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24 Drumming Questions (Solved)

Drumeo Team  /  UPDATED Oct 3, 2023

We’ve put together 24 of the most commonly asked questions about drums. Beginner or not, we hope you’ll find this resource helpful on your drumming adventure.

1. How do you play the drums?

You can start learning to play the drums by tapping out rhythms on your knees or on a surface in front of you. Try playing along to your favorite song and see if you can get your hands to line up with the beat. Now tap your foot to the rhythm.

If you have access to a drum kit, sit down comfortably behind it so your right foot rests on the bass drum pedal and your left foot is on the hi-hat pedal.

Next, grab the drumsticks. Once you learn how to hold drumsticks (have them lightly in your hands, about 3/4 of the way down the stick with your palms facing down), make sure you aren’t gripping them too tight. Try hitting the different surfaces of the drums and cymbals to see how it feels.

You’re ready to learn your first drum beat! Jump right into these 20 easy drum songs for beginners, or check out a full step-by-step guide on how to play drums.

2. How do you set up a drum set?

You can set up a drum set just by loosening and tightening wingnuts on cymbal stands and arms. Here’s the quickest way:

  1. Open up the cymbal stands, the snare stand, and the throne (seat) by loosening the wingnut closest to the feet, pulling out the legs, then tightening once the legs are most of the way open.
  2. Sit down on the throne and attach the kick pedal to the bass drum, which you should position ahead of your right foot so it angles slightly outward.
  3. Next, place the hi-hat stand so your left foot rests on the hi-hat pedal at a natural angle.
  4. Put the snare drum on the snare stand and set it between your legs. The drum should be mostly flat (a slight angle toward you is fine) and the top should line up just below your belt buckle when seated.
  5. Attach the toms to your bass drum using the tom holder. They should go in order of size from left (smallest) to right (largest). Place the floor tom to the right of your right leg.
  6. Take the heavier of the two hi-hat cymbals and place it on the hi-hat stand – facing up – with the rod going through the center. Remove the bottom screw and felt from the clutch, then turn it upside down and slide it through the top of the remaining hi-hat cymbal. Replace the felt and screw, then slide the cymbal (with clutch) down the rod.
  7. Add other cymbals by ‘unscrewing’ the top wingnut on each stand, removing the top felt, placing the cymbal so it rests on the bottom felt, then replacing the top felt and wingnut.
blog graphics labeled drum kit

While you can get creative with how your drums are set up, make sure you can move around the kit easily. Each piece should be set up so it’s within reaching distance – you shouldn’t have to tense up your arms or legs to get there!

3. How do you learn rudiments?

You can learn rudiments by practicing and memorizing a few key patterns. Like chords on a piano or guitar, rudiments are the building blocks of drumming. Learning them helps us improve our speed, stamina, and flow on the drums.

There are 40 standard drum rudiments. The core ones include the single stroke roll, the double stroke roll, the flam and the drag. Every other pattern consists of some iteration of two or three of these rudiments:

  • The single stroke roll alternates right and left hands repeatedly.
  • The double stroke roll is made up of two hits on the right hand and two hits on the left hand, repeated.
  • The flam consists of two notes: a quick, quiet note on one hand immediately followed by an accented (louder) note on the other hand.
  • The drag is two quiet notes on one hand (ie. a quiet double stroke) that lead into an accented note on the other hand. It’s also called a ‘ruff’.

The best way to learn is to practice to a metronome until you’re able to play each one comfortably at a moderate tempo. Try alternating which hand you start with after a few minutes.

Once you know how to play rudiments, you’ll be able to tackle pretty much anything on the drums.

4. How do you read drum music?

If you want to read drum music, you’ll come across two common forms: standard notation and tablature (tab). Both forms use notes or figures to represent each part of the drum set. The location of the note on the staff (a set of horizontal lines and spaces) tells you which drum or cymbal to play.

how to read drum music
The location of the note on the staff shows you which drum or cymbal to play.

In both standard notation and tabs, an ‘x’ is typically a cymbal while an ‘o’ or round note is typically a drum.

Now that you know what to play, you need to learn when to play. Written music is divided into measures, or bars, which makes up a segment of time. Each bar has a certain number of counts (or beats) in it.

