5 Drumming Exercises Without Sticks

I spent the last year revenge traveling. Initially, I’d pack my practice pad and drumsticks for the road. After a few trips, I started to minimize my travel pack, and they didn’t make the list. But, drumming practice has to continue.

So I relied on a couple of drumming exercises without sticks (and a practice pad) to keep my muscle memory alive and my groove…grooving.

Whether you’re traveling this year or don’t have frequent access to a drum kit, you’ll find the following proven exercises useful!

Drumming Exercises you can do without drumsticks

1) Movement Exercises: Maintain / Build Your Endurance

Drumming requires specific muscle movements that we may not use daily. These exercises have helped me maintain my endurance, even if I was away from the drum kit for months.

Here’re the movement exercises you can do without drumsticks:

Depending on your stick technique, you’ll often rely on these muscles (in green):

There are two main exercises I do frequently to keep those muscles engaged:

i) Wrist Rotations

  • Grab a filled Water Bottle in your hand
  • Rotate Your Wrists for as many reps as it takes to start tiring your forearms out
  • Switch Hands
  • Repeat 3 to 5 times for each hand

ii) Finger Tapping Exercises

Do this on a table or any flat surface.

  • Place your hands on the flat surface, facing down
  • Tap your thumbs
  • Try to make each tap as loud as you can, without rotating your wrists
  • Focus on isolating your thumb movements
  • Try to do this for 3 minutes straight before taking a rest
  • Repeat 3 times

Repeat the same exercise, this time using your fingers to tap the table as a whole.

  • Using all 4 fingers, tap the table as loudly as you can
  • Focus on having the movement come from your knuckles and the back of your hand
  • Avoid moving your wrists.

P.s. If you’re doing these exercises while travelling and plan to walk long distances on holiday, skip the following exercises.

As drummers, we shouldn’t forget about our legs.

Here’re two leg exercises you can do without sticks:

iii) Ankle movement

  • Make sure you’re seating comfortable, with both legs planted on the floor
  • Lift your toes up while keeping your heels on the ground
  • Repeat 20 times on each foot

iv) Thigh movement

  • Make sure you’re seating comfortable, with both legs planted on the floor
  • Lift your knee up so that your toes are off the ground
  • Bring your toes down to the ground (just like how you’d play the bass drums)
  • Repeat 20 times on each foot as quickly as you can
  • Increase the number of repetition depending on your endurance level

Here’re the exercises in a table. If you’d like to keep it for reference, simply download the image!

Doing these exercises will build your endurance and grant you greater speed as well!

p.s. if you want to improve your speed on the drums, read this in-depth guide instead!

2) Rudiments: Work Your Fundamentals

Good news, you can practice your rudiments without a drum kit nor drumsticks.

Remember the tapping exercise mentioned above? Simply do the same exercise, using the patterns in the rudiment chart!

Tier2-drumrudiments

If it gets too tiring, using your palms to hit a pillow also works.

The idea is to make sure you do not lose your sense of groove even if you’re separated from your drum kit.

If you’re not sure which drum rudiment to start with, read my guide to learning drum rudiments!

3) Metronome Exercises: Improve Your Timing

Timing is important as a drummer. Your band relies on you to keep everyone on time!

You could use a metronome or a metronome app on your phone for the following exercises.

i) Practice Your Rudiments with your Metronome

The most common rudiments I use for this exercise are:

  • Single Strong rudiments
  • Paradiddles

Start at 80 BPMs and work your way up.

ii) Mixing up your rudiments

The key issues new drummers face with timing is the difficulty in switching between rhythms.

Truth is, this is a skill that we’ll need to keep practicing regardless of how long we’ve been playing the drums.

For this exercise, switch between rudiments on a fixed timing.

I like to number my rudiments, for example:

  1. Single Stroke Roll
  2. Single Stroke Four
  3. Single Paradiddle
  4. Paradiddle-Diddle

Using the numbers, I would switch between the rudiments in my head while tapping the table. I find that keeping this exercise to 4 rudiments I’m working on is my maximum capacity. You can tweak the exercise to suit your skill level.

These exercises were taken from my guide to improving Timing on the Drums. Read that if you wish to improve your timing!

4) Drum App Jamming: Have fun

There are many drum kit apps available on our phones these days, and many of them are free to use too.

If you miss your drum kit, just open up any of these drum kit apps and have a go at full volume.

Yes, you don’t get the full experience of being behind the drum kit, but most of them have great drum tracks so you can still jam without your drumsticks.

5) Practice Your Favorite Riffs (Optional)

This isn’t for everyone. But if there’s a riff you’re working on, you can also practice it without drumsticks. Muscle memory is key in drumming. If you can put in the time to practice your riffs and retain your muscle memory without access to your drum kit, you’ll find that you can easily pick them up again once you’re reunited with your drum kit.

An alternative would be to head to a local music store near you and have a go at their test drum kits, if any.

You can still practice drumming exercises without drumsticks!

We may not have access to a drumkit or even sticks at all times, but that shouldn’t stop us from practicing.

I’ve shared some drumming exercises that can be done without sticks above. I’ve used while traveling around the world last year, and I hope you might find them useful too!

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