Most beginners think that they must have drums to learn to play the instrument. Not necessarily.
You’d be glad to know that you can start practicing even before you can acquire a drum set, something beneficial if you’re still saving up for it. Moreover, learning drums without drums will help you develop skills that are harder to develop when you are practicing on one.
In this article, we will go through the benefits of practicing without a drum set and a few exercises you can get started.
Why Practicing Without A Drum Kit is Effective
You might think, what is the point of practicing drums without a drum set? Should you not just practice on a set right away to get used to it?
The truth is that it can be impractical to get used to one set alone. As a drummer, you will go through a few drum sets and each one will be different. Getting used to a single set can make it difficult for you to get used to a new one. The perfect solution for this is to get used to the motions of playing drums instead of getting used to a specific drum set.
This is exactly why practicing without a drum set is extremely beneficial, especially to new drummers. Doing so will allow you to develop your skills without them being dependent on the drum set you are using.
Here are some other benefits of practicing drumming without a set:
Polishing Muscle Memory
Drumming consists of repetitive rhythm patterns. Practicing on a set somewhat puts pressure on many to play at a particular tempo or speed. However, in order to improve muscle memory faster, it is better to start slow and work your way up to a faster tempo.
Practicing away from a set removes the pressure of playing on a moderate speed and instead helps you focus on getting the hits right.
If you have ever tried to practice drumming by imitating the beat of a particular song, then you already know how the sound of your drumming can overtake the sound of your music. This could lead to missed beats or at least a harder time figuring out the timing of each one. This is why stepping away from the set can help you perfect your timing far easier than if you were on it.
Timing is extremely important for drummers. However, it can be a challenge, especially for beginners. If you are having trouble with this, you should consider isolating this practice and focusing on timing alone. Doing so will also allow you to master timing quicker.
The usefulness of learning and practicing rudiments is still up for debate. However, it cannot be denied that knowing them helps you familiarize yourself with the different ways you can express your emotions through drumming. Rudiments help you develop important drumming skills as well such as fluidity, articulation, precision, and many others.
Practicing rudiments off of a set also helps you build your strength because any other surface does not have the same bounce as a drum does. This gives you a pretty great workout and helps you increase your stamina.
Best Ways to Practice Drumming Without A Drum Kit
1. Pillow Practice
This way of practicing is good for training your hands and wrists. Improved control of your hands and wrists will help you with accuracy. Pillows are soft and have little rebound so prepare for a workout. Your muscles will have to do all the work bringing your sticks down and pulling them back up.
You can practice your rudiments, timing, and other tricks using this method. The best part about it? It is silent so you can practice way into the night without annoying your neighbors.
Because this method is simple (you really only need your drumsticks) you can easily transfer what you have practiced on your pillow to your drum set.
2. Air Drumming
You have probably done this many times before. Every person has done some sick imaginary air riffs and rolls even before they considered taking lessons. However, there is more to air drumming than just imagination.
Air drumming is a great way to practice away from your set because it makes little to no sound. The repetitive movements you will be doing using this exercise will also help commit important rudiments to memory. It is also good for improving your arm strength!
With our current technology, we have other ways to spice up your air drumming. If you want to kick it up a notch, you can check out air-drumming sticks like Aerodrums (1). These are portable wireless systems that you can connect to your phone, laptop, or pc.
3. Practice Pads
Practice pads are specifically created to help drummers practice away from their set. Often, these have several different surfaces that are meant to focus on developing certain skills.
For example, the top part of a practice pad has a rebound that is similar to a drum head. Practicing on it allows you to get a feel of what it would feel like when you play a specific song on your set. The sides of the pad are also perfect for practicing rim shots. The back of the pad is made of a softer material. This serves the same purpose as pillow practice but with less rebound so you can train your muscles and improve your strength.
Since they usually don’t produce loud sounds, you can practice all night long without worrying about your neighbors.
There are lots of practice pads out there, but if you are looking for recommendations then I definitely urge you to try Vic Firth Practice Pads (2).
4. Learning Apps and Rhythm Games
If you like games, specifically rhythm games, then this is also a fantastic way to practice drumming. Rhythm games like Rock Band (3) will help to improve your timing. Additionally, depending on the game you play, it could also help you develop hand-eye coordination that is extremely useful once you play on an actual drum set.
However, if you want a more in-depth approach, then you can opt for online drumming lessons too. Some online lessons provide drummers with software and apps that they can use to practice drumming. These apps are often filled with lessons and exercises geared for the new drummer to help them learn the basics of drumming.
If you are in need of suggestions for some of the Best Online Drumming Lessons then you should check out my article!
5. Humming and Tapping to The Beat
The easiest and simplest way to practice drumming without drums is by using your own body. Humming and tapping your feet to the beat helps improve your timing and accuracy.
Tapping your feet is almost like pillow practice but for your knees and thighs. Doing this without the pedal makes you use your leg muscles to lift and drop your foot to the beat. Prolonged practice will help improve your stamina and leg strength, so you will find it a lot easier once you are using an actual drum pedal.
This is simple and accessible enough for anyone to do daily.
Humming, on the other hand, allows you to focus on nothing but the timing. If you find yourself having trouble with timing, then you should try clapping to the beat. While this does not improve muscle memory or coordination like the others on this list, it allows you to focus on timing alone.
Ready to be the next rockstar drummer?
Practice drumming without drums and you’ll be well on your way to developing the essential skills. When the time comes to test your abilities on an actual drum, you’ll perform way better than you can imagine. Hopefully, you found this article helpful and beneficial to your drumming journey.
If you are a beginner looking for a place to start, check out my article on How to Play Drums for Beginners.
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