How to Practice Drums
A guide to practicing your instrument effectively
Last Updated: December 2023 | 2263 words (11 – 13 minute read)
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If you want to become a great drummer the only way to get there is through practice.
It takes effort and time to get good at anything. But you don’t want to just go about it randomly. You want to develop an effective practice for the drums.
So in this guide on how to practice drums, we’ll show you what to focus on, how to build a solid routine and stick with it, plus tips on how to get better, faster.
If you haven’t read our complete beginner’s guide on how to play drums, read that first.
But if you’re ready, let’s talk about what to focus on first.
What To Focus On
In any given practice session, you could do a whole bunch of different things. It can sometimes be overwhelming to think about.
But everything you could possibly do during your drum practice can be categorized in a few different areas.
When developing and maintaining a practice routine, try to focus on each of these key areas of drumming.
And note the word maintining – that means your practice routine will change as you progress and become a better and better drummer.
But everything will likely fall into one of these categories.
Technique is something you always want to be working on. This is all about how you physically play the drum set.
This is from the most basic technique – like drum stick grip and striking motion – to more advanced techniques like ghost notes and overall concepts like timing/rhythm.
This includes paying attention to your weaker hand and developing it’s abilities specifically. Practice pedalling technique and playing with good posture – that’s all a part of technique.
Rudiments are the fundamental drum movements you’ll use to play.
These are things like single stroke rolls, double stroke rolls and paradiddles. Those are the 3 most basic drum rudiments and they’re used in drumming all the time.
So you want to spend some time perfecting your use of these “tools.”
There are around 40 different international rudiments you could practice during this part of your training.
Grooves & Fills
Spend a significant portion of time simply playing a groove, and adding in fills every few bars. Think of this section like a “freestyle” practice.
You’re not playing an actual song. Instead you’re practicing specific types of grooves and fills.
The idea here is to build a vocabularly of grooves/fills, and internalize them so you can pull them out whenever you need in the real world.
Of course, no practice session would be complete without you playing actual songs. You know… the “fun” part of practicing the drums.
Spend a portion of your practice time dedicated to learning and playing an actual song – complete with various song sections, different grooves and fills.
Try to get the drumming for the song as exact as you can. It’s best to just pick your favorite music and learn those drum parts.
You can find drum songs to practice to (sometimes along with notation) in various online drum lesson programs.
Sight reading drum notation isn’t something you need to specifically sit down and practice. But you should make it a habit to use notation during your practice sessions. Over time you’ll develop fluency in being able to read sheet music.
And that can help expand your drumming in new directions. So make it a part of your overall practice to sight read.
Make a Practice Plan + Routine
It’s important that you setup a legitimate plan of action for your practice.
You don’t want to just fly blind and do whatever you feel like in the moment. You need a plan and a routine.
However long you think you’ll be able to practice in a single session, should be equally dividing across the 4 main areas of focus I described above.
Even if you’ve only got 10 minutes to practice – it should be structured in a way where you’re spending 2-3 minutes on each of the 4 areas.
You want to try and hit every area of drumming in each session.
And you want to write your routine/plan out – decide on the things you’ll practice ahead of time. Write them down in a list and keep it handy so you’re not always wondering what to work on.
Make your plan and then follow your plan.
How long you practice is up to you. Even doing 10 minutes daily is better than doing nothing.
But there may be some science to suggest that the maximum amount of time you want to spend in focused practice is about 90 minutes at a time.
Don’t go any longer than that in one sitting.
However, if you’d like to do multiple 90 minute practice sessions in a day, that is possible – just space them out with a few hours of gap in between.
Consistent practice is a huge part of practice.
You won’t make a lot of progress fast if you’re only practicing the drums sporadically or whenever you feel like it.
You have to do it consistently. This has to be treated like a discipline.
Like I said above, even if you can only practice for 10 minutes a day, that’s enough. As long as you’re doing it every single day without skipping.
I’ll put it this way – 10 minutes every single day is way better than practicing for 1 hour once per week.
Put in the work, daily.
Tips for Getting Better, Faster
Now that you have an idea of what things you should focus on in your drum practice routine, let’s talk about how you can practice in a way to achieve the most optimal results.
If you follow these tips, you’ll get better as a drummer faster than if you ignore them.
Use a Metronome
The thing about music is that it has it’s structure in equal intervals of time.
And your job as a drummer is to help keep time for every other instrument you’re playing with. You are the groove master – you keep the rhythm steady.
So you always, always, always want to practice with a metronome. Whether it’s physical or an app on your phone, that click track will help you develop your sense of rhythm and time.
And there’s nothing more important to a drummer than a great sense of rhythm and time.
Start slow – 60-70bpm – and gradually increase it as you get better.
