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Mike Michalkow breaks down five beginner drum techniques that every drummer needs to know:

0:51 – How to hold your sticks
4:32 – Playing from the wrists
6:46 – The medium full stroke roll
8:42 – Rebounding double strokes
12:09 – Singles to doubles exercise

Watch the video above to get a visual demonstration of each of the techniques below.

How to hold the sticks

It’s vital to have a correct and comfortable stick grip right from the start. You don’t want to strain yourself, and you want to have a natural-feeling grip.

Follow these steps:

  • Make a gun shape with your hand
  • Hover it above your snare drum with your palm facing up
  • Balance the drumstick in the first joint of your index finger
  • Place your relaxed thumb on top of the stick
  • Wrap your remaining fingers around the stick
  • Face your palm downwards

You want your grip to be loose and relaxed, but tight enough that the stick won’t fly out of your hands once you start playing. A good grip is the most important technique for any beginner.

The secret to great technique is letting the stick do the work. You’ll free yourself up to get the fluidity you need to move around the kit with ease.

Did you watch the video but want an even more in-depth demonstration of how to hold drumsticks? Check out a matched grip tutorial here.

Playing from the wrist

Whether you’re playing a groove, writing a fill, or just practicing rudiments, you want to play from the wrists. The wrists are your main motors while drumming.

Why do we play from the wrists?

  • It conserves energy
  • You can stay relaxed
  • It allows you to leverage the stick’s rebound

If you play from your shoulders, you’ll have a tough time controlling your volume and you’ll get tired really quickly. Remember to let the sticks and the surface do the work.

Medium full stroke roll

Also known as the “half-stroke”, this stroke is a medium-volume single stroke roll (R L R L) that’s achieved by holding your sticks at a 45 degree angle over the drum. Your stick height determines your playing volume.

While playing this roll, focus on consistency. Keep your stick heights even! Try to imagine an invisible horizontal line (or reference the bottom of the wall in front of you) and always have the tips of the sticks meet that line as they come up. This keeps the volume and power of each stroke consistent.

Rebounding double strokes

A double stroke roll is done by playing two strokes with your right hand, followed by two strokes with your left hand (RRLL, repeat). To get fast and even double stroke rolls, we have to leverage the rebound.

Look for that balance point you found earlier. When you drop the stick, you should get an extra note that follows the first hit. Think of it like dropping a basketball – let it bounce.

The first stroke is played with the wrists, and the second stroke is achieved with the fingers. Try to make the two strokes as even as possible and stay relaxed! You’ll soon learn to control that second bounce.

Try not to think of it like ‘right right left left’. Think ‘right left’ – or ‘double double’ – and let the sticks rebound to get the doubles.

Note: This won’t work on drums with less rebound, like loose toms. Your wrists will take care of both strokes in this case. Take a look at this double stroke lesson for toms when you’re ready.

Singles to doubles exercise

Let’s put everything we just learned into one ultimate exercise. We’ll be playing eight notes as single strokes, then doubling up each note:

R L R L R L R L RR LL RR LL RR LL RR LL

Notice how your wrists have the same motions whether you’re playing the singles or doubles. Your wrists take care of the single strokes and the first note of each double stroke, and your fingers take care of the rebound strokes.

This exercise is perfect to help you get used to combining these two rudiments. Try not to go too slowly. It can be tricky to get a controlled rebound in time at lower speeds. Try to find a tempo that works for you.

Looking for more resources as a beginner drummer? Check out this mega-guide for practice tips, warm-ups, an overview on reading music, and everything you need to know when you’re just getting started.

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