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How to Play Drums

On top of wondering, “How do you play the drums?” you may be asking questions like, “What are some easy drum songs?” or, “How can I learn to play with a band?” This guide will get you pointed in the right direction!

How to Learn Drums for Beginners

Like most tasks in life, the first steps are often the most challenging. Just by finding this guide, you’ve demonstrated that you have an interest in playing the drums and a determination to learn more about them. Your enthusiasm for the drum set will be what motivates you to put in the practice and reach your full potential as a drummer, even if you’ve never touched a pair of sticks before.

Parts of a Drum Kit

Some of us started our foray into percussion by banging on pots and pans in our parents’ kitchen. Others may be proficient finger-drummers, grooving on tabletops and steering wheels. At some point or another on our rhythmic journey, we get interested in sitting behind a drum kit of our own.

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.


Bass 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 your favorite 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.


Toms, Hi-Hat, and Cymbals

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.

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.

How to Hold Drum Sticks

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.
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.

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