might as well keep it fun!


I hope my story can help not only drummers, but all musicians keep up the search for inspiration, fresh  talent, and to have open ears to experiment and constantly evolve their musicianship!

Want to hear Dallas and his band mates in action? Listen to The Public Trust online.


Ready to turn your drumming dreams into reality? Sign up for lessons with a private drum instructor today! 

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The DIY Drummer 3 Ways to Build Your Own Drum Set

The DIY Drummer: 3 Ways to Build Your Own Drum Set

The DIY Drummer 3 Ways to Build Your Own Drum Set

When you’re learning to play drums, you may want to explore other options to practice your craft besides spending money on an expensive drum set. Here, San Diego, CA drum instructor Maegan W. shares some creative ideas to help you build your own drum set….

Have you ever thought about building your own drum set? Maybe you’d like to save a few bucks and build your own drums instead of shelling out money on an expensive drum kit. Or, maybe you’re super crafty and you would just like to create something unique and awesome!

Whether you want to build your own drums from household items or restore an old kit and make it your own, here are three simple ways to build your own drum set.

Build Your Own Drum Set Using Household Items

If air drumming isn’t cutting it, and you’re ready for the next level but not ready to invest in a new drum set, then take a look around your house.

Many of the most famous and successful drummers started out playing on pillows. Sounds crazy, right? Well actually, it sounds like nothing at all…  which is an added bonus because you can play any time — without disturbing anyone.

Pillows are great, not only because they’re quiet, but they also offer little bounce (pretty much none), which means you will need to work twice as hard.

Why is this a good thing? Let’s look at an analogy: A baseball player uses a doughnut to add weight to his bat when he warms up. Then, when he goes up to bat, he removes the doughnut and the bat seems light and swift. The same thing happens when you move from pillows to drums; your hands feel lighter and faster.

Check out some of the drummers who were raised playing gospel music, like Tony Royster Jr. and Arron Spears. They have what’s called “gospel chops,” and they’re blazing fast. This is because most of them couldn’t have drum sets, so they practiced on pillows.

You can also build your own drum set with plastic bottles. Use smaller bottles (12 or 16 ounce bottles),  and arrange them in the shape of a drum set. Fill each bottle with a different amount of water, for different pitches of sound.

Now, take some heavy tape (like masking tape) and tape the bottles to a wood or cardboard surface. The surface can be cut out in a way that makes it easy to reach the bottles and mimics a real drum set.

Lastly, you can use pots and pans to build your won drums. Make sure to get your parents’ permission first. Remember, if you hit a pot our pan with a drum stick, it will be REALLY loud, so make sure to tape the ends of your sticks, or tape a paper towel onto the pot.

Lay the pots and pans out like a drum set and have at it! If you think this sounds lame, just watch some STOMP videos. I was in a similar group that played on pots and pans. Not only did we sound great, we had a lot of fun!

Build Your Own Drum Set With Old Parts

I have personal experience building a drum set this way. I was raised playing on my grandfather’s kit, which he passed down to my dad. It was an old Slingerland kit. Once that one started to fall apart, I invested in my first drum set — a deep blue five-piece Pearl Export Series kit, and I was in love.

I kept the kit in the garage. After 10 years, the hardware rusted and the final wrap warped and began to fall off, so I decided to clean them up myself. This was a very tedious process. Although there was something zen about scrubbing each and every washer, screw, and lugnut with WD-40 and an SOS Steel wool pad, I got the worst headaches and lost about two months of time I could have been practicing. I stripped the shells, sanded and painted them, and scrubbed, sanded, and painted the hoops, too.

In the end, the parts looked great, but this is a project for someone who loves crafts (long, time-consuming crafts). If you’re super crafty, here’s an in-depth look at building your own drums. If you try this, let us know how it goes!

If you’re like me, however, and you’d rather not devote this much time to restoring old parts, you can find decent drums for a fair price — if you look. Some people will even give their drums away if they don’t use them or are unable to store them.

Want to buy a quality used drum kit? Check out this guide!

Build an On-the-Go Drum Set

These days, it’s rare that I get to practice on my full drum set, which of course is what I prefer. If you’re constantly on the go or if you don’t have a drum set, an on-the-go drum set will be your best friend.

Using practice pads is a great way to get the feel and response of a real drum set. Plus, practice pads are portable, inexpensive, and quiet.

There are several different practice pad options. I personally like firm, rubber pads, as opposed to jelly or soft rubber. I bring my drum pads with me wherever I go. If someone else is driving, you can bet I’m drumming in the car!

DW drums makes a pad set that comes with a stand, and is great to learn proper spacing and movement. This set even has a pad for a drum pedal.

When it comes to mobile, DIY drums, you can also do what the “buskers” (street drummers) do; use buckets. This is a great way to get a full set feel and play different sounds (you may even be able to make some money). Keep in mind that buckets can add up in cost and are really loud, but they can help you work on chops and patterns.

Play on Whatever You Can Find

Last but not least, play on whatever you can find. Maybe it’s the ground, your shoe, your annoying little brother (just kidding), but I have played on the grass, dirt, carpet, table (at a park, not in the house), and even the rubber sole of my shoe.

The main thing is just to practice as much as possible. Keep running rudiments, and keep your arms and wrists, hands and fingers warmed up and ready to go.

As a drummer, you need to accept and adapt to imperfect practice conditions. This just comes with territory when you play a large, loud, expensive instrument.

Be creative, and have fun finding new, fun ways to practice!

Do you have some other ideas to build your own drum set? Let us know in the comments below!


Post Author:
 Maegan W.
Maegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004.  Learn more about Maegan here!


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10 AppsforDrummers

11 More Awesome Music Apps for Drummers

10 AppsforDrummers

When you’re learning drums, it’s important to find fun and easy ways to practice on the go. Grab your smartphone because here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. shares her picks for the best mobile apps for drummers…

App developers have certainly made great tools available for musicians, and a few fantastic apps for drummers. So whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate drummer, here are 11 smartphone apps you should download, now!

Drum Set apps

These smartphone apps are entertaining, easy to use, and they can help you execute ideas when you’re away from your kit (or don’t have one yet). Many of these apps can also help beginners learn to read music.

apps for drummersDrums!

Drums! has a built-in music player and single and double kick features.

The app gives you the ability to jam along to pre-recorded tracks and play different sounds. Download additional in-app features like the percussion pack for an additional cost.

You can download this app from the iTunes store.

apps for drummersDrum set

This app has multi-touch functionality, low latency, and allows you to choose from a variety of setups.

The play-along feature let’s you practice to your favorite songs, or use the “Song Player” feature to play your own songs.

Drum set is available to download on Android devices.

apps for drummersDrumKit

This Windows-compatible app is like a virtual drum set.

DrumKit includes sounds from a variety of drums in addition to cymbals, toms, and kick drums.

The movable components make this app ideal for left-handed drummers.


Metronome apps

Let’s face it: if you want to play with solid time, you need a metronome. Apps make some feature-rich timekeepers that are powerful and inexpensive.

apps for drummersTempo

This feature-rich app has 35 different time signatures (simple, compound, and complex). The app will continue to run even when your device locks, which makes it great to use during practice. It also has setlist functionality, which will take you from the shed to the stage.

Want to demo this app for free? Download the lite version and give it a try.

apps for drummersMetronome Beats Pro

Create a setlist of songs and play through them continuously.

With a range of different sounds, and beat and bar counters, Metronome Beats Pro is great to use during practice, and even effective for live shows.


apps for drummers


Metronomy includes sound recording and fine tempo tuning (from 40 to 238 BPM).

The visual beat counter will help you learn to keep time on drums. Download this app and use it next time you practice!



Drum Machine and Loop apps

If you’re a drummer or a multi-instrumentalist, you will find these apps useful and fun. Use these to fuel your creativity and provide a backdrop for your technical work.

apps for drummersDrum Beats+

Drum Beats+ has over 100 built-in drum loops, but don’t worry, if that’s not enough, you can always download more!