For example, most popular music is in a 4/4 time signature, which means each bar can be divided evenly into four equal segments of time. The first number tells you the number of beats in each bar, and the second number tells you the value of each beat (in this case, a beat is a quarter note, or 1/4 of a bar).

You know how to count to 4, so think of it this way: every time you count to 4, you’ve counted one bar.

Sometimes notes will fall between the beats, which you can count as ‘1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and’ (written 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +). You can divide that even further, counting 1e+a 2e+a 3e+a 4e+a.

Now let’s take a look at a basic drum beat. Try counting out loud.

beatwithcount

In this beat, the lowest note (bass drum) falls on the 1 and 3 while the highest note (snare drum) falls ono the 2 and 4. The ‘x’ here signifies a hi-hat cymbal, which you play through the whole bar.

You’ll also come across a ‘rest’ in drum notation, which means time you don’t play.

The following rhythm would be counted 1e+a 2e+a, where the bolded figures signify where you play and the non-bolded figures signify where you take a rest:

04 basic note values 8th notes 03 1

Feeling confused? If you want to dig deeper, check out the full guide on how to read drum music.

5. How do you tune drums?

You can tune drums by using a drum key to loosen or tighten your drumheads. You can tune to a specific note (like a melodic instrument) or a relative pitch. Drums use a series of lugs and adjustable rods around the shell. The tighter the head, the higher the note. A looser head will give you a lower-sounding note.

To tune drums, you’ll need a drum key, which you can pick up for a few bucks (online or at your local music store) if your kit didn’t come with one.

drum keys
Drum keys

In a nutshell, here’s how to tune a drum:

  • Loosen all tension rods so you’re starting from scratch, then manually tighten each one.
  • Once they’re ‘finger tight’, use a drum key to give each tension rod a full turn, moving in a star pattern around the drum.
  • Use a drumstick to tap around the drumhead and adjust the tension until you get a consistent sound next to each rod.
snare tuning
Tuning drums in a ‘star’ pattern helps achieve consistency.

For more details, check out the complete guide on how to tune drums.

6. What’s the best beginner drum set?

One of the best beginner drum sets is the Pearl Roadshow ($659). If you prefer an electronic kit, try the Roland TD1 ($549).

roland td1
Roland TD1 ($549)

The Pearl Roadshow offers awesome bang for your buck. This updated version of the classic Pearl Export features poplar shells and comes with three toms, a bass drum and snare drum. It also comes with stands, cymbals, drumsticks, a bass drum pedal and a cymbal bag – perfect for anyone looking for an all-in-one purchase. The cymbals aren’t great, but the drums could be your ride or die for a few years or longer.

The Roland TD1-DMK is a compact and quiet electronic kit that features four mesh pads and a rubber bass drum pad alongside a rack system and three cymbal pads. With a soft rebound and decent ‘brain’ (15 built-in ‘drum kits’, 250 sounds, a metronome and more), this is a worthwhile starter kit that won’t annoy the neighbors.

We put together a whole guide on the best beginner drum sets – take a look if you want the full breakdown!

7. What are the best online drum lessons?

The best online drum lesson site is Drumeo. It offers thousands of video drum lessons and personalized feedback, thousands of note-for-note song transcriptions, plus direct access to your favorite drummers via courses and live Q&As.

“But you wrote this article! Of course you’re going to say Drumeo is the best.”

We may be biased, but thousands of drum students agree. Where else can you learn from Michael Jackson’s drummer or ask Styx’s Todd Sucherman for tips?

If you check out our free rudiments resource, you’ll get a taste for the practice tools you’ll find in the Drumeo members area (they let you slow down the track, loop sections and more).

Or start your free 7-day trial – and see if you like it!

8. What are the best beginner drum songs?

Here are the 5 best songs for beginner drummers:

  1. “We Will Rock You” – Queen
  2. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Bob Dylan
  3. “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” – Green Day
  4. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson
  5. “You Shook Me All Night Long” – AC/DC

If that’s not enough, here’s another 20 easy songs for beginners.

What makes a song attainable for a beginner drummer? Fewer notes and a slower tempo, for two.

