So…you’re frustrated with this sense of lethargy you have around the drum kit.

And you want to become a faster drummer.

So here you are, our ultimate drum practice regime to help you develop hand speed and control over the drum kit.

A warning: This regime may take you months of consistent practice to master. Some pro drummers even say that it takes a lifetime to build speed because you can always get faster.

So if you are willing to put in the time, effort and practice, let’s get into it.

Quick Navigation

Why play drums fast?

It’s not just a matter of ego.

Building up your speed does make you a better drummer!

It allows you to:

  • get use to moving around the drum kit comfortably
  • play drum fills confidently
  • and also impress the audience ^^

Or maybe, becoming a better drummer is too boring for you. Instead, you just want to take it to the next level and try to break the world record and become World’s Fastest Drummer. (no kidding they call it “extreme sport drumming’)

 

Drum Practices to Build Speed and Control

]How to improve hand speed and control
[Click for full size image]

There are many drum exercises and practices you can do to build up your speed.

But it wouldn’t be ideal to incorporate every single exercise on speed into your practice…because you’ll get no where.

So, I’ve compiled the exercises I’m using personally to improve and develop my hand speed and control.

You can refer to the next segment to learn how you can maximise this guide to design your own practice regime to build speed and control around the drum kit.

Quick introduction to how you can use these practices:

  • I’ve categorized them into 3 levels (simple, intermediate and advanced) so that you can zoom into a few exercises that you can start training your hand speed from.
  • The videos attached to each exercise are NOT full videos, but rather the key segments that explain and break down the exercises. I think this is a great way for visual learners to understand the practices.
  • Mix them up to improve faster
  • Drum notations are provided as well, read our drum notation guide if you need a refresher.

Now, let’s cut the crap and dive into the drum exercises…

 

Simple

If you are new to drumming, or have never practiced drumming with the goal of developing your hand speed, start here.

At this level you should be aiming for 2 main goals:

  1. Get comfortable with your drum kit placement
  2. Gain control over your timing. Develop your ability to count/time consistently and accurately, aim to be able to count ‘unconsciously’.

#1 – Drum Rudiments

I’m sure you know that drum rudiments are the basic building blocks of drum beats and fills. They will give you a strong foundation on which you can work to build up your speed.

So, don’t skip the rudiments even as you seek to develop your hand speed.

Here’s my quick guide to learning to play drum rudiments.

#2 – Single Stroke Rebound The Drum (Single Hand)

Objectives:

  • Develop familiarity around your drum kit (focus on distance, and hitting the center of each drum, every time)
  • Develop the use of your wrist for speed by mastering the rebound (focus on using the rebound to get to your next drum)

I first stumbled upon this from Drumeo:


Video from Drumeo’s Youtube channel

This practice only involves the drums.

It’s the first exercise I would recommend any drummer to do because it gets you to really move around the snare and toms. You will want to make sure you are using all the top drums for this.

I would also suggest that you start without the bass drum or keep it to a single bass drum beat. That way, your focus would be on your hands.

 

This is how the Single Stroke Rebound The Drum practice goes:

  1. Single stroke on the Mid Tom, use the rebound to move to…
  2. Single stroke on the Snare
  3. Rest or Single Bass Drum Beat
  4. Single stroke on the High Tom, use the rebound to move to…
  5. Single stroke on the Floor Tom
  6. Repeat
  7. Do this with 1 hand, then switch hands after every 10-15 successful sets.

Here’s the ‘Single Stroke Rebound The Drum’ drum notation:

Start out slow, make sure that you are hitting each drum with the same amount of strength.

Also, you will want to take note of your timing during each set. This will help build up your control as well.

#3 – Disguised Triplets

Objectives:

  • Develop familiarity around your drum kit
  • Train your ability to control your timing with speed (make sure as you speed up, you are still playing each drum at the same rate)

I picked this up from an old forum previously, but I can no longer find the original forum. So, here’s an explanation from Drumeo:

The reason I named this exercise the ‘disguised triplets’ is because of this.

