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Basic Drum Beats for Beginners

Master these essential grooves on the drum set

Last Updated: December 2023 | 1340 words (6 – 8 minute read)

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In this guide to the most essential drum beats for beginners, we’ll show you how to play the grooves you absolutely need to master.

This guide features charts that show you how to play each groove in a simple way. Although you do need to know how to count in music, you don’t need to be able to read notation.

If you can master these fundamental beats, you’ll be able to build off of them in very interesting and complex ways.

If you’re a complete beginner to drumming, check out our guide on how to play the drums first.

Let’s get right into it.


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How to Read the Charts Below

Each of the charts below have 3 sections to them.

The top line is the count line. Each column represents either one single “count” or beat of musical time (“1-2-3-4”), or a single subdivision of a beat (if we’re using eighth/sixteenth notes (“1-e-&-a,” etc.).

Most of the grooves will have 4 beats per measure/bar. And the groove will be depicted for either 1 or 2 bars of music.

The leftmost column is the drum type – what drum you’re supposed to hit. It’s usually always going to be in this order (top down) – hi-hat/cymbal, snare drum, kick/bass drum.

Note, that you can also use the ride cymbal in place of the hi-hat with any of the below grooves.

In the middle of the chart you will see an X whenever you’re supposed to hit a drum.

Each X will correspond to a count number and a drum type. If you see – that means you do not hit that drum on that count.

Sounds more confusing than it is…

The Basic Back Beat

This is the most essential (and basic) drum groove you’ll come across. But the beauty of it is you can use it absolutely anywhere – for any song – and it will work.

You’re basically alternating the kick and the snare, while the hi-hat plays on all counts.

12341234
Hi-HatXXXXXXXX
Snare DrumXXXX
Kick DrumXXXX

The Back Beat Plus

The next two grooves build off the basic back beat by adding an additional kick drum on an eighth note.

1&2&3&4&
Hi-HatXXXX
Snare DrumXX
Kick DrumXXX
1&2&3&4&
Hi-HatXXXX
Snare DrumXX
Kick DrumXXX

You can also use these two grooves above with a faster hi-hat – playing the hi-hat with an eighth note pattern like below:

1&2&3&4&
Hi-HatXXXXXXXX
Snare DrumXX
Kick DrumXXX

The “Rock You” Beat

This beat is almost iconic thanks to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Of course, that was done with stomps and claps. But this beat is still a great groove for beginner drummers. You can use either quarter notes or eighth notes on the hi-hat.

1&2&3&4&
Hi-HatXXXXXXXX
Snare DrumXX
Kick DrumXXXX

The Double Snare

This beginner’s groove is reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ style of music. Instead of the kick playing an eighth note pattern, the snare does it in this beat.

1&2&3&4&
Hi-HatXXXXXXXX
Snare DrumXXXX
Kick DrumXX
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Basic Syncopated Pop

Below is a groove that can be seen all over pop music, and is our first look at something a little more “syncopated” than the beats above.

It may take some getting used to, since the kick isn’t on the down beat in the second half of the bar – take it slow and you’ll get it smooth.

1&2&3&4&
Hi-HatXXXXXXXX
Snare DrumXX
Kick DrumXXX

Four On the Floor

This is a very popular beat you’ll find in lots of different genres of music – especially danceable ones (like funk and house).

The kick plays all 4 beats of the bar, while the hat and snare stay similar to the above grooves.

1&2&3&4&
Hi-HatXXXXXXXX
Snare DrumXX
Kick DrumXXXX

16 Hats

This next basic drum groove is our first sixteenth note beat (counted as “1-e-&-a” for each beat).

This may be a bit more difficult to play at first, since it requires you to play a full sixteenth note pattern on the hi-hat, while keeping the basic rock groove going on the kick and snare.

Start by just playing the hi-hat and snare. Once you’re comfortable with that, try adding in the kick on 1 and 3.

1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a
Hi-HatXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Snare DrumXX
Kick DrumXX

Basic Up-Kick

Here’s a beginner drum beat technique you can integrate into any of the above grooves to add some variation and spice. Or you can play it as it’s own standalone groove.

We play a basic drum groove (in the case below, the pop beat) and then add a kick on the up-beat at the end of the measure, which leads nicely into the first beat of the next measure.

1&2&3&4&
Hi-HatXXXXXXXX
Snare DrumXX
Kick DrumXXX

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Drum Beats?

Drum beats (or grooves) are patterns of rhythm that are played on a drum set by a drummer. The drummer plays each drum in the set in a specific way to create a sense of movement in music.

What is the Most Famous Drum Beat?

The most famous drum beat is most likely the Amen breakbeat – a small drum groove in the middle of the song “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons. That particular groove has been sampled (used in other recordings) thousands of times and is one of the most recognizable drum beats in the history of music.

What is a Drum Beat Called?

A drum beat is also called a “groove” in addition to simply being called a “beat.”

Can Drum Beats be Copyrighted?

No, drum beats on their own cannot be copyrighted. However, if you make a recording of a drum beat, that specific recording can be copyrighted, but others will still be able to use the pattern of that beat in their own compositions.

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    Final Thoughts

    Above, we went through the most essential grooves you need to know if you’re a beginner drummer.

    Don’t sleep on these because they seem “easy.” These are the fundamental beats that you can build everything else off of.

    Here’s a guide on how to practice the drums.

    There are numerous variations you can do to these basic beats to make them much more complex and interesting.

    Try moving some of the hits around onto different “counts” and see how it sounds.

    Experimenting with these grooves, will teach you even more grooves you can master.

    If you really want to level up your drumming, I highly recommend you use a drum practice/training app like Melodics – you’ll improve your rhythm and groove whether you use electronic/acoustic drums or want to finger drum.

    Thanks for reading this guide on drum beats for beginners!

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    About The Author:

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    Omar Zulfi

    Omar Zulfi is a music producer, rapper, singer, songwriter and digital entrepreneur. He is the founder and head writer at Deviant Noise. Learn more about what he's doing by clicking here.