Going Back To The Drumming Basics – 15 Skills Every Drummer Should Master

If you want to learn a musical instrument, and have decided on the drums, then this is the perfect article for you!

If you’re a drummer, then you’ll know just how great drumming can be!

Drumming Basics - 15 Skills Every Drummer Should Master

However, you’ll also know that there are certain skills you need to learn to become a great drummer, and you won’t be able to get anywhere without practice.

Now, if you’re an aspiring drummer, this can feel a little intimidating.

Luckily, we are here to help!

In this article, we will discuss the basics of drumming, and detail fifteen skills every drummer should master in their practices.

Follow these tips, and you will be playing excellent live shows in no time! If that interests you, then read on for more.

The Basics Of Drumming

Here, we will take a close look at all the drumming basics you will need to get to grips with before going on to become a drumming legend.

What You Will Need – The Basics

The Drums

Naturally, the drums come first.

Luckily, the drums can be very easy to learn, and you do not need to invest in a brand new kit to become a great drummer.

Check out our article on how to drum without a drum kit here!

Provided your rims and shells are in decent shape, then you can apply new heads to them and practice away to a good sound.

The Cymbals

If you’re a total novice when it comes to drumming, then it is important to remember that the quality of the symbols matters less than their tone.

So, provided you have a ride cymbal and a set of hi-hats, then you cannot go far wrong.

The Drumsticks

Drumsticks are a little less simple than drums and cymbals. When it comes to drumsticks, you do not want to play with a used set.

This is because used sets can affect the drum’s feedback if they’re even slightly broken, and they also lack balance which makes them difficult to hold and practice with.

Therefore, it will be better to practice with new sticks.

Additionally, different parts of the drum will need to be played with different types of sticks.

The snare drum is best played by sticks with a round tip, which produces a very precise attack on the drum.

The sticks are thicker than usual drum sticks, which is great because they allow you to strike the drum harder.

However, the bass drum requires a thinner stick with an acorn-shaped head.

This is perfect for the cymbal, as there is more surface area that is needed for the attack and roundness necessary for the drums.

How To Grip The Stick

Drumming Basics - Skills Every Drummer Should Master

To control the drum stick, you’re going to need to master grip, and there are many ways to do this. The best type of grip for beginners to learn is the American Grip.

This is a type of matched grip that allows both hands to grip the drumstick in exactly the same way. This is totally different from the Traditional Grip.

The Traditional Grip is where one hand holds the stick firmly while the other plays around the rim.

It is considered to be the most natural way to play the drum, but it does require some practice.

With the American Grip, the French Grip and German Grip are combined.

Take the power of the German grip, and the finesse of the French Grip, and you’re left with the American Grip!

Of course, you can learn any grip you like, it is totally up to you! But, no matter which grip you want to master, you will need to develop a good fulcrum.

The fulcrum is simply the point between the drumstick and the drumhead.

If you put too much pressure on the drumstick, then it will break through the drum head.

However, if you put too little pressure on the drumstick then it won’t hit the drumhead properly. Therefore, it is vital that you find a good fulcrum that works for you.

Here’s how to develop your fulcrum!

  • First, divide the drumstick into three parts (not literally!)
  • Next, you need to pinch it between the first and second parts, closer to the butt of the drumstick.
  • Then, you need to wrap your fingers around the drumstick

Mastering Your Stroke Technique

Most of the time, drumming consists of two strokes, known as “rebound” and “controlled” strokes. The first permits the drumstick to bounce off the drum effortlessly and return back to the prep stage of the stroke.

Meanwhile, the latter type of drum stroke will stop the stick from returning to the prep stage, which ultimately controls the rebound.

But which technique is best? Well, rebound strokes are great for building up speed. It helps drummers perfect their motion, accuracy, and relaxation techniques.

Meanwhile, controlled strokes are excellent for precision and timing.

They help drummers improve their ability to create a specific sound, and also work well when playing fast rhythms.

Mastering The Basic Drum Beat

When it comes to playing drum beats, it is essential that you master the basics first, before you can even think about learning your favorite song or participating in jam sessions.

Click here to find some basic drum beats that are excellent starting points for beginners.

