We live in an amazing time, where you can find information on just about anything in seconds. For a beginner drummer, this is both a blessing and a curse. You can find videos, lessons, articles and even sheet music from all over the internet. But how do you know what things beginner drummers should practice?
The problem is, when you’re a beginner it’s difficult to connect the dots on your own. How do you know if a particular lesson or topic is appropriate for your skill level? How do you know what bases to cover and where to start? How do you practice effectively, to ensure you keep progressing?
Even if you are able to learn a few things on your own, you won’t necessarily know what you’re missing out on. This is where a good drum teacher comes in. But what if there are no drum teachers near you? What if you can’t afford to take lessons, or prefer learning on your own?
That is why I started Simpledrummer.com and why I’m writing this article for you now. I want to give you some extra guidance, to help you know that you’re covering all the right bases. Without further ado… this is my:
Checklist of 10 things beginner drummers should practice.
Your hands and their abilities with the drumsticks play a huge role in how you learn and progress on the drums. Starting from how you hold the sticks, right through to exercises that increase speed and dexterity, you should regularly practice stick technique. This is one of the most important things beginner drummers should practice on a regular basis.
Start every practice session with a warm-up. If you’re a beginner, this could be anywhere from 2-10 minutes spent playing slow and then at faster tempos. You can do this on the Snare Drum or a practice pad.
It takes time to train your hands to play steadily and evenly. If you spend a few minutes each day on any of the following patterns, your abilities with the sticks will grow along with the rest of your drumming.
You can also practice these exercises with the sticking reversed also that you start with your left hand.
By sticking to a discipline of warming up with stick technique, you are increasing your coordination and control of the drumsticks, every single day. That’s probably one of the simplest and most effective things beginner drummers should practice.
If you’d like more information about stick technique and how to hold the sticks properly, watch this video.
Counting is easily one of the most important yet overlooked things beginner drummers should practice. Almost any teacher would tell you to count when you play, but not every teacher explains why this is so important.
Playing the drums is all about keeping steady and accurate time. When you count, you know if you are correctly timing the notes that you play. If what you play isn’t correct, counting will reveal that to you.
I have met many drummers in my lesson room who make mistakes with their timing and are completely unaware of it. This is because their focus is on the notes they are playing and not on the underlying musical time.
There is another golden reason that makes counting so important and that is… mistake correction. Most drummers I’ve met are in the habit of stopping and restarting when they make a mistake. This is the wrong thing to do because it trains your inner drummer to come to a complete stop whenever a wrong note is played.
But, if you are counting out loud when you play, you can continue the timing and rhythm and correct what you play without having to stop all together. As a drummer, this is one of the most powerful skills to harness and king of the things beginner drummers should practice.
One other thing you should know is that counting is 1000x more effective when you SAY it. Don’t just think about it. Activate your voice. When you speak the words “1 and 2 and 3…, your mind, voice AND ears are engaged in it. That makes it waaaay more effective than the kind of counting that is merely a thought in your mind.
This is probably the area that drummers spend the most time practicing. It’s obvious that if you want to be a drummer, you need to learn some drum beats. There’s a lot more to your groove playing however, than the beat from your favorite song.
When you work on beat patterns you have the opportunity to deepen your rhythmic vocabulary, work on coordination and time-keeping at the same time. Here are some helpful suggestions I have for you in this area.
No matter what kind of beat you practice, you are always practicing to keep time. This is one of the most important things beginner drummers should understand. This means that counting out loud and beat playing go hand-in-hand. To keep good musical time, you need to count out loud along with any beat you practice.
Learn to play as many variations or examples of beat patterns as you can. You might look for a lesson that contains several beat patterns that are all related in some way. They might be based on a certain rhythm OR maybe a collection of beats from a song.
Try not to spend all your time playing beats you already know. The pursuit of new beat patterns and grooves is one of the most fun things beginner drummers should practice.
