Learning snare drum exercises is a great way to improve your technique and make you a better drummer overall. But which snare drum exercises are the best to start with?
Newbies should play these patterns slowly to start with, and only increase the speed when all strokes are played with precision and balance.
Some of these will require you to read a little bit of music but most of these can be explained very easily. We also have embedded drum notation with audio so that you can hear the exercise on your own.
Let's get started!
The following exercise consists of a single stroke and a double stroke. The notes are all played consecutively.
Right, Left, Right, Right, Left, Right, Left, Left
Or — RLRR LRLL
(HINT: with these examples, press play to hear how the exercise sounds. You can speed it up or slow it down by using the tempo switch. If you need more help on how to read music check out our article).
Practice these slow to fast. As these exercises get faster they require more bounce control in order to play the double strokes clean enough. Be sure to make all these notes the same volume and have the stick height all the same for all of these.
Once you can get this to a comfortable speed, try placing an accent on the first of the four notes. So that would look like this:
(accents in bold)
When you put the accents on notes, make sure to make the other notes as quiet as possible. We want to really distinguish the dynamics of the notes.
This is a six-note pattern that makes use of your knowledge of the paradiddle. The snare drum exercises is the following.
Practice this slow at first, since it is a six-note pattern, it may seem strange at first. But once you get comfortable try to speed it up!
This exercise is super useful for jazz drumming because it deals with triplets.
Again let's put some accents on these hits. First, we will just accent the first note of the phrase.
Remember to really make the accent distinguished from the rest.
When I teach beginner drummers I always have to tell them to make the other notes super quiet. This is the trick to make the accents sound clean.
Instead of trying to just make everything normal and sticking an accent over there, it is much cleaner to try to make the normal notes quieter and the accents a little louder than a normal stroke.
Now try to put the accent in every three notes.
This is the same exercise except now we have added two accents. This should make it quite difficult to play fast, but much more opportunity to control your stick.
Like the previous exercise, this is a six-note pattern. So we can think of the exercise in triplets (triplets mean that the beat is felt every 3 notes).
The basic pattern will be an alternating six strokes:
However for the Flam Triplet, we will want to put a 'flam' on the accented notes. A flam is a stroke with a softer note right behind the accented note.
In musical notation, a flam looks like this:
In this case, it is a right-handed flam. This means the right-hand plays the accent on the beat.
But right before the note, we will place a left-handed note much quieter and right up next to it. It is almost as if you are making a 'crunch' type of sound because although the notes are played off-set, they seem to be one sound.
We will do this for each accent in the triplet. In musical notation the Flam Triplet looks like this:
And here is an example of it:
This is a very common roll that you will see if you play in marching band. It is really fun to work up and get faster.
It consists of two doubles and a single, a silence, and then the same but inverted.
In musical notation, it looks like this:
With the example above, try slowing down the tempo to hear how it sounds and also speeding up the tempo to hear how it sounds faster.
Practice slow and slowly raise the tempo. Make sure all the strokes are clean before trying to push the tempo.
Here is a video example of the exercises:
The six-stroke roll is very similar to the five-stroke roll in that it has a long burst of notes followed by a rest. However, the sticking (the combination of left or right-hand strokes) is quite different.
First of all, this exercise is felt in 2/4 time, but the strokes can be felt in triplets.
The strokes are the following:
1 + 2 +
RLL RRL R-- ---
In music notation form that looks like this:
1 + 2 +
Practice this from slow to fast, like always, and be mindful of feeling the pulse of the rest as you do. The exercise should feel like it is in 2/4. You can even tap your foot on those beats to help you feel it.
It is also possible to combine a few of these together and put the 'rest' note at the end of them. This would make it into a measure of 4/4.
That would look like this:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Practice this to a metronome. Each click would be on the downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4). Start at a slow tempo, like 60bpm, and then gradually raise it up 10 clicks once you feel like you've got it (by getting it, I mean I can usually play it 10-20 times in a row without flubbing it).
The ratamacue is a rudiment with a similar structure to the previous ones we've learned, however it includes a drag. A drag is similar to the flam that we learned before, except for instead of one note before the first note of the phrase, we have two notes.
The two notes are played by pressing down on the snare drum, or dragging the stick into the drum.
The transcription looks like this:
It may be helpful to see it played:
This rudiment is a triplet with the following sticking:
or it's inversion
Except now you want to put a flam at the beginning of each triplet.
This exercise is similar to doing doubles with each hand, except the hands are off-set. It is really fun to try to play fast, however, be careful that you do it clean!
Last but not least we have the Flam Tap. Take normal double strokes:
These are great to work on, and I work on them all the time. However, throw a flam in at the start of every double and watch how much harder it gets.
This will get your doubles in shape and strengthen up your stick control!
Good luck and if you are still looking for more exercises be sure to check out our other excellent articles:
Ben Heckler is a multi-instrumentalist and musician from Portland, Oregon. Currently Ben lives in Barcelona where he teaches drum lessons, writes and records original music for his band Sea Fuzz as well as playing drums for one of the biggest Beatles tribute bands in Europe, The Flaming Shakers.
Ben is constantly creating and composing various types of music, video, and artwork for a multitude of projects that come his way. He hopes to use his platforms to share, help and inspire others to create in their own ways.