Work On What’s Difficult
The really important thing to remember about practice is that it’s only ever effective if you’re doing what you don’t know.
You don’t want to practice things you’re good at. You want to practice the things you suck at – the frustrating things, the things you just can’t get.
Remember to always be pushing yourself forward. Don’t stay stagnant. Do more and more difficult things, as you progress.
And when you do work on the difficult things, the best way to get better at them is to just keep doing them over and over and over again.
It can be frustrating sure, but I promise that you’ll have much better ghost notes after you’ve tried playing them 1000 times.
So keep repeating the stuff you suck at, until you suck less.
Keep a Practice Log
Keeping a log or journal of your practice can be very helpful in guiding you towards what’s best for you.
It’s kind of like working out and keeping a log of how many reps you’re able to do.
Write down what you practice, how many times, how many mistakes you made, etc. Track everything you do.
They say only what gets measured gets improved, so this is an underrated tip to implement into your practice routine.
Push Through Resistance
There’s no getting around the fact that practicing your instrument just plain sucks to do.
We all know it. There’s no real way to make consistent practice fun, especially when you’re first starting out. It’s impossible, until you get good at it.
The problem is, there’s this thing the author Steven Pressfield calls “resistance” that will always pop up and make you lazy/unmotivated to do the things you know you need to do… like practice.
Your only solution is to push through it – force yourself to sit down and do the thing.
The 2 Minute Rule
That’s where this handy little rule comes in.
When resistance gets really bad and you just don’t want to practice today, make yourself a deal. You will not have to feel bad about “not practicing” if you only do 2 MINUTES of practicing.
Just 2 minutes. Not 10. Just 2.
That’s all you have to do, and then you’re off the hook.
But how can 2 minutes of practice be effective? Because the idea here is that you have to build a habit. The habit of practicing everyday is most important.
And if that means you only have 2 minutes in you today, so be it.
The crazy thing, though, is that a lot of the time when you just do 2 minutes you end up wanting to do more.
That’s because the hardest part of anything is just getting started.
So, when you feel the ugly hand of resistance on your shoulder, just commit to getting started and doing the absolute bare minimum – 2 minutes.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
We touched on this earlier, but the best sort of practice is what you’re not already comfortable with. But it goes beyond things like technique or grooves/fills.
Getting out of your comfort zone also means drumming in styles that you don’t normally drum in.
If you really want to master this instrument, then it’s important you practice things that you normally wouldn’t.
If you love playing rock songs, you should pivot to practicing jazz songs some of the time.
If you absolutely love reggae stuff, start practicing metal songs.
Each of these genres will impart skills on you that you can take back to your “favorites.”
Get out of your practice comfort zone on a regular basis.
Work On Your “Pocket”
This last tip is also the most elusive one to understand.
It’s hard to describe what “pocket” is when we’re talking about drumming. But once you get deeper into the field, it become intuitive and apparent.
Your “pocket” is essentially your internal sense of rhythm and time. It’s how you specifically move on the drums when you’re playing a groove. It’s your overall style and swing on the drum set.
There’s no right or wrong “pocket,” it’s something unique to you. But you want to work on it.
That means you need to pay attention to your sense of rhythm and time and get better at bending, twisting and shaping notes, grooves and fills to create a rhythm line that is infectious.
I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around such an abstract concept, but it’s an important one to study further.
Work on your pocket during your practice sessions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, electronic drums are great for practicing the movements of drumming. However, because the drum heads are often made with rubber, they feel different than acoustic drum sets. The bounce of the sticks may feel different and take adjusting to when you transition from electronic drums to acoustic ones.
You should practice drums every single day. These sessions don’t all have to be long. As little as 10 minutes can make big differences over time, so long as you’re practicing daily.
Yes you can practice drums without a kit by using devices like “practice pads.” These are small (often rubber) pads that you can sit on your lap and practicing stick technique without making a lot of noise. Drumeo also has a practice pad for pedal technique with your feet.
Practice is an essential part of learning an instrument. You can read all the guides and watch all the videos on techniques you want, but unless you sit down at the set and try to do them, you’ll never get better.
And the thing about getting better at something is that you have to do it very badly, regularly. You have to slog through the pain of sucking.
Don’t let it deter you if you think you’re not getting better after a few weeks. As long as you stick with it and do it consistently for a long period of time (i.e. months and years) you will get better.
Make sure you’re putting together a plan of action (with the 4 major areas to work on) and you’re implementing your practice plan on a daily routine.
If you do that, you’ll win.
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 complete guide on how to practice the drums so you get better faster! I hope it was helpful. Be sure to check out our other drumming guides for more information.
Resources and Tools (affiliate links)
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