You can also learn to play many variations or examples of beat patterns but sometimes it’s nice to focus on each part of the beat. For example, you could learn a beat pattern with an interesting Bass Drum rhythm. Then learn something different that has a focus on the Snare Drum or an interesting Hi-Hat rhythm.
To be a good drummer, you must have some understanding of rhythms. You don’t have to go overboard on theory, but knowing some basic rhythms and what they sound like goes a long way to help you understand and make sense of the things you learn.
This is the case even if you don’t know how to read notation.
There are 4 basic rhythms that beginner drummers should get to know. Many other rhythms exist that are derived from these basics, so if you don’t know the basics, you will struggle with more advanced rhythms of course.
By understanding these basic rhythms, you are learning to build musical vocabulary. A drummer speaks in the language of rhythm. Knowing these basic rhythms inside and out will help you to understand and engage with music.
You also need to know your rhythms to better communicate with other musicians. If somebody you are jamming with asks you to play 1/16th notes and you don’t know what those are, then you won’t know what to do. Here is a theory cheat sheet, specifically made for beginner drummers.
Reading music is a most valuable tool. No, you don’t need to read notation in order to play the drums. You also don’t NEED a lighter to start a fire, you could just rub two sticks together for an hour… but you’re probably going to want that lighter to make things easier right?
In the same way that the lighter is a tool for you to light that fire quickly and easily, musical notation is a tool to help you learn content quickly and easily.
Reading skills don’t suddenly appear all in one day. You are absolutely not expected to be able to read from the get go. You should however, embrace it and don’t shy away from notation just because you’re not sure. It is one of the things beginner drummers should practice and simple exposure to it will help you learn.
Try to find some beginner lessons that feature notation in the videos or PDFs to download. Listen to the playing and compare what it sounds like, to what it looks like. Familiarize yourself with notation little by little and your reading skills will grow over time.
There is another major benefit to reading notation - it is far more reliable than your memory will ever be.
When you can read, you can sit down and play something that is notated without having to think too much. You simply play the notes that you see on the page. But if you are relying on your memory, you might be struggling to remember “how does that beat go again?” “Am I playing it correctly?” “Is that what it is supposed to sound like?”. When you can read notation, you eliminate all of that uncertainty.
For a simple and brief introduction to reading musical notation, watch this video.
Drum fills are an important area of drumming that needs study as well. It won’t be long before you need a little extra rhythm to break you out of that repeating beat pattern. Learning drum fills is a great way to explore and deepen your knowledge of basic rhythms too.
Drum fills are rhythms that a drummer plays when they break away from a beat pattern.
These rhythms are most often heard at the end of a section in a song, but drum fills can be played anytime in music. They are important things beginner drummers should practice because they get you jumping in and out of a groove pattern and practicing more musically.
Beware however, of unnecessary epic-ness. Drum fills are often where drummers can let loose for a brief moment and get crazy with rhythms. Many lesson videos on YouTube will show you monstrously epic fills that are too difficult for a beginner.
Although tempting, I would steer clear of these monster fills as they are not the most effective use of your practice time. Epic drum fills are not one of the things beginner drummers should practice, but a handful of easy and simple fills is.
It’s a better idea to look for simple drum fills and rhythms that are easy to play. Practice them with the beats you already know. When you play a drum fill, you are still keeping time and should be able to count through it as well.
Rudiments are important to learn as any drum teacher will tell you. There are 40 standard rudiments but many of them, however, are not suitable for beginners. Some rudiments have an entire category based on them. For example, there is a category of “Flam rudiments”, so start by learning to play Flams before checking out any other rudiments in that category.
The following are the basic rudiments that beginners should look into and learn:
Rudiments give you greater control over the sticks, more expression and dynamics in your drumming.
Basic rudiments are one of the things beginner drummers should practice. Knowing all 40 rudiments however, is not. There are far more important things beginner drummers should practice rather than advanced rudiments.
Learning a simple song is a great way to apply the things you learn on the drums and gain musical experience. It’s also a good mixture of things beginner drummers should practice all in one song.
