how to play snare drum

How to Play Snare Drum: A Guide for Beginners

how to play snare drum

Want to boost your snare drum technique? Whether you want to improve your sound on your kit or play snare in a marching band, this guide from drum instructor Tracy D. covers everything you need to know about how to play snare drum…  

The snare drum is the signature voice of your kit. It’s an expressive solo instrument and an integral part of a marching band. Snare drum technique varies based on the type of music you play, but some techniques apply across the board. In addition to the exercises below, I recommend delving into a bit of solo literature, both rudimental and orchestral, as this will  help you refine your technique.

Let’s explore different types of snare drums and the techniques you can use to get the best sound from your snare.

Note: snare drum notes are usually written on the second space from the top of the staff (or, less commonly on the middle line). Sometimes, a snare part may be written on a single line.

How to Play Snare Drum for Beginners

how to play snare drum

Image courtesy Emily Mills

As a beginner, you should focus on accuracy and evenness of notes, as well as tempo and dynamic control. Get used to playing with a metronome right away; you will use this tool for the life of your playing. (There are many free metronome apps, so there’s no excuse not to have one).

Here are some exercises to get you going in the right direction.

Note: play these exercises with a right-hand lead.

how to play snare drum

How to Play Marching Snare Drum

how to play snare drum

Image courtesy H. Michael Miley

To prepare to play marching snare drum, do your research on websites and forums, and find videos of marching band performances that will inspire you to get in the shed.

If you want to play snare in a marching band, you have to acquire precision and the ability to listen closely and sync with the drummers around you.

You will also likely be required to work on the visual components of a performance (in addition to matching stick heights with your section), so you need to have your timing down.

Know your rudiments inside and out; they’re your bread and butter when it comes to playing snare in a marching band.

Make sure to practice these exercises which will help you master snare drum basics.

How to Play Snare Drum With Traditional Grip

how to play snare drum

Traditional grip was initially used to allow a snare drummer’s left hand to comfortably clear the rim of a side-slung drum. This grip is still commonly used in marching drum lines and in jazz settings.

Turn your left hand to the side, as if you’re reaching out to shake someone’s hand. Place the stick in the opening between your thumb and index finger (which will be your fulcrum), and rest the front end on the cuticle of your ring finger.

Your fingers will provide support and control, and your wrist will turn in a rotary motion to initiate the stroke. Your right hand will use the matched grip position.

Check out this article and infographic for a more in-depth look at how to hold drum sticks.

How to Play Rudiments

The rudiments are kind of like a drummer’s vocabulary. They’re used extensively in marching literature and rudimental solos/etudes. They may be used in drum set playing as well, to create some compelling and challenging grooves and fills.

The Percussive Arts Society recognizes 40 rudiments, although there are many more, including hybrids.

No matter what type of music you want to play, it’s important that you learn drum rudiments, and practice them consistently.

 Make sure you review this beginner’s guide to drum rudiments


How to Play Snare Drum Rolls

Pretty much any snare drum roll can be applied to the whole kit, however, the buzz/press roll is most characteristic to the snare. This roll requires some patience to master, as you have to work to make it sound smooth and seamless.

This video demonstrates the multiple bounce/buzz roll as well as six other essential drum rudiments.

For these roll skeletons, strive for even stick heights, unless you’re using accents or flams. Here again, you will refer to the rudiments; they’re the foundation of all drum rolls.

roll skeleton

how to play snare drum

how to play snare drum

This roll skeleton chart will help you interpret multiple bounce rolls. The rolls termed, “written” represent the norm for notation that you will encounter in literature. Those termed, “played” demonstrate the number of strokes needed to execute the fills—and those numbers vary according to tempo.

Experiment with the surface of the drum. You will have more “deadness” toward the center of the drum, but you will get plenty of volume. You can play close to the rim for quieter passages (and play over the snares to best activate them).

How to Play Snare Drum Fast

how to play snare drum

Image courtesy Gerry Dincher

Most new drummers want to be able to play fast right away, but this requires a lot of work. Fast playing is the result of plenty of repetition. It’s important to strive for accuracy first, so make sure you practice with your metronome!

Try these drum exercises to improve your speed and control.

Remember, when it comes to drums: accuracy + repetition + gradual increase in tempo = precision and speed.

Enjoy the process and be consistent and diligent; you will reap the rewards of articulate, nuanced, and powerful technique.

Whether you want to learn how to play snare drum to join a marching band or you just want to improve your skills on your kit, we hope these tips and exercises will help.

Remember, if you’re feeling stuck, drum lessons with a private instructor can help. Search here for a drum instructor near you!

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!

Featured image courtesy Brett Lessard

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types of drums

Drums Around the World |The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Drums


If you’re interested in learning drums, you’ve probably learned a little bit about the drums that make up a drum kit. When it comes to percussion instruments, however, there are so many other types of drums. Whether you want to join a band or take on a new endeavor, here’s an intro to different types of drums from Edmond, OK teacher Tracy D

The world of drums and percussion is enormous, and it’s such an intriguing ground for exploration. This article describes various types of drums, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list, as that would be a very lengthy write-up! This article, however, will capture your interest, and perhaps prompt you to venture out and add some new sounds and instruments to your drumming adventure.


Types of Drum Sets

Let’s begin our journey on some familiar ground, and explore some different types of drum sets.

Acoustic Drum Set

You’re probably most familiar with this type of drum set, but there are lots of variations in size and configuration.

Power/Rock: These sets generally have 12, 13, and 16-inch toms, and a 22 x 18-inch bass drum. The snare may vary in size, but it’s typically 5 ½ or 6 x 14″. They have a deeper tone and more volume due to their larger sizes.

Fusion: These sets are typically sized as follows: 10, 12, and 14″ toms, with a bass of either 20 or 22 inches x 18 inches. They aren’t quite as thunderous as their rock-sized counterparts, but they allow for quicker playing due to their faster response.

Jazz Drums: These are supposed to be quick and light, and the toms usually have the same diameter as the fusion toms—but with shallower depths, and the bass drum is markedly smaller; usually 18” x 14”.

types of drums

Image courtesy Gibraltar Hardware

Some well-known brands include Gretsch, Yamaha, Ludwig, Pearl, Sonor, Mapex, DW, OCDP, Pacific, Tama, and Crush. There are also several options for variations in configuration.

Virtual and Electronic Drum Kits: Electronic drum sets give you access to an unbelievable library of sonic options. Over the years, their “brains” have become more advanced. You have a wide array of sounds with samples from top-of-the-heap kits. Additionally, you have capabilities of percussion and beyond. These kits are available in range from very basic to professional. They have the ability to work with interactive software and apps to provide everything from tutorials to packs of sounds.

