It can be tough to find songs to learn if you’re just starting out on drums. Music that’s too fast or complicated can be intimidating.
Here are 20 tunes in different styles to get you started. Each one has sheet music included, and some also have shorthand “road maps” that outline the form, hits and other important details in case you’re still learning to read drum notation.
You can get tutorials, play-along tracks, and other learning tools for all 20 of these songs – plus over 2000 more tunes – with a Drumeo membership!
BPM = 110
This classic hit from 1980 is tons of fun to play on drums. The key is to keep a solid and steady backbeat on the snare throughout the whole tune. The bass drum plays every quarter note, which is called “four-on-the-floor.”
The song begins with a “pickup” on the bass guitar, which means it enters just before the downbeat of the first measure when you’ll play your first note. The verses and the choruses have the same pattern, so just keep chugging along!
BPM = 84
Recorded in 1989 by Heartbreakers’ drummer Phil Jones, this drum part is simple, but creative and grooving. Try to align your bass drum notes with the bass player, especially the “and” of beat 2 in each measure.
Verse 4 has a marching-style groove on the snare while the bass drum plays the same rhythm and the hi-hat foot plays 8th notes. This can be a real challenge to get organized, so practice slowly at first and stick with it!
BPM = 93
You can really rock out to this one. After the 2-measure intro, the full groove kicks in and you play 8 measures of groove before the vocals enter. Make sure to match your hits with the band in measures 6 and 10, and try not to rush them.
Loosen your hi-hats for the choruses and make sure to nail those “Back in Black” hits with the vocals. This tune is over 4 minutes long, so try to keep the energy up the whole time.
BPM = 102
This beat is vintage Charlie Watts: relaxed and perfect for the song. The intro pattern has some snare syncopation that matches the guitar part. Start by practicing that with just your hands, then add your feet.
The verses have a straight backbeat, but also make sure to emphasize those moments where he opens the hi-hats. Even a slight change in texture can make a big difference. The choruses are a constant build, with 8th notes on the bass drum creating momentum.
BPM = 103
This drum part is one of the most inventive and brilliant things Ringo ever came up with. He could have just played a backbeat the whole time, but instead created a melodic pattern to match the lyrics and lock in with the rest of the band. Work on the verse groove on its own at first until you’ve got it down.
The key to this one is to keep counting, since the groove changes frequently (especially in the chorus). Notice how whenever we hear the lyrics “I know I’ll often stop and think about them,” the snare drops out.
BPM = 103
This is a groovy one. You might look at the hi-hat part in the verses and think “this is way too hard for me!” However, you don’t have to play exactly what’s written, and it’s okay to simplify at first.
The most important elements of the drum part are the “four-on-the-floor” bass drum and snare backbeat (there’s a snare hit on the “and” of beat 3 sometimes too). As long as you keep those solid, you’ll be on your way to nailing this one.
BPM = 87
This song has a relaxed, loose feel, but it’s important not to play too sloppy or slow down the beat. There are also a few important texture changes: the intro groove is played with loose hi-hats, while the verse groove is the same rhythm but with the hi-hats closed.
The chorus switches over to the ride for a more “open” feel and also has a more sparse and syncopated bass drum pattern. Try to make those transitions as smooth as possible.
BPM = 120
The groove on this one is rock-steady…because the original recording is not a real drummer! (It’s actually legendary David Letterman Show drummer Anton Fig playing a LinnDrum digital drum machine) But you can still have a blast grooving out to this one by locking your bass drum with the synthesizer part and trying to match the precision and consistency of the programmed drums.
Try to adapt your dynamics to each different part of the song. Play a little gentler in the verses when she’s singing, then bring the intensity up when the chorus kicks in.
BPM = 90
This is a great tune to work on your feel. There’s a lot of funky bass drum bounces and small snare notes that give this groove its flavor. However, it’s best to start by playing a solid backbeat and adding those flourishes and fills after you feel comfortable.
“The Thrill Is Gone” follows a standard blues form, which means there are 12 measures in each cycle. This form keeps repeating throughout the tune no matter what else is happening (singing, guitar solo, etc…). Keep listening and eventually you should be able to feel the cycle without counting every measure. You’ll often hear the drums do a fill in the 12th measure to signal that we’re back at the top.
BPM = 128
This drum pattern is like a freight train rolling down the tracks. Your hi-hat plays 8th notes, but it’s important to emphasize the quarter-note downbeats to get the feel just right. The snare also plays all four quarter notes, while the bass drum is more active and acts as the “melody” of this drum part.
Keep an eye out for the stops in bar 7 and 8 of each chorus. It’s easy to lose your place and blow right through these!
BPM = 119
This is Dave Grohl at his best. Notice how the bass drum part in the verse groove perfectly matches the guitar riff. Focus on playing together with the bassist. When you get to the pre-chorus, those snare drum fills that happen every other measure are your time to shine. Work on making a smooth transition between those fills and the groove without rushing or dragging.
