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7 Ways To Practice Drums Without A Drum Set

Samantha Landa  /  UPDATED Jul 10, 2024

Did you know you can become a decent drummer without ever touching a drum kit?

Believe it or not, playing games like Rock Band can be enough to pull off beats and fills on a real drum kit.

That’s because one of the core tenets of drumming is muscle memory and coordination – so it doesn’t matter what surface you’re hitting, as long as you’re, well, hitting.

Learning to play the drums can be a fun and rewarding experience, but buying a drum set isn’t always in the cards. Luckily there are multiple ways to learn and practice drumming without literally sitting down on a kit.

Try these for yourself!

1. Practice on a pillow

Any surface is drummable! Grab a pair of drumsticks (or some long cooking utensils) and practice on a pillow.

It’s softer than a drum head, so it’ll tire you out more quickly because you’ll be using mostly wrists. Think of it like a workout but if and when you do sit down on a drum kit, the rebound will make playing it much easier!

if you want something with a little more bounce, you can drum on the side of a couch

2023 11 21 Drumming On Couch 101

If you want to experiment with different sounds, you try other household items – like a ‘snare drum’ made of a plastic container filled with rice or beans.

What should you practice? Start with a few drum rudiments – the building blocks of all drumming – and you’ll develop major skill with your hands.

2. Get a practice pad

If you want to find a surface that’s a bit closer to a real drum, get a practice pad (shop practice pads in Europe): a flat, portable surface that mimics the feel of a drum head. You can find them in various sizes and you can use them to practice basic drumming techniques like sticking and rudiments.

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While these products are more commonly used to practice hand technique, you can also set up for foot practice with a kick pad (like the Drumeo QuietKick, also available in Europe).

Get the new QuietKick: The bass drum practice pad you can take anywhere.

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3. Try air drumming

If you’ve never air drummed that famous Phil Collins fill…I don’t believe you. In fact, you’ve probably air drummed it so many times that if you had to play it on a drum kit, you could.

So if you want to learn or practice songs without gear, pretend you have an invisible drum set and go to town. But make sure you practice deliberately; try to tap your legs and move your arms in time along to music.

You can even pick up a fun piece of tech like DrumPants — a wearable drum machine that lets you get real drum sounds by tapping your legs — or Aerodrums (shop in Europe) — a special set of drumsticks and camera so you can drum in VR).

2021 03 22 JARED FALK Drumeo Air 132

4. Think about beats

Stay with me here. Just thinking about practicing beats can improve your rhythm – even if you aren’t physically moving your arms and legs.

Studies have shown that mental training can be just as important as physical training. And even athletes like Kobe Bryant used to practice without a basketball in his rookie year.

The next time you’re lying down on the couch or have a few minutes to spare, close your eyes and run through rhythms in your head. Focus on imagining yourself playing them, making sure every beat is perfectly on time. Rinse and repeat.

5. Try a virtual drum kit

Practice your rhythms by tapping them out on a drum machine or virtual drum kit.

Whether you’re using a piece of hardware (like this AKAI MIDI controller, also available in Europe) or software (like the EasyBeats Drum Machine app), creating beats with buttons teaches you what sounds good and where you should drop that kick or snare.

The EasyBeats drum machine lets you create and program rhythms.

You can also try a virtual drum kit, which you can play on a computer, tablet or phone. The software (check out the REAL DRUM app) simulates a real drum set that you can practice by tapping it with your fingers.

(Tech Deck fans, rejoice!)

Screenshot 2023 11 21 204021
REAL DRUM is a free virtual drum kit you can play anywhere.

6. Tap dance

Back in the day, tap dancers battled drummers – and many drummers were also tap dancers!

It might seem like a stretch, but tap dancing is one way to get better at rhythm and coordination. Think of it like drumming with your feet. Learning to tap helps your brain better understand timing, which is the foundation of drumming.

Tap dancing also teaches you how to move different parts of your body at the same time, and drumming involves using your hands and feet in tandem. The more you rehearse your dancing, the smoother and more precise your movements become – and the same goes for learning drums.

While it might mean tackling a whole new skill – one that honestly deserves a mainstream resurgence – just getting the basics of tap will help you become a better drummer before you even sit down at the kit.

7. Listen to music

Listening to music isn’t just enjoyable; it’s secretly helping you improve your drumming skills. Not only can it help you better internalize time, if you listen actively to the rhythms in your favorite songs, you’ll start picking up on new ideas and hear how the drummer puts beats and fills together.

You could listen to a metronome and tap your legs on the beat…or you could have more fun tapping your legs while you listen to your favorite tunes.

Sound like a familiar tip? Here’s a reminder that muscle memory is everything, and merely thinking about playing drums – or air drumming, or tapping along – will help you improve if you do it enough.

As a bonus, listening to music can reduce anxiety and lower stress. The more relaxed you are, the better you’ll perform. Keep that in mind!

Bonus tip: Practice regularly

It’s all about muscle memory; no one is born good at drums. It takes repetition to get there. It doesn’t matter what you’re hitting; it’s that you know when to hit.

The most important aspect of learning to play the drums is to practice regularly. Even without a physical drum set, there are many ways to practice and improve your skills.

With enough motivation, anyone can learn to play the drums. Yep…even you!

*This article contains affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission from the product seller if you make a purchase. For more info, check out our privacy page.

Samantha Landa currently drums with Conquer Divide and has been featured by outlets such as Sick Drummer Magazine and DRUM! Magazine. Sam proudly endorses Mapex Drums, Sabian Cymbals, Evans Drumheads and Los Cabos Drumsticks.

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