What do I play?

Figuring out what to play is a big challenge when you first start playing drums. People ask when they start playing drums, how do I know which drum or cymbal to hit? That is a great question. And think goodness you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself. There are thousands and thousands of drummers that have come before you and have set the standard.

And all you need to do it is learn what they did. When you do what they did you will begin to figure it out. So you’ll learn how to play the drums, when you start watching and learning … what has come before you.

So thank goodness, you don’t have to figure this out all by yourself. Many have come before you.

The first thing to figure out is the name is each drum and cymbal. From here you can start to see how each drum and cymbal is applied to each song or musical setting.

From here you can begin thinking in terms style and setting.  What would be appropriate style for the song? So pick a style, rock and roll, dance, country,  jazz, … whatever. You pick up the style and you can start to figure out the drum part. I guess you don’t need to know the style first but it will help you fit things together.  You can start with just what each instrument plays … bass drum, snare, hi-hat. Then a teacher can tell you the style.  Either way will work.

Now that you know the setting and the style you want to play. Determine what will be appropriate for the music?  You can start to figure out, what to play based on this history in the style of the music. You are really trying to fit the context with what is happening. Once you have experience with the drums, you can cross different styles and create new and different drum beats and fills and all kinds of new stuff.

And so the ultimate test whether you played the right drum, hit the right cymbal is ff the audience likes it. The audience may be someone in your family … to start. Then it might be someone in your band. Then … ultimately the audience decides.

Now, I would be careful about allowing too many people to tell you what to play because believe me there are lots of people out there they think they know how to play drums but they did not. So, choose your teachers wisely.

The ultimate test is if the audience likes it. And if they enjoy the music, then you have played the right thing. On the drums, so much of what you play is based on experience in what has come before you. Start by listening to music you like … break it down.


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