So you’ve decided that you’d like to learn how to drum – congratulations! One of the first things that you might decide on as a new drummer is the kind of music that you’d like to play and what drum kit you’d like to use.
However, you might have decided that rock n roll drumming is for you, or maybe you’ve found a group of friends who would like to form a group, and have you as their drummer?
This article outlines some of the basics of rock n roll drumming, and some of the things to look out for when buying a rock n roll drum kit.
The Configuration Of Rock N Roll Drums
Although they are called rock n roll drums, in essence, such drums are just part of a standard drum kit.
What makes standard drums rock n roll drums, therefore, is their configuration, with one common configuration having been popularised by rock groups during the 1970s and 1980s.
Of course, that’s not to say you can’t personalise how you configure your own drum set – self-expression is, after all, a key part of playing any musical instrument! So you should feel free to set up your drum kit as and how you wish according to your own needs.
However, if you’re new to learning how to drum, or would like some further guidance to help you on your way, then it can be helpful to know what a rock drum set might look like.
For instance, you might expect to see:
- A 22-inch bass drum;
- A 12-inch alto tom;
- A 13-inch medium tom;
- A 16-inch floor tom; and
- A 14-inch snare drum.
The alto and medium toms are suspended, while the floor tom stands on the floor.
Additionally, it’s not uncommon to find a hi-hat, a ride cymbal, and a crash cymbal when it comes to rock, punk, or blues music.
What’s more, every drummer is free to change up the configuration of their drum set. For example, you could add extra cymbals, or make use of a snare drum.
The best way to find a configuration that works for you is to try out a few different set-ups, some common and some perhaps less-used, and see which result you like the most!
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The Importance Of Having A Bass Drum When It Comes To Rock N Roll Drums
There’s no question that the bass drum has a huge role to play when it comes to drumming in a rock n roll style. Incredibly, you can find bass drums at enormous sizes, such as the 26-inch bass drum that John Bonham, the drummer in Led Zeppelin, used to play.
So if you’re looking at learning how to play rock n roll drums, it’s highly recommended that you make sure that you’re comfortable using and playing on a bass drum and focus your efforts on playing it well. This can even be one of the first things that you start learning to do.
The reason why it’s worthwhile getting to know how to play the bass drum is that, in order to create a rock n roll sound, it’s not enough to simply hit the skin on a bass drum.
For an improved sound, try to position your foot in the centre of the pedal, and make use of one of the two common ways to hit the bass drum pedal, which are as follows:
- The flat foot technique: This position isn’t too tiring as it’s the ankle that’s doing the work;
- The heel up technique: For a more rock n roll sound, this technique relies on your upper thigh and knees to drive the pedal, which should give a punchier sound.
Another tip to help you keep control when using the above techniques is to try to keep your foot on the pedal when drumming (i.e. don’t take your foot off it!)
If you’re looking for other ways to try and recreate a rock n roll sound when drumming, then a good idea is to try and recreate the way in which your favourite rock n roll drummers played. This should also give you some extra motivation and inspiration when it comes to improving your own play style and technique.
So whether you’re a fan of Travis Barker, Phil Collins, Dave Grohl, Keith Moon, or another drummer entirely, don’t be afraid to do some research and see whether you would fancy trying to emulate their drumming styles and kits.
Choosing A Drum Head
A drummer has a number of different roles to play, particularly when playing within an orchestra or as part of a group. For instance, a drummer can:
- Provide tempo;
- Play a catchy beat; and
- Make you dance!
Of course, these are just a few things that a drummer can provide within a group.
However, for a drummer to be successful at what they do, it’s also important that they have a drum head that is well-suited when it comes to that drummer’s style and the style of music that they like to play.
As a result, the type of drum head that you choose to use is arguably just as important as choosing which rock n roll drum kit you’d like to play on.
In essence, a drum includes a batter head, which is what a drummer actually hits, and a resonant head. The resonant head reacts when the batter head is struck and has an influence on the richness of the sound being produced.
If you’re looking to play rock n roll style drums, then it may be worthwhile opting for a double-ply batter head. This is because they tend to offer a more powerful sound, a better attack, and can last longer than single-ply heads.
When it comes to changing the heads, try to aim to change the batter head at least once a year. Essentially, you don’t want to get to a point where the head breaks and then you’re forced to change it – you should change it before it breaks.
Equally, try not to neglect your resonant head too much, as they can sometimes be forgotten about. If you can aim to change the resonant head every two years, then so much the better.
Of course, the more that you play, the more often you’ll likely have to replace the heads on your drums. Often, the snare drum is the most used, and so it may also end up being the drum head that you need to replace most often.
When changing the drum head of a tom-tom, you might also consider whether it’s worthwhile changing over all the heads on all your toms, as this may help to maintain a consistent sound. Of course, this decision is ultimately up to you, and whether your budget would allow you to change all the heads at once.
Choosing Your Rock N Roll Drums
When it comes to picking which rock and roll drums you’d like to play, it can feel as though the choice is endless.
For instance, there are plenty of factors to take into consideration, such as:
- Your budget;
- How much space you have for a drum set;
- What elements you’d like to see in your rock n roll drum kit;
- Whether you’d like to buy each element separately; or
- Whether you’d prefer to buy a ready-made kit.
As a result, one of the best things you can do when looking to buy a new drum kit is to do your research. Ask around and see which rock n roll drum kits have gotten good reviews, and which kits specialists would recommend you buy.
Also, take into consideration your ability level. If you are a relatively new drummer or a complete beginner, don’t feel pressured to buy an expensive, top of the range drum set when more entry-level drums will suffice. Equally, if you get the chance to try out the drums before you buy them, then so much the better.
Ultimately, the drum kit you choose should be one that will help you to play and get better at the drums and become a better musician. It also shouldn't put too much pressure on your budget and should be a set that you’re comfortable playing with, whether you're following a beat or playing your own drum solo.