E-kits are very cool and a lot of fun. If you’re interested in  buying an E-Kit, I recommend checking out Roland, Yamaha, and Alesis.

types of drums

Image courtesy bettermusic

Triggers: I would be remiss not to visit the world of triggering, which allows you to reap the benefits (feel and resonance) of your acoustic kit and the brains of the V-kit by adding triggers, which touch the heads of your drums and relay signals to a module (brain) to add to your sonic capabilities. They can be particularly handy in recording/live applications to enhance and clarify your sound or to provide backing tracks.

Auxiliary Drum Sets: These can be built to create a complete playground for the adventurous. They can include elements from the whole spectrum: drums, bells, blocks, triangles, chimes, etc. These sets can be used for solo applications or in bands, often in addition to a drum set.

types of drums

 If you want to learn more about different drum set brands, make sure to check out this gear guide on the best drum sets.

Types of Hand Drums

While hand drums are primarily played by hand, some work well with mallets or “tippers.” They come from across the globe; each type of hand drum has a distinctive pattern and playing technique.

Congas: These tall, Cuban drums are usually played in groups of two or three. Conga drums come in three different sizes: quinto (small), conga/tres dos (medium), and tumba (large).

Bongos: Bongo drums are Afro-Cuban, small, and often played in conjunction with the congas. The smaller drum is called the “macho” and the larger drum is known as the “hembra.”

types of drums

Image courtesy ArtDrum


types of drums

Image courtesy

Tabla: You can play these Indian drums with the heels of your hands and your fingertips. The small, wooden drum is called the tabla, and the larger, metal drum is called the dagga.

types of drums

Image courtesy

Frame Drums

This is actually a pretty broad family, with different types of drums from all over the world.

Pandeiro: A Brazilian instrument played with the fingers, thumbs, and palms on the head, along with the fingers/thumbs on its platinelas (jingles).


Image courtesy

Tambourine: A close cousin to the pandeiro, the tambourine is from various regions, and has smaller jingles—called zils. There is much more to playing this instrument than mot people think.

A tambourine may or may not have heads, and it may or may not be tunable. A tambourine can have single or double rows of jingles. There are many other similar drums from different parts of the world.


Image courtesy Grover Pro Percussion


Bodhran: This Irish/Celtic frame drum can be played by hand or with various types of beaters, known as tippers. Bodhran drums may or may not be tunable.


Goblet Drums: This is a family of drums that get their name from their shape. A darbuka, which hails from the Middle East, is an example of a goblet drum.

types of drums

Image courtesy Serdar Bagtir


Types of African Drums

This is another broad family of hand drums, so let’s look at some of the most well-known drums.

Djembe: The djembe is a very popular hand drum from West Africa. It may be rope-tuned or mechanically tuned (Westernized). They may have goatskin heads (shaved or not) or synthetic heads.

types of drums

Image courtesy


Talking Drum: To play the talking drum, place it under your arm and squeeze the rope while you hit the drum. Use a striker to alter the pitch.

types of drums

Image courtesy Musician’s Friend

Udu: The udu is a clay-based drum from Nigeria. Variations of the udu may have one or two chambers.

To play the udu, strike the larger hole with your palm, or use your fingers on the body.

types of drums

Image courtesy TheDrumWorks and ArtDrum

Some other African drums worth looking up are the dunun, bendir, junjung, and bougarabou.


Types of Drums in a Marching Band

 Are you in a marching band or would you like to join the band at your school? Find out what it takes with this guide to being a drum major.

Marching band drums supply the voice for the band. Here are some of the most commonly used marching band drums, they can be mounted on harnesses or stands.

Marching Snare: The marching snare drum is quite different than the snare used on the drum set. It’s much deeper and the head is made of Kevlar. The marching snare can hold very high tension.

types of drums

Image courtesy Steve Weiss Music

Multi-tenor: The multi-tenor drums come in several configurations, most commonly sets of four to six. They’re the higher pitched melodic voices of the battery and are typically played with sticks or mallets.

They may have small, tightly tuned accent drums, known as spocks or shots (among other names).

types of drums

Image courtesy Musician’s Friend

Bass Drum: The bass drums are the lowest pitched drums in the battery and come in several sizes that allow for melodic runs along the line. Each drum size is represented by its own

types of drums

Image courtesy Ed Uthman

Front Ensemble: The front ensemble/pit is stationary on the field and has a wide variety of percussion instruments like the marimba, xylophone, glock, vibes, bass drum, drum set, and timpani, as well as hand/frame drums and auxiliary instruments.

types of drums

Image courtesy

We have covered several different types of drums,  but we have still only scratched the surface of the world of percussion instruments. From drum sets, hand drums, and marching band drums, there’s something for every aspiring musician.

What types of drums do you want to learn about? Let us know in the comments below! 

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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11 Drum Exercises for Speed, Independence, and Control

drum exercises

If you want to improve as a drummer, you have to practice! But how can you make your practice time more productive? By working on specific exercises, you can strengthen your weaknesses and work on important aspects of drumming that will improve your technique.

Drum exercises are rhythmic patterns that develop your drumming coordination and independence. In this article, we’re going to take a look at a wide range of exercises that are fantastic for beginning drummers and even the most advanced players.

Ready to improve your drum skills? Grab your drum sticks and let’s go!

Drum Warm Up Exercises

Drumming is a physical activity, and like most physical activities, it’s important to warm up your muscles and get your limbs working in coordination. Whether preparing to practice in the woodshed or perform on stage, I always try to incorporate at least five to 15 minutes of warm-up exercises into my routine.

Warm-up exercises can range in difficulty, but it’s important to pick exercises that are appropriate for your skill level, because these exercises are geared toward simple coordination and building your confidence behind the drum set. That being said, I encourage drummers to use a metronome when warming up because it strengthens your time-keeping in addition to warming up your body.

Drum Pad Exercises

First, let’s take a look at a few simple rudiment warm-ups. Drum rudiments are drum patterns that you can use for drills or warm-ups, or develop into more complex drum patterns.

These exercises are designed to be played on one surface, and I like to play them on a drum pad before hitting the stage for a performance.

Single Stroke Roll


Double Stroke Roll

Single Paraddidle

Double Paraddidle

Triplets (Single Stroke Seven)


Drum Exercises for Beginners

Now, let’s try  some warm-up exercises that incorporate the whole drum set. These warm-ups are more challenging than the drum pad warm-ups because they incorporate more drums and the coordination of all four limbs.

