The most important thing to nail right from the start, is posture. Poor posture can lead to strain and injury down the line, and no one likes back injuries!
The way you have your kit set up makes the biggest difference. Set the height of your stool so that your feet reach the ground naturally, and your legs are angled slightly downwards.
Position your hi-hat and kick pedals directly under your feet. Your snare drum should sit between your legs at a comfortable height, just above your knees. The rest of your kit should be easily accessed without having to change your body position too much. Resist the urge to position your cymbals up high – you want them to be in front of you and easy to reach.
Maintain good posture, but don’t be too rigid! Feel the groove.
There are many ways to hold a stick, with the classic drum grips being American, German, and French. Each technique has its pros and cons, details below:
Hold your sticks so your palms are facing each other, with the sticks supported by your fingers, and thumbs on top. Your fingers do most of the work with this grip. Useful for speed and finesse.
Hold your sticks so your palms are facing downwards, and the sticks are supported by the fulcrum of your index fingers, with thumbs on the side. This grip requires you to primarily use your wrists to move the sticks. Best for power.
Hold the sticks so your palms are at 45°, with your thumbs and forefingers opposite each other, on either side of the sticks. A combination of the French and German grips, the American grip arguably offers the best combination of power and control.
The American grip is a “matched grip”, meaning your hands should mirror each other. It’s the most common way to hold a stick, and the easiest to learn for beginners.
It’s important with all grip types to hold the sticks firmly enough that you don’t drop them, but loosely enough that you maintain a relaxed feel.
It’s common for beginner drummers to subconsciously tense up, particularly when playing fast, complex rhythms. Keep calm and relaxed, and most importantly: let the stick do the work.
Strike so the stick bounces off the drum naturally. Digging your stick into the drum won’t allow it to resonate properly, or can cause double triggers when using electronic pads.
There are two main foot pedal techniques: “heel up” or “heel down”.
With your heel raised slightly above the pedal, push down with the ball of your foot. Best for speed and power.
With your heel flat on the pedal, control the pedal by moving your ankle. Best for soft, dynamic playing.
Both are valid techniques for different playing styles, so try both. The heel up technique is often easiest – you’ll get plenty of speed and power because you’ll use your whole leg. Heel down is a technique often used by jazz drummers, and allows for more dynamic playing.
Righty vs Lefty
There are not many instruments where the most common method is to play with your arms crossed, but you’ll see most drummers play the hi-hat with their right hand and the snare with their left, crossing their arms over each other.
This is called “cross-handed” drumming, and it often feels more natural for right-handed drummers because you’ll get the necessary speed and control from your dominant hand for riding on the hi-hat.
If you’re left-handed, you’ll probably find playing the hi-hat with your left hand easier. This is called “open-handed” drumming.