The easy tempo changer (from 60 to 190 BPM) makes this app ideal for both beginner and advanced drummers.


apps for drummers


Use the drum machine/loop station to create your own beats. Or play-along to one of 91 samples.

You can also change the tempo from 40-250 beats per minute.

Download RaveIT for your Windows device here.


Drum Lesson apps

Learn some chops and licks from some legends of the industry.

apps for drummersDrum Guru

Download Drum Guru to access short lessons from world-renowned drummers.

This beginner-friendly app also features videos with notations.



Notation and Composition Apps

As you progress you will likely have ideas that you will want to jot down, and these apps for drummers have quite a few handy features. Plus, if you get into larger-scale compositions, you will still find them useful.

apps for drummersReflow Score Writer

Reflow Score Writer is iCloud and Dropbox ready, so you can make changes on the fly that will be   saved across your devices.

With several options to import and play files, and lots of fun features, you will definitely get more   bang for your buck with this app.

apps for drummersEnsemble Composer Pro

Import and export files in MusicXML formats so you can exchange sheets with other software   programs.

Want to show off the cool new beat you just recorded? Ensemble Composer Pro allows you to export songs as ringtones.



These 11 apps are personal favorites of mine. If you use these apps regularly and with great focus, you will become a well-rounded drummer and musician. Your practice with these apps should be consistent.

These are just a few of many apps for drummers available online. Try these out and let us know what you think! 


TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums with various bands for more than 13 years. Tracy earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University and has played with the OKC Community Orchestra since 2009.  Learn more about Tracy here!

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5 Steps to Nail Your Next Drum Performance

5 Steps to Nail Your Next Drum Performance

5 Steps to Nail Your Next Drum Performance

Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate drummer, you may have aspirations to perform or play with a band. Here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. shares five important steps to help you take your drumming skills to the next level…

Taking your drumming from the practice room to the stage requires a whole new set of skills. You have to learn to play in tandem with others to develop a certain sound and feel.

While playing drums on stage requires a lot of practice and experience, you can nail your next drum performance with these five tips…

drum performance

Learning the music for a big band or ensemble is a bit different than learning music for a smaller pop or rock setup. In an ensemble, the sheet music is typically a chart. Look for ensemble figures (unison hits with the band), solos, and the main groove (which may or may not be notated).

Here’s an example of a chart used by an ensemble.

drum performance

You typically have some creative license with time. Sit with your music and listen to the recording. Make notes about form and instrumentation (auxiliary percussion), if needed.

If you play with a smaller band, there should be a lead sheet (lyrics and chords; usually not notated). Below is a picture of what that looks like. lead sheet

It’s pretty simple to chart your moves because you already have the form and vocal cues. Listen to your tune and make notes about the intro, fills, section lengths, breaks (count), and changes in groove or meter.

drum performance

Take the time to simply listen to the music. Absorb the rhythmic feel and emotion. This step will also help fuel your creativity.

After you’ve listened to the music a few times through, play along with the track and make more notes. You can further this practice by drumming along with your favorite songs.

drum performance

The stage isn’t the place to try that new crazy fill you’ve been working on. Perfect your new ideas in practice — your band will thank you.

If you do want to work on some cool new fills (in practice of course), try these three simple steps.

drum performance

The beat is the backbone of the band, and with a bit of focus, you can own it.

Confidence comes from practice and preparation, so do your homework before your drum performance.

drum performance

Watch your band or band director for cues, especially for solos, breaks (count), and rubato passages. Make sure your intros and outros are tight.

Enjoy making music! You’ve done the technical prep work, so concentrate on creating an awesome feel with your fellow musicians.

drum performance

One more important tip: make sure you always warm-up for practice or a gig. Even after you learn these basic tips, it’s important to implement them at every performance. Not only will you and your band feel good about your performance, but your audience will enjoy it even more!