Start slow, and remember: it’s about accuracy and coordination, not speed and power. If these exercises seem difficult, try subtracting one limb (I usually recommend the hi-hat foot), and then try the exercises with just three limbs.

Note: These exercises are divided into groups of two. The exercises on the left use just one surface for the hands (snare drum), while the exercises on the right focus on moving the hands around the drum kit.

Make sure to practice leading with both the right and left hand, and don’t forget to use a metronome!

Here’s a great five-minute drum set warm-up video that runs through a few of the exercises, in addition to providing a few new exercises. Check the video information section to download the accompanying sheet music and try playing along with the teacher.

Snare Drum Exercises

Snare drum independence refers to the ability to play snare drum rhythms that are separate from the pattern(s) performed by the rest of your limbs.

For beginners, I recommend playing the exercises on the left, which focus on just two voices on the drum set (snare drum and hi-hat). Intermediate drummers may benefit from playing the exercises on the right, which incorporate a steady bass drum pattern in addition to the hands.

If you’re more advanced, try playing the snare patterns over more challenging rhythmic patterns.

Here are a few examples of trickier bass drum and hi-hat patterns which can be played along with the snare drum patterns from the sheet above:

The goal of all these drum exercises is to be able to apply any number of snare drum rhythms freely to your own drumming, rather than just playing a repetitive loop.

Try mixing and matching the various exercises to come up with your own snare drum melody, or make up your own snare drum rhythms!

Bass Drum Exercises

Bass drum independence refers to the ability to play bass drum rhythms that are separate from the pattern(s) performed by the rest of your limbs. Much like the snare drum independence exercises, I recommend that beginners focus on just two voices on the drum set (bass drum and hi-hat) before adding the third (snare drum).

Check out this video from Online Drummer and accompanying sheet music (below) for a series of great bass drum independence exercises.

drum exercises

Image courtesy Online Drummer

Drum Exercises for Speed

Besides how to improve, most drum students want to know how to play drums faster. Like the other skills we’ve discussed (coordination and independence), becoming a faster drummer doesn’t just happen overnight. Let’s take a look at several drum exercises to help improve your speed.

Develop Sound Technique

While there are a number of correct drum techniques, there are an awful lot more incorrect techniques that will inhibit your speed. Poor technique can even potentially cause injury, in the long run.

Developing good drumstick technique takes time and lots of practice. As a beginner, it’s important to watch your hands to make sure you’re using proper stick technique. Check out this video to learn a few simple exercises that will increase your hand speed.

There are a number of things you can try to boost your drum technique. For example, play heel down vs. heel up, or bury the beater against the head vs. releasing the beater from the head.

I also recommend playing along with the simple exercises in this video from Drumeo to improve your bass drum speed.

Use Heavier Sticks for Practice

When you practice, use sticks that are heavier than your regular drum sticks. In much the same way that baseball players put weights on their bats before going up to bat, practicing with heavier drum sticks will make your usual sticks seem almost effortless when you switch back.

Practice single strokes, double strokes, and paradiddles with a metronome, gradually increasing your metronome speed. Then practice alternating singles, doubles, and paradiddles between the hands and feet. The four-limb warm-up exercises in this article are also great to develop speed. Remember, speed comes from both of your hands being even, so make sure you practice leading with both.

In this video, Tony Royster Jr. discusses his practice routine for increasing speed, which includes combining singles, doubles, and paradiddles into a smooth warm-up loop.

Swing Pattern Drum Exercises

These drum exercises are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to warm-ups and developing independence with each limb. Most of the exercises focus on straight rhythmic patterns, but I encourage drummers to try the exercises with a triplet-based, “swing” feel.

Here is a video that can help beginner drummers learn to swing a drum pattern:

For more rhythmic drum exercises, I recommend purchasing Ted Reed’s book Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer. This book is often considered the most important source for developing independence, as it provides page after page of unique rhythms that can be applied to any limb on the drum set, and performed either swung or straight.

Below is a brief excerpt from his book that combines a wide range of patterns into an exercise that will test overall independence of any limb you choose. These rhythms can be translated to any drum(s) and can be played with either a straight or swing feel

Now you have several different drum exercises to keep you busy and help you improve! If you need help with any of these exercises, make sure to ask your drum teacher!

Which of these drum exercises have you tried? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Maegan-W Post Author: John S.
John S. is a drum and percussion instructor in Saint Paul, MN. A full-time musician and teacher, he performs with two different bands and teaches in-home and in-studio lessons. Learn more about John here!

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Photo Courtesy: David Russo 

drum sticks

From Brushes to Brooms: The Complete Guide to Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

When it comes to choosing a pair of drum sticks, there are a lot of factors that can influence your decision. Knowing what’s out there can help you decide which sticks are best for your drumming style. Here, Edmond, OK drum instructor Tracy D. breaks down the different types of drum sticks…

As drummers, we get to play a wide variety of instruments, and just as a painter uses many different brushes and tools in his or her arsenal, we should employ various types of sticks to achieve different effects. Those of you who venture into the broader world of percussion will have a particular interest in variety.

Here, I will discuss several types of drum sticks and their applications, so get ready to fill up your stick bag!

How Are Drum Sticks Made?

Before we get into the different types of drum sticks, let’s go over some drum stick anatomy.

Wood Type

Drum sticks are generally made of wood, and the type of wood can impact the durability. For example, oak and hickory drum sticks are durable, while maple is lighter, but less durable.


The taper is the grade from the body to the tip of the stick. A thicker taper is best for loud, intense beats; while a more narrow taper is better for a lighter sound.

The tips are made of wood or nylon, and the shape of the tips affects the sound. Try an oval tip for a well-balanced sound, an acorn tip for a rich sound, or a barrel tip for high volume. You can also get drum sticks with a teardrop tip and a round tip.


Have you ever wondered what the numbers on the drum sticks mean? They have to do with drum stick size. The number indicates the drum stick circumference. It may seem counter intuitive, but for the most part, a lower number indicates a higher circumference, so the 7A is smaller than the 5A.

The letters help to identify the application; the most common letters are “A” (orchestra), “B” (band), and “S” (street).

types of drum sticks


The 5A is the most common type of drum stick. While they’re commonly used to play rock, you can use them for just about any type of drumming. The 5A is a middle-of -the-road drum stick, and a general-purpose tool.


7A drum sticks are smaller and thinner. Because they are more lightweight than the 5As, they’re ideal for younger drummers and jazz musicians.

2B and 5B

These sticks are much heavier than the other two types, and as a result, they pack a lot more power!

Want to learn more? Check out this video for a behind-the-scenes look at how drum sticks are made.

Types of Drum Sticks

Now that you understand how drum sticks are made, let’s look at the different types of drum sticks!

