Drum Practice

How to learn the drums at home without a drum kit

Do you want to learn the drums at home, but don’t have a drum kit? Unlike some other instruments, it is possible to learn the drums without a kit. Discover how in this post!

If you want to learn the drums but don’t yet have your own drum kit, or can’t practise on a real acoustic kit at home due to the noise, don’t worry – this doesn’t mean you can’t learn the drums. There are plenty of ways to learn the drums without owning an acoustic drum kit.

How can I learn the drums at home?

It is absolutely possible to become a great drummer without even having your own drum kit at home. If you’re new to drumming, you can learn the basics and get a feel for what it’s like to play the drums with only a small amount of outlay, so you know if it’s for you before spending lots of money.

Below, I’ll share my recommended order of what you should do to learn the drums at home as if you were a brand-new drummer.

Look up basic drum rudiments

The first thing you need to learn about drumming is how drum parts are made up. Drum rudiments are the building blocks of drumming. A rudiment is a sticking pattern, and everything you’ll play on the drums is derived from various different drum rudiments.

The first rudiment you’ll learn is very simple – Right, Left, Right, Left, or RLRL, as it is often written as. This is called a single stroke roll, as you strike the drum once with each hand before moving on to the second stoke on your other hand.

The second rudiment is the double stroke roll. As you might guess, this is striking the drum twice with each hand before moving to the other hand. So RRLL.

There are many more possible rudiments you could learn – around 40 – but you’ll need to learn just 5 to be able to play most popular music competently.

Learn how to hold drumsticks

With some theory out of the way, you’ll need to learn how to hold a pair of sticks. We’ll come back to this topic later, but in the meantime, Drumeo has a great video explaining how to hold your sticks:

Get a pair of sticks

To actually practice the drums you’ll need some sticks. Sticks come in a variety of sizes, where 7A is the thinnest diameter, going up to 5A, 5B, and with 2B as the largest. As a beginner, just get the sticks that feel best to you based on the size of your hands. When I learnt the drums, I switched around between 7A, 5A and 5B sticks before I settled on 5B being my preferred size, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

My recommendation is to go for a budget stick at first, such as the Vic Firth Nova series, which are around 30-50% cheaper than their standard line of sticks.

Now that you have a pair of sticks, you can practice the two rudiments we talked about above. But what surface should you play on? A pillow is a good tool to practice on if you don’t have a drum to hand and can actually be beneficial to your drumming.

That’s because there is no rebound whatsoever from a pillow – unlike a drum- so practicing rudiments on a pillow helps to build your hand strength. In fact, at one point when I was without a drum kit for a year, practicing on a pillow helped me to maintain my hand strength. 

Get a practice pad

Of course, you’ll want to graduate from drumming on a pillow pretty soon, to something that feels more like a drum. A practice pad is the next thing to buy, and again, they can be very affordable, around £20 or $30.

Practice pads mimic a real drum’s rebound level fairly closely, without being nearly as loud, and therefore much better for practicing at home.

You’ll find that practice pads are generally smaller than real drums, typically between 6 and 8 inches across, but this is actually a good thing. As a beginner, you’ll want to learn to hit the drum accurately in the same spot over and over again, to get a consistent sound out of a real drum.

So with your practice pad and sticks, now’s the time to build your accuracy and consistency, striking the pad in the same place and at the same strength repeatedly.

Get a metronome app

An important part of drumming we’ve not looked at yet is timing. As a drummer, it’s your role to keep the beat for the band, so now’s the time to start building those skills. Fortunately, this is something you don’t need to spend any money on at all, if you already have a smartphone. Simply download a free metronome app from the Apple store or Google Play store.

When you have your metronome app, you’ll want to be able to practice your two basic rudiments at various tempos, aiming to hit the drum so accurately over the metronome beat, that you mask the sound of the metronome itself. Be sure to start slow before building up to higher tempos. 60 bpm is a great place to start and try changing in increments of 5 bpm.

A fun challenge is to dial the tempo back even further, for example 40 or even 30 bpm. How slow can you go while still being accurate?

Building your timing will be challenging, and won’t come quickly- it’s something you’ll need to work at for many years throughout your drumming career. Personally, I was still hopeless with accurate timekeeping after even 5 years of drumming, which was because I didn’t spend enough time with the metronome. Don’t make the same mistake as I did, make playing with your metronome a habit! Once I started practicing rudiments with a metronome regularly, the quality of my drumming improved significantly.

Find a tutor – online or in person

So, you have some sticks, a practice pad, a metronome, and are learning some beginner rudiments and working on your timing. What’s next? A good idea is to find a tutor who can help with your posture and stick grip.

We already looked at stick grip earlier, but it’s important to have an expert to help ensure you’re not picking up any bad habits. It’s hard to pick up on these sorts of things as a beginner, since everything will feel quite unnatural at first. So a tutor is well worth it to help prevent injury and accelerate your development, avoiding the need to unlearn bad posture or bad stick grip in the future.

If you can afford it, I’d recommend in-person drum lessons to begin with, as it means you can get real-time feedback on your playing, which just isn’t possible from online, video-based lessons (though these are worth considering in future, when you’re beyond the basics)

Virtual one-on-one lessons can be considered, but as a beginner with no drum kit at home, consider visiting a local tutor where you’ll be able to play on a real drum kit. Playing on a practice pad is good for learning, but you’ll want to put those skills into use on a real kit at some point to keep yourself interested and motivated!

Get an electronic kit or practice drum kit

Once you have a grasp of the basics and have been playing on a practice pad for a couple of months, you’ll probably have some idea of whether you want to continue learning the drums. It’s now time to decide if you want to invest in a kit, which will give you the chance to move beyond rudiments and play some beats, fills, and even play along to your favourite songs.

If you can’t have a full-sized acoustic kit at home because of the noise, then an electronic kit can make a great practice kit for use at home. Read more at our guide on if it’s better to learn on an electronic kit or an acoustic kit.

An alternative to an electronic kit is a practice kit, which often feels similar to play to an electronic kit. However, they tend to be cheaper, as the electronic components are not included.

Find a local studio and play on an acoustic kit

My final tip is to find a local studio so you can also play on an acoustic drum kit, if you decide to go down the route of using an electronic kit at home. Electronic kits feel slightly different, so it’s a good idea to experience this and have some time on a real kit. Find out about how electronic drums feel compared to acoustic drums here.

Starting your drumming career

I hope these tips are helpful for starting your drumming career and learning the drums at home without a drum kit. If you’re a beginner and have questions about learning the drums, let me know in the comments. If you have your own tips for starting out on the drums, please do share them with the community below!

This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through certain links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our adverts and why you can trust eDrumHub here.

By Seb Atkinson

Seb has been a drummer since 2004 and an eDrummer since 2008. He founded eDrumHub to provide information on electronic drums for other drummers who can't justify an acoustic drum kit for practice at home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *