How to Build Drum Speed, Part 4: Bass Drum Speed

When it comes to improving your drum speed, especially bass drum speed, you’re going to have good days and bad days. Be patient as your leg muscles grow and stretch. Keep it mind that the legs and feet have more muscles and larger muscles than the hands and arms.

One thing that I always have to remind my own students is that your feet will never go as fast as your hands. It’s just how we’re built. Before you can develop bass drum speed, it’s good to work on bass drum exercises that help you develop control. A great resource for bass drum exercises is Colin Bailey’s book,
Bass Drum Control (affiliate link).

The Drumming System (affiliate link) says that one of the secrets to bass drum speed is to wear ankle weights while you practice. This well help you develop the muscles in your legs. After a practicing with them, go back and practice without the weights. You will notice results immediately. Another tip for developing bass drum speed is to try playing as loud as you can for a long period of time while wearing ankle weights.

A great exercise is to practice playing singles on your feet heel down and heel up. Playing heel down, you will feel the burn. If you find this boring, put a practice pad on the snare and play along. Years ago, my teacher Chet Doboe, the founder and musical director of the Hip Pickles Drum Band, taught me to practice the samba to develop my foot technique. The samba is great exercise because it allows you to work on controlling two notes in a row.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) recommends Hansenfutz (affiliate link) pedals for training. These are great because you practice in any chair that you are sitting in. You can even them under the desk in your office.

How to Build Drum Speed, Part 3: Hand Speed

According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), a drum pad is only one surface with one feel. It’s a bouncy type feel that’s great for practicing. On the other hand, a drum set has many surfaces with many types of feels. Speed will allow to move your ideas around the drums with much more ease.

  1. Your drums and cymbals should be within easy reach so that you can get to where you need to get really fast. This will constantly change with time, but you want to make as easy as possible.
  2. Practice moving around the kit as fast as you can with a single stroke roll. Do this until your arms are tired. Try to go for five minutes and you will be sweating. Try to keep an eye on where you’re going so you’re not hitting rims. Ask yourself questions, such as  “where am i hitting?” and  “where i am i going?”
  3. At midnight, when everyone is sleeping, air drum AS LOUD AS YOU CAN. This strengthens you wrists. Remember that if you hit your drums you will wake people up. This is a good warm up, too.
  4. Try to play a single stroke roll on you floor tom only holding the middle of the drum stick. Not only does it feel awkward but you have no convincing balance point. Also, practice using the lock grip in the middle of the floor tom. If you have a high pitched floor tom, detune it low (before it loses its tone) so its soggy.
  5. Finally, practice playing double stroke rolls on your floor tom.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) goes into much more depth about how to improve your speed. This is one subject that most drummers from around the world are very interested in. As with everything in drumming and in life, patience and perseverance go a long way.

How to Build Drum Speed, Part 2: Hand Speed

Here are some more tips to get your hands flying around the drums:

  1. Practice on a pillow. Dennis Chambers recommends pillows over practice pads. Dennis has said on many occasions that Buddy Rich used to this to develop wrists, fingers, and forearms. A good pillow will have very little rebound. The purpose of this is that you have to do all the work. Practice single stroke rolls at different volumes, speeds, add aceents, play rudiments, etc. Practicing doubles on a pillow will improve your ability to play doubles on a floor tom. One great thing about pillow practice is that it won’t disturb anyone.
  2. Develop Finger control. This will improve your ability to play really fast grooves. Your wrists have a limit to how fast they can move. French grip gives you the most room for the drum sticks to move around and have the most leverage. The faster you play, the lower the height of your sticks will be. Strengthening each finger individually really helps. Your pinky acts as a stabilizer for the drum stick, but can cramp up. Keep in mind that finger control can be very frustrating to develop.
    Technique Patterns
    (affiliate link) by Gary Chaffee has some great exercises. Also, don’t do finger control exercises on a pillow until you have control on a pad.
  3. Practice the Lock Grip Technique. This technique is practiced by gripping the stick the 2nd joint of the index finger. Some people call this power grip. This really strengthens the wrist and forearms. Despite the name of this technique, it’s important to stay relaxed. This technique is a real hardcore workout for the hands. Try this on a loose floor tom that feels soggy. This will also develop power. There is no rebound in this technique.
  4. Practice new rudiments. Do a certain amount per day. The most important rudiments to work on are single strokes, double strokes, paradiddles, flams, drags, and buzzes. These are sometimes referred to as “The Big 6”, because most other rudiments are built off of these.

