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How to Practice Drums Without a Kit

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Think you need a full drum kit to learn how to play? Think again…

In this guide on how to practice drums without a set, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to improve your drumming skills, even if you don’t have all the normal drumming gear.

If you’re brand new to drumming, you’re going to want to check out our full beginner’s guide on how to play drums first.

But if you’ve read that and are familiar with how drumming works, let’s dig in…

What You’ll Need

So to get the most out of practicing drums without a kit you’ll need a few relatively inexpensive things.

You can actually practice drumming without needing any equipment at all (more on this below…), but having this stuff definitely helps go a long way.

Regardless, you’ll be able to practice your instrument no matter what you have available to you.

Practice Pads

Drum practice pads are round rubber and plastic pads usually about the size of a snare drum head.

They’re specifically made to help drummers practice when they’re not around a full drum kit. They don’t have the exact same stick bounce as a real drumhead, but they work pretty damn well to practice on.

Most of these pads are just a single surface you can use to practice sticking and rudiments. But there are also multi-surface pads like the Drumeo P4 Practice Pad. A multi-surface pad will let you simulate a fuller kit with separate elevated surfaces to act like a hi-hat/cymbal or toms.



But that still leaves the issue of your foot work. Once again, there’s a practice pad for that. Drumeo, for example, also makes a kick pedal practice pad (the QuietKick) that hooks up to any regular drum pedal hardware. That way you can practice your kick foot on a quiet rubber surface you can take anywhere.

If you combine a P4 Practice Pad with the QuietKick, you damn near have the ability to simulate an entire drum set (and it’s portable).

DIY “Practice Pads” (pillows, old mouse pads, pots and pans, recycling bins, imagination)

But listen… you don’t need proper practice pad(s) to practice drumming.

You can use anything for a practice pad if you think about it – pillows, cooking pots, garbage/recycling bins, binders, old food containers. Literally anything.

You can also try “air drumming” where you’re not really hitting anything, you’re just going through the motions.

The only problem with this approach is you don’t get the right feeling of the stick bounce – and on things like pillows or with air drumming, it is obviously non-existent.

Visualization

Hell, you can even use your imagination and just visualize yourself playing the drums as if it was a real practice session. (When you visualize doing something exactly/vividly in your mind, your brain fires the exact same way as if you’re actually moving your limbs).

So even when you’ve got nothing else, you can still practice your hand and foot movements which will improve your timing, your coordination and your muscle memory.

Just close your eyes and picture yourself doing each movement fully and completely as if you are really going through your practice routine (just in your mind).

Sounds weird, but it literally works.


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Drum Sticks

The one piece of gear I recommend you absolutely have on hand, no matter what is a pair of drum sticks.

You can get away with not having practice pads, but having sticks is still ideal – you want to practice as much as you can with good technique (i.e. hand grip and finger/wrist movement).

So pick up a pair of sticks for a couple of dollars if you can.

What to Practice When You Have No Drum Set

OK, now you’ve got whatever you can to help you practice (even if that’s just your mind), so now how are we going to practice the drums?

No matter what you’re choosing to practice, make sure that you’re always using good technique. Technique (posture, hand grip, finger movement, wrist action, etc) is such an important part of playing drums well.

So don’t slouch into your comfy couch – sit up straight and act like you’re really on a drum set.


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Rudiments

The first and most obvious thing you should practice without drums is your basic rudiments. This is the bread-and-butter stick work you’ll use throughout your playing.

The most fundamental ones are the single stroke roll, double stroke roll and the paradiddle. Practice them on whatever surface you can using a pair of drum sticks.

Full Beats/Grooves

You may think playing full grooves would be difficult without an actual drum kit, but it can still be done.

You can setup buckets/pots around you mimicking a snare, hi-hat and 2-3 toms. Or you can setup multiple practice pads (or a single P4 pad) around you. For your feet you can either use a QuietKick or just make the movements of pedalling with your feet on the floor.

Either way, you can practice full drum grooves this way. Just make sure you’re sitting up straight (having a drum throne type of stool can help here) and pay attention to using good drumming technique.

Songs

Of course, just as with grooves above, you’ll need to set something up around you to mimic a drum set to practice full songs.

Either play a song in your headphones or out loud and just drum along to it using your pads/pillows/pots and feet.

Easy peasy.

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Final Thoughts

If you want to practice the drums, you don’t need a drum kit. You arguably don’t even need drum sticks.

Of course, practice pads and sticks help a LOT when it comes to simulating drums as closely as possible without actually having a kit.

But you can absolutely get away with whatever you have in front of you (or lack thereof). Whether it’s on pads, pillows or in your mind, sit down and go through a full drum practice routine. Every time you do, you will get a little better at being a drummer.

Don’t let a lack of proper equipment hold you back. Just go do it with what you’ve got.

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 how to practice drums without a drum set. I hope it was helpful.

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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.