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Rock Drumming 101 (Tips From The Pros)

Dave Atkinson  /  UPDATED Jul 14, 2023

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Just about every drummer wants to be a rock drummer at some point in their career. In a world where there are thousands of YouTube and Drumeo lessons on how to play rock music, it can be overwhelming deciding where to dedicate your practice time.

Randy Cooke (Smash Mouth, Kelly Clarkson, Hilary Duff) is going to dive into the basic concepts you should be focusing on that, if you practice them the right way, will get you well on your way. He’ll be discussing everything from gear choices and how to tune your drums, to groove and fills that are suitable for a rock setting.

If you’re serious about leveling up your drumming, drop your email below to get 5 free lessons from another awesome educator and one of rock’s biggest drummers, Todd Sucherman:

Are you ready to learn the bread and butter fundamentals of rock drumming? Of course you are. Learning these beats, fills, and general concepts will provide you with a solid foundation as a drummer – and everything you learn will carry over into all the other genres of music.

How do drummers play rock music?

When you’re playing rock music, you want to play with power, conviction, and intensity. Good dynamics are absolutely key as you need to make sure what you’re playing is cutting through, so don’t be afraid to add some volume behind your kick and snare hits. Most importantly, play with confidence.

The most important aspects of rock drumming are the back beat (snare) and the down beat (kick). If you have these two things going and they’re rock solid, you can basically play to any rock song out there. You don’t even need to play your hi-hats or ride cymbal!

If you’re serious about leveling up your drumming, drop your email below to get 5 free lessons from one of rock’s biggest drummers, Todd Sucherman:

Let’s jump right into the exercises. Practice each of these at a variety of tempos starting at 60 BPM.

1) If you can count to four, you can play this groove. The kick drum lands on counts one and three, and your snare lands on counts two and four. If this seems easy to you, focus on your time and dynamics. This is the most popular drum beat you’ll need to play as a drummer. You can never practice this one too much.

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2) Let’s start adding some hi hats into the mix! For every snare and kick drum you play, you’ll also be playing on the hi hat with your right hand. The most important thing you should focus on is making sure the two notes line up perfectly.

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3) Now let’s play double the amount of hi hat notes as we just played. We were previously playing quarter notes, but now we’ll be playing eighth notes. We count this out as “one and two and three and four and” – repeat. Even spacing is key!

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4) Let’s start adding some spice to our rock drumming. We know how to play a basic groove now, so all that’s missing is a drum fill. Fills are a transitional piece that take the song from one point to another (from the verse to the chorus, for example). This drum fill is simply four notes on the snare drum played in sixteenth notes – also known as a single stroke roll (R L R L).

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5) This is a beefier version of the previous fill. We just played a quarter-bar fill, and now we’ll be playing a half-bar fill.

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6) Finally, if you double the amount of notes we’re playing again, we land on our first full-bar fill.

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Now that we have a general understanding of how to play rock music on the drums and have a few grooves and fills under our belt, all that’s left is to apply what we’ve learned to real music.

That’s easy to do when you’re a Drumeo Edge member, with access to over 200 play-along tracks and thousands of song transcriptions!

And if you want to learn more about some of the most influential drummers in the style, we’ve put together a list of the top 20 rock drummers of all time.

Dave Atkinson is passionate about inspiring positive change through music. With over 24 years of playing and studying music as a multi-instrumentalist, Dave has helped thousands of musicians reach their goals through developing Musora’s core curriculum and engaging content for the modern musician.

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