Drumming 101: 6 Basic Drum Terms You Should Know

Drumming 101: 6 Basic Drum Terms You Should Know

Drumming 101: 6 Basic Drum Terms You Should Know

Learning to play the drums means new equipment, new skills, and new terminology. Here, San Diego, CA drum teacher Maegan W. breaks down some basic drum terms so you can walk the walk and talk the talk…

Whether you’re new to the drumming world or you’re a seasoned pro, these drum terms are the ABC’s that every drummer should know.

1. Rudiments

Rudiments are the different drum patterns that can be used as drills themselves, or turned into music when applied properly to the drum set or drum kit.

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There are several different drum rudiments, however, 40 of them have made the cut as the most important and popular rudiments to learn and use. If you want to learn all 40, Vic Firth has a guide on their website, but for now let’s take a look at some of the most basic rudiments that you will use in your drum lessons.

Before we get started, note that the letters “R” and “L” tell you which drum or hand to play. R = right hand and L = left hand.

The Single Stroke Roll

This is the most basic of all the rudiments. This is what you would naturally play if you just picked up the sticks and started playing. The pattern is R, L, R, L.

Lead with your right hand when you play this stroke, and it turns into a roll as the tempo increases.

Once you’ve learned the single stroke roll, try to play the same pattern leading with your left hand:  L, R, L, R.

Double Stroke Roll

Now we get into our double strokes. The right and left hand lead will apply here as well. This is where two strokes will be played on each hand R, R, L, L (right hand lead) or L, L, R, R (left hand lead).

Double stroke rolls are sometimes called “diddles.”


The paradiddle is one of the most famous and important rudiments to master. It has several variations and can be applied in so many cool ways. The pattern is R, L, R, R, L, R, L, L. The pattern is all eighth notes.

Now that you have a basic overview of the essential rudiments, let’s take a look at some other common drum terms.

2. Drum Fill

A drum fill, also called a lick or a chop, is a phrase you play to fill in space between sections of a song, or to take you and the band to the next section like the verse, chorus, or bridge.

3. Drum Throne

The seat that the drummer sits on is often referred to as the throne. Yes, just like royalty, the drummer gets a special seat.

4. Traditional and Matched Grip

These terms describe how you hold the drum sticks. In the traditional grip, you hold the left stick like a fork, and the right stick like a wand.

With a matched grip, hold both sticks like a wand with your palms facing down.

5. Groove or Beat

The drum groove or beat, is a rhythmic pattern you play to the music that keeps the time.

6. Tempo

Tempo refers to the time or speed. Sometimes drummers will use a click track or metronome to practice and work on improving their tempo. Some bands and drummers even play live shows with a click track.

The list of drum terms goes on and on, and you will discover a lot more as you continue your drum lessons. If you ever hear a new term that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask someone what it means. You may feel silly at first, but it’s the best way to learn and increase your drum vocabulary.

I hope you enjoyed this and learned a few terms that you can use. Keep on shredding, that means playing drums like crazy!

Want to learn more drum terms and techniques? Sign up with a private drum instructor today! 

Maegan-WMaegan 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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