Looking for something specific? Here’s what you will find in this section:

Cheap Drum Sticks

When you’re just starting out as a drummer, you may be overwhelmed by all the new gear. While a brand new drum set isn’t required for a beginner, you should at least have a decent set of drum sticks to use for practice.

While you may be looking for a pair of cheap drum sticks, I’ve got good news for you: most drum sticks are pretty affordable. In fact, most pairs are less than $8.

If you have a set budget in mind for drum gear, a basic pair of cheap drum sticks will be just fine to help you get started.

Beginner Drum Sticks

Beyond an affordable pair of drum sticks, many new drummers want to know if there are specific beginner drum sticks. Again, here’s where the letters and numbers come in. Many drum experts recommend 7As for beginners, especially kids, who are learning how to hold drum sticks, as well as proper technique and control.

5As are generally recommended for adults and teenagers since they’re ideal for drummers with average-sized hands.

Kids Drum Sticks

These sticks are great for smaller hands, and they’re made by some of the best-known companies.

Vic Firth Kidsticks


Vic Firth’s Kidsticks are 13″ long, designed for players aged three to eight, and come in pink and blue.

ProMark Future Pro Jr.

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Musician’s Friend

ProMark makes the Future Pro Jr. sticks, which are the 5A diameter with a 13″ length.


Once you’ve been playing for a while and you’ve experimented with cheap drum sticks and beginner drum sticks, you will have a  better idea of what you like and what feels comfortable. Now you’re ready to look into types of drum sticks that are best suited for the music you want to play.

Jazz drum sticks are usually light, long, and thin for finesse, while rock drum sticks are heavier, for power and volume.

Orchestral Drum Sticks

You can use these sticks on the snare drum in an orchestra or concert band setting, or for snare drum repertoire (not for chopping on hats!). This context requires particular nuance, and the sticks are designed with this in mind.

Some orchestral drum sticks are made with specialty woods, like persimmon, laminated birch, or rosewood. Some orchestral drum sticks I recommend are Cooperman, Malletech’s PhD SeriesProMark, Innovative Percussion, and Vic Firth.

Marching Band Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy taylormusic

These sticks are heavy duty and thicker, with large beads, as they must aid in projection and volume for play in a (primarily outdoor) large band setting—and be used on high-tension marching snare heads (made of kevlar, which is a thicker material than mylar).

Vic Firth, ProMark, and Vater have great marching band drum sticks.


types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Steve Weiss Music

When it comes to types of drum sticks, don’t forget about brushes. While they’re mostly used in jazz settings, they’re great if you want a softer sound.

They may be drawn across the surface of the snare for a scratchy sound, and they’re also great for a Cajon (an Afro-Cuban wooden box percussion instrument).

Drum set brushes may have either nylon or metal bristles, and may or may not be retractable.

Rutes / Multi-Rods Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image Courtesy AMPCO Musical Products

These deliver a softer attack than sticks and serve well in low-volume situations—or if you just want a different texture, they have a cool “chick” sound.

They’re made from a cluster of dowels of various diameters. Rutes made with thinner dowels will have a lighter sound. (Incidentally, these are fairly easy to make, and I have been doing so for many years).

Timbale Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Stew Weiss Music

You can use these sticks on timbales, blocks, and cymbals. They have a uniform diameter, with no bead.

Brooms / Cajon Brushes

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Interstate Music

These are great to use on Cajons, congas, and the kit. They have movable bands to allow for adjustment toward the handle for a softer attack—or toward the end for a more solid thump.


types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Sam Ash

These sticks have a bead (nylon or wood) at one end and a felt mallet tip at the other. They’re great for quick changes if you want to do some cymbal swells or tom work (and hey, it’s a chance to work on some spins).

Brush / Stick Combos

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Interstate Music

These offer some great textural options with quick-change capabilities.


types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Intersate Music

It’s always fun to have some miscellaneous goodies, and here are a few items that can add a bit of seasoning to your groove:

ProMark’s TUBZ have an interesting attack and add a bit of their own tone to the mix.

Vic Firth’s Dreadlocks produce a pronounced attack on the snare, and give you cool options for scraping or striking your cymbals.

Flix products give you the best of both worlds: the sound of rods and the added durability of a built-in tip.

Custom Drum Sticks

types of drum sticks

Image courtesy Custom Stix

Custom drum sticks can be made with artwork of your choice, or the company’s art (for an art fee).  So, if you’re interested in aesthetics, you may want to venture into custom territory.

Custom Stix is a cool company to check out, as well as West Virginia Wood Arts, which does custom laser engraving (on Vic Firth sticks) of words, your submitted images, or their own artwork.  They also have different color options.

These are just a few of the many tools you can use to expand your tonal spectrum (and they make great stocking-stuffers). Experiment with different types of drum sticks, and find your favorites!

Want to know more about different types of drum sticks? Check out our gear guide to find out which drum sticks are the best!

Which type of drum sticks do you use when you play? Why are these your favorite? Let us know in the comments below! 

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!

Featured image courtesy Clint Pollan

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The Beginner’s Guide to Drum Charts, Drum Tabs, and Drum Notation

How to Decode Drum Charts, Drum Tabs, and Notation for Beginners

If you just started learning drums, you may feel a bit intimidated when it comes to reading drum charts and drum tabs. The good news is, you’re not alone. While it may seem daunting now, with a little practice you’ll be able to understand and read drum charts and drum tabs with ease. To help you get started, here’s an easy-to-follow beginner’s guide from drum instructor Tracy D

Drum charts, drum tabs, and drum notation are all terms you’ll come across when you’re learning drums. This is especially true if you play in a marching band or ensemble.

As a beginner, you may find drum charts to be a bit intimidating. You may also encounter drum tabs or solos with every note written out. I’ll cover each of these so that you’ll be able to read drum tabs with confidence.

First, I’ll show you how to figure out what’s going on in the following drum charts. For this, I’ll be using a part from my jazz band days (this type of chart is typical for a jazz band or big band ensembles).

How to Read Drum Charts

Refer to the sheet music that follows; sections of the chart are circled in red ink for you to follow along.

Page 1

Meas. 16: These are ensemble figures, and the whole band will play these notes in unison. Notice the elongated note heads — look for these throughout your piece and nail them.

M. 17: This indicates timekeeping with a specific bass figure (in this case, it’s a Tumbao pattern).

M. 33-36: The voices that carry these figures are indicated. You should hit with them, usually with accents on the snare drum (and sometimes adding hats or cymbals).