When you learn a song you are usually presented with a variety of challenges. There’s a beat pattern or two, drum fills, crashes and other parts to learn.
Once you have learned and practiced the parts, the next step is to fit them to the music. This means that you have to balance your listening between your own drumming and the music. Practicing along to music helps you to further internalize the drumming parts you’ve learned and sharpens your awareness and listening to the other parts of the music.
You don’t have to be a skilled drummer to start learning songs. There are many simple songs that are easy to play and suitable for beginner drummers. Make it a side project in your practice to learn at least one simple song each month.
When you learn a song, you need to learn how it is structured in order to perform it. This means you need to identify the various sections like verses, choruses, bridge, solos, intros and outros.
You don’t get that kind of knowledge from practicing rudiments and beat patterns.
The more you learn to play songs and grow a “repertoire”, the greater your musical intuition and understanding becomes. This kind of musical experience only comes from learning songs and it is absolutely one of the most important things beginner drummers should practice.
Check out our list of songs for beginner drummers to learn and practice.
As I’m sure you have already witnessed, coordination is a big part of drumming and one of the technical things beginner drummers should always practice. You already encounter and work on this when you learn beat patterns. It’s a good idea to dedicate some of your practice time specifically to hand foot coordination by playing exercises that are not beat patterns.
Working on a simple drill that gets your hands and feet playing together or independently is a great way to get started. My students and I often alternate between sticking exercises and coordination exercises as our warm-up, each time we practice together. Working on coordination is a great way to warm-up with and one of the things beginner drummers should practice on a regular basis.
Dedicate 2-10 minutes to hand/foot coordination regularly and it will give you more capability. This will give you greater independence skills and make it easier to learn more complex beat patterns later on.
And finally… jamming music! That’s right! You don’t need to be a stellar drummer to have some fun playing with family and friends. As long as you can keep a steady beat, you can have a great time playing music with other people.
That’s literally all it takes!
It’s also the most fun experience you can have on the drums and gives all of your practicing and everything you work hard on, more purpose and meaning.
When you play music with other people, you are relying on your knowledge and instincts. You might have enough skills to play some songs or maybe just keep the beat while your friend jams along to it. Anything is possible when it comes to playing music and it is a thrill. Often you will have a fun time and make solid friendships along the way.
I want you to know however, that sometimes you might feel like you failed. Sometimes your timing might be off, or everyone else might be better at their instrument than you are on the drums. These things are part of the journey and necessary. You have to make these kinds of mistakes in order to learn how to be better the next time.
Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from jamming with others when you have the opportunity.
When you jam with others, you gain a special kind of musical experience that you only get from playing music with other people. The more you do this in the beginning, the more confident you will be on the drums and as a musician.
Plus, the more fun you will have along the way on your musical journey.
As a general rule of thumb, anytime someone asks you to jam, say yes. You will always have experience to gain and nothing to lose. This is by far one of the best things beginner drummers should practice.
So that wraps it up.
Keep in mind that while some of the suggestions above are not things beginner drummers should practice every day… they should be a part of your learning and progress on the drums at some point, even at a beginner level. The more you can regularly integrate these things into your practice, the more well-rounded and skilled you will be as a drummer and musician.
Hopefully this list will help you to cover all the bases and make sure that you’re not missing out on anything in your learning and practice. Thanks a lot for reading and best of luck in your drumming journey.
My name is Kevin Mendes and I am a drummer based in Toronto, Canada. Sitting behind a drum kit and playing music with others is my favorite thing to do in life.
I love to play but I also have a passion for teaching, which is why I started Simpledrummer.com. I love to share my own knowledge of drumming with people all over the world. It has given me a lasting sense of purpose and fulfillment in my life, which I am grateful for.
AboutDrumming.com is run by a group of drum teachers, drumming professionals and hobbyists. We love all things drums, and when not drumming we spend our time adding more awesome content to this website!