Not quite ready to take the stage? We can help you get there. Sign up for lessons with a private drum teacher today! 


TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums with various bands for more than 13 years. Tracy earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University and has played with the OKC Community Orchestra since 2009.  Learn more about Tracy here!

Photo by Thomas Hawk


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How to Hold Drum Sticks Traditional Grip vs. Matched Grip

How to Hold Drum Sticks: Traditional Grip vs. Matched Grip

How to Hold Drum Sticks Traditional Grip vs. Matched Grip

Beginning drummers often have questions about how to hold drum sticks. Traditional grip or matched grip, which one is better? Here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. explains the mechanics of each drum grip so you can decide which one is right for you…

There are essentially two different ways to hold drum sticks: traditional grip and matched grip. Both techniques are expressive and fun to use. If you’re wondering how to hold drum sticks, first you should get a better understanding of the difference between the two. Lets look at the mechanics behind traditional grip and matched grip.


With matched grip, both of your hands hold the sticks the same way. This type of grip has three variations: German, American, and French.

For these grips, your thumb should rest opposite of your index finger on the stick, with approximately two inches of the butt-end extending from the back. This pinching between your thumb and index finger is called a “fulcrum.”

French Grip

The fulcrum rests between your thumb and index finger with the French grip. The fulcrum can (if desired) shift a bit more toward your thumb and middle finger with the German and American grips.

Hold the sticks with your thumbnails facing the ceiling and your palms facing each other. This position allows for maximum finger control, and it’s favored by timpanists for this reason.

German Grip

Hold the sticks with your palms facing down and use the wrists to drive. This position lends power and volume.

American Grip

Turn your hands to a 45-degree angle. This allows you to use both wrists for power and your fingers for control and nuance.

Traditional Grip

This grip was popularized by members of the military battery, who carried their drums slung to the side (hence the name, “side drum”). The angle of the drum made it necessary to turn the left forearm under, so that the stick would comfortably clear the rim. Traditional grip is often used for jazz and drum lines.

Position your left hand as if you’re extending it to shake someone’s hand. The stick should sit in the webbing between your thumb and index finger, and rest on the cuticle of the ring finger. Approximately 2/3 of the stick should face the front.

Rest the tip of your thumb lightly on the first knuckle of your index finger and put your middle finger on top of the stick, slightly in front of the index finger.

The fulcrum (pivot point) will be between your thumb and index finger. Relax your fingers and use them for support, nuance, and control.

Move your forearm in a rotary motion, which is similar to turning a doorknob. Position your right hand the same way you do for the American matched grip.

Traditional grip

It’s important to relax and allow the sticks to float in your hands. Gripping the sticks too hard can lead to fatigue and possible injury, and it will limit the sticks’ mobility. A relaxed grip will also coax a better tone from the drums.

Some like to debate the virtues of their preferred grips, but I don’t think you necessarily have to choose. They each have a different feel, expression, and attitude. For example, matched grip lends itself well to rock, but if the groove is funky, a bit of traditional conveys that feel and attitude quite nicely.

Now you know how to hold drum sticks. Learning both grips will make your playing more versatile and interesting, so I say — give both a try!

Learn more about drum stick grip and drum technique, search here for a private drum instructor near you.


how to hold drum sticks

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TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums with various bands for more than 13 years. Tracy earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University and has played with the OKC Community Orchestra since 2009.  Learn more about Tracy here!

Photos by Alec Connors, QWEbie

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12 Addictive Apps Every Musician Needs - top music apps

12 Addictive Apps Every Musician Needs (2015 Update)

12 Addictive Apps Every Musician Needs - top music apps

Since the invention of the app store, aspiring and experienced musicians have been finding inspiration, practicing their skills, and immersing themselves in their craft — all with the help of some of the top music apps!

There are so many noteworthy apps that can benefit all musicians, from guitarists to singers and songwriters. Whether you are looking for something educational or creative, this list will benefit your collection of apps. And best of all, they are all fun to work with… and pretty addictive, we might add!