M. 37: The segno (sign) indicates the beginning of a section that will be repeated.

M. 64: Fill — you have some leeway for creative control, but stay true to style and mind your count.

M. 75: The coda symbol indicates a jump to the concluding section, which will be marked with the same sign (or the word, “coda”).

M. 81: Time, in this case, means play the original groove.


drum charts

*Courtesy:  “Newk Meets the Prezident” Lawn, Rick N.d. New York: Kendor, 1996. Print.

Page 2

M. 93: Be alert, the feel changes here!
M. 157: Solo — generally you’ll want to stay true to style, but here, you want to change the feel about halfway through.

Be sure to count so you don’t get lost.


drum charts

Page 3

M. 221: Use this solo to return to the original feel and style of the piece.
M. 228: Dal Segno al Coda (from the sign to the coda) — here, return to the sign at m. 37, and play to the coda sign at m.75 (not playing m. 75) then jump ahead to “coda” at m. 229.
M. 229: (Coda) There are a couple things going on here. The meter changes to 3/2. The “half note = half note” means that the note value for the tempo stays constant even though the meter has changed.
M. 232: Vamp — Keep time until the cue. The number of repetitions may vary.


drum charts


*Note: If you’re playing a piece that has extended periods of rests or repetitive patterns, it can be easy to check out mentally. To avoid this, be sure that you can so you don’t lose your place.

Where to Find Drum Charts

If you want to practice reading or playing along with drum charts, ask your drum teacher for some sample sheet music. You can also find drum charts online. Here are some of the best websites to find drum sheet music.

Online Drummer

Online drummer has note-for-note sheet music available to download. You can search by song or by level.

Drum Central

Drum Central provides free downloadable drum transcriptions. Search their database by artist to find the drum sheet music for your favorite songs.


You can search DRUMSCORE.COM by artist or by drummer, however, most of their drum music costs about $3.99.

Drum Tabs

Drum tablature or drum tabs are different from traditional drum notation. Drum tabs are generally comprised of the same number of lines as there are instruments in the music.

The dashes are usually broken up into 16ths, and if there’s a “note” to be played, it’s shown by the use of a corresponding symbol. Don’t play anything on the dashes. Traditional sheet music will use a rhythm staff.

Drum tabs are typically easier to find than sheet music, so many drummers will try to find drum tabs for their favorite tunes.

How to Read Drum Tabs

Here is a basic chart with some variations of the symbols used. Different authors may use different forms.

The Most Basic:

B = Bass Drum
S = Snare Drum
H = Hi-Hat
C = Cymbal
T = Tom

Drum Variations:

BA = Bass Drum
BD = Bass Drum
B1 = Bass Drum #1
B2 = Bass Drum #2
T1 = Tom 1 (T2 = Tom 2, etc.)
TT = Tom Tom
F = Floor Tom
FT = Floor Tom Cymbals and Hi-Hats
RC = Ride Cymbal
CC = Crash Cymbal
SC = Splash Cymbal
OH = Open Hi-Hat
SH = Slightly Open Hi-Hat
CH = Closed Hi-Hat
HF = Hi-Hat (played with foot)


CB = Cow Bell
TA = Tambourine
SH = Shaker
WB = Wood Block
CL = Claves
BE = Bell

*Courtesy of

Let’s take a look at the drum tabs for Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” to point out the use of the lines and symbols. The legend indicates that the hats will have a closed (x) and open (o) pattern. The instrumentation is listed vertically, and the drum tabs read horizontally. Pretty easy, right?

The drums here are notated with an “o” and the cymbals/accessories are represented by an “x”. Accents may be notated with a capital X. This chart is good for those who are new to drum tabs, because the groove is straightforward, and the song sections are clearly marked. (The first dash in each measure is a placeholder, not an indicator of time passage).

drum charts* Tab courtesy of blindleaf.freeservers (link broken as of 1/11/16)

How to Find Drum Tabs

Like drum charts, there are places online where you can find drum tabs for the songs you want to play.


911TABS lets you search by artist or song. In addition to drum tabs, you can also find guitar tabs and piano music.


Search for drum tabs and learn more about reading drum tabs and drum music.


Don’t let the name fool you; UltimateGuitar has lots of resources for guitar players, but you can also find drum tabs for just about any song you want to play.

Drum Set Notation

Now, let’s look at standard notation as it appears in sheet music for solos, etudes, and fully-notated drum set music. These exercises are very basic grooves with the bass drum notated on the bottom space, the snare drum on the second space down, and the hats on the top.

It’s in 4/4 or “common” time (four beats, with the quarter note getting the beat). This is broken up into 8th notes — you can see this because there are eight strokes on the hats. Count those: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. The corresponding notes on the drums will line up directly with the hats.

There are two measures per line. In the first measure, in the bass, you see a little squiggle. This is a quarter rest and it means that you refrain from playing that voice for the duration of a quarter beat. Next, you see what appears to be an odd looking number seven. This is an eighth rest, and it means that you refrain from playing that voice for the duration of an eighth. Pretty simple!


drum charts* Exercises courtesy of

Note: If you’re playing a piece that has extended periods of rests or repetitive patterns, it can be easy to mentally checkout. Be sure that you count so you don’t lose your place.

How to Use Drum Charts and Drum Tabs

At this point you may be thinking, “I’m not a drum major and I don’t play in a marching band, so why do I need to learn drum charts and drum sheet music?” Well, regardless of your drumming goals, learning to understand drum charts can help you make sense of the music and help you develop your drumming skills. Eventually, with enough practice, drum sheet music can be your secret weapon!

Now you have some direction to help you understand drum charts, sheet music, and drum tabs. It’s important that you become familiar with different musical styles, so you can play with confidence. You can generally find a recording of just about any song, so give it a listen while reading your chart.


How has learning to read drum music helped you become a better drummer? Let us know in the comments below! 

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 eric.mailloux

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How to Play Drums: The Complete Guide for Beginners

How to Play Drums A Guide for Beginners

Do you want to learn how to play drums but aren’t quite sure where to begin? You may be asking yourself a number of questions like, “What equipment do I need?” or “How can I learn to play with a band?” Like most tasks in life, the first steps are often the most challenging.

Rest assured, everyone has to start somewhere. In this article, we’ll break down how to play the drums for beginners, and give you a solid foundation to have the best possible drumming experience.

How to Play Drums for Beginners

Table of Contents:

  1. The Parts of a Drum Kit
  2. Drum Equipment for Beginners
  3. How to Hold Drum Sticks
  4. How to Play Drum Rudiments
  5. How to Read Drum Sheet Music
  6. How to Read Drum Tabs

Parts of a Drum Kit

One of the most intimidating things about learning how to play drums is the cost of getting started. Oftentimes, instruments don’t come cheap. And unlike most other instruments, the drum set is composed of several pieces of expensive gear — it’s not just one simple piece.