You can also take a more challenging song and simplify it like we did in these lessons:

9. How do you hold drumsticks?

You hold drumsticks by positioning the drumstick so your hand is about 2/3 down the stick, making sure your index finger isn’t sticking out and you aren’t gripping too hard.

It’s kind of like holding a pencil!

how to hold drumsticks - american grip
The most common way to hold drumsticks.

10. How do you twirl a drumstick?

The traditional drumstick twirl comes from letting the drumstick ‘wobble’ between your index and middle finger as you rotate your wrist. With enough practice and repetition, you’ll be playing this stick trick with the best of them.

There are a ton of different stick tricks you can try. Check out these video lessons:

11. How much do drums cost?

A full drum kit can cost anywhere from $150 to $10,000+. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

A beginner drum set costs less than $1000 – and sometimes under $500. You could get this Ludwig Questlove kit for $349, for example:

Beginner kits are made from cheaper materials and won’t sound or feel as good as a pro kit. But they’re great for kids or any new drummer who’s hesitant to shell out thousands of dollars for a hobby. You can still jam to your favorite songs and build your skills like you would on any other kit.

An intermediate drum set could set you back around $900-$1300. The Yamaha Stage Custom is a popular choice that works for many gigging and recording contexts.

A pro level kit can cost $2000, $5000, or even more. The sky’s the limit. This TAMA Starclassic is a beautiful-sounding kit with diecast hoops, but it costs $2000 just for the shells (no cymbals or stands included).

How much is a drum set? As much as you’re willing to spend!

12. How do you practice drums?

The best way to practice drums is to give yourself enough time and repetition to build muscle memory. Do it regularly, and set goals you can work toward. If you do best with structure, take the time to build a practice routine and follow it.

Film and/or record yourself playing. It’s the best way to track your progress and self-diagnose any problems.

Whether you’re working on exercises, drum rudiments, songs or something else, learning takes time. Give yourself “permission to suck” (to quote Sarah Thawer). If you sound perfect when you practice, it means you’re not challenging yourself enough to grow and improve.

If you’re feeling like you just don’t know where to start, check out these tips for tricking yourself into practicing drums.

13. How do you build drum independence?

The best way to build drum independence is to start with just two limbs at a time, making sure you’re 100% comfortable before you add a third or fourth pattern to the mix.

Practice slowly. Give your body time to adjust to any new concepts.

Try this exercise:

dcb 12a 02 copy 2

Can you play it?

“Independence” is when each of your limbs can comfortably play a pattern while ignoring what the other limbs are doing. It’s the drummer’s form of multitasking, and developing independence can be a mental workout. It can take a long time to feel “free” on the drums. But it’s well worth the effort.

If you aren’t confident working on drumming independence on your own, try Independence Made Easy: a 26-week video course that’ll help you play anything you want on the drums (Drumeo members get it free).

14. Are drums hard to learn?

Drums can be hard to learn because they require physical and mental multitasking. It can take some time for your body to build muscle memory.

But even kids can learn how to play drums. Don’t give up if it seems hard at first. Drumming is fun and rewarding, and with regular practice and patience, you’re going to start seeing your efforts pay off!

Here’s a list of everything you need to know before you start learning drums.

15. Can you drum without a drum set?

You can drum without a drum set! As long as you’re repeating the motions and locking in the muscle memory, you can learn songs and even improve your skills away from the kit.

There are a few ways to practice without drums:

  • Jam on a practice pad
  • Practice on a pillow or the arms of a couch
  • Use your hands to play patterns on your legs – even at your desk or in front of the TV
  • Visualize the patterns in your mind (yep, mental practice is a thing)
  • Try an invisible drum set. No joke!

16. What are the different types of drumsticks?

There are four basic types of drumsticks:

  • Standard drumsticks: You know the ones.
  • Brushes: A wire ‘fan’ that’s great for quiet playing and cymbal/snare effects.
  • Rods/rutes: A bundle of thin wooden sticks used for quiet playing.
  • Mallets: Soft at one end and great for cymbal swells and tom rolls.
regular drumstick
Standard drumstick
brush drumstick
Brush
rod/rute drumstick
Rod
mallet drumstick
Mallet

And there are five drumstick tip shapes:

  • Oval
  • Acorn
  • Drop
  • Ball
  • Barrel

(But you may find others on the market.)

