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Learning a Rock Drum Rhythm

By Joseph, published on 27/08/2018 Blog > Music > Drums > How to Play Rock Drums

“I taught myself how to play the guitar, I taught myself how to play the drums, and I kind of fake doing both of them. But drumming comes more natural to me, and it just feels better.” – Dave Grohl

Fortunately, Dave Grohl seems to know what he’s doing…

The majority of Brits attend at least one concert or gig per year. Whether you’re playing the electric guitar, bass guitar, or even the saxophone, rock music is a way for a lot of musicians to express themselves via their instrument.

When it comes to the drums, rock music is great for helping you learn how to handle your sticks.

So why now learn to play the drums and become a rock drummer?

In this article, we’re going to look at how to play drums and the kind of rock beats you’ll come across in a typical drum lesson.

Learn how to write drum music.

Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Rock

When you start learning how to play the drums, you can’t skip any of the steps.

How long does it take to learn to play the drums? You can’t skip any of the steps. (Source: Free-Photos)

People often want to dive straight into playing their favourite songs, effectively running before they can walk. This is why you should get drum lessons because a lot of drum beats and drum rudiments are too difficult for beginners.

You can’t just start with impressive drum fills and drum solos! Regardless of your favourite style (jazz, funk, groove, rock, folk, etc.), you have to start with the basics before you can play along to your favourite drum beat.

If you start with something too difficult, you won’t progress at all and you’ll soon become demotivated and run the risk of giving up altogether.

Playing the drums is mentally tiring. You have to multitask and develop your coordination at the same time. If you try and do too much at once, you’ll struggle to keep rhythm with both your hands and your feet.

So what is the solution?

Start off with a few simple rhythms so that you can improve your coordination.

Baby steps. A full song requires a number of different skills:

  • You have to be comfortable with several different rhythms and beats.
  • You need to be able to play several measures in time without making a single mistake.
  • You have to be able to change from one beat to another seamlessly.
  • You need to be aware of which measure you’re playing so that you know where you are in the song.
  • You need to set the tempo.

You can develop all of these skills, but you need to be patient and you need to develop them in order. Rock music is great for developing solid drumming foundations before moving onto more complicated drum techniques. Beginner drum lessons will often cover rock beats, even if your goals are to move onto playing the drums in a different style.

Don’t forget that you can also learn jazz rhythms on the drums.

Basic Rock Drumming

There’s one beat that almost everyone will be familiar with. It’s often known as the million dollar beat. It’s been used in so many different songs, including Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean.

How much do drum lessons cost? In rock music, the drummer is as important as any other musician! (Source: Free-Photos)

The lows of the bass drum and the highs of the snare. There are three main parts of your drum kit that you’ll need to use in order to produce this beat.

  • The hi-hat
  • The snare drum
  • The bass drum

Whether you’re playing on an electronic drum kit or a nice Pearl or Ludwig acoustic kit, you need to ensure that your hi-hat is firmly closed with your left foot (if you’re right-handed). You want a clean and dry sound when you hit the hi-hat with the drumstick in your right hand.

To hit the bass drum, you want to use the pedal under your right foot. By lifting your heel, you can achieve more power in each hit. However, don’t lift your foot from the pedal. The ball of your foot should always remain in contact with it. Lifting your foot from the pedal wastes time and will cost you precision.

With the drumstick in your left hand, you’re going to hit the snare drum. Let the drumstick bounce back up when it hits the drum. If you hold onto the drumstick too firmly, you’ll end up with blisters.

You need to regularly hit the hi-hat in the beats between hitting the bass drum and the snare.

  • 1: Bass drum
  • “And”: Hi-hat
  • 2: Snare
  • “And”: Hi-hat
  • 3: Bass drum
  • “And”: Hi-hat
  • 4: Snare
  • “And”: Hi-hat.

How Do You Do It Step By Step?

Set your metronome to 50 to begin. Start by just playing the hi-hat part as you count “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and…”. The numbers are the beats and the “ands” are the off-beats. You can then add the bass drum on the 1st and 3rd beats while still hitting the hi-hat on the offbeats. Make sure you’re hitting the bass drum hard. It needs to be hard and precise. Most importantly, the hits need to be in time.