Mastering The Rudiments

Rudiments are similar to a drummer’s vocabulary. This should be one of your main priorities when it comes to mastering your drumming skills.

To develop your rudiments let’s look at some of the basics you need to learn:

  • Open Rolls – These consist of simple rolls that are played over and over again. For example, an open roll might start with a kick followed by a snare, and then another kick. Open rolls are used to build up momentum.
  • Closed Rolls – Closed rolls are more complex than open rolls. They have multiple hits within them, and they usually contain a fill. A fill is a short section of a beat that contains nothing but the bass drum.
  • Paradiddles – Paradiddles are a way of creating rhythm using only the hi-hat. You play paradiddles by hitting the bottom of the hi-hat, while simultaneously tapping the top of the hi-hat.
  • Flams – Flams are a special kind of paradiddle where you play both the top and bottom of the hi-hats.

To master the rudiments, you need to be able to define the two basic strokes. It is best to break down all of these terms into combinations of controlled and rebound strokes.

This should help your understanding.

Exercises

Here are some basic drumming exercises to help you along your way with rudiments!

  • Double Stroke Exercises – Double strokes are very useful because they give you the opportunity to practice different types of rolls. You may play a double stroke where you play a closed roll followed by an open roll or vice versa.
  • Open Roll Exercise – The open roll is often used as a substitute for the closed roll when playing a chord progression. In the example provided here, the open roll is used to play a chord progression using the chords C, G7, Fm, A, E, D, and G. The open roll is also used to play a chord sequence with the chords C, G, Em, B, Am, and D.

Mastering Your Execution Of Drum Fills

Drumming Basics

A drum fill is simply a section of music that you play on the drums. When playing fills, you will use the entire kit.

There are many ways to play fills including single strokes, double strokes, paradiddles, flams, and other variations.

While playing drums fills can be fun and look extremely impressive to others, you must always remember to focus on learning the music and getting to grips with the basics.

Messing up is okay, but showing off is not. Always remember not to play fills that don’t work with the song or style of music.

This will often fall flat, remember to work with the music, and not for yourself.

Mastering The Hi-Hat Technique

The hi-hat technique is a very important technique to master when it comes to drumming basics. This technique offers you the opportunity to practice a wide range of motion.

The hi-hat is an essential part of drumming that works well with other techniques.

The hi-hat technique defines accented and unaccented notes. Accented notes are notes played at the end of the cymbals with the drumstick’s shoulder.

Meanwhile, unaccented notes are played with the very top of the stick, at the top of the symbol.

Mastering The Ride Cymbal Technique

Ride cymbals are one of the most essential parts of drumming. They offer you the opportunity to create a variety of sounds such as crashes, splashes, and chimes.

However, ride cymbals are not just about making noise, they are also used to accentuate certain beats in a song.

For instance, if you want to make sure that you hit the kick drum at the beginning of every bar, then you would play a crash at the start of each bar.

There are so many ways to play a ride cymbal, but when it comes to the basics it is best to start with the French Grip.

With the French Grip, you place your thumb at the top of the drumstick.

This is the best technique for mastering the ride cymbals because it allows your wrist to sit in a more comfortable position.

For this technique, the stroke will be executed by the rotation of your forearm. When you hit the cymbal, you should let the drumstick rebound.

Mastering The Kick Drum Technique

When it comes to mastering the kick drum technique, there are two important things you need to know. The first is the heel-up technique, and the second is the heel-down technique.

With the heel-up technique, you use your entire leg to make a powerful sound. With the heel-down technique, you gain power from your calf muscles and ankles.

Drummers will disagree about the best technique to learn, but if you are an aspiring drummer you should learn how to play both.

Learn How To Read Sheet Music

It is important that you learn how to read sheet music if you want to master the drums. Sheet music can seem convoluted and stressful, but if you break it up into smaller parts it is not so bad!

The main thing you will need to learn is fractions and symbols. If you want to learn how to play the drums, then it is vital you learn sheet music.

You will be able to understand the theory behind songs as well as be able to play them.

Reading sheet music is also great because it helps you develop speed and accuracy, and is helpful in mastering other drumming skills, such as improvisation.

Master The Metronome

If you want to become a master drummer, then you must learn how to play in time, and a metronome will be the best tool to learn from.

