Is it Possible to Learn to Play Drums Without a Drum Set?

Posted by Ben Heckler

It is completely possible to learn to play drums without a drum set.

Although it is much more fun to play drums on a real kit, sometimes we don’t have the space for it or are living in an apartment or we don’t have the money for an electronic kit which is another option if we want to play quietly.

This article will give some basic tips for learning to play drums without a drum set.

If you wish to start actually learning some exercises for drums go ahead and check out a few of our other articles:

Okay let’s get down to some basic steps if you’ve decided to learn drums without a drum kit.

Get a pair of sticks

You need to start someplace! With or without a drum kit.

Even if you don’t own a drumset, simply get yourself a pair of sticks. Vic Firth size 5A is one I always recommend to students. It should only cost you about 10$ and you can start playing on your pillow!

If you want to start playing RIGHT NOW and you don’t even have a pair of sticks, check out our lesson on learning drums with your hands and feet.

Watch videos of drummers

This is very important to familiarize yourself with the drumset and how coordination normally works.

Even just watching the live performance of your favorite band or artist with special attention on the drummer will help you immensely when learning the drums.

The good thing about the drums is it is usually very clear what the drummer is doing. With a guitar player or a horn player, we really have squint to see what their fingers are doing.

With drums, we can notice right away many of the physical movements they do. For instance: that they cross their hands when they play the hi-hat and snare. That they usually play a beat on the cymbals with the right hand and keep their left hand on the snare drum (for right-handed drummers).

We can also see what the different cymbals and drums look like and how they sound. How often do they play the toms? In what context?

Watch as many live performances as you can and take mental notes.

Don’t know where to start? Check out this excellent live performance of the legendary Nate Smith.

Listen to music and find songs that you want to play

Unfortunately (and fortunately) the songs that will most inspire us to play drums may be a little complicated to start with.

However, it is always a good idea to seek inspiration wherever it finds you. Although it is good to play along to a list of classic songs that are particularly for beginners, a more inspiring approach would be to find songs that you really love and learn to play along to them.

Look for music by your favorite artist and look for the song that is slower, and has less complexity. If you are unsure, always look for a song that has a repetitive beat on drums.

Some of the most famous songs have very repetitive drums. Case and point.


Make a list of your favorite drummers

Maybe you already have a few drummers you really admire or drummers you have seen live that have really inspired you.

Or maybe you just have some favorite bands in which you really like the drums, but you’ve never looked up who the drummer was.

Go ahead now and make a list of your favorite drummers. It doesn’t have to be a long list, but now go and research (maybe from an interview they have done) who are all the drummers that have inspired them—who do they listen to?

Now you have a huge list of great drummers and excellent new music to dig into.

Get a practice pad and learn some technique

Many students begin learning on a rubber practice pad and a set of sticks.

If after a little while of hitting your sticks against a pillow isn’t enough, the next thing you can do would be to invest in a $20 practice pad, where you can practice rudiments and other exercises in order to familiarize yourself with the movements that drummers use.

If you have a practice pad already go-ahead to this lesson and start learning!

Get an instructor

I have many students who do not own a drumset but can play very well! Even the first lesson I can teach them a couple of beats and they can be playing along to music right away.

If you have nothing at all your instructor will let you borrow sticks and let you play the drum kit. They can also suggest the type of sticks or drum kit to purchase based on your music style and experience.

If you are a determined individual and you do not want to spend money on lessons yet, go ahead and start learning drums on your own. You can always start lessons once you’ve learned a little bit of technique.

An instructor is great for keeping you goal-oriented and honest about your practice. However, you can learn a lot on your own if you apply yourself.

Learn some beats

If you already know how to play some drum beats, go ahead and practice them on your hands and knees. This is one of my preferred methods of practicing when I don’t have a drum kit.

If you don’t know any beats yet, check out this lesson on learning to read drum music and you will be able to read anything online.

Last but not least, learn beats that apply to songs that already know. From Michael Jackson to Pink Floyd there are many different songs that would be perfect for a beginner.

If you haven’t already, check out a list of songs that we recommend to beginning drummers.

Good luck and happy playing!

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