In this article, Freddy Charles covers the essentials for beginners learning to use a drum practice pad. Freddy is an authority on drum practice pads for two reasons:
1. He has his own very nice practice pad (which we reviewed here), and
2. He has amazing chops – he definitely takes these drum pad exercises seriously (just take a look at his videos further down this page).
If you’re just starting out learning the drums (or you’re a more advanced player wanting to improve the essentials), the exercises below are a great way to get your hands in better shape.
Learning To Play Drums With A Practice Pad
by Freddy Charles
I often get asked why I recommend aspiring drummers start their journey on a practice pad.
Aside from the obvious answer of not wasting money and time on buying a full drum set for someone who has never played, a drum practice pad is an affordable and perfectly suitable option to start learning how to play the drums.
If you’ve read a bit about my story, it was the practice pad that started my drumming adventure. I learned all of the fundamentals on the practice pad before translating those concepts to the snare, or the kit.
Learning drums with a practice pad allowed me to remotely practice and concentrate on my hands, essentially to see if I even liked playing at all. Turns out I did enjoy my time on the practice pad, and throughout my life, I would always have a pad handy to keep my chops in check.
How To Choose The Best Drum Practice Pad
With so many options out there to choose from, if you’re looking to purchase a drum practice pad today, you may become a bit overwhelmed. Part of the reason I developed my own pad was for exactly this reason. Too many choices, sizes, colors, and materials to alter the degree of rebound.
When looking for a quality practice pad to start learning to play the drums, your main concern should be the size and the bounce. I always recommend something smaller than the standard 12” pads that are popular from the larger brands. They’re too heavy and too large to travel with, and just plain unnecessary. The second factor, but not less important, is the degree of rebound. Look for dense silicone pads because they produce the most bounce.
You may come across lots of information about drum practice pads that have less rebound. This concept is really for intermediate to advanced players.
As a beginner, you’re going to need a drum pad that responds to the stick and offers a high degree of rebound. The reason is control. The more bounce, the more your tiny finger and hand muscles will get used to controlling the sticks.
My signature Freddy Charles Practice Pad is a great starting point for young drummers to get into the groove. At 8”, it’s the ideal size to put on your lap and take with you anywhere. It is made of high-quality silicone, so the bounce is perfect. It also comes with a pair of 5A drumsticks, which in my opinion are the best starting point for anyone learning to play the drums. In addition, I’ve included a short video and ebook to get you started on the concepts discussed in this article.
I’ve Got My Practice Pad, So Now What
The first order of business is holding the sticks. I have numerous demos out there on playing traditional grip (for example my blog post on the secret to traditional grip) but for this article let’s just assume you take a standard grip approach with your drumsticks. You’ll want to start by learning to hold the sticks in a matched grip. That is, the stick lies between the 1st and 2nd joint of the index finger and the thumb. Both hands will hold the drumsticks exactly the same. Make sure the palms are facing down. Relax your arms and let your shoulders drop naturally. Assuming you are sitting in a chair, place the drum practice pad on your lap.
With your arms at about 90 degrees the sticks should be just parallel to the practice pad.
You are now set up for success.
Hitting The Practice Pad
If you grab my book and video, you’ll learn that the first stroke I teach is called the free stroke. The free stroke is very powerful in your toolkit. To summarize the technique, simply put: the stick hits the practice pad and then immediately comes back up. You can watch a quick excerpt from the Beginner Hands video below:
Drum Practice Pad Exercises For Beginners
In order to keep this short, I’ve chosen my 5 top exercises/drum rudiments that you can start practicing right away on your drum pad.
Single Stroke Roll
The Single Stroke Roll is the simplest of the rudiments, yet among the most difficult to master. Without worrying about speed, your goal here is to get clean free strokes each and every time you hit the drum pad. Practice this until you get really comfortable. Remember to keep it very slow and slowly work up to higher speeds. Refer again to the video excerpt above where I demonstrate this technique.
The double stroke is essential to learning how to play drums. It is based on a simple concept of using controlled rebound to move quickly. Although it may appear simple, the double stroke will take you some time to master so don’t get discouraged. The double stroke is also the basis of the buzz roll- so once you get those doubles tight on your practice pad, you’ll be able to reduce the motion down to a drum roll.
The Paradiddle is everyone’s favorite exercise. It’s a great way to build speed and dexterity on the drum practice pad and around the entire drum kit. You’ll find most drummers using these all over the place. Once you get comfortable with the sticking, you’ll notice it is very easy to gain speed.
I wrote an entire article on the paradiddle diddle and why it’s such an incredible rudiment. After you get your paradiddles in order, you can move on to working on paradiddle diddles.
Check out my video on how to play the paradiddle diddle fast below.
The accented triplet is a grouping of 3 notes with an accent on the first note. These are great to work on, especially while you are still getting comfortable with drumming on the practice pad. Once you’ve mastered these, you can move on to more advanced techniques, such as the Moeller Technique to really spice these up. Alternate the hands as noted in the image above, and try to keep these as smooth as possible.
So, there you have it. If you are just starting out, I strongly recommend you begin with a practice drum pad and work on these 5 concepts I’ve highlighted in this article. I would encourage you to not give up because these beginning stages, like any other craft, are rather challenging. When frustration sets in, just understand that it is normal and with a bit of perseverance, you will push through the plateau and be on your way to becoming an excellent drummer.