I play the guitar on an advanced level, and now I decided to start drumming a little bit, because I want to improve rhythmically, and, of course, because it's a lot of fun.

As I don't have lessons I just play around a little bit, listen to songs and try to get the rhythm and so on. Now, my problem is, that I can play some rhythm, but I'm not tight and precise at all for some beats. For example if I play a beat like the following on the bass drum, while having 16ths going on the hi-hat and play the snare on 2 and 4:

1   +   2   +   3   +  4   +
X           X       X    X

I'm not very precise on the last bass drum hit, which means it sometimes comes a bit too early, but mostly a bit too late. Now to the actual question:

If I see that I'm not as tight as I should be somewhere, what's to do? Just practice this rhythm until I'm as precise as I want to be, or rather do something simpler instead, and come back to it later?


6 Answers 6


By advanced level guitar, I assume grade 6 or above. Having got there, you should be aware of how beats are divided and rhythms produced. Only now you'll have to do this with 4 appendages rather than 2.Start with more simple 'beats', on 8s for now, and devise as many of them as you can, using all different combination. There are thousands of combinations - some sound great, others - .Get used to the interaction between feet and hands, and try to keep one thing solid (in 8s)- probably hi-hat or cymbal.

When all this is good, move on to 16s, but slowly - very slowly, but in time. The adage is if you can't do something slowly to start with, you'll never do it fast. Count out loud, either in 1-2-3-4, 1&2&3&4&, or the old favourite, 1-e &-er-2-e-&-er and so on. A metronome is, I hate to say, a must. Or find a click track. All good drummers should be able to play along in time to this.

As slim states, a teacher is almost a prerequisite, if only once a month to keep you on track.


I agree with Tim. 8th notes can be easy even for a beginner but 16th notes adds some difficulty. And the most important part (you know it as a guitarist;)), COUNT! A metronome is boring because its somehow add some beats to your ears but it'll help to keep you sync.

Syncopation adds a lot of fun and I understand that you want to keep working on off-beats, backbeats and so on, but try to be solid on 4s & 8s first.

IMHO, you have to ask yourself if the off-beat you are trying is breaking the whole groove. I mean, if you keep the 1 sync after your 4-e-&, try to practice this 4-e-&. If you fail the 4-e-& and then the next 1 or if you are not comfortable on this one, you need to play something easier first. Maybe the same groove or similar without this particular hit.


For these kind of beats the loudest bang for your buck is to play quite foreign ostinatos. One example can be this strange rock-ish beat. It always rubs the people in the wrong way.

    Count   1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a 
    HH/RC   X       X       X       X
    Kick      0               0        
    Snare               0           0

You can also shift the first snare one sixteenth to the left to make it a little weirder for faster tempos. The reason why this helps is because, you are in the pocket only on the fourth beat and it's too late for you to relax since the next beat is again strange :) Moreover, the fourth beat is the tying beat where non-professionals tend to speed up or play louder because they often want to get in there and pull off a cool trick. This one tempers that will a little by finally comforting the player. It's all about screwing up your mind see? heheh.

Another cool one to play is,

    Count   1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a 
    HH/RC   X       X       X       X
    Kick      0   0   0     0   0     0   
    Snare           0               0 

It's known as Ba-dum-du-ta-dum Dum-dum-ta-dum. Ok bad joke but read it and you'll see. This one specifically makes you work out the off beats in a Beat by kick drum while still trying hard not to kill you from boredom.

You can also see that if you play paraddidles LRLL RLRR the second beat has an L dying to be played by the kick drum. But that becomes pretty boring very quickly. Nevertheless give it a try for 10-15 mins anyways.

The most important thing is that depending on whether you memorize with images or sounds, either picture the beat or sing along while playing. Otherwise these don't mean anything. That's how you digest a groove and otherwise it's just mechanical sight-reading.


As a drummer I play guitar with too much stridency and precision. I've known guitarists who played drums loosely and sloppily. There's a big difference between strumming and beating. A metronome would be in order for a guitarist taking up drums - I've played with wayyyyy too many guitarists with terrible time once they try to play anything faster than 8th notes in their solos.............and it's always the drummers fault :(


I'd just like to reiterate the "start slowly" thing that others have mentioned - but with a small addition.

I've found this with guitar and drums.

Start to learn a riff on either slowly and bring the speed up gradually. The reason is that while doing this, you're building the muscle memory at a comfortable speed. Keep repeating said riff until you're comfortable, then try it a bit faster. one amazing thing about us humans is we seem to be able to do stuff that's in the muscle memory at differeng speeds without said memory being confused.

Next time you go to practice, you'll probably find that you need to start slower again,. but not as slow as last time. If you go about it this way, you'll probably iron out your issues quite quickly :-)

Good luck !


Almost without exception the key to precision is to start slowly. If you have issues with precision play at slower tempos. You should slow it right down until it is entirely comfortable and stable. Then and only then, start to kick the metronome up (6 bpm at a time). I offer this advice to all my students and it works almost every time. The key is to only move up when you are comfortable, the groove is stable and you are relaxed. Any hint of tension is an indicator that you are struggling against your own body. Hope that helps and good luck with your playing :)

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