How To Play Drums For Beginners in 2020 [Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide]

How to Play Drums For Beginners

Drums are one of the coolest instruments out there. It is no wonder why a lot of people, especially younger ones, are interested in playing the instrument. 

For many people, getting started can be a challenge on its own. The road to learning how to play it is a long and difficult one. 

This article is made specifically to help people who do not know where to begin with drums. I will give you a step-by-step guide on how you can start learning how to play drumseven without a drum set! 

By the end of this article, you will know all the necessary preparations to take before getting into drums. Additionally, you will know what materials to get and lessons to prepare. Let us get started!

Step 1: Getting A Beginner Drum Set

Little boy having fun and playing wooden toy drum

At this point in your learning, you are probably wondering: Is it important to own a drum set? The short answer is yes. 

To learn how to play drums faster and complete your daily practice and lessons, you need to have your own set. There are plenty of great beginner-sets out there (more on this later), however, buying a drum set is not cheap at all. 

If you are eager to get started but do not have money saved up to buy your set, you can just go and get some cheap drumsticks for about two dollars, get one of your pillows, and start practicing drumstick techniques on that.

This technique would not get you very far, but it will buy you a little bit more time while you are saving for an actual beginner set. 

Another option is to go to a music store to test out the drum sets there or buy practice pads. Practice pads feel like sturdy cushions, which are very similar to how it feels to hit a drum. You can easily find these online or in your local music store. 

Not buying an entire drum set before testing the waters is also great for one other thing: it lets you experience a little bit of drumming. This is important because many people take drumming only to realize it isn’t as cool as they initially thought it was. 

By trying to practice using cheaper methods, you can evaluate if this is something you are truly interested in and willing to spend time on before spending money on a set.

Step 2: Start by Learning How to Hold Drumsticks

crossing two drumsticks

As mentioned above, one thing you can test out before getting your set is learning how to use your drumsticks. Learning how to hold the drumsticks is a great entry lesson. It is cost-effective and it is a drum fundamental that will affect your play style later on. 

As you progress through your lessons, the way you hold your drumsticks will change. Every drummer has a different way of holding their sticks. The most important aspect is that you are comfortable doing it. Know that you will be holding your sticks for hours, whether you are practicing, studying, or even playing in a gig. Giving yourself the unnecessary strain and not prioritizing your comfort will also affect your playing negatively.

Here is how you hold your drumstick:

  1. Lift your one hand and allow your wrist, palm, and fingers to relax. Put your drumstick between your thumb and index finger. Use the rest of your hand to hold your drumsticks in a light but firm grip.
  2. Find the spot on the drumstick where the rebound is just right. You want to make sure that your drumstick can bounce against the surface of a drum but not too much. You can do this by hitting on your practice pad or your cushion repeatedly until you find the best spot. If you already have a set, then you want to do this by hitting the snare.
  1. Using a loose grip, flatten your thumb against the stick and then use your index finger on the other side. A way to check if your grip is loose enough is by trying to pivot the stick between your index finger and thumb. 
  1. Wrap the rest of your fingers around the stick. Make sure that your stick is not laying completely flat against the palm of your hand. Hold it loose enough to fit another stick in the space between your palm and your pinky finger.

Step 3: Building Your Basic Drum Skills

man plays musical percussion instrument with sticks

Now that you know how to hold your drumstick properly, you are ready to learn your first rhythm as a new drummer!

This one is called the Single Paradiddle. It is fairly easy to learn. Here is a video to walk you through it:

Sounds super simple, right? You can play it on just a snare drum, your cushions, or your practice pad. Do not underestimate this simple rudiment just yet because as you improve, you can turn this easy sounding beat into something like this:

Step 4: What Basic Drum Set to Get

drums percussion

Now that you know your first basic rudiment, it is finally time for you to practice on a real set. So, the question is: What drum set is the best one to get when you are just starting? 

Buying your first drum set is a pretty big step into the world of drumming. With that being said, it is not exactly cheap to buy a whole set. Additionally, it is not practical to buy an expensive, full set without knowing how to use it first. Owning too many instruments without knowing what to do with them can overwhelm you. This is why it is important to start small.

Starting with a five-piece beginner set is the best thing to get when you are a beginner. Here are my best recommendations below $500:

1. Gammon 5-piece 

Gammon 5-piece

This is one of the best beginner drum sets out there. It is actually one of Amazon’s top-selling kits. You can even find this set in Walmart. Usually, the set costs around $170 – $250.

2. Mendini by Cecilio MDS80

Mendini by Cecilio MDS80

Mendini is one of the most affordable drum sets that is great for beginners. The set even includes a drum throne and some sticks, so you can start practice right away. It costs roughly $260.

3. Alesis Nitro

Alesis Nitro

Alesis Nitro is an electronic drum set that is not only affordable but it is also very easy to practice on. This particular set is affordable for its quality. It is an 8-piece set that you can get on Amazon for about $350.

Step 5: Learning About Your Drum Set

drummer playing drums stage

Now that you have your set, the next thing to do is to familiarize yourself with it. Every set is different just like every drummer is. 

It is especially important to know the parts of your drum set. And, probably you may also want to learn how to set up a drum set. As a drummer, it will be your duty to care for your instrument. 

Types of Cymbals in a Drum Set

Bass Drum

The bass drum is the biggest drum in your set. It is also the lowest drum in your set. You play it by stepping on the pedal. The bass drum creates a thumping sound that many refer to as the pulse of the song.

Snare Drum

Typically, in a 5-piece drum kit, the snare is in the middle. This drum is responsible for giving off a loud “crack” when being hit with the stick. 

Tom Drums

These drums usually come as a pair and are mounted on a rack. In a full set, tom drums take the center of the kit while the snare rests on the left next to the hi-hat cymbal. 

