I am a semi pro musician (only because folks are generous enough to pay me to perform on occasion - not because of great talent) and can play guitar well enough to accompany my singing and play a little on keyboard (piano).

I have always been fascinated by drums - particularly the drum set or kit consisting of a kick drum and high hat and various other drums played with sticks or brushes.

If I ever learn to play set, it will be to add live drum tracks to recordings of my original songs that I produce in my home "recording studio". I think live drums gives the song a more organic natural "live" feel than digitally synthesized drum tracks.

I have tried playing full kits before. I don't have much problem with two distinct beats playing with just the sticks (or hands on a djembe or cajone' or bongos), but when I try to add the kick drum and high hat into the mix, something goes awry in my brain and I can't seem to get both hands and both feet in an any semblance of synchronization or coordination.

My daughter (who was a cheerleader at the time) bought herself a drum kit and could instantly play in perfect coordination using both hands and both feet with no lessons and very little practice. After she showed me how "easy it was", she disassembled the kit and sold it on e-bay and despite the fact that she quickly became a proficient drummer, she has never played drums again.

So my question is, are some people just born with an innate natural ability to keep a rhythm with both hands and both feet simultaneously, and therefore possess the ability to play a full drum kit? If I don't have a God given sense of rhythm, can I develop it with practice and lessons - to the point where I could play full kit effectively, or would this take tons of time and energy and effort (or even be impossible given my apparent rhythmic challenges)?

For whatever it's worth, playing guitar did not exactly come naturally or easy for me. I had to work at it much harder than most of my guitar playing friends admit to.

  • George Harrison was not naturally talented like, say, Paul Macartney, but he did okay. Some people need extra practice and willpower. Aug 12, 2021 at 10:16
  • Nothing involving music is god-given. It is all a skill that anyone can learn. Music is a trade. If you want to hear the founder of a international music organisation expose this view then you can read the book nurturing with love by Dr Suzuki.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 14, 2021 at 18:04
  • 1
    Nurtured by Love is the book I was thinking of.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 14, 2021 at 18:14

4 Answers 4


Yes, you absolutely can.

As with so many things, this is not a black-or-white thing. There's not some kind of gene that says you'll either be a master at playing the drums, or totally suck at it. Many things come into play here:

  • The ability to concentrate.
  • The ability to control your motions accurately.
  • Eye-hand coordination.
  • Stamina.
  • Willpower.

These are just a few -- I'm just listing these off the top of my head. As you know, these are qualities that everybody is born with, with varying skill in each of them. Now, when you speak of someone with "God given sense of rhythm", you're actually thinking of somebody who has a God given sense of all these things listed above. Almost nobody has a God given talent for all of these things though, which is why the last bullet point is so important. Willpower -- more accurately, dedication during practice -- can take you a very long way. Even the most talented musicians spend hours upon hours practicing, because that's simply the best way to become good at something. Even if you are born with the talent to play drums, you'll still need to polish this skill by practicing enough.

Long story short: many talents contribute to your ability to play the drums, but in the end, practice will always be necessary. However, being born with these talents will definitely make life easier for you, and lacking these talents probably means that there's a certain "limit" of how good a drummer you can become.

  • I played the piano and violin for 10 years before picking up the drums. It took about 8 hours of practice before using three limbs on the drums felt 'natural', never mind actually playing a beat. Practice will overcome any initial problems for sure.
    – Nelson
    Feb 19, 2015 at 19:15

I would separate the sense of rhythm from the distinct skill of limb-independence.

What you are actually trying to achieve right now isn't timing, or rhythm, it's the separation of one task [hands] from another [feet]

With no sense of rhythm whatsoever, you can practise patting your head & rubbing your stomach… then swap hands!

Once you can do that at will, repeatedly, without ever getting it wrong, you've developed one aspect of limb-independence - though that in itself won't develop any sense of rhythm.

To apply that to a drum kit, the first & simplest thing to do is to tap out a simple 4 on the hi-hats. Once that is steady, add in the snare, on 2 & 4 - just like you've heard on a million records.
The first thing beginners do is 'forget' to play the hat each time they want to hit the snare. There is a tendency to instead of hit both together, that they will instead lift the right [hat] hand instead of drop it. There is nothing you can really do to fix that except practise until you can do it.

