Learn To Play Drums Without Buying A Drumset

Adam Chase playing drums live on stage

Learn To Play Drums Without Buying A Drumset

Since Covid-19 set in and everyone has been stuck at home, I have been contacted by parents of young children that want to get their kids started on learning the drums.  There’s only one catch…they don’t own any drums.  

While I initially thought the challenge would not be worth the effort, it dawned on me that not only is it possible to teach someone to play the drums without owning a drumset, but there are actually some benefits to taking this approach.

As a professional drummer, I have often tapped out rhythms on my knees and worked on patterns with my feet.  This approach has allowed me to figure out how to play things I’ve been learning before I take them to a drumset and get them fully worked out.  I had never before considered that this approach could benefit a beginner drummer learning how to play the drums until now, but it seems so obvious.

Most parents aren’t in a rush to spend a chunk of money on a decent drumkit and as a drum teacher, I don’t love the super cheap and crappy drumsets because they don’t sound good and they don’t feel good, which leads to not wanting to play them, which ends the process before it begins.  

What’s the solution?

The original drums!  Our bodies!

You don’t have to turn yourself into Bobby McFerren to become a human instrument.  Simply tapping your feet and drumming on your knees with your hands creates sounds.  Sounds that are formed into patterns become beats.  Playing beats makes you a drummer.

Now, if you get good at this, it doesn’t mean that you will be able to sit at a drumset with a pair of drumsticks and play like a master drummer.  Using sticks and hitting different surfaces takes time to master.  What will happen is that, without having to invest in drums before you know if you or you child drummer will want to stick with the instrument, you can start learning rhythms and see if you take to the process of gaining independence of limbs.

Assuming that anyone that has made it this far in this article is a beginner drummer learning how to play the drums follow these next steps to get started.

Step One:

Sit in a chair where your legs can bend at a 90 degree angle.  Sit upright with good posture.  Let your hand comfortably rest on your thighs, above your knees.  

Step Two:

Count out loud, “1…2…3…4…1…2…3…4…”  (and repeat)

Without even tapping anything, just counting out loud with equal distance between the notes, will get you calibrated for the steps that follow.  (If you have a metronome, or metronome app on your phone) try to count along to a slow tempo of 60bpm.

Step Three:

With your dominant hand, tap along to the counting, “1…2…3…4…1…2…3…4…” (and repeat)

Step Four:

Tap your dominant foot (on the floor) on the “1” while continuing to tap your dominant hand on each hit “1…2…3…4…”

Step Five:

While continuing everything from the previous steps, tap your non dominant hand on the “3” while everything else continues.  

Here’s how everything lines up…


Dominant Hand         1…2…3…4…

Dominant Foot          1…………….

Non Dominant Hand  ………3……


Once you are able to do this without accidentally hitting all your limbs at the same time or accidentally lifting your dominant hand while your foot or non-dominant hand are tapping, you have what it takes to start playing the drums.  (Both of those things will happen, don’t let it discourage you)


Adam Chase is an American born drummer and music director known for projects that include Jazz Is Phsh and The James Brown Dance Party.  Adam is a co-founder of Music Minds as well as a drum teacher for all level drum students.  To study with Adam, email [email protected]

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