Drum Alternatives: Drumming without a Drum Kit

“Is there a way I can start drumming without a drum kit?” – That’s one of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been getting since I’ve started writing on this blog. 

Not surprising since many aspiring drummers may not want to commit to buying a drum kit before getting into drumming. Others may not have sufficient space for a drum kit in their tiny apartment. You may even be in the predicament of having to deal with neighbors who are sensitive to sound or noise.

Regardless of your situation, I hope this guide on drum alternatives will provide creative and practical solutions that’ll help you get into drumming, even without a drum kit, and help you kickstart your hobby.

5 Drum Alternatives for aspiring drummers without a drum kit

1. Drum Practice Pads

Drum practice pads are small, portable (usually) rubber pads that are useful for drummers of any skill level. 

They offer a similar experience to drumming on the surface of drum heads and allow you to practice your rhythm, timing, rudiments and more. All you need alongside a drum practice pad is a pair of drumsticks and you can start learning / improving your drumming wherever you are. 

My favorite is the affordable no-frills drum pad from Vic Firth that you can easily find at any good music store, on craigslist or even on Amazon:

If you have more budget to work with, you can also consider the Drumeo P4 practice pad which comes with four different surfaces that provide a good variety of feedback as you play. Moving around this practice pad also helps you improve your stick control.

drumeo-p4

I’m not sure if the Drumeo practice pad is still in production, but you can probably find pre-loved ones or check out your local music store for stock.

2. Electronic Drum Pads

Electronic drum pads are the closest alternative to a full drum kit – they mimic the sounds of a full drum kit while taking up minimal space. They’re also ideal for quiet practice with headphones.

These cost between $100 to $300 depending on the quality and features they offer.

Like drum practice pads, you’ll also require a pair of drumsticks with these. The added advantage of electronic drum pads is that you can trigger a wide range of drum kit sounds which gives you a better playing experience. This will allow you to practice different drum grooves alongside rudiments. 

3. Cajón 

Originating from Peru, Cajóns are box-shaped instruments played by slapping the front face with your hands. It’s portable and versatile, suitable for styles ranging from flamenco to acoustic sets.

Siam-Oak-String-Cajon-sm

While the Cajón isn’t the most direct drum alternative, it can provide the basic beats similar to a drum kit. That said, a Cajón will allow you to learn and practice on your timing, rhythm and coordination. You’ll also notice that the Cajón is a popular drum alternative used by professional bands when they perform the acoustic versions of their songs. 

When not in use, the Cajón also looks great and can double up as a chair in your house, which is an added bonus. I shared my pick of the best cajons for beginners here.

4. Frame Drums 

Frame Drums are round, shallow drums held in one hand and played with the other. Frame drums are found in many cultures and are especially prominent in Middle Eastern music. 

They offer a unique sound and require a different playing technique that requires the use of your fingers and palms instead. A small 16” frame drum can cost between $15 to $35, depending on the maker, build and quality. These are quite affordable, compared to a full drum kit and are a fun drum alternative to consider. 

Here’s how frame drums sound like:

They can be rather quiet too, without amplification, so you don’t have to worry about being pestered by neighbors for making too much noise.

5. Hang Drum aka handpan

Hang Drum or handpan is a convex steel drum played with the hands and tuned with multiple notes. It produces a melodic and resonant sound, perfect for meditative and ambient music.

They sound vastly different from regular drum kits but are a great drum alternative if you’re into ambient music. Well built hang drums can cost about $200 to $300.

Here is how hang drums sound like: 

Bonus: more drums to consider

If the last two options have got you wondering if there are drum alternatives from other cultures that you might want to explore, don’t stop here! 

Find out more about these other types of drums that might interest you:

  • Tabla: A pair of drums used in classical, popular, and religious music of the Indian subcontinent. The tabla offers a range of complex sounds and rhythmic patterns.
  • Bongo Drums: These small, open-bottomed drums are great for rhythmic beats and are easy to transport. They’re played with the hands and can be used in a variety of musical settings.
  • Djembe: A rope-tuned skin-covered drum from West Africa. The djembe can produce a wide range of tones and is popular in drum circles and folk music.

Who should consider these drum alternatives? 

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the resources or space to own a drum kit, especially at home. Aspiring drummers who want to start exploring drumming as a hobby can consider these drum alternatives. 

If you’re exploring drumming as a new hobby, you may want to look into drum alternatives that offer different profiles of sounds and patterns like the hang drums, frame drums and many more mentioned above.

I hope this list has given you some creative and practical drum alternatives to consider!

Leave a Comment