Floor Tom Drum

Floor toms are the third tom drum in a full set. They are called floor tom because they are set on the floor to stand by their legs. In a full set, these drums are often located to the right of the bass and are the second-lowest drum in a set.

Hi-Hat Cymbal

These cymbals, similar to the bass drum, have a pedal. Stepping on the pedal closes the hi-hat together. Hitting the hi-hat cymbal when closed will make a short, crisp sound. Removing your foot from the pedal and hitting the hi-hat creates a longer sound.

Crash Cymbal

Crash cymbals are the loudest cymbals in the set. They are often found behind the snare in a full drum set. These cymbals are used to create accents in your playing.

Ride Cymbal

The ride cymbal is found behind the floor tom in a full drum set. Hitting this cymbal creates a drawn-out sound often referred to as a ride pattern, hence, the name.

Step 6: Best Way to Learn Drums

man playing drum

While you can try to self-study and learn drums on your own, there are other options for you to make your study a bit more linear and organized. 

Try to search on Google for the nearest drum schools near you or private tutors who are willing to invite you to their studio or come to your home for some private lessons. These lessons are great because you get to have a mentor who can observe your playing and point out ways you can improve. 

Aside from providing you with great lessons that are specifically customized for your learning style, you will also get professional tips and tricks. 

One downside that comes with getting private lessons or attending school is that you may not have a lot of control over schedules. Schools, especially, have a set time where you are required to attend your classes. On the other hand, private tutors despite being more flexible in terms of schedule, are not going to be available for you 24/7. 

Private lessons can also be very expensive. You will have to pay about $30 for an hour-long session. Sometimes it can cost more, sometimes less, depending on your tutor and your location. Don’t forget about additional costs, such as travel costs and gas money, to go from one place to another or fund your tutor’s traveling expenses. Location can also be a hindrance if you decide to find private tutors or schools.

To solve these problems, many people opt for online drum lessons, instead. While these lessons do not have the in-depth mentoring private tutors can provide, it can still provide you with great linear lessons from many famous drummers. Most lessons also contain easy songs to play on drums that you can learn as well as exercises you can use for your daily practice. You may check some of the online drum tutorials for beginners to consider.

Finally, you have the option to look for resources on the internet. This is completely free and some drummers have learned completely on their own with little external help. However, you have to keep in mind that you will need lots of self-discipline to complete your lessons using this method.

Step 7: Caring For The Drummer and The Drum Set

girl plays drums

As much as it is important to care for your set, it is also extremely important to care for yourself, the drummer.

Drums are a full-body workout, it can get very tiring to play them even during practice. This is why it is important to keep a face towel and water nearby. Additionally, you might want to look for some earplugs or noise-canceling headset to protect your ears from the loud sounds coming from your instrument.

Your hands will hurt while you are playing drums. Many drummers have developed calluses over the years because of drumming. Do not worry too much, as they are nothing unbearable. There are also ways to lessen the pain and even avoid it. 

Get one of those special drumstick tapes you can buy from music stores to create a softer place for you to grip your sticks. You can also opt for gloves specifically made for drummers that help with the pain that comes from prolonged playing as well as improves your grip on your sticks.

You will also need to take good care of your drums. Not only do you need to learn how to clean them, but you will also need to be able to tune them.

To prevent them from accumulating dust and getting too dirty, get yourself a drum set cover. It will keep your instruments dust-free and protect them from water spills and the harmful UV light. 

You should also look into getting a couple of tools like a torque key or even a drum multitool to help with tuning your drums. 

If you are not sure how to tune your drums, here is a great video demonstrating how to do it:

Step 8: Playing Drums With Friends

young band music in a recording st

While being able to learn and play on your own seems great, nothing beats the connection you make with people who are as passionate about music as you are.

Finding friends with similar interests simply gets you more motivated to continue learning. Being able to share your thoughts and help them in return widens your musical knowledge. It also creates strong, lasting connections. If you do not have a lot of friends in the music scene, consider finding some or helping your current group realize their musical potential.

According to a study (1), creating music with friends keeps you closer together. Making music together, especially composing your own music, requires you to be vulnerable and honest. The result of this vulnerability–aside from a rockin’ new song–is a stronger bond, trust, and more empathy towards each other.

Additionally, surrounding yourself with like-minded people who are willing to uplift you and critique you every time you need it is a great driving force to continue learning and improving.

Whether online or real life, finding people to talk to and play music will help you in your musical journey.

Step 9: Learning Drum Notes for Beginners

musical instruments of a band

Knowing how to read sheet music is something that will definitely give you an advantage. 

I know it looks very intimidating and boring to some degree, but there is a lot of benefit to being able to read drum sheet music. 

If you know how to read drum sheet music, it is much easier to play songs even if you have not heard them before. It also allows you to perfect your playing, even on songs you already know how to play. Aside from that, it helps you with timing and synchronization. This is why sheet music is present in the orchestra.

Finally, it allows you to write sheet music as well. If you would like to dabble in music production or compose your own pieces on the drums in the future, then learning how to read and write sheet music is the way to go.

Although it may seem too hard to handle, it isn’t at all. Yes, it may take some getting used to being able to read it upon sight, but once you get started, you will find that it is simply a matter of learning some symbols and counting.

Learn how to read and write drum sheets in this article I wrote. It lists down all the symbols and notations you need to learn as well as a few easy exercises to test your reading skills.

There you have it! A full step-by-step guide to getting you started on playing drums. I hope this article was able to answer some queries you had in mind. Remember to keep yourself motivated and keep practicing!

How To Play Drums For Beginners in 2020 [Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide]

Table of Contents