As mentioned in the video, these are 16th note triplets:

Source: Drummerworld

Hence, you should not be pausing every 2 beats, so try to reduce the pause (if any) when you move between drums.

Although the exercise uses 16th note triplets, you’ll be playing 2 notes per drum.

 

This is how the Disguised Triplets drum speed exercise goes:

  1. Start with the Snare drum (2 beats)
  2. Move to High Toms (2 beats)
  3. Move to Floor Toms (2 beats)
  4. Repeat 3 more rounds.

Here’s the Disguised Triplets drum notation:

At slow speeds, this should be relatively easy.

But as you speed up, you’ll notice that you might miss a beat, or play one of the drums softer than most.

Adjust your positioning and how you move your body along the way.

If you are having trouble counting, head back and practice your drum rudiments.

#4 – Flying Triplets

Objective:

  • Develop familiarity around your drum kit
  • Helps develop coordination between the hands

Again, we are using triplets here. But this time, we are splitting up the triplets between 2 toms.


I got this exercise from Drum Beats Online

This is how you do the ‘Flying Triplets’ drum practice:

  1. Start with 1 beat on the High Tom (start with your right hand)
  2. Move to the Floor Tom (2 beats)
  3. Repeat the triplets, this time starting the first beat on the High Tom with your left hand.
  4. Move to the Floor Tom (2 beats)
  5. Repeat this for 3 more sets.

Here’s the Flying Triplets drum notation:

Corrected! Thanks to dopplerac for spotting the error

This can be a little tough to coordinate as you will need to focus on which beat you currently are at and which Tom you should be playing next.

Practice this at slow speeds, get used to it before you speed up.

Again, you will want to make sure that you are hitting the center of each drum even as you focus on your speed.

 

Intermediate

Once you are comfortable with moving around the drum kit, its time to move on to the intermediate level where we’ll work on finer details to develop our hand speed further.

At this level you should be aiming for 3 main goals:

  1. Ability to play at a consistent volume. AKA, playing with consistent strength even as you speed up.
  2. Develop your ability to coordinate by introducing double strokes into your drum speed workouts
  3. Work on your speed by training with a metronome. This will give you a clear indication of how fast you are.

Sounds exciting yea? Let’s get right into it!

#1 – Drum Rudiments

Ha!

Bet you rolled your eyes when you read this.

Yes, drum rudiments again! You will want to focus on the Double Stroke Rolls and Triplets.

But this time, use a metronome while you are practicing your drum rudiments.

You want to be able to increase your tempo (BPM) with every practice session.

  1. Aim to be able to play comfortable and consistently with an increment of 10 BPM at the first few sessions.
  2. Then drop it down to 5 BPM or 2 BPM as the tempo gets higher or whenever you are having difficulties getting used to the new tempo.

If you have never played with the metronome, start at 100 BPM (80 BPM for more complicated grooves) and adjust the tempo according to your comfort level.

You will want to make sure that you can play smoothly and consistently, without tensing up.

#2 – Flying Triplets Upsized

Objective:

  • Develop familiarity around your drum kit (focus on distance, and hitting the center of each drum, every time)
  • Helps develop coordination between the hands

This is similar to the original Flying Triplets, now with the incorporation of other components in your drum kit.

Here’s the explanation from Drum Beats Online:

This is how the Flying Triplets Upsized is done:

  1. Start with 1 beat on the ‘High Tom’ (start with your right hand)
  2. Move to the Floor Tom (2 beats)
  3. Repeat the triplets, this time starting the first beat on the ‘High Tom’ with your left hand.
  4. Move to the Floor Tom (2 beats)
  5. Repeat steps 1 – 4, replacing ‘High Tom’ for ‘Hi-Hat’
  6. Repeat steps 1 – 4, replacing ‘High Tom’ for ‘Snare Drum’
  7. Repeat steps 1 – 4

Here’s the Flying Triplets Upsized drum notation:

I had trouble piecing this together at the start, and learning how high I should lift my hands and sticks so that they don’t get into each other’s way. I was a wreak with this practice, ha!

But trust me, once you get it you’ll gain so much more confident and speed around the kit too.

