Drums can be a complex instrument at times. There are several factors that go into playing them such as coordination, technique, and dynamics. When working on your drumming ability there are some things you can single out to focus on certain skills. Snare drum exercises are a great tool to improve your technique and feel. The snare drum has so many aspects to it that you can sit with it for hours and find new things to work on every time. We’ve put together some exercises for you to play that will greatly enhance your overall drumming ability.
Benefits of Snare Drum Practice
Before we get into it, let’s go through some benefits of solely practicing on a snare. Firstly, it will improve your overall feel on the drums. Hand exercises are typically played on a practice pad. This is something all drummers should do. However, practice pads don’t have the authentic feel of a snare. Playing patterns and rudiments on an acoustic snare drum will benefit you more than playing them on a practice pad.
The second benefit would be the overall technique improvements. The authentic feel of the snare will train your hands, arms, and wrists to use the drum sticks in a certain way. This will develop your hand technique and allow you to transfer it over to the rest of the drum kit.
The final benefit would be your dynamic flow. Snares are the most complex drums in a setup, giving you several sounds depending on the way you play them. Rim shots, cross-sticks, ghost notes, and buzz rolls are the main sound options you have. Utilizing these in some daily snare drum exercises will improve your control of dynamics when you’re playing the drums.
Starting us off are some good old single stroke rolls. The most basic drum rudiment to play, making it an easy exercise for beginners or professional drummers. The great thing about single strokes is that they’re packed with potential. Once you master them, you can add an array of dynamics to play some creative sounds. Some of the busiest drum fills played by professional drummers are just single strokes with tastefully placed accents around the drum kit.
When playing these, make sure your sticks are raising to the same height to get your strokes as even as possible. When you start playing faster, you’ll notice that one hand is stronger than the other. That’s something that you’ll need to work on since both hands need to play evenly.
The second variation has a rimshot on each main count and then it fills out with ghost notes. Make sure the rimshot is loud and punchy while the ghost notes are delicate and subtle.
Naturally, double strokes are the next step after singles. These will develop your finger technique as the faster you play, the more you’ll need to incorporate your fingers. They’re easier to play on a snare than they are to play on toms. You’ll find that many drummers only play doubles on the snare and hi-hat because of this. However, it’s important to play them as best you can and try to get them going around the kit as well. You’ll hear double strokes played on the hi-hat in a lot of trap and hip-hop music.
The second exercise variation is called an inverted double stroke. This is when you place an accent on the second stroke, giving you a moving train kind of sound. Inverted double strokes are great chop builders.
When you mix single strokes and double strokes, you get what is called a paradiddle. Single paradiddles are arguably one of the most famous rudiments out there, probably due to the funny name. Paradiddles form a good chunk of snare drumming and are often played in drum lines. They have a lot of use in drum kits and can be used within various grooves and fills.
They often tend to sound quite square when played straight with no dynamics. So, the second variation here provides an interesting way to play them and will help break that square sound.
Flams are when you drop your sticks to play one note, but one hand plays just before the other and creates an effective busy note. To play a good flam, make sure the first note is as soft as possible while the following note is a bit louder.
A flam tap is essentially a group of double strokes with a flam every time you change your hands. Flam taps are a useful chop builder as they train your hands to play busy notes while keeping the doubles going. If you can play them cleanly, you’ll be able to play a lot of interesting chops around the drum kit.
The second variation has a rimshot on every first right or left. This will help you develop technique in your wrists in arms since you’ll be swinging your arm to play the rimshot and dropping it to play the ghost note.
One-handed singles aren’t the most practical exercise out there. You’re probably not going to go and play drum fills with just one hand. However, they’re fantastic for developing your wrist and finger dexterity. A great way to practice these is to switch up between using your wrists and fingers. The skills you gain here will transfer over into regular drumming.
The second variation is similar to 1B from before, except you’re now playing groups of 16th notes with just one hand at a time.
Five Stroke Rolls
Another rudiment on the list, the five stroke roll will get you playing quick doubles with some space in between them. It’s great for developing your ability to keep space even between notes as well as playing quick bursts.
This rudiment is very popular with marching and jazz drummers. Once you have it down on the snare you could experiment with playing the doubles on the snare and the single note on different surfaces.