The last thing you have to do is to add the snare drum by hitting it with the drumstick in your left hand during the 2nd and 4th beats, making sure that you continue to hit the hi-hat and bass drum. The snare drum needs to be struck precisely and strongly. Don’t be shy! Go for it!

Your arms should be crossed with your right arm over your left. Make sure they don’t hit one another as you strike the snare with your left.

Keep Working On It

It’s very likely that you’ll make a few mistakes when you first start playing as you won’t have the necessary coordination yet. This is the same for all musical instruments and they require patience, determination, and a lot of work.

  • You’ll probably forget to hit the bass drum or the snare drum a few times.
  • You’ll struggle to keep regular time on the hi-hat.
  • You’re going to accidentally mix up the bass drum and the snare drum, hitting one instead of the other.
  • You’ll accidentally hit your drumsticks together.
  • You’re going to feel tense.

This is all normal for someone who’s just started learning to play the drums. Everyone goes through the same experience as they improve their rhythm either while teaching themselves to play the drums or with the help of a private drum tutor.

Take your time, it’ll help you get better more quickly. Slow things down and think about it.

Once it’s become second nature, you’ll no longer worry about how to keep time, coordinate your limbs, and how hard you need to hit each drum.

Once you’re comfortable with 50bpm, you can increase the rhythm to 60, 90, and 120. Don’t go to a higher tempo until you’ve mastered the beat at a lower one. For some beats, this can take several days or weeks. You might also consider learning to play heavy metal on the drums.

How do you use a bass drum pedal? It’s important that you’re in the right position when playing the drums. (Source: StockSnap)

Other Rock Drumbeats

Before moving onto other drum rhythms, make sure you’ve mastered the basic beats.

At the moment, you won’t be using any cymbals other than the hi-hat. Keep in mind that it’s quite easy to read a drum tab and that once you’ve studied a bit of music theory, you should be able to read the sheet music, too.

Nevertheless, you can play without knowing any of that because you can just listen to the different beats and count out the rhythm yourself.

Offbeat Bass Drum

With this beat, we’ll start by playing the bass drum on an offbeat.

You’ll play the bass drum on the offbeat after playing the snare; between the 2nd and 3rd beat. This is what you’ll play:

  • 1: Bass drum
  • “And”: Hi-hat
  • 2: Snare
  • “And”: Bass drum
  • 3: Bass drum
  • “And”: Hi-hat
  • 4: Snare

This will give you the “dum-tsh, du-dum-tsh” sound.

Triple Hi-hat

In this beat, we’ll hit the hi-hat three times in quick succession without playing any other drums. As there’s a lack of drums in the middle of the measure, we tend to think that we’ve forgotten something.

This is how you play it:

  • 1: Bass drum
  • 2: Snare
  • “And”: Hi-hat
  • 3: Hi-hat
  • “And”: Hi-hat
  • 4: Snare
  • “And”: Bass drum

This will give you an interesting beat.

How do you use a hi-hat? The pedals are as important as the drums and cymbals themselves. (Source: curiousgeorge77)

Bass Drum Variation

How do you create a completely unexpected beat? By completely changing the bass drum.

This can be a little tricky for a beginner but it’s worth giving a try if you like challenging yourself.

  • 1: Bass drum
  • “And”: Hi-hat
  • 2: Snare
  • “And”: Bass drum
  • 3: Hi-hat
  • “And”: Bass drum
  • 4: Snare

This is also an intriguing beat to play.

Rock Drum Breaks

In a music school, you’ll learn how to play different beats before you learn to do a drum break.

You have to master basic beats and add start implementing cymbal crashes on alternate measures before you can start doing this. Then you can start thinking of different fills and licks.

Why not then move onto writing your own music and beats for the drums?

Don’t forget that there are plenty of free drum lessons and tutorials available online. Additionally, there are articles on how to read sheet music for drums and blogs on drum tuning.

Rock Drum Vocabulary

Break

A break is when the regular music is interrupted with something new. Drummers can play during this time.

Fill

A fill is a variation on the beat used to transition from one beat to another.

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