Drums For Dummies, 2nd Edition


by Jeff Strong





About the Author

Jeff Strong graduated from the Percussion Institute of Technology at the Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles in 1983, where he studied with Joe Porcaro, Ralph Humphrey, Efrain Toro, and Alex Acuna. A drummer for more than 35 years, Jeff began his professional career at the age of 14. His professional experience ranges from live performance to studio drumming to music research. Jeff has performed or recorded with artists as diverse as ’60’s crooner Gene Pitney, R&B singer Cynthia Johnson (Lipps, Inc.), the country-rock Daisy Dillman Band, and the reggae band Macumba, to name a few. He has released a dozen solo CDs, including Calming Rhythms 3 a therapeutic tool currently used by thousands of institutions and schools worldwide.

Jeff is currently President of the REI Institute, a Music Medicine research organization and therapy provider. His pioneering work using drumming for children with autism has been featured in many publications, including many scientific journals and several books. Jeff has spoken at dozens of professional conferences and has been called upon as an expert on music and sound healing, appearing on numerous radio programs and in two documentaries. The REI Institute’s therapy program for people with neurological disorders, of which Jeff is the creator, is available through hundreds of Authorized REI Providers located around the world.

Jeff is a sought-after drum clinician focusing on world rhythm techniques and is the author of eight books. You can find out more about Jeff at www. jeffstrong.com and www.reiinstitute.com.



For Tovah and the next generation of drummers.

Author’s Acknowledgments

My thanks go to all the people at Wiley, especially Mike Baker and Sarah Faulkner, whose hard work and technical skill are obvious in the pages of this book. I’m also grateful for my agent Carol Susan Roth and acquisitions editor Tracy Boggier for making the second edition of this book a reality.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at www.dummies.com/register/.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Mike Baker

(Previous Edition: Allyson Grove)

Acquisitions Editor: Tracy Boggier

Copy Editor: Sarah Faulkner

(Previous Edition: Billie Williams)

Editorial Program Coordinator: Hanna K. Scott

Technical Reviewer: Wade Parish

Media Development Specialist: Laura Moss

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistants: Erin Calligan, David Lutton

Cover Photos: © Digital Vision/Getty

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5thwave.com)

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Tera Knapp

Layout and Graphics: Claudia Bell, Carl Byers, Andrea Dahl, Joyce Haughey, Barry Offringa

Proofreaders: John Greenough, Leeann Harney, Christine Pingleton, Aptara

Indexer: Aptara




About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Setting a Solid Foundation

Chapter 1: Drum Basics

Picking a Drum Apart from Head to Shell

Exploring How Drums Create Sound

Deconstructing the Drumset

Appreciating the Old-timers: Traditional Drums

Swingin’ Sticks and Slapping the Skins

Chapter 2: I’ve Got Rhythm . . .

Developing a Sound Vocabulary

Adding Some Drumming Definitions

Becoming One with the Pulse (and I’m Not Talking Heartbeat)

Feeling the Meter

Embracing Odd Meter

Chapter 3: Tapping into Drumming Techniques

Talkin’ Technique: What You Need to Know

Speaking Softly and Carrying Big Sticks

Painting a Variety of Textures with Brushes

Forging a Foundation with Rudiments

Getting the Most Out of Your Practice Sessions

Chapter 4: Getting a Handle on Hand Drumming Techniques

Taking Matters (and Tones) into Your Own Hands

Opting for Open Tones

Mastering Muted Tones

Venturing into Some Alternative Strokes

Keeping Your Options Open

Part II : Digging into the Drumset

Chapter 5: Settling In Behind the Drumset

Setting Up Your Drumset

Putting Your Foot Down

Working Out: Exercises to Improve Your Hand- and Footwork

Chapter 6: Rolling into Rock Drumming

Harnessing the Backbeat

Mastering the Basic Beats

Dressing Up the Basic Beats

Chapter 7: Beating the Blues

Finding the Pocket and Staying in It

Playing Blues

Understanding Blues Song Structure

Chapter 8: Rallying Around R&B and Funk

Playing R&B Grooves

Getting Funky: Exploring Funk Drumming

Chapter 9: Swinging into Jazz

Getting Into the Swing of It

Expanding Your Horizons

Telling Your Story: Soloing

Blending Styles: Jazz-Fusion

Playing Fusion Rhythms

Chapter 10: Looking at Latin and Caribbean Styles

Building On Traditions

Playing Afro-Cuban Rhythms

Playing Brazilian Rhythms

Playing Caribbean Rhythms

Filling It Out

Chapter 11: Ratcheting up Your Rock Drumming

Building on a Solid Foundation

Exploring Some Great Drummers and Their Grooves

Finding Your Own Inspiration

Part III : Dressing up Your Drumset Skills

Chapter 12: Getting Into the Groove

Getting the Feel of the Music

Playing Musically

Choosing the Perfect Rhythm

Adding Your Personality

Chapter 13: Expressing Yourself with Fills and Licks

Enhancing Your Drumming with Licks

Increasing Your Impact with Fills

Playing Some Fills — From One Beat to Four

Creating Your Own Fills

Chapter 14: Flying Solo

Soloing Basics

Part IV : Pounding Out the Beat: Traditional Drums and Percussion

Chapter 15: Handling Hand Drums

Embracing the Variety in Drums

Beating the Bongos

Carrying On with the Congas

Discovering the Djembe

Uncovering the Udu

Deciphering the Doumbek

Touting the Tar

Tapping the Power of the Tambourine/Riq

Partying with the Pandeiro

Chapter 16: Singling Out Stick-Played Drums

Bopping to the Bodhran

Detailing the Djun Djuns

Rubbing the Cuica

Striking the Surdo

Rapping the Repanique

Tapping the Tamborim

Tinkering with the Timbales

Chapter 17: Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Exploring Other Percussion Instruments

Ringing the Agogo Bells

Twisting and Shaking the Afuche/Cabasa

Keying in to the Clavé

Clanging the Cowbell

Scraping the Guiro

Movin’ to the Maracas

Experimenting with Shakers

Tapping the Triangle

Chapter 18: Jamming with World Rhythms

Demystifying Polyrhythms

It Takes a Village: Using More Rhythms for Better Sound

The Rhythm Nations: Playing Well with Others

Part V : Choosing, Tuning, and Caring for Your Drums

Chapter 19: Decision Time: Selecting a Drum of Your Own

Choosing a Drumset

Choosing a Traditional Drum

Branching Out: The Extras

Knowing Where to Find Drums

Chapter 20: Tuning and Maintaining Your Drums

Checking Out Tuning Basics

Choosing and Replacing Heads

Caring for Your Drums

Part VI : The Part of Tens

Chapter 21: Ten Ways to Expand Your Drumming Horizons

Checking out Classes

Visiting Clinics

Attending Workshops

Exploring Drum Circles and Jams

Perusing Books and Videos

Getting Online

Reading Magazines

Joining a Band

Forming Your Own Band

Playing Open Stage

Chapter 22: Ten Tips for Finding a Drum Instructor

Test Driving a Teacher

Knowing Where to Look

Understanding the Costs Involved

Exploring a Teacher’s Playing Style

Gauging a Teacher’s Willingness to Teach to Your Interests

Starting Where You Are

Getting a Sense of History

Honoring Yourself

Understanding Expectations

Knowing When to Move On

Appendix: How to Use the CD

Relating the Text to the CD

System Requirements

Using the CD with Microsoft Windows

Using the CD with Mac OS

What You’ll Find on the CD


End User License Agreement


All the drummers I’ve ever met (and I’ve met quite a few) started out by tapping or pounding on just about anything they could get their hands on. Chances are that if you picked up this book, you fit into this category as well. So, even if you’ve never played an actual drum or studied drumming in any formal sense, you’re a drummer.

With drumming, you’ve chosen the world’s oldest and most popular musical instrument. There isn’t a place on this planet that doesn’t have some sort of drumming tradition. In fact, as you’ll discover in the following pages, playing drums is a universal pastime that anyone can enjoy, regardless of his or her taste in music.

My purpose with this book is to introduce you to as many types of drums and drumming styles as I can in 384 pages. If you’re like me, you can find joy in each of them. And by knowing a variety of playing techniques, you can end up being a much better and more versatile drummer.