How to Build Drum Speed, Part 1: Hand Speed

Building drum speed is one of the top priorities of most drummers in the world. Playing faster is part of the fun in developing yourself as a drummer. Check out an impressive demonstration of hand speed and some great exercises to build it in the Mike Michalkow’s Complete Drumming System (affiliate link).

Here are some tips:

  1. Even out your hands. We all have a stronger hand. Whatever you can do with your strong hand you should be able to do with your weak hand. Keep in mind that the hand that usually plays the hi-hat and ride is getting so much more practice than the hand that plays the snare. Practice open handed playing. Open handed playing usually means that the left hand plays the hi hat (for right handed players). Check out the book The Weaker Side (affiliate link) by Dom Famularo and Stephane Chamberland and The New Breed (affiliate link) by Gary Chester.
  2. Set a goal. For most hand speed goals that you set, the weaker hand is going to need to get stronger. It might be necessary to isolate the weaker hand and work on it. Increase the tempo in small increments. Keep in mind that certain techniques might take months (or years) to improve. Be patient and trust that it will get easier. If you can play 16th notes at 110 on each hand, then you can play 32nd note singles at 220 bpm. I recently set a goal of playing the Moeller technique relaxed with sixteenth notes, at 120 bpm for five minutes straight with each hand.
  3. Practice on drum pads that give very little rebound. Putty practice pads and Moongel Workout Pads (affiliate link) have become popular in the past decade. Mike claims that he put a putty practice pad on the left side of his dashboard and would tap the left stick while driving. Although this is an excellent use of time management, it does not seem to be safe. Don’t drive and drum.

Review of Mike Michalkow’s Drumming System, Part 1

After days of viewing the Drumming System (affiliate link) videos, analyzing what Mike Michalkow was teaching, and trying most of the exercises, I had a lot to say about it. Overall, it’s extremely thorough drum course. The drum course is incredibly detailed. My biggest complaints were that it’s not widely available at local musical stores and it’s not meant for certain types of learners.

No course, class, school, or teacher can cover everything. Regardless, this really covers the fundamentals of playing the drums in great detail. Mike Michalkow is a phenomenal teacher and the way he goes about teaching keeps you engaged. He teaches in a way that creates a relaxed and fun learning atmosphere. If you’ve played drums for any length of time, you know the importance of playing the drums in a relaxed manner. Mike Michalkow naturally helps facilitate this.

Although I didn’t think that any one DVD or subject was better than another, the DVD on drum fills really stands out in my mind. It was really organized. One of things that really impressed me about the drum fills DVD was the fact that you get 150 fills and it covers every skill level.

When it comes to grooves, he goes into very in-depth explanations of how to execute each one. This is extremely important for any student. Being able to play the notes of a beat is one thing, but being able to execute the feel correctly is something else. The rock drumming DVD’s were really well done because they went into the specifics of each style of rock. Learning basic rock beats are great, but it I haven’t found a drumming course that covers folk, alternative, grunge, punk, etc.

For many people, this a perfect course. Although it seems to be advertised as a course for beginners, there is a ton of material for drummers at every skill level. For the price, you can’t beat it.

Learn more about Mike Michalkow’s Drumming System (affiliate link).

The Bernard Purdie Drum Shuffle

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has an entire section on the Bernard Purdie Drum Shuffle. It is one of those grooves that every drummer should know, but few drummers actually master.

The groove was popularized by Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, one of the greatest groove drummers of all time. In fact, many consider him to be the most recorded drummer of all time. He invented this beat by taking the simple shuffle pattern and adding some flavor to the role of the snare drum within the groove.

Two great examples of the Bernard Purdie Drum Shuffle can be heard on Babylon Sisters and Home at Last by Steely Dan.

