A commonly asked question is, “Can I learn drums if I do not own a drum kit?”  The answer is yes, there are a number of ways to practice without drums.  Aspiring drummers can start learning with just a practice pad.  They may use the edge of a pad to practice cymbal parts while tapping their feet to practice pedal stokes.

A Low Startup Cost

Drums are one of the only instruments that you can learn without actually owning the instrument. Think about it:  You can’t learn the trumpet without actually having a trumpet to practice on.  You also can’t learn to play the violin without having a violin.  You can start to learn the drums with just a pair of sticks and a practice pad.  This allows you to get a feel for drumming before investing in a complete drumset. 

Practice Pad, Drumsticks, and a Few Extras…

While the startup cost for drumming is low, there are some necessities.  These would include drumsticks and a drum practice pad. 

Drumsticks come in many diameters and lengths.  They are also available in wood and nylon (plastic) tips.  The nylon tips tend not to chip as easily as the wooden tips, although either are fine for practicing on a pad.

There are two main types of drum pads.  The first type of pad consists of a tensioned drumhead with a plastic rim.  The rims of these pads should not be played, as the plastic may chip or crack.  These pads are intended for practicing single-drum patterns, such as rudiments. 

The second type of pad is comprised of a piece of a layer of rubber attached to a wooden base.  The Ahead 10” practice pad falls into this category.  The rubber on the Ahead pad does not cover the entire surface, so the exposed wood can be utilized to practice cymbal patterns. A dual surface pad, such as ones offered by Vic Firth will also be useful for practicing drum and cymbal patterns.

The practice pad may be placed on a table or similar sturdy surface.  The pad should be at approximately belt buckle level.  If the table is too high (or too low), a snare drum stand may be used for the pad.  Most snare stands will accommodate a 12” pad.  Smaller pads often have a threaded base, allowing them to be attached to a specialized practice pad stand.

When practicing hand exercises only, it does not matter if one is standing or seated.  The drummer must be seated when practicing drum set exercises that include the feet.  A chair without arms can be used at first.  A drum throne is highly recommended, since the height of the seat top can be adjusted.    

Practicing the Bass Drum

Practicing bass drum patterns can be as simple as tapping your foot on the floor.  That is obviously the no-cost option.  Another option would be purchasing a bass drum practice pad.  This is purchased separately from the pedal, allowing you to practice with the pedal of your choice.  There are some bass drum practice pad options found in my article on this website.

Getting Creative with Low-Cost Options

There are a few low-cost options that can be utilized while learning the fundamentals.   

  • Tapping on Your Lap or a Table – It is essential to practice with a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad.  If you haven’t ordered those items yet, you can still practice rhythms and coordination patterns by tapping your hand on your knees (or another surface).  Obviously, you won’t be able to practice techniques such as bounces this way.  For those concepts, sticks and a pad are necessary.
  • Drumsticks and a Mouse Pad – If you have sticks (but haven’t had a chance to get a practice pad yet,) a computer mouse pad is an effective alternative.  It is spongy, allowing it to have some rebound when hit with a stick.  It is much thinner than a drum pad, so be sure to use it on a surface that is not easily dented.
  • Rubber Tipped Drumsticks – The Vic Firth Chopout 5B is basically a pair of sticks and practice pad in one!  Vic Firth took one of the most popular drumstick models and attached a round rubber tip, allowing it to be played on any hard surface.
  • Drum Mutes on a Table – Drum mutes (or silencers) are thick, rubbery pads meant to be placed on top of the drums.  They greatly reduce the overall volume of the set.  You can purchase a few mutes and place them on a table.  You may not be able to fit an entire drumset’s worth of pads on the table, but it will allow you to practice on multiple surfaces. The pads can later be used again when you get a drumset,

Practice Pad Kit

Before investing in a drumset, you might want to consider getting a practice pad kit.  This type of setup consists of a number of practice pads that can be used to practice drum or cymbal parts.  The DW “Go Anywhere” kit also has a bass drum practice pad built into the unit (pedal not included).

Practicing on a Real Drumset

A few ideas found in the article, Can I Learn Drums if I Live in an Apartment, can also be utilized here.  You may wish to skim through that article for ideas such as:

  • Booking time at a rehearsal space that has a drumset
  • Practicing at your local church
  • Finding a music store that will rent practice rooms

Learn Correctly from the Start

It is recommended to find a qualified teacher that can guide you through the process of learning the drums.  Not every teacher has the knowledge or experience to explain things in an effective manner.  Please see my article How Do I Choose a Drum Teacher on this website for more information on this topic.

You can also start practicing the exercises on The Drum Lesson Room’s main website page. 

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