Context; I've been a guitar player for over 20 years and have done dozens of gigs on guitar and bass. I've written drum parts on FL studio, and did one gig where I played drums on a couple of songs (So I'm a novice drummer, but not a novice musician).

The question; I would like to become a competent drummer, but for the next 18 months I'm in a small apartment where a practice kit is not practical.

As such, I'm going to practice using a practice pad. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to use the next 18 months to prepare for learning drums properly? I was thinking of just spending 10mins a day with a practice pad doing drum rudiments - but in guitar playing I've always been advised it's best to learn by learning songs and, as I understand it, rudiments are like scales on a guitar (not bad to learn, but won't get me very far on their own!).

Let me know your thoughts, any help would be much appreciated.

  • 3
    Have you seen kick drum practice pads? One normal pad for hats (mounted up high?), another for snare and a kick pad could get you started. Commented May 4, 2015 at 12:36

3 Answers 3


I came from an ancient-style rudimental background, and in college had to learn to play set in about two weeks. Obviously, there was no set in my dormroom, so most of learning independence happened away from the instrument.

I would suggest a two-pronged approach, since just a pad really isn't the same as set, but a set without hands is almost as bad.

Learn rudiments (especially a nice juicy roll) on the pad. Put the pad away some times and play on a pillow to build up your chops. Get your hand technique really loose and proficient. A lot of people with access to a set from the beginning miss this part and have sloppy technique and only minimal control. Get to the point where you can control any sticking pattern with various hand combinations. Check out John Wooton's (Dr. Throwdown's) Rudimental Remedies, which is a really fun way to learn and apply rudiments. Make sure you work through something like Accents and Rebounds, and maybe check out the Wilcoxon solos because they're a fun way to get your hands moving.

For practicing 2+ way coordination, put the pad away and play on your knees. Practice each combination separately (snare/kick, kick/ride, snare/ride... snare/hat/ride, snare/kick/ride... snare/kick/hat/ride) and then put them together. Then, if you already have the hands, you'll find you can fit the rudiments into the backbeat pretty easily once you add the pad back in. You can do the brain work away from the set - a piece of paper on a towel makes a remarkably cheap practice ride cymbal. A box will make a nice kick. The hihat you'll probably have to imagine. Check out some of JoJo Mayer's stuff. I went to a clinic of his once and it was very helpful.

Finally (or maybe initially), practice with a metronome. A lot. Then get one of the ones that has a "light only" setting and play with that. You need to have an intuitive sense of rhythm. A dragging or rushing drummer is a terrible thing.

Make sure you can play the set a bit with no one else around. You'll need to get past nerves of being on a new instrument before it will flow well. For something small to develop beats on, check out a cajon - for 90% of the gigs I play, it's sufficient. Plus you can pack 2 weeks of clothes in one.

18 months is plenty of time to get to know the set and develop the 2+ way independence (really, you can fake a lot of stuff with 2 way to start, though you won't be playing anything "cool"). I'd say to spend the first half focusing 75% on rudiments and hands, then the second half 50-50. Towards the end you're going to need a set to get comfortable and used to keeping a steady tempo with something so loud, but for the beginning you'll be ok without.

  • 1
    Another excellent book for stick control is by George Lawrence called "Stick Control for the Snare Drummer" This book will enhanced your rudiments and advanced your drummings skills when away from the kit. See this post about ideas of how to work through this book: music.stackexchange.com/q/51575/25973 Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 20:31

A practice pad is great, but with drumset you have to be able to coordinate two legs and two arms. This can be tricky. So I would set something up that allows you to simulate a simple drum set. Take a look at some instructions for putting together a "suitcase drumset," for example, at http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-a-Suitcase-Drum-Set/

  • Thanks, although as per post I'm in am apartment where a kit - especially an acoustic one would be impractical. Even the footprint of those practice pad kits will be a bit much. But again, a cool idea and something for me to think about in future :)
    – Matt
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 5:58
  • Depending on where you live, you may be able to practice on a real drumset a couple of times a week in a college's music department or a community music school. I do think you need to get some time in with some foot pedals and something simulating a cymbal. I can do rudiments on a snare drum or a practice pad, but I can't play drum set. It feels like walking and chewing gum at the same time. What I'm saying is that practice pad skills don't extend automatically to drum set. Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:13
  • Perhaps you would like a tabletop electronic drumset. It is less bulky than a suitcase. Here's a cheap one to give you an idea what I'm talking about: pyleaudio.com/sku/PTED01/… Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:23

The nice thing with drums is that to get the mechanics of drumming, you only need your hands and feet. From then you can easily practice anything mechanical like rudiments, time keeping, coordination exercises. Practicing without sticks or pedal is especially good to train your muscles and improve your stamina because its your muscles that are doing all the work.

Obviously best case scenario would be that you have some equipment like a multi-surface practice pad and a practice pedals so you can train your balance, stroke control, rudiments and even basic grooves. The transition to a real drumset will be quite easy since the fundamentals will be there.

In terms of equipment, look for a practice pad you can mount on a stand (Remo makes very good ones). As for practice pedals (don't neglect your feet!), Hansen Futz are the way to go (and pretty much the only option as far as I know).

Cheers and good luck!

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