Here are our picks for top music apps…

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Songwriter’s Pad

Songwriter’s Pad is the ultimate songwriter’s tool. It contains powerful idea-generating tools to inspire creation while making lyric-writing easier than ever. Everything you need to write music is packed into this one application. Finally, an app to defeat writer’s block once and for all!

Download: iOSAndroid


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Songsterr Tabs & Chords

Songsterr Tabs & Chords was featured in the Wall Street Journal as, “one of the best apps for learning to play music.” With a huge catalog of 500,000 accurate tabs and chords, all musicians can learn something with this app. Most songs have tabs for individual instruments too, including the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.

Download: iOS, Android


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)GarageBand

Do you need a full recording studio on the go? If so, this is the app for you. GarageBand turns your phone into a collection of instruments, including piano, organ, guitar, and drums. Guitarists can even plug their electric guitar in and play through classic amps and stompbox effects!

Download: iOS


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)My Note Games

This is a fun music game that teaches music theory and instrument mastery, including lessons for saxophone, piano, guitar, recorder, trumpet, violin, viola, and cello, plus vocals and whistling. The app actually listens to you playing your instrument, checking your tone, pitch, and accuracy.

Download: iOS


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Beatwave

With Beatwave, you can make unique music just by tapping on your screen! No musical skills are required, and you can create songs anywhere from your phone. In minutes, you can make complex songs with multiple layers of instruments and sounds — and then share them on social media!

Download: iOS


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Ear Trainer

Ear Trainer is an educational application designed for beginner to advanced musicians, music students, and anyone interested in improving one’s musical ear. There are more than 260 individual exercises covering intervals, chords, scales, relative pitch, and melody.

Download: iOS


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Sing! Karaoke by Smule

Are you ready to take karaoke to the next level? With Sing! Karaoke by Smule, you can sing your favorite karaoke songs and show them off to the world. Record yourself, add audio effects, and share with the app’s global community!

Download: iOS, Android


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Polyphonic!

Polyphonic! is a simple interface app for creating your own complex layers of music, even without any prior musical ability. Each square represents a different sound and each color represents a unique group of sounds. This app is perfect for anyone interested in music creation.

Download: iOS


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Hum

Hum makes note-taking and audio recording of song ideas easier than ever! Every aspiring songwriter needs this tool in his or her arsenal. Hum keeps your lyrics and song ideas organized and sortable so you never lose anything again.

Download: iOS


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Lyrics Pro

With this app, you get access to the lyrics of millions of tracks, straight from your phone. You can search by artist, song name, or the lyrics themselves. It also has a cool auto-loading feature that delivers the lyrics to any song that is currently playing!

Download: iOS


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Figure

You now have the ability to create awesome music in minutes! Simply open Figure and start by creating a beat, then share it with your friends. Whether you are new to music production or are a seasoned veteran, this app is super fun to use. All musicians can use it to improve their rhythm and expand creativity.

Download: iOS


12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)SongPop

Do you know everything about music? Test yourself against friends with SongPop. As you play, you’ll listen to song clips from thousands of original artists in more than 300 genres, and the idea is to guess the artist or song faster than your friends.

Download: iOS, Android


Readers, what top music apps are missing from this list? Let us know in the comments!

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6 Drum Skills You Can Learn From Famous Drummers

Play Like the Pros: 6 Drum Skills You Can Learn From Famous Drummers

6 Drum Skills You Can Learn From Famous Drummers

Whether you’ve just started learning drums or you’ve been playing for years, there’s a lot you can learn from watching famous drummers.

We know you’re listening to their music, but are you listening to their expertise? Take a page out of the books of these famous drummers, you will definitely learn a thing or two…

Topper Headon (The Clash)

Adaptability: The flexibility to change or be changed in order to fit or work better in a given situation.

Known as “The Human Drum Machine,” due to his impeccable timing and drumming skills, Topper Headon’s ability to adapt to the constant stylistic changes of The Clash made their explorations of multiple genres natural and authentic.

