10.08.2017

Episode #1 of the course How to play the drums to (almost) every song you’ve ever heard by Dylan DePice

How could you possibly learn to play the drums just by reading emails? I’ll show you.

You will have to follow along. But you don’t need an actual drumset to do it. You can do it on your couch, tapping your thighs. You can do it at work, tapping your desk (if you’re subtle). The point is, you can do it. It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.

That’s not true, actually. It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3, 4.

Seriously.

Count to four.

1, 2, 3, 4.

Now do it four times in a row—but slowly this time—and try to do it in rhythm. In other words, try to make the distance between 1 and 2 the same as the distance between 2 and 3, 3 and 4, and—here’s the tricky one—4 and 1. (The toughest part about this might be remembering not to say 5.) If you mess up, start over. Try it. Maybe not out loud if you’re in public. (Even if you’re alone, it can feel awkward to count out loud. But I promise that it is a huge help.)

Here’s a trick to help you feel that space between the numbers. Say the word “and” (which I’ll write as “+”) in between each number.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + etc.

You just learned the basis for every beat in the history of rock, pop, and hip-hop music. Not kidding.

To make a beat, drummers decide on which numbers—or in between which numbers—to hit which drums (or for electronic music, when to program which drum sounds.) Playing a beat is all about what drums you hit at what moment. Counting is the context for what happens at what moment. And you already know how to count. So, let’s move right on to actually playing!

… which always starts with counting.

When I say “GO,” you’re going to do the following:

1. Start by counting your fours slowly.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(“One and two and three and four and”)

2. Keep repeating them (out loud, if possible) until you feel like you could do it in your sleep.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
etc.

3. Then—staying slow or slowing down even more if necessary, but not stopping—try tapping your right thigh with your left hand every time you say “2.” (That’s if you’re a righty; use your right hand and left thigh if you’re a lefty.)*

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(“One and two and three and four and”)
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
etc.

Read it again if you want. To summarize: count, repeat, tap. Ready?

GO!

If you mess up, don’t sweat it, just start again. Don’t worry about keeping your counting in rhythm right now. Just focus on hitting your thigh at the exact moment you say 2. Go as slow as you need to in order to nail it.

Once you feel like you can do this without thinking about it, try adding another thigh slap on 4. It may help to say 2 and 4 louder like this:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(“One and TWO and three and FOUR and”)
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
etc.

Next, try it in rhythm, counting at a consistent clip without speeding up or slowing down.

Oh, by the way, you just learned the basic snare drum pattern behind almost every song you’ve ever heard on the radio! Here are a few examples: “The Twist” (Spotify/YouTube), “Hey Jude” (Spotify/YouTube), “It Was a Good Day” (Spotify/YouTube), and “Billie Jean” (Spotify/YouTube). Even the songs that don’t use this exact pattern rely on some variation of it (more on that later).

We’ll get to what a snare drum actually is and how to build that pattern into a beat later. In the meantime, feel free to keep practicing this any time you have a safe moment to count and tap.

\m/

P.S. Don’t feel bad just slapping your thighs. Drummers do this all the time. In fact, the “drums” in the song, “Everyday” by Buddy Holly (Spotify/YouTube), are actually the sounds of his drummer, Jerry Allison, doing exactly that!

*This course is written for right-handed learners. If you’re left handed, just do the opposite of everything I tell you (except this!).

Recommended book

Stick Control: For the Snare Drummer by George Lawrence Stone

Share with friends