How to Play a Basic Drum Beat

Learning how to play a basic drum beat can be a rewarding and fun experience, but it can be intimidating for adults who are learning for the first time.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Sebastien

J Music Student: Sebastien

Fortunately, with the right guidance, you can learn how to play a basic drum beat in three simple steps. This is accomplished by isolating and assigning a rhythm to each limb, then playing the rhythm slowly and repeatedly until proficiency is achieved.

Lesson at a Glance

Instruments Used in a Basic Drum Beat

Before you start playing, it is important to understand the instruments used in a drum beat, also known as a groove.

A drum beat typically consists of the bass drum, the snare drum, and the hi-hat. Each of these elements is important for making the beat.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Bass Drum

The bass drum is typically played with a bass drum pedal to provide a steady, low-pitched rhythm.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Snare Drum

The snare drum, also known as the backbeat, is played with the tip of the drumsticks and produces a sharp sound that adds stability to the beat.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Hi-hat

The hi-hat, which is usually played with the shoulder of the drumstick, adds a steady, high-pitched sound to the mix.

Now that you have understood the instruments used, let’s break down a basic drum beat that you can start practising with.

Breaking Down a Basic Drum Beat

Practising the basic beat will help you improve your timing and coordination which are essential for drumming.

Assuming you are right-handed, we will break down how to play a basic drum beat into three steps.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Hi-hat

Step 1. Play eight beats (also known quavers or eighth notes) on the hi-hat with your right hand and count 1 N 2 N 3 N 4 N.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Hi-hat

Step 2. Play the snare drum with your left hand on the second and fourth beats while playing the hi-hat pattern from Step 1.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Hi-hat

Step 3. Play the bass drum with your right foot on the first and third beats, in addition to the hi-hat and snare drum pattern established in Steps 1 and 2.

Watch the video above to better understand how to play a basic drum beat.

Gentle Reminders

1. The bass drum and snare drum should be played alternately while keeping time with the hi-hat in a steady and consistent pattern.

2. Repeat the above steps over and over until you do not make any mistakes. This process will take between 15 and 30 minutes to achieve proficiency. However, if you do not have musical background or are older in age, it could take longer to get your limbs coordinated to play the beat fluently.

4 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid When Playing a Basic Drum Beat

1. Moving your left hand unnecessarily

Nine out of ten adult students who attend our trial lessons usually move both hands uncontrollably at the start of the lesson when executing Step 3. They end up hitting both the snare drum and hi-hat on every beat.

This is known as a coordination problem in drumming, and it is very common among new students.

Moving your left hand unnecessarily disrupts the rhythm and makes it harder to achieve coordination.

As much as possible, strive to move your left hand only when you are about to hit the snare drum on the second and fourth beats.

2. Playing the snare drum on any other beats besides the second and fourth

As you may recall, you should only play the snare drum on the second and fourth beats and not on the other beats (for now).

New students have a tendency to play the snare drum in the wrong places. Avoid the following beats for the snare drum:

  • N of 1
  • N of 2
  • N of 3
  • N of 4
  • 1
  • 3

3. Playing the bass drum on any other beats besides the first and third

Similar to the point above, you should only play the bass drum on the first and third beats and not on the other beats (for now).

Avoid the following beats for the bass drum:

  • N of 1
  • N of 2
  • N of 3
  • N of 4
  • 2
  • 4

4. Speeding up or slowing down

New adult students have the habit of playing the basic drum beat faster and faster or slower and slower due to a lack of knowledge of time and rhythm.

Unfortunately, most music schools and instructors overlook this.

It is critical to understand the concept of time from the beginning because a drummer’s primary responsibility is to provide consistent time in the band.

Even if you only plan to play your favourite songs on the drums or learn to play the drums for retirement, you still need to have a good sense of time, which is a necessary skill for playing any musical instrument.

Refrain from speeding up or slowing down from the start of your drumming journey, and you will be well on your way to becoming a drummer that everyone can count on.

Tools Required for Basic Drum Beat Practice

1. Drum Kit

To practise the basic drum beat, you will obviously need a drum kit.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Drum Sets

There are two kinds of drum kits: acoustic and electronic.

You might be wondering which one to get. It really depends on your budget, the amount of space you have at home and how willing you are to convert (soundproof) the space where your drum kit is in into a drum studio.

Because of space and noise constraints, as well as the convenience and smart features on the drum modules, 100% of J Music students own an electronic drum kit at home.

2. Metronome

You must practise the basic drum beat with a metronome if you want to play it well and steadily, whether you want to play in a band in the future or just drum along to songs at home.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Metronomes

A metronome is a device that produces a consistent, rhythmic pulse or beat at a specific tempo. It can be mechanical devices with a pendulum, electronic devices (including watches!) with a sound or visual cue, or an app.

Playing along with a metronome on a regular basis can train you to play well and develop a strong sense of time. 

If you own an electronic drum kit, the module usually has a metronome function.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Drum Module

A drum module is a piece of electronic device that is typically used in an electronic drum kit to produce drum and percussion sounds. Think of it as the CPU of your electronic drum kit.

While the built-in metronome is convenient and useful, the features are usually limited and basic. It will not be able to meet your requirements as you progress and play more advanced drum beats. 

Instead, we advise our adult students to use a fairly affordable paid app.

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Drum Module

We recommended Tempo for grades 1–4 and Polynome for grades 5–8. Both apps have fantastic and useful features, and you can take them with you wherever you go.

Tempo and Polynome are available on the App Store for S$2.99 and S$16.99 (as of March 2023), respectively. Both are one-time payments.

3. Mobile Phone (Video Recording)

J Music - How to Play a Basic Drum Beat - Mobile Phone

Typically, you will only meet with your instructor once a week. What happens in the next six days will be critical to your progress. 

Making it a point to video record yourself using your mobile phone during practise sessions can be extremely beneficial to:

  • improving your ability to play the basic drum beat.
  • tracking your progress.
  • identifying areas for necessary adjustments that you may not have noticed otherwise during your practise.

Easy Drum Songs

You can practise all the drum beats in the world for hours, but unless you apply them in a musical context, you will never be a 100% drummer. 

That is why, at J Music, we make it a priority to incorporate songs into the curriculum as early as the second lesson. 

While it may be difficult for some adult students to play them fluently at that point, it makes them happy and helps them to sustain their interests despite the initial roadblocks.

The best part is that it improves their musicality. Playing with songs shapes them into a more musical drummer, rather than just being another drummer or average student who plays without emotion or expression. 

For the basic drum beat, we recommend the following easy songs: 

  • Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
  • Hella Good by No Doubt
  • Maniac Monday by The Bangles
  • Never Had a Dream Come True – S Club 7
  • Pluto by Chamsom
  • Someone Else by CNBLUE

Follow us on Spotify for more songs on what to practise.

We have painstakingly created playlists for 11 fundamental drum beats so you do not have to waste time looking for appropriate songs to practise to.

All you have to do is follow the playlists and start practising right away!

What Happens Next?

It might be challenging to see the end of the tunnel when you are first learning how to play the basic drum beat.

However, as with other aspects of life, if you practise with patience, persistence, and a positive attitude, coordination will eventually develop.

Just like riding a bicycle–once you have mastered it, you will remember it for the rest of your life.

Have fun playing, and we will see you in the next tutorial when you are ready.

If this lesson has piqued your interest, book a trial lesson now. We look forward to sharing our passion for drumming with you.

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