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.


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 '15 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. – Rockin Cowboy Feb 10 '15 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 '15 at 19:57

I think that every one has his/her own God given talent. There is a difference between someone who has the talent to play drums and someone who, by one way or the other, learns the skill. The person who God has given the talent will find it easier to play than the other who learned it from somewhere. I have an example to back thus up: in the Holy Bible, God gave David the talent to play a string instrument (harp). Anyone could be endowed with the gift to play drums. Others might have to learn from training.

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