Don’t give up on this one just because it might feel difficult at the start.

And once you are used to it, practice the Flying Triplets Upsized drum exercise with a metronome.

This should take your drumming coordination, timing and speed to the next level.

#3 – Sticks Everywhere

Objective:

  • Develop familiarity around your drum kit
  • Helps develop coordination between the hands
  • Trains your stick strength control
  • Get comfortable with this at 200 BPM

I also picked this up from an old forum. Here’s the explanation from Drumeo:

Don’t want to watch the video? Here’s the written tutorial for ‘Sticks Everywhere‘ drum practice:

  1. Start with 2 beats on the snare
  2. Play 1 beat on the Hi-hat with your right hand
  3. Play 1 beat on the Floor Tom with your left hand
  4. Play 1 beat on the Floor Tom with your right hand
  5. Play 1 beat on the Hi-hat with your left hand
  6. Repeat and speed up

Here’s the Sticks Everywhere drum notation:

sticks-everywhere

Once you are comfortable with ‘Sticks Everywhere’ at 200 BPM, mix it up and move around the drum kit.

Incorporate the snare, crash, toms, and ride while keeping count and making sure that you are in control.

#4 – We rollin’

Objective:

  • Develop familiarity around your drum kit
  • Develop your double stroke rolls for even greater hand speed around the drums
  • Get comfortable with this at 180 BPM / 200 BPM

Time to bring in the double rolls!


Video from Drumeo

Looks intimidating?

Relax, let’s break it down. This is basically your double stroke roll rudiment, scattered across the drum kit.

This is how it’s done:

  1. Start your double stroke roll rudiment on your snare.
  2. Once you are comfortable, move across the drum set in this manner: Snare – Mid Tom – High Tom – Floor Tom (you can mix it up too)
  3. Bring up the speed once you are comfortable.
  4. Make sure you are not missing any beats on your double stroke!

You will want to start slow for this. Go for 60 BPM when you first start, go for 15 successful cycles before increasing your tempo.

The aim is to maintain your double stroke roll even as you play around the kit.

 

Advanced

Once you are comfortable with the simple and intermediate exercises, let’s move on to the advanced stage!

Alternatively, if you have already been practicing and are comfortable with double stroke rolls around the drum kit at a tempo of say 180 BPM or 200 BPM, you should skip to the exercises in this segment.

At this level you should be aiming for 2 main goals:

  1. Increase your tempo. Training with the metronome will help you track and achieve this.
  2. Develop overall drumming speed by incorporating the bass drum and hi-hat on the feet

You should only progress to ‘advanced’ after you are comfortable with moving around your drum kit, without missing a beat. i.e. you won’t accidentally hit a rim instead, or hit a cymbal in an awkward position.

You might have broken a few sticks (maybe 3 or 4 of them) before reaching here.

#1 – Drum Rudiments

Sorry, I had to repeat this.

Drummers who assume that they are at the ‘advanced’ levels will tend to slack off on their drum rudiments. Myself included. :S

It’s only when you are faced with a groove that you can’t crack then you’d realise that you could actually break it down into rudiments.

So, keep the rudiments in your practice regime.

If it gets boring, turn up the speed on the metronome! Challenge yourself at 250 BPM or at a tempo that you’ve never tried before.

#2 – Mixing in the bass drum

Now you can start mixing in your bass drums.

Try adding a double bass roll into any of the simple or intermediate exercises.

Your aim here is to start learning to coordinate your hands and legs with building up speed.

Again, start slow then crank up the tempo and aim to be able to continue playing smoothly with consistent speed and strength.

#3 – Over to you

At the advanced level, there isn’t really any ‘new’ drum practices to build up your speed.

Rather, you’ll start to be able to pick up those awesome grooves or fills that you’ve seen other drummers playing, and break them down so that you too can play it.

And this is how we’ll end the advanced segment.

Keep your eyes out for any grooves or fills that you want to play or add to your repertoire.

See you can break them down and reverse engineer them.

Keep at it because the ability to learn from fellow drummers will make you an even better one in the long run.