Headon provided the backbone to pull the songs together.

Roger Taylor (Queen)

Versatility: Having a wide variety of skills; able to do many different things.

Queen’s Roger Taylor is among famous drummers who possess the skill of versatility. A multi-instrumentalist (drums, keyboard, guitar, bass), singer, and songwriter, Taylor plays an array of styles with ease, from heavy metal to chamber music.

Taylor’s extensive musical history includes: beginnings with a ukulele, a membership in the Truro Cathedral choir, lead singer in the Reaction, singing, songwriting, and drumming in rock band Queen, a solo album (Fun In Space), and finally the formation of his own band, The Cross.

Buddy Rich

Persistence: The firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action despite difficulty or opposition.

Billed as the world’s greatest drummer for his power, technique, groove, and speed, jazz drummer Buddy Rich personified his quote, “you only get better by playing,” skillfully playing the drums up until his death in 1987.

The self-taught drummer played through childhood, after his WWII enlistment, and even continued drumming following bypass surgery in 1983.

Stewart Copeland (The Police)

Musicality: Accomplishment in music; awareness or sensitivity to music and rhythm; knowledge of, or talent for music.

“Consider yourself not to be a drummer, but a musician.” These words by Stewart Copeland challenge drummers to immerse themselves in music, not simply the drumming experience.

If you don’t want to learn another instrument – sing. There is so much more to music than just drumming; explore composing, arranging, producing, and more.

Travis Barker (Blink 182)

Energy: The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity; natural enthusiasm and effort; usable power.

Travis Barker’s trademark hyper speed plays homage to this famous drummer’s inspiration: Animal from “The Muppets.” His high-energy vibe comes from putting his entire being into his music.

Layne Redmond

Individuality: The quality that makes one person or thing different from all others.

Already in the minority as a woman in a sea of male drummers, Layne Redmond followed the beat of her own drum. She did not perform with more well-known pop, rock, or jazz bands, but instead gained notoriety with her specialty: small, hand-held frame drums – the world’s oldest known drums – from the ancient Mediterranean world.

She is not only a drum expert, but a historian, writer, teacher, and mythologist whose work focused on the healing and spiritual aspects of drumming and rhythm.

Make sure to look out for these specific qualities when you listen to these famous drummers. What skills have you learned from watching more experienced drummers?

Want to take your drumming skills to the next level? Sign up for drum lessons, here

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Photo by ThunderKiss Photography

10 Intermediate Drum Songs

10 Drum Songs for Intermediate Drummers

10 Intermediate Drum Songs

As you progress in your drum lessons, you will want to learn some more challenging drum songs. Here, San Diego drum instructor Maegan W. shares her list of songs that will take you beyond the beginner stage and help you advance to an intermediate drummer…

Are you tired of playing drum songs for beginners? Are you looking for some good drum songs to play that aren’t too easy, but aren’t super challenging, either? Well look no further. If you’re a drummer trying to boost your skills, here are my top 10 picks for fun, drum songs to play for intermediate drummers.

These songs all have only two or three different grooves, and they contain basic, easy-to-learn drum fills. The form for each song is pretty standard. Most of the songs follow a pattern similar to this:

    • Intro
    • Verse 1
    • Pre-chorus 1
    • Chorus 1
    • Verse 2
    • Pre-chorus 2
    • Chorus 2
    • Bridge
    • Pre-chorus 3
    • Chorus 3
    • End

If this seems confusing, take some time to learn and identify different sections in a song. Let me take you through a brief explanation of a song’s structure.

Structure Breakdown


The intro will typically be a short instrumental section or vocal intro that only happens once.


The first verse begins after the intro.

The verse tells the story of the song.

Generally, a verse does not repeat itself.


After a verse, the pre-chorus sets up the chorus.

The pre-chorus usually stays the same throughout the song.


The chorus is the catchy part that of the song that everyone sings along with.

The chorus is the part of the song that repeats the most.


