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How To Learn Drum Parts Without Drums

Gregg Bissonette  /  UPDATED Nov 8, 2022

Have you ever practiced drums while sitting in traffic? Maybe tested out some rudiments on the dashboard? You can get even more sounds out of your own body while your hands stay safely on the wheel: by singing your drum parts.

Gregg Bissonette is always singing drum sounds. As someone who does a lot of sight reading, he often has to figure out the drum part before he sits down on the kit. He assigns a different vocal noise to each drum or cymbal and sings out the patterns. A long crash might get a ‘pssshhhhh’ sound, and a short hi-hat hit might sound like ‘tsst’. Even just remembering a series of sounds – for example, short short long – can cement it in your memory.

The rhythmic pattern is just as important as the sounds you assign. How would you play the phrase ‘follow the yellow brick road’ on the drums?

You’d follow the syllables, and maybe assign different sounds to full or partial words. Like the food-themed rhythmic exercises some drum teachers use to teach young students, vocalizing rhythms can help us internalize drum parts.

So whether you’re in the car, in an apartment or in an airplane, sing the bass drum, the snare, the cymbals and the toms – even if it’s just in your head – and then translate it on the kit when you can.

In this video, Gregg explains how vocalizing parts helps us learn and internalize them long before we actually get to try them on the drums. We aren’t just drummers who hit things – we’re musicians, too!

Gregg Bissonette is one of the most versatile drummers in the music business. His incredible range of styles from jazz, rock, Big Band, blues, latin, and fusion has allowed him to work with many of the world’s top artists. A Grammy Award-winning drummer, his impressive resume includes Santana, David Lee Roth, Maynard Ferguson, Toto, Joe Satriani and Ringo Starr, and you’ll find his name on many TV and movie scores.

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