A metronome is a device that measures time. It has a clicker that makes a clicking sound every beat.

A metronome is useful for practicing timing, and it is a good way to improve your rhythm.

By using a metronome you can easily keep track of your own tempo without having to rely on someone else’s opinion.

Here are some strategies for playing the drums to a metronome!

How To Drum With A Metronome

  1. Start off slow, and increase the speed gradually.
  2. Play along with the metronome until you get the hang of it.
  3. Use the metronome to practice different rhythms.
  4. Practice playing along with the metronome while also listening to music.

Master Your Drum Skills By Listening To Other Musicians

Listening to music critically is an important skill to learn.

You should ask yourself questions about how other musicians are playing, why certain grooves feel good, and if the songs are supported by the drums.

Asking questions and listening to others helps you become a better musician.

Other musicians can help in this regard, by providing their own valuable feedback and drawing on their own experiences and knowledge of music.

Master Stylistic Playing

A drummer is a timekeeper. They set the rhythm and pace of the song. A drummer also sets the mood by establishing the style of the playing.

Drummers play a large role in setting the mood and style of the song.

15 Skills Every Drummer Should Master

They also help establish the feel of the song, create a specific sound, and set the tempo, so it is vital for aspiring drummers to achieve this.

Styles on a drum set are adapted from other styles or traditions unless the style was developed specifically for drum sets.

Therefore, it is vital that aspiring drummers understand traditional rhythm, and can play the required parts of this on their drums.

Master Improvisation

Is there anything more fun to play than a drum solo? We don’t think so!

It can be so freeing to let loose at a gig and play whatever you’re feeling – but you need to be able to have some knowledge of improvisation to pull this off!

While there are no rules for improvisation (because that kind of defeats the point, right?)

There are certain strategies that will make all the difference between a great solo and a lackluster one.

Let’s take a look at a few examples!

Themes

A music theme is a recurring musical idea that is used throughout a piece of music. There are many ways to use themes in a solo performance.

When it comes to writing solos, it is best to come up with a theme.

Once you have a set theme, you can develop slight variations that give room for improvisation.

Space

When trying to improve your improv skills, it is helpful to remember that not everything needs to be filled with sound.

Sometimes, if you leave space for silence, it can make the busier moments of the solo a lot more exciting.

Rudiments

Do not forget your drum vocabulary! Rudiments, such as rolls, will be excellent when it comes to improv.

This is because they give you something to build upon, and allow you to add variety to your solo.

Energy

Leaving space is important when it comes to improvisation, but so is creating energy! Don’t forget to give it your all and get lost in the music.

Dynamics

Solos are all about balance.

Just like how you need a balance between space and energy, you also need a balance between loud, powerful sounds and softer notes and playing.

When you change the levels of the dynamics in your playing, it adds layers to your music that will make an impression on an audience.

Grooves

If you’re not sure where to start with a drum solo, then why not try a groove! Grooves are very useful when it comes to improvising.

They provide a foundation for your solo and give you something to work around. A groove is a repeating pattern of beats that never changes.

You may hear grooves referred to as “riffs” or “groove patterns”. These are just different names for the same thing.

Form

When it comes to drum solos, one of the best things you can do is establish a form. Form is a way of organizing your ideas into a logical structure.

The most common forms are verse-chorus, bridge, prelude/postlude, etc. Bring listeners on your solo journey with you and see what comes from it!

Master Balancing Your Sound

There is a lot to learn when you first begin to play the drums.

So much, in fact, that drummers forget to pay attention to how loud they play different parts of the drum.

For example, they will often play the cymbals much louder than the drums without thinking too much about it.

It is important that you focus on the volumes of your instruments, and while it is fine to swap and change the volume, do not lose the intensity or the tempo of your playing.

If you can balance your sound, then this will work out much better for you in a studio setting.

You will be able to respond to the other musicians in the studio with you, and you will be able to make much better drum tracks and records.

You must pay attention to your sound if you want to be a master drummer, it should not be a passive part of your playing.

Final Thoughts

The above list contains some of the basic skills every drummer should know. If you practice these skills, you will be well on your way to becoming a great drummer.

It does not matter whether you are new to the instrument or already a seasoned pro; there is always room for improvement.

Keep practicing and keep learning!