After another verse, pre-chorus, and chorus, we get to the song’s bridge. The bridge generally only happens once and it stands out as the climax of the song.

Usually after that, the pre-chorus and chorus come back in before the song ends. The ending may fade out, it may be instrumental, or it may just be the chorus repeating itself.

MO - You, the Drummer

It’s very common and effective (in most popular music) for the drums to be consistent and complementary to the music. In the songs listed below, the drums play a dedicated “verse groove,” “pre-chorus groove,” and “chorus groove.” They will also often have a different groove or drop out completely in the bridge.

Before you try to play the songs, listen to them several times through. Map out the form and the grooves, this will save you time in the long run.

Once I’ve mapped out the rest of the song, I try to figure out the fills. Drum fills can be simplified without compromising the integrity of the song. Never sacrifice the groove for a drum fill! It’s way more important to keep good time than it is to play an awesome fill that throws off the time for the band.

My Song Picks

Now that we’ve gone over form, let’s get to the songs! I’ve added songs from different music styles so take what you like, and leave the rest..or challenge yourself to learn the songs that are a different style from what you normally play.

Check them out:

1. Muse – “Mercy”

2. Twenty One Pilots – “Guns For Hands”

3. Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake – “Love Never Felt so Good”

4. Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”

5) Paramore – “Misery Business”

6) Fall Out Boy – “Centuries”

7) Pharrell Williams – “Marilyn Monroe”

8) Led Zeppelin – “Fool in the Rain”

9) Dave Matthews Band – “Grey Street”

10) Blink 182 – “Up All Night”

Let us know what you think of these songs in the comments below.

Remember, everyone has a different idea of what intermediate means. To me, these songs are challenging, but an experienced drummer can typically learn them within two to four weeks.

Some people will nail these in a day, and some in a couple of months. Go at your own pace and have fun!

Once you’ve mastered these songs, try your hand at the five hardest drum songs!


Maegan-WPost Author: Maegan W.
Maegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004.  Learn more about Maegan here!

Photo by Markus Thorsen

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Drum Fills

3 Simple Steps to Create Powerful Drum Fills

Drum Fills

Want to take your drumming to the next level? Learn how to write drum fills. Here, Chicago, IL drum instructor Michael P. shares his three simple steps to create powerful drum fills…

As a drum teacher, I hear a lot of questions about drum fills.

Drum fills are great to spice up a song and show off your chops, but when you sit down to write a fill, it’s easy to end up scratching your head and asking yourself, “what do I do now?”

So next time you find yourself in this situation, try these three steps to turn a simple idea into a killer drum fill.

Step 1: Research

The first step in putting together a great fill is to dig for ideas. These days, it’s easier than ever. Just Google “cool drum pattern,” “drum rudiments,” or “accent patterns,” or check out one of the many drum lessons on YouTube.

Another great strategy is to listen to drummers who play your favorite styles. See what elements they use in their fills, and try to use similar elements in your own songs.

Don’t just consider rhythm; think about the wide range of dynamics and timbres available on your drum set.

Here are some elements I like to use in my fills:

  • Rhythm: eighth notes, sixteenth notes, triplets, flams, five-stroke rolls
  • Dynamics: accent patterns, ghost notes
  • Timbre: double-kick, tom-tom, ride bell, open hi-hat

If you want to get creative, listen to different music styles and see if you can incorporate these ideas in your own style. Remember, the goal of a drum fill is to complement the rest of the music, so try to choose elements that will fit with your song.

Here’s an example:

My fill is a one-measure chorus-to-verse transition in a driving metal song, but I’ve decided to start simple with this classic accent pattern:

drum fills piture 1

I’ll also add in triplets, double kick, and tom-toms for extra flavor.

Step 2: Deliberate Experimentation

Now that you have elements to put in your fill, it’s time for the fun part: experimenting!

At an easy tempo, play through the beat just before the fill. Once you have a good feel for that part of the song, try out a fill. Piece together some elements you like, play through them, and see how they sound together.

