Tap to Read ➤

How to Play the Drums

To be able to play drums the right way, you need to get the basics about rhythm and bass right. Let's see the basics and some of the advanced techniques that are used in drumming.
Stephen Rampur Jun 6, 2019
Drumming, for the most part, has to be stimulated than learned. It is just a matter of how well you can manage to set your mind into four different controls to maintain the rhythm using legs and hands. - Stephen Rampur
Drums are one of the most versatile musical instrument. These instruments comprise the very base and driving force of a rhythmic song.
A person who plays the drums is referred to as a 'drummer', and those who excel in other additional rhythm and beat instruments, are known as 'percussionists'.
For those interested in playing drums, it would be better if they first understood the role that a drummer plays when working with other musicians. The drummer and the bass guitarist are considered as members of the rhythm section, responsible to back tempos and rhythm of music.

Understanding the Rhythm

A drummer inevitably needs to be extremely particular with the rhythmic patterns, as well as be open to variations in drumming styles. Many start out with a lot of enthusiasm and passion for drums, but end up as awful non-rhythmic musicians. The main reason for this is the lack of a rhythm and beat patterns.
To become a good drummer, you need to first study counting the number of beats in a specific bar. A bar has a certain number of beats which are to be included in any musical piece in rhythm. Generally, one bar consists of four beats or counts. It may even consist of three counts in some cases.

Common Parts of a Drum Kit

The most common and basic parts of a drum kit are the bass drum, snare, rack toms, floor tom, hi-hats or chokes, cymbals, and the throne. The bass drum is one that is kept on the floor and which holds the toms.
When you press the bass pedal onto the bass drum, the drum produces the lowest sound in the set. This sound is used for the primary beat in a particular rhythm. Next comes the snare, which is also a main part of any beat and rhythm.
In case of a right-handed drummer, the snare is kept on the inside of the left leg, just close to the bass drum. Hitting the snare produces a sharp sound, which can be used for accompanying the sound of the bass drum in rhythm.
Just above the bass drum are two toms in a standard kit. These rack toms are used for rolls at the end of a bar, and have a lower sound than that of the snare. Note that toms of different sizes have different sounds.
A beginner drum kit generally has two toms, collectively referred to as 'tom toms'. On the right hand side of a right-handed drummer, is the floor tom which has a comparatively lower sound than the toms, but not lower than that of the bass drum.
This drum is also used for rolls and fillings in a rhythm. The cymbals are also important parts of any drum set. The main set of cymbals are the 'hi-hats', sometimes known as 'chokes'.
The hi-hats have a pedal to produce a 'closed' or 'open' sound of the hits in a running rhythm. There are other cymbals that are positioned on stands around the drum kit. The cymbals are to be hit at the end of the bar, that is, after hitting the roll. Generally, a cymbal hit is the start of a new bar.

How to Tune a Drum Set

Many misconceptions revolve around the possibility of tuning a drum set. The fact is that, it certainly can be tuned according to the type of music you want to play. Starting with the snare drum, it needs to be tuned to the highest note in the set.
You will have to use a tuning key to tighten or loosen the lugs on the rim of the snare. Initially, tighten the lugs roughly. This is to set the snare for accurate tuning later.
Tune a particular lug, and then move on to one that is right opposite to it on the rim. This will allow equal pressure on the heads. Maintain this pattern throughout all lugs, and then move on to the bottom head. Note that the bottom head has to be tightened a bit more than the top one.
Here, you need to use the same pattern as that used for tightening the lugs. Now it's time to check the tuning of the snare, and you can do that by hitting the head region next to one particular lug and checking its tune as you tighten or loosen the lug.
Do this to all lugs, and finally check the overall sound. Moving on to the tom toms, you need to use the same procedure of tuning. The only difference is that, you may not have to worry about tuning the bottom head of the toms.
Note that the tom toms are tuned lower to the sound of the snare. The first tom, that is right above the snare has to be tuned lower than the snare. And the other tom has to be tuned to a sound lower than the first one.
Coming to the floor drum, it has to be tuned lower to the sound of the second tom, but higher than the bass drum. You can keep the cymbals anywhere you want as per your convenience. However, the standard is that the ride cymbal is kept on the right side, next to the floor drum and second tom.
Whereas, the crash cymbal is placed on the left side, next to the first tom. This is all about the placement of drums and how to tune each of its components. Let us now move on to drumming lessons that every aspiring drummer should know, they are hard and soft drumming.