Before we look into alternative options for beginners, let’s take a look at the basic parts for buying your first drum set.

Snare Drum

learn how to play snare drum

The snare is the center of a five-piece drum kit. The snare drum is responsible for the loud crack, usually on upbeats, that you hear during songs.

The snare’s sound comes from its shell, which is generally made from wood like maple, birch, or mahogany, or from metals such as aluminum, bronze, brass, or stainless steel.

The drum head (batter) is coated, while the bottom of the snare is thin and responsive. The rims are the hoops on the top and bottom that secure the drum heads on the snare.

While all of the parts of a drum kit are important, developing your snare drum skills can help you become a better all-around drummer. In fact, it’s good to practice some snare drum exercises so you can improve your technique and focus on things like rhythm and intonation.

Bass Drum

learn bass drum

The bass, or kick drum, is easy to find because it’s the largest drum in a drum kit. Most bass drum shells are made from woods like maple, heartwood birch, and mahogany, but you can also find bass drum shells made from metals.

When you play the bass drum, you use your foot on the drum’s kick pedal to produce a thumping sound. The bass drum is essential to the drum kit because it’s the most distinctive part of a band’s timekeeping.

Timekeeping refers to a drummer’s ability to play in time with the pulse of the music. It’s a very important skill for drummers to learn. Make sure you practice this and improve your timekeeping skills in order to develop a consistent tempo when playing.

Toms, Hi-Hat, and Cymbals

learn how to play toms and cymbals

The toms, or tom-toms, are mounted either above the bass drum or held up by adjustable legs. In a five-piece drum kit, there are two types of toms: the rack toms and the floor toms. The floor and rack toms are most commonly used during drum fills. Like the other drums in the kit, the toms are generally made from wood or metal.

In addition to these basic parts of a drum set, you can also add cymbals like the hi-hat, crash, and ride cymbals. These add accents to your music and can serve as transitions from one passage in a song to the next.

Most beginner drummers don’t have the luxury of having a full drum set at their disposal. Luckily, you don’t need a complete drum kit to get started when learning how to play the drums.

 Drum Equipment for Beginners

The first piece of drum equipment that we recommend for students is free and readily available: your own body. Start with hand drumming, whether that’s playing on your thighs, a pillow, or anything else you can think of that won’t get damaged from repetitive hand tapping.

Start by tapping along to your favorite songs and focus on playing along with the drummer or another instrument in the song. If you don’t have immediate access to music, then simply practice keeping a steady tempo, alternating between tapping with your right hand and then your left hand.

Sticks and a Metronome

When you’re ready to take the next step, the first piece of gear we recommend purchasing is a pair of good drum sticks. You can find drum sticks at any music store and countless online stores, and they’re very affordable (most pairs are less than $8). We also recommend buying a rubber practice drum pad in the early stages, but if money is an issue, you can always use your drum sticks on a book, pillow, or any other firm, durable surface.

One final piece of equipment that will help you begin your journey of learning how to play the drums is a metronome. Drummers are expected to be able to maintain a steady tempo, and nothing keeps a steadier tempo than a metronome. Metronomes come in both analogue and digital.

metronome for beginners

We recommend practicing with a metronome at the beginning of your drumming journey, as it’ll help you develop a strong sense of time and rhythm. This will save you a lot of headaches later on.

How to Hold Drum Sticks

Now that you’ve got a pair of drum sticks, let’s talk a little bit about how to play drums with the proper technique. There are essentially two ways to hold drum sticks: matched grip and traditional grip.

Matched Grip

With matched grip, you’ll hold the drum sticks the same way with both hands. Your thumb should rest opposite your index finger on the stick; this pinching between your thumb and index finger is your fulcrum or pivot point. Matched grip has three different variations: German, American, and French.

German Grip

Hold the sticks with your palms facing down and use your wrists to drive the motion.

American Grip

Turn your hands to a 45-degree angle. With this grip, you can use your wrists for power and your fingers for control.

French Grip

Hold the sticks so that your thumbs face the ceiling and your palms face each other. The fulcrum rests between your thumb and index finger.

Traditional Grip

Traditional grip is often used for jazz music and drum lines. To do this, extend your left hand as if you’re about to shake someone’s hand. Place the stick in the webbing between your thumb and index finger, and rest the stick on the cuticle of your ring finger. Rest the tip of your thumb on the first knuckle of your index finger.

Your middle finger should rest lightly on the top of the stick. The fulcrum, or pivot point, is between your thumb and index finger. You’ll grip the stick in your right hand the same way you do with the American matched grip.  In traditional grip, you’ll rotate your forearm as you play (think of twisting a door knob).

As you advance, you can decide which grip style works best for you. The most important thing is to establish good drum stick technique. Poor technique can make drumming more challenging and also increase your risk of injury.

If you need a visual, here’s a helpful infographic on how to hold drum sticks:

how to hold and grip drum sticks to play

How to Play Drum Rudiments

Once you have your basic equipment (drum sticks, playing surface) and a good sense of proper technique, you’re ready to start learning the fundamental patterns of drumming, or the drum rudiments.

Drum rudiments are often described as the basic building blocks of learning how to play the drums. There are 40 essential rudiments, each of which consist of a unique sticking pattern (coordination of right and left hands) and distinct rhythm. Mastering all 40 rudiments provides you with a wealth of control and rhythmic knowledge that you can then apply to the entire drum set.

Don’t be intimidated about learning all 40 rudiments right away. Here’s a step-by-step video to help you learn the seven essential drum rudiments. As a beginner, these seven drum rudiments will give you a solid foundation and help you learn to play basic drum patterns and songs.

How to Read Drum Sheet Music

Drummers are encouraged to learn how to read drum notation. Many drummers are also expected to know how to read sheet music, as it’s a requirement of school concert bands, marching bands, jazz bands, and many professional ensembles. When you understand drum sheet music, it can be used as a drummer’s secret weapon.

Drum notation is a fairly simply code and once you understand the basics it becomes easy to apply that knowledge to more advanced concepts. It’s important for beginning drummers to start with reading very basic drum rhythms before trying to jump into understanding intermediate drum beats.

Start Out Simple

For example, begin with exercises that use a combination of quarter notes and quarter rests with all notes being played on only one drum. Read rhythmic exercises out loud before trying to play them on the drums, because it strengthens the connection between your brain and limbs and it mentally prepares you for the exercise ahead.

Reading the exercise before playing it also allows you to locate any challenging rhythms and work them out ahead of time. Once you have read the rhythm out loud, it’s time to play!