About This Book

This book allows the drumset player to develop all the skills needed to play a variety of drumming styles from rock to Latin and jazz to R&B. I also expose you to traditional techniques that you can easily incorporate into your drumset playing.

Unlike most drum books, Drums For Dummies, 2nd Edition goes beyond the modern drumset and also includes a variety of traditional drums and percussion instruments. For the traditionalist or drum circle enthusiast, Drums For Dummies, 2nd Edition includes descriptions of how to play a variety of traditional hand and stick-played drums as well as some common percussion instruments. So, whether you’re interested in playing a drumset in popular music or being involved in drumming ensembles using traditional drums and percussion instruments, this book is for you.

Drums For Dummies, 2nd Edition is able to contain all this information because you won’t find any exercises that you can’t use in real-world situations. The result: You can learn how to actually play the drums much sooner and without learning unnecessary stuff.

This book is also a handy reference for drumming. You can find a variety of drums from around the world that you may not have ever seen or heard of before now. I explain each of these drums, and I describe their technique so that you can play them in the traditional way using traditional rhythms. I also discuss how you can use each of these drums in a musical situation today.

By no means does this book cover all the different drums and percussion instruments played today, but it does cover more than a dozen of the drums that I see most often. And, with the techniques that I describe, you can easily play any drum that I don’t present in this book. Just find a drum that looks similar to yours and start there.

Conventions Used in This Book

I use a few conventions in this book to make it easier for you to understand and navigate. Here’s a list of those conventions:

bullet You’ll see many of the rhythms in this book marked with a track bar that tells you where to find that rhythm on the book’s companion CD when you play it as a standard, music CD. The CD and book together allow you to hear as well as see how to play each rhythm, making the learning process that much quicker. As with the 1st edition of this book, many of the tracks have been included as regular CD files. But with the 2nd edition, we’re now able to make all the rhythms available as MP3 files.

bullet All the drumset grooves are written for the right-handed player. Well, not exactly right-handed people, but rather people who set up and play their drums in a right-handed way. I do this because it’s the most common way to play a drum. Lefties take heart — playing right-handed can actually be better for you. You end up having an advantage because your left hand is as strong as your right (trust me on this one — I’m a lefty who plays right-handed, and so are a lot of other great drummers).

bullet The musical notation in this book is written so that you can read drumming music. I don’t cover those areas (key signatures, melodies, and so on) that are present in music notation unless they specifically apply to the drum rhythm presented.

What You’re Not to Read

If you’re pressed for time (for example, you have an audition tomorrow), you don’t have to read this entire book word-for-word. I can’t promise that you’ll nail that audition, but I do make it easy for you to know which parts of this book you can skip. Don’t read the following unless you have ample time and a real thirst for drumming knowledge:

bullet Sidebars: These gray-shaded boxes are filled with fun, interesting information, but it’s all nonessential.

bullet Technical stuff: You can skip any paragraph marked with a Technical Stuff icon (see “Icons Used in This Book” later in this introduction). This information may be too technical the first time you read through this book, but come back to it as you get more comfortable with your drumming — it will only enhance your knowledge of the subject.

bullet Drum history: Don’t worry; I don’t give you any quizzes on the history of drumming. If you’re one of those rare souls who finds history fascinating, dive right in. If you’re like the rest of us, this icon lets you know that you don’t have to read these sections.

Foolish Assumptions

I really don’t make any assumptions about you, the reader. I don’t assume that you’re interested in a certain type of drum. I don’t assume that you want to play a specific style of music. I don’t even assume that you already have a drum or that you know what kind of drumming you want to do. In fact, if you don’t know these things, this book can help you decide.

The only assumption I make is that you’re reading this book because you want to learn how to turn your aimless tapping into music.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is organized so that you can get the information you want quickly and not be burdened with stuff you don’t need or want to know. Each section contains chapters that cover a specific area of drumming.

Part I: Setting a Solid Foundation

Part I contains four chapters that cover the basics of drumming. Chapter 1 introduces you to the world of drums and shows you some of the most common drums used today. Chapter 2 provides you with a vocabulary that allows you to read drumming music quickly (you don’t need to read music in order to play the rhythms in this book if you don’t want to — you can pop the CD into your stereo and listen to some of the rhythms, or download the MP3 files and listen to all the rhythms). Chapter 3 introduces you to the proper way to hit the drums with a stick, and Chapter 4 explores many ways that you can play a drum with your hands.