That's an exercise you can do on a table top, car dashboard - anywhere that people won't actually throw things at you while you practise ;)
You don't need sticks to learn that bit. Sometimes not having the sticks makes you learn the independence without an added distraction.

Don't even think about adding a foot until you can do that.

  • Thanks. As I said in my question, I can do a 4 on one hand and a 2 & 4 beat on the other and keep that going. No problems at all with the rub head pat stomach or vice-versa in either direction. Where my problem kicks in (excuse the pun) is when I try to add feet into the mix. Feb 10, 2015 at 19:52
  • 2
    ahh, that wasn't clear from the question, sorry, you said 'adding kick & hat'. The issue, though, is the same thing - you just already did 101 & are now on the next step. If you can already do pat/rub/swap & hat/snare [& other existing instrumental skills], I would assume you have advanced hands & beginner feet. Treat them like beginners. Slowly does it. They've never tried this before.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 10, 2015 at 19:57

I am 63 and have been playing drums for (Gulp!) 54 years, starting with snare drum in the school band. I don't feel that I had the natural sense of rhythm, I really had to work at it. I really had to practice a lot to not be feeble. But now, years later, I'm a very good drummer with a wide range of music I can and like to play. I have seen some people really almost fall into playimng drums naturally, but that was not my experience.

I can proficiently play music of Yes, Genesis, ELP and lots of aggressive and complicated drum parts. It makes me smile when I play along with a complicated song and nail it. (especially at 63!) Big Smiles!

My suggestion, Practice the thing you suck at! Really, it's very rewarding. I used to avoid things I wasn't good at until I read an article to the contrary. It's good for the soul to concur things you would typically avoid. And that's another father in your cap.


No, you don't need to be born with a special talent (although it wouldn't hurt.)

...when I try to add the kick drum and high hat into the mix, something goes awry in my brain...

In this case, the thing to do is the same as any other training scenario: practice to improve weak points. Most people don't use their feet for more than walking. Coordinating them on a drum kit will probably feel weird to most. I imagine your cheerleading daughter took to the drum kit, because she had dance related training in cheerleading. She had to learn foot and leg movements that many people don't.

Try just playing with your feet, hi-hat and bass, simple patterns. As you develop the feel, you can try to keep a steady beat on the hi-hat, not with the stick, but just the foot pedal, then use the free stick to do something else like ride the floor tom or hit cymbal/tom accents. Basically shift the focus to your feet at the level you can manage and build up gradually.

...to the point where I could play full kit effectively...

Depends what "effectively" means, but considering comments from gigging musicians, just keeping a steady tempo and remembering rehearsed tempos is a much appreciated skill. Who are you trying to effect? If you're just playing for your own enjoyment, I think you can do it with modest but focused attention. Maybe you will only play a few basic beats and hit a few fills, but IMO that is effective.

If you don't already know the concept of composite rhythm, look into it. It's when multiple separate rhythms get combined into one overall (composite) rhythm. For example if you play down beat 1 and 3 on the bass, down beats 2 and 4 on snare, and all 4 up beats on a cymbal, the composite rhythm is steady eight notes. When a pattern is tricky you can sometimes get the feel of it by thinking of it as a single composite rhythm distributed around the hands and feet.

  • I remember reading some research (I already forgot the source) that concluded that most drummers actually think more in single composite rhythm than independent arms and legs.
    – ojs
    Aug 12, 2021 at 7:05
  • Thank you for your insight. Plus one for the "composite rhythm idea". Aug 13, 2021 at 15:23
  • Sure thing! FWIW, I don't have particularly good rhythm. But the last few years, when the family would get together at my brother's house, I would try playing the simplest backbeat on his drum set. The point there being it was small doses of practice. Eventually I got it. Recently I got my own entry level kit so now play it periodically to clear my mind. It is do-able, and fun. Aug 13, 2021 at 15:37

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.