How to Get Better at Drums: Give This Practice Routine a Shot!


Although I might struggle at times, I’m going to try and keep this post short and to the point. If you’re learning how to get better at drums, the following exercise should be a fun and unique challenge, especially for all of you intermediate drummers out there!

And quick disclaimer, this exercise will require a double bass pedal or two bass drums. If you don’t have either of those, you can simply use the hi-hat pedal instead. However, it won’t have the same feel as a bass pedal.

So, let’s dive in!

If you haven’t realized by now, I seem to have an arguably unhealthy fascination with anything related to practice routines on the drums. I think it must be that I’m drawn to anything that challenges my coordination.

Or, it could be that I’m just weird, which very well could be the case.

Anyway, back to the point. This whole exercise takes place across the bass drum(s), the snare drum, and three of the toms (high, middle, and floor). Don’t worry if it sounds scary or intimidating. It’s really not. It just takes some practice.

So grab yourself a nice coffee or some hot chocolate and get ready to exercise.

To begin with, we will be playing alternating double stroke rolls with our hands, because who doesn’t love double stroke rolls right?

Nobody, that’s who!

In case you are absolutely brand new to drumming and aren’t familiar with the standard way of counting sixteenth notes, they’re usually counted like this: one-e-and-a, two-e-and-a, three-e-and-a, four-e-and-a, etc…

But then again, if you are unfamiliar with counting out sixteenth notes, this exercise might be a little advanced for now.

Also, if you normally count double stroke rolls as eighth notes (as in one-and, two-and, etc…), this exercise will require you to count them as sixteenth notes.

This will probably be the first confusing thing to understand about this exercise.

I’ve intentionally decided to lead with my right hand for this exercise. So, let’s begin by using our right hand and play a double stroke roll on the snare drum. We’ll count it as one-e.

Our left hand then plays a double stroke roll on the snare drum as well, and it gets counted as and-a.

The four notes you just played comprise one quarter note, or one beat.

Pretty simple stuff I know, but it will get a bit more tricky when we start adding the kick drum to the mix.

How to get get better at drums. Give this practice routine a shot. Drum set.

Before I forget, and start going more in-depth with this post, make sure you are focusing on what part of the drum you’re hitting. Don’t hesitate to read my post about it: How to Improve Drumming Technique: Improving Accuracy on the Drums.

Now that we understand how the counting for this exercise works, let’s learn the pattern for our hands. It will be R-R, L-L (that is two double stroke rolls, or four sixteenth notes counted as one-e-and-uh) beginning on the snare drum.

Don’t worry about playing anything with your feet just yet, that will be added later.

Moving clockwise around the kit, we’ll next focus on the high tom. Leading with our right hand, we’ll play the same set of two double stroke rolls: R-R, L-L. It will be counted as two-e-and-a.

You probably guessed it, next up is the mid tom, and we’ll play another set of two double stroke rolls beginning with our right hand: R-R, L-L. It will be counted as three-e-and-a.

Finally, let’s end on the floor tom with one more set of two double stroke rolls: R-R, L-L. It will be counted as four-e-and-a.

Putting it all together, it should sound like the audio clip below. Keep in mind it won’t sound like much at this point, but you’ll get an idea of what is going on.

Congratulations! You made it through the first part of the exercise!

Don’t worry, there’s much more to this routine than what we just learned, because we are now going to do the same thing, but in reverse. We’ll begin on the floor tom, move to the mid tom, then the high tom, and finally end it on the snare drum.

The sticking is L-L, R-R on the floor tom, L-L, R-R on the mid tom, L-L, R-R on the high tom, and finally, L-L, R-R on the snare drum.

It sounds like this:

Let’s see what those two parts sound like back to back when played at 60 BPM.

Congratulations, you completed the first round!

Also, congratulations if you noticed the volume of the very last snare drum hit was lower. I screwed it up in Reaper, but it was more work than I wanted to do to go back and fix it.

Now, let’s up the difficulty.

We’ll repeat the same pattern with our hands, but this time around we are going to be adding a bass drum note on the first sixteenth note of every beat. This should be done with your right foot for now.

This means one kick drum note with the snare for count one, one kick drum note with the high tom for count two, one kick drum note with the mid tom for count three, and one kick drum note with the floor tom for count four.

Then we reverse it with our hands. One kick drum note with the floor tom for count five/one, one kick drum note with the mid tom for count six/two, one kick drum note with the high tom for count seven/three, and then one kick drum note with the snare drum for count eight/four.

Make sure you’re playing these quarter notes on the bass drum with your right foot for now.

It will sound like this:

My advice is to practice playing the pattern we’ve learned up to this point until it’s comfortable and you can play it smoothly without interruption.

Once you have that down, you can move from playing quarter notes on the bass drum, (still with your right foot) to playing eighth notes.

It will sound like this:

If you’re comfortable playing eighth notes on the bass drum, let’s move up to sixteenth notes!

However, if you find playing eighth notes to be challenging, I would say don’t move on yet. Stay where you are and continue playing eighth notes until you are comfortable.

But if you decide to move up to sixteenth notes, it will sound like this:

Awesome job!

Except, we’re not done quite yet…

Consider this exercise half completed because now we’re going to play it all over again, but this time we’re going to use our left foot to play the bass instead of our right.

That’s right, I said it. The sticking pattern with our hands will remain the same, but we’re going to play it all again moving from quarter notes, to eighth notes, and finally sixteenth notes with our left foot this time!

So that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this rather silly exercise. I feel it’s another brick in your wall of learning the drums.

If you enjoyed it, or if you hated it, please feel free to let everyone know your thoughts.

Until next time, keep playing the drums and keep being awesome to each other.

What to do next?

If you are brand new to music, music production, or are interested in learning to play the drums, you can check out my article: What is a DAW? – What Does DAW stand for?

You might also want to check out this article: Acoustic Vs. Electronic Drums – Which One is Right for You?

If you are looking at buying your first drum set or any other musical instrument for that matter, take a look at Zzounds. They have a variety of acoustic drum sets and electronic drum sets for purchase.

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Andrew has been a life long lover of music. Although starting his musical journey on the guitar, (we won't talk about his skills on that particular instrument) he found his true passion was for drumming and making music to share with others. He also enjoys writing blog posts about off the wall subjects that are very much real—such as Bigfoot, UFOs, and what's up with European mayonnaise. Why is it sweet???
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