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Grace Notes


How to Play the Drums

The drums are an amazing instrument! They are great for kids or adults who are ready to start playing an instrument. Let's get you playing!

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The drums are one of only a few instruments that use both the hands and feet. Drummers play patterns between the hands and feet to make drum beats, or drum grooves. There are beats that are simple beats and complicated beats. But, one of the greatest things about the drums is that once you learn to play a few simple beats you can play along with tons of songs!

The first thing you’ll want to know is how to hold the sticks.

How to Hold the Drumsticks

1. Pinch the sticks between the first finger and thumb. Don’t squeeze too tight. Just pinch tight enough so the stick doesn’t fall out of your hand.

2. Wrap your other three fingers around the stick loosely.

3. The stick should cross your palm at a diagonal angle.

4. When you hit the drums your palm should be down and the back of your hand should point up.

5. When the tips of both sticks come together they should make an angle just a little less than 90 degrees.

6. Relax your hands and arms when you play. Positioning the drum to your body. Whether you’re playing the snare drum in a marching band or the drum set, you want the drums to be in a comfortable position when you play.

If you’re playing the drum set you’ll want the snare drum positioned at a height where your arms are bent at about 90 degrees (or just a little bit more than 90 degrees) when you are striking the drum. We’ll talk about how to adjust the seat a little bit later.

How to Hit the Drums

1. Aim for the middle of each drum that you hit

2. Don’t hit too hard

3. Try to let the stick bounce off the drum. Don’t push the stick into the drum.

How to Sit at Your Drum set

1. Adjust the height of your drum seat so your knees are bent at about 90 degrees when your fee are on the floor. A little higher is ok, but don’t go much lower than this, it can put strain on your back.

2. Position the snare drum so that it is between your knees. When your arms are resting at your side and held at about a 90 degree angle the tips of the drum sticks hit the center of the snare drum.

How to Play the Bass Drum

1. Adjust your seat position so that your right foot (for right handed drummers) covers the bass drum pedal and your legs are at about a 90 degree angle. Don’t sit too close or too far from the bass drum pedal.

2. Use the ball of your foot to press the pedal.

3. You can play with your heel down

4. Or with your heel up

5. If you try to play with your heel up, or off the ground, use your ankle to move the pedal instead of lifting your whole leg up and down to play a note on the bass drum.

Note: I highly suggest beginning drummers learn to play with their heel down first.

If you have a bass drum, snare drum, drumsticks and a drum seat you are ready to play. This is the smallest set up you can use to play drum set beats.

If you have a full drum set with hi hats, other cymbals and tom toms you can still start off by playing your first beats with just the bass drum and snare drum. Be sure to check out our drum program at My Music Workshop to get you started learning drum beats that you can use in lots of songs. Visit us here.

How to Play a Simple Drum Beat

1. Start by alternating the bass drum and snare drum.

2. Play one note on the bass drum

3. Play one note on the snare drum with your left hand (this will free up your right hand to play the hi hats later)

4. Count 1, 2, 3, 4, while you play Bass, Snare, Bass, Snare. Start slow until the beat feels comfortable.

This amazing and simple drum beat will get you playing along with thousands of songs.

The Importance of Keeping Good Time

It’s important for drummer to keep a steady tempo. That means to not slow down or speed up when they play. In order to play along to music you’ll need to develop the skill of playing steady. Once you can do this you can play along to music! Practice your new drum beats at different speeds. Start slow, then play them at a medium tempo then fast. The same beat can sound totally different at different speeds.

A Few More Beats You Can Try

1. Bass, Bass, Snare, Bass, Bass, Snare

2. Bass, Snare, Bass, Bass, Snare

Using Volume to Make Your Beats Cooler

Ten experienced drummers will make the same, simple drum beat sound different. One of the ways they do this is by using volume (dynamics). Once you can play the drum beats we learned, practice playing them quiet, medium and loud.

Take it to the Next Level

If you have a hi hat or a ride cymbal on your drum set you can play these along with the bass and snare. Start with the first beat we learned [Bass, Snare, Bass, Snare] and play the hi hat or ride cymbal (with your right hand) at the same time as each bass drum and snare drum hit.

Use this same technique for the other two beats as well. Add a hi hat or ride cymbal hit each time you play the bass drum or snare drum.

If you can do everything we talked about here, you are on your way to playing the drums. The next step will be to play stream of notes on the hi hat or ride cymbal while you play simple patterns with the bass drum and snare drum.

Check out our Drum Lessons

At My Music Workshop our lessons cover these beats and lots more. We walk you through each step to keep you moving forward and learning something new with each lesson. Try out our simple, on-demand drum lessons here.

Here's a quick preview of our drum lessons:

About the Author and Teacher

Elias Berlinger has been passionate about music and teaching for his whole life. He’s played the drums for bands, in the studio and on stages throughout the United States for nearly 30 years. He’s the co-founder of My Music Workshop ( He’s the musical director at his local church where he organizes a group of over 30 musicians. You can reach Elias via email at:

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