This tune builds in intensity as it goes along, so make sure to save some energy for the big finish!
BPM = 120
“Gimme All Your Lovin’” is all about keeping your place in the form of the tune. The groove is a funky backbeat with the bass drum playing 4-on-the-floor, but there are a couple of sections with extra measures that are important for the drums.
The second chorus is a great example since it has a 2-bar “tag” or extra interlude to get us into the guitar solo. Make sure to keep counting the whole time! The tag happens again after Chorus 3, but this time it’s 4 bars instead of 2.
BPM = 118
Originally recorded in 1970, this CCR classic has a couple of important texture changes in the drum part. The intro section is a slightly unusual length (6 measures) and has some bass drum hits in bars 4 and 6 that line up with the low notes of the piano part. Listen hard and try to lock that in!
Keep your hi-hat tight and don’t play too loud during the verses. The choruses are 12 measures long, but the hi-hat part switches back to a closed sound for measures 11 and 12. This is almost like a “reset” moment before the next section comes back in.
The second chorus is twice as long, but you still tighten up the hi-hats in bars 11 and 12 before loosening them again for the second go-round.
BPM = 134
This is a great tune to work on a concept called “pushes,” which are anticipated hits that happen on the “and” of the beat. “Living After Midnight” has them sprinkled throughout every section, and they really give the song some forward momentum.
The pushes first occur in the 6th and 7th bars of the intro phrase on the “and” of beat 4. Smash the crash along with your bass drum and work on getting smoothly back into the pattern without any hiccups. This happens again in the chorus, but there’s also a push in the last bar to lead us back into the verse.
BPM = 93
Playing “Creep” on drums is all about locking in your bass drum with the bass player’s part. If you listen closely, the bass and kick almost sound like one instrument. The verse has a tight hi-hat, which you’ll begin to loosen as the tune builds into the chorus. Switch to the ride, but keep the bass drum solid and steady.
The second chorus is longer and has an epic fill in the 16th measure. You can work on that slowly at first, and it’s ok if you don’t play it exactly the way Phil Selway does. The most important thing is to build the energy to its highest point right before the big hits that lead into the mellower outro.
BPM = 80
Hip-hop is all about making the groove feel good, and this one is a real blast to dig into. The pattern is steady the whole time, but there are a few “drops,” or moments when the snare is left out to coincide with the lyrics.
The first drop happens in the 4th measure of the first verse when he says “even my Momma thinks that my mind is gone.” There’s also one in the 12th measure of Verse 1, and the short bridge section is just hi-hat and bass drum. Make sure to leave out your snare for those beats!
BPM = 117
This is one of those all-time classic drum grooves, and it’s important to keep it steady without adding too much extra stuff. The intro and first two verses are a simple backbeat, and you’ll open the hi-hat on the “and” of beat four in the last measure to bring us into the pre-chorus.
The pre-chorus has crashes on beat 4 every other measure as we open up before the chorus. In the second bar of the chorus, there’s a floor tom flourish on the “and” of beat 3 which gives the groove a little bounce. Work on that slowly at first, then try to add it to the part. This figure happens more frequently in the second chorus and later in the song.
BPM = 98
Steve Jordan is a great drummer for beginners to check out since he always plays grooving parts that fit the song. This one has a lot of subtle elements that make it really fun to play.
The intro pattern is a 2-measure phrase, and the bass drum part in the second bar lines up perfectly with the guitar. When the verse kicks in, Jordan changes the part slightly to work around the vocals. The chorus groove is the same as the intro, and he sometimes opens the hi-hats at the end of a section to indicate the transitions.
BPM = 127
“1979” has the same groove throughout each section, and the hi-hat accents are the key to getting it right. It’s a two-bar phrase, so it’s best to work on one measure at the time with each limb separately before you put it all together.
The first measure has hi-hat accents on the “and” of beats 1 and 2, so start with that, then practice the kick and snare parts. The second measure is a bit trickier since the bass drum doesn’t play on the beat 1 and the hi-hat accents are on beats 1, the “and” of beat 2 and the “and” of beat 4. Once you’ve got it sorted out, crank up the recording and play along.
BPM = 120
This hit from the early ‘90s has a bouncy feel to it, beginning with 7 measures of hand claps. Make sure to count carefully! The groove features a 4-on-the-floor bass drum pattern with a backbeat snare, and it’s important not to play too loud to get the feel just right.
Try to nail the fill in the 4th measure of the second verse. It’s almost like a call-and-response with the vocal line “Billy likes to peel the labels from his bottles of Bud.” When you get to the outro section, make sure to keep counting so you can drop out after the fill in the 10th measure.
That’s it! Hopefully you’ll enjoy working with these 20 songs as you start down the path to drumming greatness.
(P.S. You can find detailed tutorials and learning tools for these tracks, plus 2000+ more when you join Drumeo)
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