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3 Drum Warm-Up Exercises for Practice or a Gig

May 23, 2018

3 Drum Warm-Up Exercises for Practice or a Gig

When you’re learning drums, it’s important to get in the right mindset before a lesson or practice. These drum warm-up routines from San Diego, CA teacher Maegan W. will help you focus, and get your body ready to play… 

The way you warm up effects the way you play. A good drum warm-up routine will keep you in shape and help you keep your skills up to speed. It will help you focus your mind, and prepare your body for an effective practice or a killer show. There are many different drum warm-up exercises, but I will share a few of my favorites. Not only will these exercises help you improve your playing, they are also easily adaptable as beats and fills.

To begin, I always stretch out my body. I usually focus on my shoulders, arms, wrists, back, and legs. I just do some gentle twists and bends to help the blood flow.

Now let’s get to the exercises.

1. Crazy 8s

This is something I saw Jojo Mayer do, and it has really helped me to improve my playing and speed. I try to do this drum warm-up everyday, but at the very least, I always do it before I play.

  1. Start with your right hand only. Play in counts of 8: R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R (that’s one). Repeat this 100 times. This will be a total of 800 strokes. This may seem like a lot, but it goes a lot quicker than you think.
  2. Repeat this with your left hand: L-L-L-L-L-L-L-L (100 times)
  3. After you have done this with each hand, alternate using both hands: R-L-R-L-R-L-R-L

This exercise is great because it forces your body to switch muscle groups, and it builds endurance and focus. It also helps you practice counting multiple ideas at once.

2. Rudiment Warm-Up

Another one of my go-to warm-up exercises is to go through the five basic rudiments in different exercises. This is effective to build focus, time and space, and dexterity.

We will take each of the five rudiments through this timing exercise. We will move from quarter notes, to eighth notes, to sixteenth notes without stopping in between. Here is what it looks like with the different patterns. Play each subdivision twice, then loop the entire pattern.

1. Single stroke – Right hand lead = R-L-R-L

1 2 3 4  1 2 3 4 (quarter notes)

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + (eighth notes)

1 e t a 2 e t a 3 e t a 4 e t a 1 e t a 2 e t a 3 e t a 4 e t a (sixteenth notes)
r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l

2) L-R-L-R = Single stroke – Left hand lead
c) R-R-L-L = Double stroke – Right hand lead
d) L-L-R-R = Double stroke – Left hand lead
e) R-L-R-R  L-R-L-L = Paradiddle

Play these with your metronome to keep everything in time, and keep your bass drum playing the quarter note pulse. Start slow, and gradually build speed.

3. Speed Warm-Up

This is a great drum warm-up for dynamics and speed. Pick a beat that you will play during practice or a show. Play it quietly, in slow motion. Do this for a couple minutes. Then, maintain the slow tempo while you gradually increase the volume.

Once you reach your maximum dynamic level, start to increase your tempo. Once you reach your maximum tempo, gradually bring the dynamic level back down, and maintain your top speed. This is a tough exercise, but it’s great to help you learn control. Try this with rudiments, fills, and beats.

The great thing about these exercises is that they’re adaptable. You can do a long drum warm-up or a short one, depending on your mood or how much time you have. You can focus on just one, or you can do all three. Either way, you will notice a huge difference in your playing and how you feel. Your body, fans, and band mates will thank you.

When you do these exercises before practice or a gig, you won’t need a full song to get in the zone, instead, you’ll be on point from the very first note you play.

Until next time, happy drumming!

Want to learn more ways to warm-up and improve at the drums? Taking lessons with a private instructor is a great way to get customized and personalized help on your way to becoming a drumming superstar! Sign up with a drum teacher 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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Maile Proctor