Then, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a different rhythm I could use to spice this up (flam, triplet, etc.)?
  • Can I switch this note or group of notes to different instruments?
  • Could I alter the volume or accent the notes in a different way?

I call this step deliberate experimentation because I use these questions systematically to transform the fill into something I really like, as in the following example:


drum fills piture 1

I’ve already got some good accents here, but I want to make the unaccented rhythms more interesting, so I’ll add triplets (rhythm).

drum fills

Much better, but now the fill is a bit monotonous because it’s only played on the snare drum.

I’m going to throw in some double kick (timbre).

drum fills picture 3

Great. Now, let’s bring out the accents even more by doubling them up on the floor tom as well (dynamics).

I still think there’s a bit too much snare, so let’s put the unaccented snare hits on the medium tom-tom instead (timbre).


drum fills picture 4

There. That’s a pretty awesome fill. See how I changed one or two elements each time to transform the ordinary accent pattern into something cool?

Step 3: Testing

Now that you have a cool fill, it’s time to test it out.

Play the fill in the context of the song. Does it match the energy and the timing? Does it complement the other instruments? Is it carrying through an important transition?

If you’re in a musical group, this is a good time to ask for feedback. Your fellow musicians will be able to tell you if you’re suffering from ODS (Overactive Drummer Syndrome).

If the fill doesn’t fit with the music, that’s OK. You aren’t always going to get it right the first time. Write down your idea and go have some more fun experimenting!

Here’s a sample of my drum fill:

I’m pretty pleased with how it sounds, so I’m going to keep it and start working on the next one.

Well, that’s it! Now you know the secret to making awesome drum fills: research, experimentation, and testing.

Go ahead and give this process a try; before long, you’ll be rocking the house like your favorite drummers!

Michael P.Post Author: Michael P.
Michael P. teaches percussion and drum lessons in Chicago, IL. He has been playing drums for over 15 years, and recently played with the heavy metal band Erlang Kovata.  Learn more about Micahel here!

Photo by Flavio Serpa

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honor vic firth

The Drumming Community Honors Vic Firth

honor vic firth

The drumming community took to Twitter after news broke that Vic Firth, timpanist and drum stick maker passed away in his Boston home Sunday at the age of 85.

Everett “Vic” Firth was a timpanist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 46 years prior to starting the Vic Firth percussion equipment company.

Known for his talent and his well-designed drum sticks and percussion equipment, Firth was a beloved, respected member of the drumming world.

vic firth

“For me, it has been an artist in music and in their own inventions as Vic Firth accompanied them on their lost family.”

– drummer, percussionist, and music teacher @samuelmauricioa


vic firth

“Vic Firth drumsticks and accessories are my best drumming tools. To this and from this… R.I.P.”

– drummer @ll_bluewind_ll

vic firth

“I was sad to hear the news. I have been testing new carbon fiber drum sticks for him. True man with class.”

– Drummer, producer, and composer @URIT2

vic firth

“It came to me as a shock, but what can we do. His boundless passion for music and musicians. RIP #vicfirth

– drummer @nanacwasis 

vic firth 4

“When I first started drumming, I used Vic Firth. I learned how to play using Vic Firth. The man is a legend and his company will live on. People will remember him, and be grateful when they look in their hands and see his name on their sticks.”

– drummer @lindsaybird44

vic firth

From what I hear, he was an amazing person. Also, he gave us THE drum stick. His influence on the drumming community is unmatched.”

– drummer @beckbeat

vic firth

“I’m a huge fan of Vic Firth because he was a timpanist. Very sad day for drummers, but his sticks will live on!”

– drummer @jynyates


vic firth last

“Vic Firth lived a long, prolific, and impactful life. Let’s celebrate him.”

– record producer/recording engineer @stsn

These are just a few of many thoughts, comments, and memories shared by drummers and music enthusiasts.

Share your thoughts and condolences in the comments below.

The drum community lost an important, beloved member.

R.I.P. Mr. Firth.

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