 

How to craft your own practice regime to develop hand speed

This is how I’ve structured this guide, you should use it to personalize your own practice regime because only you will know what are the weaknesses you want to work on.

your-drum-speed-practice-strategy

Decide which level you are at.

Who should start at ‘Simple’ exercises?

If you are totally new, start with the ‘simple’ drum exercises. Don’t be tempted to skip ahead.

Just focus on building up your control, endurance and familiarity around your drum kit first.

Who should start with ‘Simple’ and ‘Intermediate’ exercises?

If you have been trying to develop your hand speed and have already been practicing previously, you would want to mix up the ‘simple’ and ‘intermediate’ practices into your current practice regime.

Assuming that you are already familiar with your drum kit, your aim here would be to focus on your drumming strength. Make sure that as you speed up, your drumming volume remains relatively consistent.

If you haven’t, you should also be starting to incorporate double stroke rolls into your practice.

At this point, it is also useful to start training with the metronome.

Determine the highest BPM you are comfortable with (i.e. don’t have to strain yourself to play), go down by 5 bpm and start your current drum exercises from there.

Who should start with ‘Advanced’ exercises?

If you are comfortable playing across the drums fast with your sticks, its time to move to the ‘advanced’ phase.

Here, you’ll want to start incorporating your feet into the practices.

You will also want to continue practicing with a metronome and increase the tempo of your drum practices.

Although I’d broken down the hand speed development drum practices into various levels of ‘mastery’, I must mention that you should not be neglecting exercises from the previous ‘levels’ once you have become relatively fluent in them.

Instead, once you hit the ‘advanced’ level, your practice regime should include all the exercises listed above. And many a little more.

 

Best Grip for speed on Drums?

In my humble opinion, the 3 main drumstick grips can all be used to play the drums quickly.

drumsticks grip comparisons full

Instead, the best grip for speed on drums really depends on:

  • your drumming style,
  • the genre you play, and
  • your drum kit set up or configuration.

If you are comfortable with gripping the sticks with your palms facing downwards, you might want to stick with the German or American grips.

These grips will allow you to continue playing at the same volume while you aim to speed up your drumming.

Instead of focusing on the ‘best grip for speed on drums‘, you will find it more efficient to pick up advanced hand technique instead.

 

Common hand technique for fast drumming

hand speed technique

A commonly used hand technique for fast drumming (especially for the double stroke rolls) would be the push pull hand technique.

With the Push Pull stick technique, you are basically maximising the rebound of the drum head to provide momentum for your speed.

In short, it involves a [pushing] forward throwing motion of the stick and [pulling] bringing the stick back up towards you.

 

How to execute the Push Pull Hand Technique

If you are in a hurry, here’s the quick tutorial to the Push Pull stick technique:

  • Anchor the stick between your thumb and index finger, support with the rest of your fingers. This will be the fulcrum to allow the stick to swing.
  • While holding the stick, throw the tip of the stick forward,
  • When the stick rebounds from the drum head, pull it back up and deliver the 2nd beat,
  • You should now be back at your starting position,
  • Start slow, repeat and build up speed.

Here is a great video explanation by James Payne:


Video from James Payne (YouTube)

This technique is highly versatile, and can even improve your single stroke roll speeds.

 

How to Build Speed in Weak Hand

Let’s face it, most of us are not ambidextrous. We tend to favor the use of one hand over the other.

And this causes issues when we drum.

Actually it’s one of the #1 barrier you’d face as a drummer looking to develop your hand speed 🙁

You might find that your weak hand cannot catch up or keep up with the speed. Or that it tires out easily.

Here are 2 quick drum exercises that you can incorporate into your drum practice regime to build up speed and control in your weak hand.

#1 – Weak Hand Lead

Objectives:

  • Develop control and strength on your weak hand
  • Develop speed on top of that control

I learnt about this practice from a close drummer friend.

Basically you want to switch the roles of your hands.

Have your weak hand take the lead and explore the drum kit.