With beginning rhythms, you should focus only on the coordination of your left and right hands (no feet yet) and ensure that you’re playing in time with a metronome. This lesson introduces basic drum notation in a clear and easy-to-understand fashion. The accompanying audio clips are also extremely helpful.

Get the Rhythms Down

Regardless of your skill level, we strongly suggest beginning your practice routine with basic rhythmic exercises involving just your hands on one playing surface. This will help you improve your coordination and timing, and mentally prepare you for more difficult exercises.

Once you’ve learned how to read and play rhythms on one drum, it’s time to add another playing surface. Still focusing on only the hands, start to play patterns that involve the left hand playing one rhythm while the right hand plays another. Most drum beats involve at least three different playing surfaces, but beginners should focus on just the snare and cymbal.

When you can accurately play exercises that involve two different rhythms with the hands, then it’s time to add the feet. First add your kick drum foot, working on exercises that focus on coordination between both hands and your kick drum foot.

Coordinate the Limbs

If you’re having trouble coordinating all three limbs, break the exercise down so that you’re only focusing on two limbs at a time. Make sure that you’re comfortable with each limb combination before trying to put all three together again.

Eventually, you’ll also want to start working your fourth limb, the hi-hat pedal foot. Like the other limbs, start with very basic exercises that coordinate all four limbs before trying to learn more advanced drum beats.

Be aware that drum notation for the full drum set is much more challenging to read than snare drum notation because there are many more drums/cymbals involved.

How to Read Drum Tabs

Drum tabs are different from sheet music because they’re written specifically for the instrument. They use the parts of the drum set that we talked about earlier. Drum tabs use abbreviations for the drum parts, for example:

  • CC – Crash Cymbal
  • HH – Hi-Hat
  • Rd – Ride Cymbal
  • SN – Snare
  • T1 – Hi Tom
  • T2 – Low tom
  • FT – Floor Tom
  • B – Bass Drum
  • HF – Hi-Hat (with foot)
  • O – Bass Drum hits
  • X – Snare and Hi-Hat hits

Here’s an example of this practice in the “two and four” beat from this article about easy drum beats for beginners. The drum tabs appear as follows:

  • HH: X X X X
  • SN: X X
  • B: O O

Here’s another example from the “boom, boom, clap” beat:

  • HH: X X X X
  • SN: X X
  • B: O O O O

These drum tabs show you which parts of the kit to use (hi-hat, snare, and bass) and when to play them. You can learn more about drum tabs in this beginner’s guide to drum tabs.

How to Play Drums for Beginners

Once you’ve got a pair of a drum sticks, a playing surface, and practice materials (rudiments, sheet music exercises), it’s time to hit the woodshed! Like any other skill, good practice habits are the key to becoming better at your craft!

Start out practicing with these essential drum beats and these easy drum songs for beginners. Another great way to learn how to play the drums is to practice along with your favorite songs.

While practicing, it’s very important to check in and make sure you’re using proper techniques. For example, ask yourself, “Am I holding the sticks correctly?” or “Am I playing this rudiment correctly?” If you forget some of the skills you’ve learned, make sure to ask your drum instructor — plus, you can always check back here to review the basics!

Good luck on your drumming journey and remember to have fun along the way!

Maegan-W Post Author: John S.
John S. is a drum and percussion instructor in Saint Paul, MN. A full-time musician and teacher, he performs with two different bands and teaches in-home and in-studio lessons. Learn more about John here!

Photos by Brandon Nguyen, Vladimir Morozov, Maxime Seguin, Jeremy Wright, Edwin M Escobar

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7 Essential Drum Rudiments [Video]

Practicing drum rudiments is essential for all drummers, especially if you’re just starting out.

Mastering your drum rudiments will help take your skills to the next level, and in this tutorial you’ll learn how to play seven of them.

These seven drum rudiments are a starting point, and you should learn them before attempting to perform all the other rudiments.

The 7 Essential Drum Rudiments

In the video below, you’ll learn the following necessary drum rudiments:

  • The single-stroke roll,
  • multiple-bounce (buzz/press) roll,
  • double-stroke open roll,
  • five stroke-roll,
  • single paradiddle,
  • flam, and
  • drag.

After watching, practice each of these drum rudiments open (slow), to close (fast), and back to open. You can also set the playback on the video to slower speed, so you can follow along at your own pace until you get the hang of it.

*NOTE: There is a tipping point in double strokes that shifts from muscular-control dominant to rebound dominant as the tempo increases, so practice these as prescribed to build more control.

Now grab your drum sticks and let’s start practicing these essential drum rudiments!

RELATED: The Complete Guide for How to Play the Drums

As you practice these rudiments, you can also follow along with the drum sheet music below.

Try out these drum rudiments in the order they appear on the sheet for the most efficient practice.

drum rudiments

Why You Should Practice Drum Rudiments

Drum rudiments are like words in a drummer’s vocabulary. In essence, rudiments are drum patterns that you can use for drills or warm-ups, or develop into more complex drum beats.

These drum patterns have been fleshed out from the “standard” 26, to the 40 Percussive Arts Society’s Official Drum Rudiments.

So after you master the seven in this tutorial, you can have fun learning even more stick-twisting (and oddly-named) hybrid rudiments.

Drum rudiments are your foundation as a drummer, and all of these rudiments will help you develop finesse. Which drum rudiments are you going to tackle next? Are there any you find particularly challenging?

Let us know in the comments below!

TracyDPost Author: Tracy D.
Tracy D. teaches drum lessons in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She 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 Travis Isaacs

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5 More Easy Drum Beats for Beginners

5 More Easy Drum Beats for Beginners

Looking for some easy drum beats to get you started? We’ve got you covered!

Believe it or not, simple drum beats are often the most effective. Basic drum beats don’t distract the listener from the music, so they’re not only crowd favorites but band favorites as well!

Before you can learn these 5 drum patterns, you’ll need to check out the drum key below.

  • Top line x = hi-hat or ride cymbal
  • Middle line x = snare
  • Bottom line o = bass drum

Are you ready to start jamming? Let’s get to it!

5 Simple Drum Beats for Beginners

1. The “Two and Four” Drum Beat

1 2 3 4
x x x x
x x
o o

This is the first of many drum patterns that students learn, and it comes fairly naturally. The snare falls on the two and four (this is also called the backbeat). The bass drum fills in on the one and three, while the hi-hat or ride cymbal falls on all four beats.

This simple drum beat can be played to almost any song on the radio, as well as many more complex songs. The trick is to stay in the pocket and play with precision and enthusiasm. Listen to the music and try to add to the feel and power.