The groove begins with a half time shuffle (accent the snare on 3). Then ghost notes are played on the snare. According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), they are played on the “trip” of 1, 2, and 4. From my own experience, I prefer to play them on the “trip” of all 4 beats. This is more a difficult shuffle to execute, but it sounds more full.

The ghost notes drive the Purdie Shuffle!

In fact, if you take out the ghost notes, the sound and feel of the groove change completely.

The ghost notes are amazing because they are subtle, yet so important to the feel of the groove. When Bernard Purdie plays it, he hits the snare with so much conviction, yet keeps the ghost notes almost invisible. That’s the art of drumming.

Just a side note: I was fortunate to have dinner with Bernard Purdie when I was a junior in high school. We sat face to face at Docks Oyster Bar & Seafood in New York City. We got to chat drums and we each had two lobsters. Years later, I went to see Bernard perform. I was eating a huge plate of ribs and he walked up to my table, looked at my ribs, his eyes lit up, and he started screaming in joy.

How to Become a Professional Drummer and Find Jobs, Part 4

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has an entire section dedicated to reading drum charts. Your ability to read drum charts is so important. You will become a better musician, get better work, and play better performances if you can read drum charts, you will lay an excellent foundation for becoming a great live musician and great studio musician.

Here are some tips:

  1. Before you can read a drum chart, you have to understand basic drumming notation. The Reading Drummer (affiliate link) by Dave Vose is a great book to help you master drumming notation.
  2. Reading drum music can be challenging and frustrating. The more you do read drum charts, the better you get. (The unwritten rule for anything in life).
  3. Transcribing drum parts will help you read better. Write out drum parts from music that you like, note for note. Not only will this help your reading, but you will get into the mind of great drummers.
  4. Understand that some auditions REQUIRE that you know how to read.
  5. A chart doesn’t always tell you everything that you have to play. It might just indicate a tempo, style, and some dynamic markings.
  6. When you read a drum chart, the first thing you have to do is figure out the roadmap. Where do you start? Where do you end? Is there a coda? Having the ability to understand all of this will improve your reading.
  7. Shows on Broadway and in Las Vegas require reading. If you look in a Broadway pit, you will see music stands in front of every musicians.
  8. Practice with materials such as the Drumming System (affiliate link).  The Drumming System (affiliate link) has over 100 songs in a variety of styles. Each one can be played with or without drums on the track. This allows you to be the drummer in the band and practice reading drum charts.

How to Practice Drumming for Fast Results!

Great athletes put in many hours of practice and it’s no different for drummers. It’s important not to think of drumming practice as a chore, but a way of life. For me, it’s a part of my job. The Drumming System (affiliate link) has an entire DVD dedicated to this subject. Learn & Master Drums (affiliate link) teaches you new habits to develop as you progress. I highly recommend both of these courses to you regardless of your skill level.

Here are two questions to ask yourself:

  1. What do you want to improve in your drumming?
  2. How much time do you have to work on your drumming?

It’s important to prioritize what you want to get better at.


  1. Don’t play when your practice and don’t practice when you play. Avoid just playing around when you sit down alone at your drums. Have an organized schedule. If you’re on stage or in a recording studio, don’t start working on stuff you should have been doing at home. Practicing is a solo art.
  2. Stretch before anything else. Remember that drumming is also a form of exercise. A great book to check out is Stretching (affiliate link) by Bob Anderson.
  3. Drum in front of mirror. This way you can see your posture, form, technique and how relaxed you are. Sometimes I even put one to the side of me.
  4. Record yourself on video and watch it back. Write down what you observe and what needs to be improved.
  5. Stay focused on what you are working on. It’s really easy to let your mind wander. If something isn’t coming to you, put it away and come back to it a few days later.
    There is no need to get frustrated if something isn’t coming together or sounding right.
  6. Work through new material slowly. Be sure to always use a metronome. Most drummers agree that 50 to 60 beats per minute is a good tempo to work on new material at.
  7. Write down the tempo you perform an exercise or piece of music at. This way, you know exactly where you should be when you come back to it.
  8. Review old material regularly.
  9. Start and end your practice sessions on a positive note.
  10. Use checklists. I have heard it said many times that excellence is in the details. To keep track of details, use checklists to make sure you are focusing on everything.
    Practicing for Young Musicians: You Are Your Own Teacher (affiliate link) has some great checklists at the end of the book. (Don’t be fooled by the title. It’s for musicians of all ages)
  11. If you feel pain, STOP!
  12. If you really aren’t in the mood to practice, don’t.