My version of the ‘Weak Hand Lead’ exercise does NOT include the feet. But if you are comfortable with working your full body without the feet getting into the way, feel free to add that in.

Drumeo’s Jared Falk demonstrates it here (with the bass drum and hi-hat pedals involved):

#2 – Weak Hand Workouts / Left Hand Workouts

Objective:

  • Develop control and strength on your weak hand
  • Develop speed on top of that control

This is pretty similar to the ‘Weak Hand Lead’ exercise.

But instead, you will only be using your weak hand for these exercises.

Practice pad workouts

As the name suggests, you will be doing this on your practice pad.

  • Sixteenth Notes

You will be practicing sixteenth notes, with the emphasis of keeping the notes consistent and of equal strength.

Use a metronome and bump up the speed when you are comfortable.

  • Accents

Another variation is to add an accent to the first of every four notes.

*In layman terms, an accent is when you play a note louder. Sort of like an emphasis.*

This will help with your strength control.

Again, use a metronome.

If this is new to you, here’s how to practice accents:


Video from daveclarkdrums (Youtube)

Drum Kit workouts

Playing on the practice pad is vastly different from playing on the drum kit.

You will want to practice your left hand workouts on the drum kit as well. The focus here is to develop familiarity around the kit with your weak hand.

  • Accents

You can bring the accents workout onto the drum kit.

Start with a rim shot on the accents first.

When you are playing on the drum kit with your weak hand, you will want to note the difference between a clean hit (at the center of the drum) and a rim shot.

Although it might be difficult to catch the angle, you will want to incorporate rim shots with your weak hand into this exercise.

  • Pyramid of Pain

This was taken from Jake Nicolle’s tutorial on Drum Magazine.

I had heard of pyramid workouts in sports, this is the version for drummers:

drum-mag-left-hand-exercise
This does NOT belong to me. This genius workout is from Jake Nicolle‘s tutorial on Drum Magazine.

How to use the Pyramid of Pain:

  • You should invert the chart above.
  • Start from Ex.8 and work your way up to Ex. 1
  • Repeat
  • Once comfortable, use a metronome!

This can also be done on a practice pad.

  • Playing Grooves

Once you are done with the workouts above, here’s something fun to try.

Try drumming to random drumless tracks, using only your weak hand. (no legs as well)

You should find yourself getting better at planning grooves and fills with your weak hand over time. This helps to build the control and improve your reaction around the kit.

Also, it helps you get rid of that lethargic feeling that sometimes seems to be tagged onto your weak hand.

You can also find more weak hand drum workouts on Tiger Bill. But let’s not get overwhelmed here.

#3 – Drum Rudiments

Tier4-drumrudiments

Did you think I’d miss out on the drum rudiments here? No way!

Practice your triple stroke rolls, triplets and paradiddles and focus on your weak hand while you are at it.

If your weak hand is your left hand, feel free to swap the drum rudiments around (play all the R with your left hand instead). This will also give you a mental workout 😀

I’ve also listed some handy (no pun intended) exercise tools that could help you improve your arm and finger strength as a drummer in the section below. If you want to improve even faster, consider getting one of them and train your strength during your free time, or when you have no access to a drum kit.

 

5 Quick Advice on Developing Hand Speed for Drummers

Drummers are pretty disadvantaged because drums are a very transparent instrument. The audience can easily discern how confident you are, or how good your speed control really is.

Here are additional tips on developing hand speed that I had come across while working on mine.

 

Focus on control and speed will come

I know, you are here to find out how you can develop your hand speed…

But!

I’d say that your priority should first be to focus on being able to control your strokes.

Ever tried to go so fast that you can tell what your hands are doing?

Yes, that is how speed on the drum kit feels like, even to the pros.

The fine line between the pros and us, is that they are still aware of the beats and fills that they are producing.

Anyone can go fast on the drums. But not everyone can go fast without producing a random jumble of noise. Remember, as a drummer you want to still be able to keep time for your band. So don’t go off on a tangent, just because you can’t control your strokes!

To improve on your stroke control, practice your drum rudiments.