The most classic example of this beat is in “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. Many AC/DC songs use this beat, too. You’ll notice that even the same simple beat can sound very different depending on the song.

SEE ALSO: How to Read Drum Sheet Music

2. “Four on the Floor”

1 2 3 4
x x x x
x x
o o o o

This beat is like the two and four, except you play the bass drum on all four beats. Your hi-hat or ride cymbal lines up directly with the bass drum on all four beats. The snare or backbeat still falls on the two and four.

To make this beat sound clean and powerful, make sure there’s no flaming. Flaming is where one strike falls just before or after another. You want the beats to line up perfectly for a nice, fat sound.

Practice this with a metronome first. Start really slow so you can train your muscles and your ears. You can do this at speeds as slow as 45 beats per minute (bpm).

As you progress, increase your speed by five bpm at a time. When you work your way up to 120 bpm, you’re ready to play this drum pattern with music.

3. “One Drop”

1eta 2 ta 3eta 4
x *** x ** x*** x
o o o o

Notice how all of these easy drum beats have numbers in their titles? That’s because drumming always comes back to counting, especially when you’re learning a new beat or song.

This drum beat is very common in reggae music. It’s also the most common way to play a half-time feel. Simply move the snare hit to the three. Don’t play the two and four on the snare in this beat, just the three.

This will create an illusion of a slow tempo, but it fits into the music at the same speed. You can play this drum fill with various bass drum and cymbal or hi-hat patterns. Most common is a “four on the floor” bass drum pattern, with a skipping-type hat pattern.

When you play this beat, play your crashes on the “a” of four with a snare hit instead of a bass hit. Most crashes/accents fall on the one and the cymbal lands with the bass drum.

4. “Boom Boom Clap”

1 + 2 3 + 4
x x x x
x x
o o o o

There are many simple drum beats but this one is perhaps the most recognizable. It’s in thousands of songs including Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Again, this can sound different depending on which music you play it with.

This fill is the same as the “two and four” beat, except we add a bass drum hit on the “+” of one and the “+” of three.

The snare stays on the two and four, and the hi-hat can be played on the quarter notes (1 2 3 4), or on the 8th notes (1+2+3+4+). This drum beat comes in handy when you want to play a simple, powerful beat that will get the crowd pumped up.

Remember, however, you can still use this beat if you’re playing something mellow and smooth. All you have to do is lighten up your dynamics. Play it soft and slow and it becomes an entirely different groove.

This beat sounds just like it’s name, “boom boom clap.” Make sure to let this beat breath by giving each note and each rest full space. This beat may be simple, but in order for it to work well, it must be played in time.

RELATED: How to Play Drums for Beginners

5. “Boom Clap Boom Boom”

1 2 + 3 4
x x x x
x x
o o o

For this beat, play the snare on the two and four, the hi-hat or ride on the 8th notes (1+ 2+ 3+ 4+), and the bass drum on the one, the “+” of two, and the three.

Remember, in order for this beat to sound impressive and professional, play it without flaming, play it with authority, and play it with pride. If you play these easy drum beats like they’re boring, people will pick up on that vibe.

If you have a blast while you play, then everyone else will, too! As drummers, it’s our responsibility to set the tone. It’s not what you play; it’s how you play it.

Once you’ve practiced each of these simple drum beats, go ahead and try these easy drum songs for beginners.

Let us know what you think of these drum patterns. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Need some help getting started? Search for a drum teacher today!

Post Author: Maegan W.
Maegan W. teaches the drums 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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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.

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.


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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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Reading Drum Sheet Music | 5 Tricks to Remember

2620170206_8bdb56da66_oLearning how to read drum music can be challenging, but there are a few tricks that will help you coordinate all the information contained in drum set notation.

While it is possible to be a good drummer without knowing how to read music, the ability to read will open up worlds of opportunities to the musician! You can learn from any book, compose your own pieces or exercises, and transcribe the works of your favorite artists.

Reading drum music is power! Are you ready to get started? Here are six tips for learning how to read drum sheet music.

How to Read Drum Music: 6 Tips

Fist, let’s take a look at the rhythm staff:

(Source: Dave Clark Drums)

This is the standard notation. Occasionally, you may see a staff with the snare on the center line, but that is fairly rare. Most likely, you will begin by reading drum music that contains only the snare, kick (bass), and hi-hats.

Now, let’s begin the process of decoding it all. In the grooves below, the time signature is 4/4 (four beats, quarter note gets the beat). They are counted as 1 2 3 4.

The hi-hats are written as 8th notes (eight to a measure) and that is a subdivision. They are counted as 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. (Each line below “says” the same thing, but it is a good comparison for common variations in notation).

Each groove is two measures, separated by a “bar line.” Line A contains rests, quarter, and 8th, respectively, and they indicate silence for that duration.


Look for the parts on the staff that line up directly. Hi-hats and bass? Snare and hats? These will help ground your interpretation of the music.

The limbs required for those voices will hit together. In the first measure of each groove, the bass plays beats 1 and 3, and the snare plays beats 2 and 4. They line up with the hats.

Source: John Hinchey


Another important part of learning how to read drum sheet music is observing the voices that change in the groove.

Which voices do not change? Here, the hi-hats never change, so you do not have to busy your eyes (and brain) with continuous reading of those figures.

Notice that the snare is always on 2 and 4 as well. You will quickly be able to move those to auto-pilot and concentrate on reading the bass part, because it is the only voice that changes. Nice shortcut, huh?

SEE ALSO: How to Play Drums for Beginners


If you run into a tricky pattern within a measure, isolate that part and work it out before putting it back into the whole.

For example, the first few beats of measure 2 may be challenging at first. Those are your target beats.


Be sure to count as you’re learning how to read drum music! There is nothing better for correct note placement.

In these grooves, the 8th note is the smallest subdivision that the drums, which are the main voices, represent. Remember: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & – if you can say it, you can play it.


If getting all your limbs to cooperate is a challenge, start off with the hi-hats, and add the snare or bass (whichever is easier). Get a solid feel with those first.

Then add the other parts until you are comfortable with the feel.

Now you know how to read drum music! This ability will always serve you well.

Remember to look for your anchors, notice which parts do or do not change, isolate trouble spots, count as you play, and add or subtract voices until you can play them all.

These tips should streamline the learning process and make it more enjoyable. Don’t forget to practice, practice, practice!


Post Author: Tracy D. teaches percussion in Edmond, OK, as well as online. She has been playing the drums in various bands for more than 13 years, and has also played intermittently with the OKC Community Orchestra. Learn more about Tracy here! 



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Photo by Cikd