Hard Drumming and Soft Drumming

As the name suggests, hard drumming is associated with hitting the drums and cymbals hard, but in rhythm. On the other hand, soft drumming is right opposite. Here, you have to soften the way you hit the drums and cymbals. These variations need to be done according to the intensity of music you are playing with.
You also need to choose hard or soft drumming according to the type of setting you are playing in. If you are playing drums in an apartment, keep it soft. Same goes with playing drums in church, where you need to consider the audience and the type of music.

Rhythm and Tempo - The Difference

A good drummer knows that rhythm is not the same as tempo. Many drummers falter due to this misconception. Rhythm is how the beats are played, whereas tempo is how fast or slow the beats are played.
Beats such as waltz, march, or blues are rhythms, but Beats Per Minutes (BMP) is the tempo. You can keep a steady rhythm while changing the tempo, or vice versa. Perfecting this style helps in executing complicated drumming techniques easily.

Tips on Playing the Drums

It is just a matter of understanding the basics of beats and rhythms. If you want to become a proficient drummer, it is important that you have the natural ability to count rhythmic beats in your mind. Another important prerequisite is to have the willingness to try out different beats and learn all by yourself.
The first step is to hold the drumsticks in a relaxed manner and with a proper grip. This will help you move your hands over the drum kit freely. Keeping the 'bar' in mind, start counting.
The counting should be done in a 'one to four' format and in a proper tempo. While you count the 1-2-3-4 beats individually; with your right hand, hit the hi-hats on the exact counting. Now, move on to hitting the snare with your left hand.
Remember that, in a bar of four counts, the chokes have to be hit on all four counts, whereas the snare on alternate counts. For example, the hi-hats are hit on 1-2-3-4 counts, and the snare is to be hit on only 2-4 counts. Once you get a steady rhythm in this format, you need to add the bass drum, without disturbing the rhythm and tempo.
Here, the pedal on the kick drum has to be pressed on the 1 and 3 counts in a four count bar. So every bar played should consist of four hits on the chokes, two hits on the snare, and two hits on the bass drum.
Play four bars with the combination, and then hit the roll. The roll has to be hit on the ending of a last bar in the total of four bars. You can do innumerable variations when going in for the rolls. You can include either the snare, toms, floor drum, or a blend of them all.
It is a good idea to keep the bass drum beat going on with every individual count while hitting the roll. This is a proper drumming technique that certainly helps in maintaining tempo accurately.
You need to practice a lot to increase your drumming speed on the kit. Besides, you even need to be well aware of the drum setup. First start with a simple beat and a normal tempo. Play the beat for a while until you warm up, and then increase the tempo gradually.
You need to experiment with a wide range of beats, rhythms, rolls, fills, breaks, and variations. Playing in such a manner will also increase your stamina of playing drums. Experimenting with rhythmic concepts is essential for becoming a good drummer. The same is discussed further section.

Experimenting with Different Grooves and Rhythms

Drumming is not just a matter of playing beats and rhythms on the drums only. You need to try out and invent new styles and rhythmic patterns by playing drums on keyboard as well. After you get a new rhythm, put it to practice on the kit.
You may even think about playing drums on the computer by using an appropriate drum software. Playing drums online is yet another good way to come up with different unique beats for further improvisations.

Developing Interest and Enthusiasm in Drumming

When it comes to drumming, inspiration and motivation are as important as learning the basics and practicing. You need to retain and increase your interest in the skill and get to know as much as possible about the best drummers of all time, their trademark playing styles, their sets and cymbals, and many other things.
In order to increase your interest and skill, you can watch instructional videos of famous drummers. You can even think about attending music festivals and drum clinics for that matter. Try to imitate the rhythms and variations of popular drummers you listen to.
Keep these few tips and tricks in mind while drumming and rest assured you will see yourself transform into a good drummer. One useful tip to perform well on the drums is to think about yourself as your favorite drummer and bang on.