 

Control your strength

control-your-strength

As part of being able to control your drum strokes, you should also take note of your strength.

If you have been trying to practice and develop hand speed, you’d notice that as you get faster, your drum volume may become inconsistent or softer.

Now, that’s something you will want to eliminate.

You will want to be able to control your strength alongside your speed such that as you speed up, your drum volume sounds the same regardless of your speed.

 

Single stroke exercises first

As mentioned above, your priority should be to control your strokes first then gain speed after.

If you are new and want to build up hand speed across the drum kit, start with the bare minimum: single stroke exercises.

When you are practicing single stroke exercises, you should focus on these 2 key objectives:

  • Movement across the kit: You will want to mix it up and use as many drums and cymbals in your drum kit.
  • Your body posture: Make sure you are using your entire body, instead of just your arms as you play across the drum kit.

Double stroke exercises can be incorporated later, once you are comfortable switching between the drums and cymbals, while being able to maintain your strength and without missing a beat.

 

Relax!

tensed-fist

You can tell if a drummer is new or relatively experienced from a distance.

If the drummer pulls their shoulders together and crouches slightly before going all out (in speed) over their drumkits, you’d know that they are new to drumming. And, you’d also know that they wouldn’t be very fast.

Comparatively, an experienced drummer maintains their body posture upright and relaxes their shoulders and upper arms.

Tensing up with you speed up on drumming will only slow you down because it:

  • limits your range of action
  • tightens up your muscles and eats away at your endurance
  • causes body aches after the drumming session

So, just relax and focus on your tempo.

 

You will be bored

This is a warning…again.

Most of the speed building (heck, most drum mastery practices) will be repetitive and boring. But remember, you want to build the muscle strength, endurance and muscle memory, and (the right) repetition will help you get there.

Training equipment for drummers to build speed

Gyroball

gyroball

If you have never played the drums, or are new to drumming and experience sore arms after short practice sessions, this is for you.

The Gyroball helps to build forearm strength, endurance and also trains your endurance, especially on the muscles surrounding your wrists.

I think is great for new drummers. On top of building forearm strength, it also involves wrist movement to kickstart the Gyroball too.

A minute on the Gyroball daily will definitely build up your forearm and wrist strength fast.

 

Hand Grip Exercise Trainer

hand-grip trainer

This traditional hand grip exercise trainer helps to build forearm strength.

If you find yourself throwing drum sticks when you start picking up speed, this might help too. ha!

 

Gripmaster Finger Strength Trainer

The gripmasters helps you to train individual finger strength.

This was very useful when I was getting used to a guitar.

If your palms or thumb feel sore after practice, you should be using this on off days to train.

Plus, I think it will help you as a drummer when it comes to advanced stick techniques.

The Gripmaster trainer comes in various resistance. If you are not sure, start with the lowest at 9 pounds per finger.

Training reference books for the self-taught drummer

I know we are now in the digital age, and it’s easy to just head to Google or Youtube to find help.

But, there are treasures of resources hidden in books, or reconstructed from old drumming tutorial books. Some of these could be interpret in different ways, depending on your drumming style and belief.

So, here are some of the training references that I think you should pick up.

Most of them are no longer being published, but you should be able to get 2nd hand versions on Amazon:

Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone

 

stick control by george lawrence stone

Stick control is a go to book for many new drummers.

It is designed for the marching band folks, but there are sticking techniques that we can also use to improve our drumming.

Most importantly, when done right, these techniques do lead to faster drumming.

Bass Drum Control by Colin Bailey

bass-drum-control

Okay, we are going a little off tangent with this. But hey, you will eventually need to work on your bass drum control and speed, so why not mention it here.

If you feel like you are having a spasm on your feet everytime you try to speed up on the bass drum, then this book is a must have.

Inside, you will find exercises that will allow you to gain control over your footwork and allow you to play faster.

If you have seen drummers doing crazy double bass drum beats without the double bass pedal, they got the fundamentals from this book.

Additional Reading / Resources

These are some of the resources not listed above that had help me when I was trying to develop my hand speed and control. You might find additional nuggets of useful information there:


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