Part II: Digging into the Drumset

Part II explores the modern drumset. In Chapter 5, you discover how to set up your drumset as well as some basic drumset skills that will help you move your limbs independently of one another. Chapter 6 shows you how to play the drumset in the rock style, and Chapter 7 introduces you to blues drumming. Chapter 8 presents the way to drum in the R&B and funk drumming techniques, and Chapter 9 explores jazz and fusion styles. In Chapter 10, you uncover the secrets to playing Latin and Caribbean rhythms. And, in Chapter 11, you can expand on your rock skills by looking at the rhythms of some great drummers.

Part III: Dressing up Your Drumset Skills

Part III helps you express your own personality on the drumset. Chapter 12 examines what makes a rhythm groove and how to put together a beat that fits your musical situation. In Chapter 13, you can explore how to use licks and fills to complement the music and make a personal statement. Chapter 14 gives you some ideas and guidelines to help you solo effectively.

Part IV: Pounding Out the Beat: Traditional Drums and Percussion

Part IV presents a variety of drums and percussion instruments from around the world. In Chapter 15, you get a chance to discover a bunch of drums that you play with your hands. Chapter 16 explores some drums that you play with either a stick or a combination of a stick and your hand. Chapter 17 presents other percussion instruments, such as the cowbell and the triangle. Chapter 18 builds on Chapters 15, 16, and 17 and shows you how you can combine these instruments to create polyrhythms.

Part V: Choosing, Tuning, and Caring for Your Drums

Part V provides information to help you choose, tune, and care for your drums. Chapter 19 shows you what to look for when buying a drum or drumset. Chapter 20 explains how to tune and take care of your drums so that they sound their best and last a long time.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Part VI is a staple of For Dummies books. Chapter 21 shows you ten ways that you can continue on in the world of drumming, and Chapter 22 offers some tips on choosing a private drum instructor.


The appendix explains the organization of the CD that comes with this book.

Icons Used in This Book

As with all For Dummies books, I use a few icons to help you along your way.


This icon highlights expert advice that can help you become a better drummer.


This icon lets you know ahead of time about those instances when the way you hit a drum can cause damage to the instrument or your ears. You also see this icon when I present you with a technique or rhythm that is challenging to play.


Certain techniques are very important and stand repeating. This icon gives you those gentle nudges to keep your playing on track.


Throughout the text, I include some technical background on a specific technique. This icon shows up in those instances so that you know to brace yourself for some less inspiring information.


This icon directs you to fun facts about drumming that you can use to impress your friends.

Where to Go from Here

Drums For Dummies, 2nd Edition is set up so that you can either read it from cover to cover and progressively build your drumming knowledge, or you can jump around and read only the parts that interest you. I recommend that either way, you check out Chapters 2 and 3 first. These chapters lay the foundation from which all drumming is built. Knowing this stuff allows you to understand the information in all the other chapters faster and easier.

After you look over Chapters 2 and 3, you can either go to Part II if you’re interested in the drumset or you can jump to Part IV to learn about traditional drums.

If you don’t have a drum but know what you want, you can find out how to buy one in Part V. If you don’t know what kind of drum you want to buy (well, besides a drumset), start with Part IV for some ideas.

Part I

Setting a Solid Foundation

In this part . . .

A t last, you’ve discovered that you’re a drummer at heart. Now you want to move beyond those kitchen utensils to an actual drum. Well, this part introduces you to the world of drums and drumming. In Chapter 1, you find out what makes a drum a drum and you get a glimpse of the most common styles available. Chapter 2 gives you a foundation from which to develop your drumming skills by showing you how easy it is to read music. Chapter 3 introduces you to the myriad of ways to hit a drum with a stick and shows you the fundamentals of all drumming: the rudiments (well, a few anyway — the complete list is on the Cheat Sheet). Chapter 4 helps you get a handle on hitting the drums with your hands in case you want to move beyond the drumset to more traditional drums.


Go to www.wiley.com/go/eula to access Wiley’s ebook EULA.