For the second variation exercise, make sure you play the ghost notes as softly as possible. This will develop your ability to play some interesting jazz drum licks.
Triplets with Alternating Patterns
When it comes to finger control, this is one of the best exercises you can play to improve it. Playing one note with your right and then two with your left will help you focus on moving your fingers. It’s equally important to play one left and then two rights. Luckily, you can alternate these two patterns by playing a 2-bar phrase. Overall, this gives you a useful exercise that can be a building block to some cool patterns around the drums.
The second variation would be a neat sounding fill to play after a few bars of grooving. The accent at the beginning of each group in the first bar and then at the end of each group in the second bar is highly effective.
These are similar to flam taps. However, you’re playing triplets instead of doubles, creating busy groups of threes. Every group has alternating hands, meaning this exercise is great for training your hands to play evenly.
Flams can be difficult to play at fast tempos, especially with triplets in the mix. So, start playing these slowly and gradually work your way up.
The second variation has rimshots on every flam. Make sure to play the rimshots with both hands for the flam, ensuring that the second hand plays a bit louder than the first.
Flam triplets are another exercise that jazz drummers tend to use often. So, this is a fantastic exercise for any aspiring jazz drummer.
Ghost Notes and Accents
This exercise differs from the others in that it is purely intended to improve your snare technique when playing grooves. The first variation focuses on playing a strong backbeat while filling the subdivision with ghost notes. When playing this, do a whipping motion with your arms to play the accented notes and then tap your wrists to get the rest of the ghost notes.
The second variation is a bit more aggressive with more whipping of the arms. Overall, these two variations will train you to emphasize the backbeat while keeping the ghost notes as subtle as possible.
Hertas aren’t labeled as official rudiments. However, they’re so popular amongst drummers that they may as well be. When played slowly, they don’t sound too impressive. It’s when you increase the tempo that they start to sound like very tasty tools for fills. If you’ve ever heard the song ‘Bleed’ by Meshuggah, you’ll be interested to hear that the drummer is playing hertas on his bass drum the whole time.
The first variation of this exercise is very straightforward. Just play it slowly and make sure that you’re getting the technique down. Once you can play it cleanly and smoothly, start increasing the tempo.
Once you can play it at a fairly decent tempo, give the second variation a try. The two accents followed by the two ghost notes sound really good on the snare.
How Should You Structure Practice Sessions?
The most productive practice sessions are ones where goals are set and progress is measured. It will motivate you to see how much you’ve improved since the last time you practiced, encouraging you to keep going. Many drummers have practice journals which they use to track progress. This is similar to people using journals in a gym to record how much weight they’ve lifted every workout.
You could write down what you want to work on in the journal and then assign time-limits to each topic. For example, 10 minutes of right-handed flams followed by 10 minutes of stick control would be a highly productive 20 minute practice session. Follow that with some fun jams to songs and you’ll leave your drum kit feeling very satisfied.
Remember to vary your sessions with difficult concepts and stuff you enjoy playing. If you only plan on doing serious practice, it may chase you away and cause motivation loss. Drums are fun, so have fun playing.
What Are The Benefits of Snare Drum Performances?
You don’t need to be in a marching band to do snare drum performances. There are many sheets of music out there written for snare, giving you something to play top-to-bottom with just one drum. They typically include many nuances such as smooth rolls and dynamics.
The benefit of these performances is that they’ll improve your technique, dynamic ability, and feel. Most importantly, they’ll improve your reading skills.
How Important Is The Ability To Read Drum Notation?
Speaking of reading skills, the ability to read drum notation is vital if you want to learn things quickly. Many drummers learn to play things by ear. It requires a lot of listening and concentration. If the same thing was notated for you, you’d be able to learn it in seconds.
In a world where most things are readily available on the internet, notated drum lessons are extremely valuable. Basic patterns, beats, and drum fills are all easier to learn when you can play them slowly while reading them as you play.
Developing a steady drum practice routine is vital if you want to see consistent improvement in your playing. Using these snare drum practice exercises will improve your snare drum technique as well as your sense of feel and dynamics. Remember to pace yourself when practicing and enjoy the experience.