Types Of Drumsticks icons
There are many different types of drumstick tips.

17. What’s better: acoustic or electronic drums?

Acoustic drums are the fan favorite for most drummers, but electronic drums have quickly become a popular alternative. The top models often sound and feel similar to acoustic kits, but come with different benefits and disadvantages.

Why acoustic drums are better:

  • They’re often cheaper than electronic kits
  • Most drummers use acoustic drums live and in the studio
  • It’s easier to jam with other musicians (no amp required)
  • It might feel more satisfying to play an acoustic kit

Why electronic drums are better:

  • They’re much quieter than acoustic kits
  • They tend to take up less space
  • You can get hundreds of sounds out of a single kit
  • They’re easier to record and edit
Here are two affordable drum kits we recommend:

Acoustic: Pearl Roadshow ($659)

Electronic: Roland TD1-DMK ($549)

18. How long does it take to learn drums?

It can take a few hours (or even a few days) to learn a basic beat, but it can take several months to start feeling comfortable on the drums. It takes time to train your body’s coordination.

It might take two years of consistent practice to reach a level where you’re really feeling good and able to play a ton of material well. But everyone is on their own journey.

Are you able to play drums every day? Or do you have 30 minutes to practice once a week? There is no right or wrong answer – learning drums is what you make of it.

19. How do you build a drum practice routine?

Here are 5 tips to build a practice routine on the drums:

  1. Create a plan
  2. Set specific goals and track your progress
  3. Have a balance of technique and musicality
  4. Publicly commit to something hard to do
  5. Practice drums every day

Every drummer has their own routine preferences. Don’t forget to have fun, and if you aren’t seeing improvement, make sure you’re challenging yourself enough.

20. How can I play faster on the drums?

Here are 5 ways to improve your speed on the drums:

  1. Relax. Tension is the enemy of good technique.
  2. Use rebound to your advantage. Let the drum’s surface do most of the work.
  3. Practice with a metronome. Make sure you have consistent spacing between each note.
  4. Slow it down. Sometimes the key to playing faster is playing slower. Make sure you’re comfortable at an easier tempo before you start building up speed.
  5. Set a goal. You’re more likely to improve if you have a target to work toward.

Have you seen El Estepario Siberiano on social media? He’s one of the fastest drummers around right now. If your dream is to reach his speed, check out his free course, Fastest Way To Get Faster. You’ll start playing faster after working through just 10 lessons!

GET FAST NOW

21. How do I join a band?

The best ways to join a band – or get session work as a drummer – is to share your playing on social media, develop your skills in different styles, and try to meet other musicians online or at gigs.

22. Are drums loud?

Yes: acoustic drums are loud! You should always wear ear protection when you’re playing drums or standing next to a drum kit.

The cymbals and snare drum are typically the loudest parts of the drum kit. You should get headphones or earplugs to help deal with the noise. As a drummer, your hearing is extremely important: protect it!

If you want to practice drums quietly, you can always get an electronic drum set instead.

23. How do you get better at drums?

The best way to get better at drums is to find a good teacher – and good online content – to keep you motivated and help you level up.

Listening to different genres will also help you become a more well-rounded drummer, and learning how other drummers play and write will give you a foundation on which you can develop your own sound.

24. Is drumming good exercise?

Drumming is great exercise! It’s awesome for cardio, keeps your limbs moving and blood pumping, and is good for mental health. Drumming keeps your brain sharp, too.

Edited by Sam Landa, Content Marketing Manager at Drumeo


Drumeo Team - We're professional, award-winning drummers and drum teachers, coaches, recording artists, and content specialists who are passionate about drums and helping drummers around the world. This post was written and/or edited by Aaron Edgar, Sam Landa, Brandon Toews, Jared Falk, Dave Atkinson, or another pro on our team (which has a combined 1000+ years of drumming experience). Are you looking for inspiration, education, and support to take your playing to the next level? Join the Drumeo community today!

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