21 Great Drumming Skills
Use this list for practicing ideas,
to keep track of your strengths and weaknesses,
and to plan your strategy for improving drumming skills!
Becoming a great drummer
is not a matter of chance or
luck, it is based on intelligent
and effective practicing.
Be Strategic: Choose Your Goals
If you’re serious about your drumming skills, then strategy is a good thing. Since the first step in practicing intelligently is to know your goals, I did my best to put together a complete list of goals for drummers to choose from. This is a ‘map’ of the territory of drumming skills, to help you get a bigger picture of your path of improvement.
Achieve Your Goals Systematically
Each of these items can be improved intentionally, with a systematic approach. If you’re not sure how to increase a certain skill, consult a drum instructor or use a training program. (Read about the “How To Play Drums” training program)
Ideally, choose one skill at a time and spend enough time working on it to make some noticable progress with it. Do this for whichever skills you would like to increase, and revisit any that you want until you are satisfied with their improvement.
Also check out the practice tips article, which explains how to avoid wasting your precious time and motivation… and how to ensure systematic progress from all your efforts.
Drumming Skills / Qualities
If you are going to be your best on the drums, the following attributes are all desirable things you can work on. Don’t let this list intimidate you! These are all just considerations to keep in mind in case you need ideas for your practicing. (You could rewrite this list with different names for the skills, and divide them up differently. This is just one way to cover the territory of drumming skill, to give you some ideas.)
1. Physical technique – body posture and use, stick grip, quality of movements, specific muscle use, and control / strength / speed of each limb on a drumset
2. Linear coordination – ability to play any pattern in which notes are played one at a time, using any sequence of your limbs to execute it
3. Layered coordination – ability to play any pattern in which one or more notes are played at a time, using any combinations / sequences of your limbs to execute it
4. Timing control – awareness of perfect timing, accurate timing of physical execution on a drumset
5. Volume control – ability to use any volume level, maintain consistent volume over time, and make accurate deliberate changes between any volumes at any time
7. Auxiliary sounds / stick techniques – special uses of sticks and pedals including: rolls, flams, drags, moeller method, heel-toe, mute strokes, cymbal grabs, rim knocks (cross-stick), rimshots, showmanship, etc.
8. Agility around a drumset – ability to accurately strike targets on a drumset at any volume, and transition quickly between targets
9. Your equipment / instrument – choices of sounds you have as part of your drumset, quality of all equipment
10. Reading / writing music notation – ability to quickly and accurately comprehend and communicate various styles / formats of musical language
11. Concentration – ability to direct and maintain your focus / attention at will
12. Feeling – ability to use your feeling sense (energetic, not tactile) to observe and experience
13. Personal energy control – ability to choose and maintain any desired state of energy, mood or emotion
14. Listening – ability to experience / understand / comprehend / appreciate what you are hearing; having stamina of continuous listening / attention to comprehend longer ideas
15. Imagination – ability to virtually experience and remember a situation or idea; ability to allow that sense to wander
16. Memory – ability to commit something to memory quickly; capacity and accuracy of memory
17. Creativity – your ability to assimilate ideas from your (and others’) musical vocabulary to create new ideas; your receptivity to new unfamiliar musical thoughts and phrases
18. Practicing / Learning / Improving – your efficiency in practicing; ability to self-teach and improve at will; clarity of your plan / path of improvement
19. Rhythmic vocabulary – your physical and mental vocabulary of rhythms
20. Musical vocabulary – (in your physical and mental memory) a usable collection of sound elements, phrases, grooves, fills, and styles from which your playing is created
21. Your quality of life – ability to live as a ‘balanced’ and healthy human being. (this quality has very significant influence on your abilities and development as a drummer)