The Casual Schedule

The Drum Practice Routine Generator (see below) recommends doing 20 minutes a day. Pick 1 topic from each category per day. You can go down the list or randomly choose one. Over time, you’ll cover every aspect of drumming and it won’t take up a lot of your free time.

The Motivated Schedule

The Drum Practice Routine Generator (see below) recommends doing 40 minutes per day. This for someone who has a little more time to spend on the drums. Pick 2 topics in one category and spend twenty minutes on each one. Do the same thing with the next category on the following day. You can also mix it up. You’ll be surprised how quickly 40 minutes goes by.

The Dedicated Schedule

The Drum Practice Routine Generator (see below) recommends 60 minutes per day. This is great for someone who really wants to get good at that drums. Maybe its not for you. It’s good to practice 1 topic from each category for 20 minutes each. This will create an incredibly balanced practice routine. Obviously, you can spend as more time on this if you want to.

Drum Practice Routine Generator

Just enter your name and email below. 

First Name:
Your Email:
Your Skill Level:

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Professional Country Drumming

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has a great section on country drumming. Country music began in in the 1920’s and continuously evolves through today. In the 1950’s, Johny Cash, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline became incredibly popular. Today’s popular artists include Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. The success of this music is demonstrated in it’s worldwide appeal. In fact, some of today’s country music is also considered to be pop music because of its universal appeal.

While the majority of today’s country music feels strikingly similar to popular rock, their are small nuances within the feel that make it “country”. One particular technique that I learned from a friend was how to hit the snare drum. In this style, many drummers throw the weight of their arm into the snare and let the stick just sit. There is no rebound and it actually makes your shoulder kind of sore. With the potential for injury aside, you get a serious country backbeat.

This is responsible for the feel of many country songs.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) starts out with beginner country beats. These are simple quarter and eighth note beats with occasional sixteenth notes. The role of the country drummer is to play simple time and keep a great groove for the band.

Intermediate and advanced beats include train beats. W.S. “Fluke” Holland, the only drummer Johnny Cash ever had, made train beats popular. You will know this type of beat when you hear it. When done correctly, it sounds like a train going down the tracks. You can play this with sticks, brushes, hot rods, etc.

On a side note, I was fortunate enough to receive a consultation from Tiffany Gifford, a celebrity stylist and image consultant. Miranda Lambert, a popular country artist, is one of Tiffany’s clients.

Also, here’s a clip of a drum solo I did at a country music concert:

Your Drum Practice Schedule and Routine

Here’s a copy of an email I sent to my private drum students several years ago. I had come to the painful realization that even though I knew how to play drums, I needed to get more structure and discipline in polishing my drum skills. I knew that once I got better at disciplined practice, so would my students. The Practice Routine Generator mentioned below, is part of Mike Michalkow’s Complete Drumming System (affiliate link).

Hey {student first name},

I’d d like to take this opportunity to apologize to you because I really didn’t practice drums much this week. I recently moved my drums into the kitchen so I could have a rewards system for myself…FOOD! Despite all the cooking I did this past week, I intentionally ignored the drum practice schedule and a drum book that was open to a page I was working on.

Aside from practice, I’ve been slacking with going to the gym as well. I’d like to say it is because I have been busy. The truth is I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. I’m embarrassed because the gym is a 5 minute walk from my home.

So I’d like to make a promise to you: I will practice drums every time I go into the kitchen and I will go to the gym every day unless I am deathly ill.

It made me feel good to make that promise to you. I’ve learned through the years that when you make a promise to someone else, it really forces you to stay with it. When you follow through, you feel good about yourself.

Lately, I’ve come to the realization that I needed to better organize my drum practice schedule and routine. To help me get organized, I began using the practice routine generator and I love it.

Drum Practice Routine Generator

Just enter your name and email below.

First Name:
Your Email:
Your Skill Level:

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