How To Play The Drums For Beginners

How To Play The Drums For Beginners

Learn How To Play The Drums For Beginners 

It’s an instrument that people love to hate!  Stop banging those drums! Or, the drums are too loud for the house!  My favorite, “drummers are dumb”!

Well I can agree that most of the time the drums are too loud for the house, but drummers are certainly not stupid.  In fact, drummers are able to access a unique part of the brain which controls independence, and timing unlike other individuals.  Enough about that though.  So you want to play the drums?  Where do you start?


I tell everyone the same thing when they ask me how to learn to play the drums.  Start by purchasing a quality practice pad and good sticks.  Now, I know it’s not what they want to hear, but it’s the truth.  Unlike guitar and piano, trumpet or saxophone, before taking the plunge on a full drum set, it is worth testing the waters with the practice pad.  Besides, drumming requires tremendous coordination and starting with the hands and learning how to hold the sticks is where I tell people to begin.  Once you can tackle some of the basic fundamental strokes and rudiments, you’re then ready to move onto the kit and add the feet into the mix.  Of course, if you already have a drum set at home, you’ll be more inclined to jump on and start playing.  In this case I still recommend getting situated first with the practice pad only.


Ok, so you have the pad and sticks and are ready to get started.  The first thing is how to hold the sticks.  There are basically two important grips; traditional, and matched grip.  Traditional grip is where one hand, usually the left holds the stick inside the web between the thumb and index finger.  Matched grip is where both hands hold the stick between the thumb and first joint of the index finger and have the palms facing down. 

Once you get comfortable with the grip the first stroke, I teach is called the “free Stroke”

The free stroke basically means that when you strike the pad the stick must come back up to its starting position.

For a complete demo of how to hold the sticks and the free stroke you can check out this short video clip.


Although playing the free stroke isn’t very fun, it is paramount in developing the essentials for mastering the instrument.  Following the free stroke, I usually tell students to move into the rudiments.  The 26 drum rudiments are essentially a drummer’s vocabulary, used in just about everything we do on the kit.  I like to shave the 26 drum rudiments down to about 15 though.  The most essential rudiments in my opinion, which can be found in my book, “Beginner Hands” are:

  1. Single Stroke Roll
  2. Long Buzz Roll
  3. 5-Stroke Roll
  4. 6-Stroke Roll
  5. 7-Stroke Roll
  6. 9-Stroke Roll
  7. Paradiddle
  8. Double Paradiddle
  9. Ruff
  10. Flam
  11. Flam Accent
  12. Flam Paradiddle
  13. Ratamacue
  14. Triple Ratamacue
  15. Flam Tap

As you go through each rudiment, playing them slowly is the key.  Speed will come later.  Remember we are looking for a foundation, not winning a race.


If you’ve worked through getting a handle on properly holding the sticks, playing free strokes and learning the rudiments you are probably feeling pretty confident about moving forward with your drumming studies.  Now is the time to get on the kit and start putting it all together.

From experience the most difficult aspect about first learning to play the drum set is having to keep time.  Even the most basic of drumbeats requires sharp limb independence and a strong concept of time.  To start off, I usually have students begin with keeping an 1/8 note pulse on the hi-hat with the right hand, and slowly integrate the left hand on the snare on beats 2 and 4.  I encourage you to play this continuously until it gets very comfortable.  Now the hard part.  Add a quarter note bass drum on beats 1 and 3.  For most beginners this part takes a good deal of practice.  The right hand on the hi-hat wants to jump around, and the left hand gets very sloppy.  If this happens, don’t worry it will come.  Continue working on this until you are playing a smooth groove that “feels” good. 

The next steps are built upon this simple groove.  We slowly will incorporate more bass drum notes and gradually work our way into fills around the toms. 


This was a very simplified overview of the first stages of learning how to play the drums for beginners.  If you’ve gotten this far, I commend you for your efforts.  Drumming can be very rewarding in many different ways.  Just playing the instrument can release aggression, reduce stress and stimulate neurotransmitters that will make you feel better. 

I encourage you to have a look at my eBook, “Better Hands” which breaks down the beginning stages I discussed in the first part of this article. 

If you are serious about starting to learn how tom play the drums, the Freddy Charles Practice Pad is a great pro-level instrument that includes sticks and my eBook to get you started on the right track.

I highly recommend checking out my course on mastering the traditional grip.

Good Luck