Drums are some of the most popular musical instruments in the world. It’s not that difficult to learn how to play drums as the basic skills are quite simple to master. There are many different kinds of drums for sale, from traditional African drums to an electronic drum kit. If you can count to four, then you can play the drums. Let me show you how.
Part 1 Learning Rhythm
Start learning to drum with your hands – When I started out drumming, all I wanted to do was hit as many things as possible. As a beginner you need to focus in on one drum at a time. In the very beginning, don’t even use a drum. Use your hands and tops of your thighs in a seated position to learn basic drum-kit rhythms. Before you put any money into this, just play on your body and get an understanding of how rhythm works.
Learn to count quarter notes – There are many way to break down a musical bar. To start, we will use the 4/4 time signature. A quarter note is one of these beats (four quarter notes make up a whole bar of music). Basically we are saying that there are four beats in a bar…your basic 1,2,3,4. Count out loud in the beginning. This is where you might want to buy a metronome.
Learn to count eighth notes – An eighth note is essentially two quarter notes. So the eighth notes will be timed like this:”1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and…” so two eighth notes are in one quarter note. Take the same beat as above (1,2,3,4) and then use your other hand to fill a quarter note with two eighth notes to the same beat. So you should be tapping eight times during a 4/4 timed musical bar.
Work in your other hand – Keep a beat going with your first hand, counting out eighth notes out loud. Now, whenever you say “Two” and “Four,” tap the table or the top of your thigh with your other hand. This fills in where you’ll be hitting the snare when you sit behind a real kit.
Work in the downbeat – Keep tapping with both hands, now whenever you say “One” or “Three”, tap your right (or left) foot. This is your basic downbeat. This is what you will be doing to the bass drum.
Now that you have learned your first drum beat. We can move onto the kit.
Part 2 Getting Familiar with the Musical Instruments
Get familiar with the basic drum kit – Drum kits are made up of a wide assortment of drums and accessories that all make a difference in the sound of the kit. Your basic drums for sale are made up of four parts. A bass drum which is the big, deep sounding, drum that is operated with a kick pedal. A snare drum, which is normally on the non-dominant side of the drummer. This gives the crisp “click” sound. The tom-tom drums. The cymbals. Which come in a wide variety of shapes and sounds. These are normally located on the cymbal stands that sit above the drummer’s shoulder line.
Get comfortable holding the drum sticks – There are two main ways to hold drum sticks. These are the matched and traditional grip styles. Matched is when you hold the sticks between the thumb and index finger. Traditional is when you cradle the stick between the thumb and index finger. Allowing for more bounce. Matched is the most common way of holding sticks and allows you plenty of wrist control and comfort.
Learn to sit at the kit with the proper posture. Good posture behind a drum kit will reduce fatigue and make you sound better. You should always Sit up straight and keep your elbows in. Stay as close to the kit as possible whilst keeping the floor pedals at a comfortable distance from you.
You should now have a better understanding of what a drum kit is. Now we can start with something a bit more difficult.
Part 3 Learning Limb Independence
Learn your snare drum rudiments. The basic “single” stroke and a “double” stroke are absolutely essential to developing your limb independence and drumming skill. A single stroke is when you hit the snare once. A double stroke is when you hit the snare once and then let the stick bounce up and hit the snare again. If you alternate your double strikes between each hand, then you are able to perform very fast rolls and patterns. This is how a drum roll is achieved for example. You also get triple and quadruple stroke patterns, but those are for the more advanced players.
Incorporate both feet. This is the crux of drumming. This is where your multi-tasking skills will come into play. Your feet need to be able to move independently of your hands and each other. To start practicing this you can start by counting the same beat you’ve been using so far with eighth notes, and on every beat close the hi-hat with your left foot and open it on the offbeats (explained above). Hit the snare drum on the twos and fours to make a basic rock beat. With your right hand keep eighth note time (one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and) on the rim of the snare or on a ride cymbal if you have one.
Try to play the kick drum with the right foot. Keep the rest of your body locked into the eighth timing beat we have been playing so far. Now take your right foot and experiment with the kick drum. Don’t forget to take your time. If you break it down into one beat at a time it makes things a lot easier.
Part 4 Learning More Complex Rhythms
Once you have mastered the quarter and eighth note on these rock-tastic musical instruments, you can move onto the triplet.
Triplets are not used that much in rock beats, but you will find them in drum fills and used in percussion lines found in school bands. Basically, a triplet is where you play 3 notes in the time you usually play 2. The speed at which you play the triplet will define what kind of triplet it is. I will explain these different kinds below:
8th triplets. These are quarter note fills. They are counted “[1-triplet][2-triplet][3-triplet][4-triplet]”. So we have three notes being played in one quarter note.
16th notes. 16th note triplets are counted [1 triplet and triplet] [2 triplet and triplet] [3 triplet and triplet] [4 triplet and triplet]. So this is double an eighth triplet. You are essentially playing six beats in one quarter note.
32nds. These notes should be counted “[1 e + a + e + a] [2 e + a + e + a] [3 e + a + e + a] [4 e + a + e + a]. The “e” represents your snare, “a” represents any other drum part. 32nd triplets require a lot of subdivision to count and are pretty much too fast to say out loud. If you want to hear these notes in action, then listen to “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix. These are quite challenging to play as they have to be played evenly and before the full note ends. You have to be quite fast to get this right.
Part 5 Playing Fills
The last main skill to learn when it comes to these musical instruments, the drums, is the fill. This is what you use to “fill” in between your main notes. These happen in time between the beats, usually on the toms and the cymbals.
Start with the basic beat. Play “1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +” and play as you did before with right hand on the hi-hat and left on the snare. Use the right foot on the kick drum. Repeat these as you warm up. Don’t play too fast. Start slowly and build up to it.
Continue counting out loud and just play “1 + 2 +” and then stop playing with your limbs and finish counting out loud “3 + 4 +”repeat. It should sound like “Boom tic Pap tic”. Now on the “3 + 4” do anything else, for example start with moving every limb at the same time on the “3 + 4 “. You can hit the crash (if you have one) on the “1” on the following bar and you will have pulled off your first fill.
Learn to hold back on fills. Fills are great for emphasis, but you don’t want to drown out the rest of the band. You can’t solo the entire song or all you will hear are the drums. Use your fills wisely!
With these basic skills, you can play everything from African drums to an electronic drum kit. They may look very different or use different accessories, but all have the same basic rhythms.