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How to play the snare drum – The first exercises

First exercises for snare drum

Ok, now you have all you need to start playing, you know how to to stand in front of a snare drum (or pad) and you learnt how to grip your drumsticks. It’s time to play, which is exactly what you are going to do in this final lesson of the four introductive ones to the percussion instruments.

So in this video you will learn:

  • the first movements to get used to the correct rebound of the drumsticks;
  • a vocal count system which will be helpful in the future too to get closer to the musical writing;
  • a daily routine training to use at least during the first week of study.

Before starting I’d like to remind you that today’s lesson, together with the one about the posture and the grip, is very important for the future development of a correct and natural approach to the percussion instruments.

A musician wiser than me, Ed Soph, in his video “The Drum Set: A Musical Approach“, says:

Your sound depends on how you move.

Remember it.



Imagine a basketball player who bounces the ball on the ground. What does it happen? It happens that the player follows through the return movement of the ball, he goes along with the following bounces and he stops the ball only when it’s necessary. The same principle can be adopted for the drumstick that bounces on the snare drum.

As I explain in the video: to learn correctly this basic movement, follow my suggestions:

  • focus on one hand at a time, set down the drumsticks you don’t use;
  • start with a drumstick position perpendicular to the drum head of the snare drum;
  • with the wrist movement bounce the drumstick to the drum head and return to the starting point;
  • relax your fingers so that they don’t squeeze the drumstick too much. Your arm and your shoulder for the moment don’t participate to the movement and they lay in a natural position, relaxed;
  • try to do a fluid “up-down” movement, trying not to stop the drumstick in the air as, indeed, a basketball player who bounces a ball. Every time you stop the fluency of the movement you create a twitch that affects the sound too;
  • avoid all useless movements like lifting the drumstick before the stroke. If you return to the starting point, for the moment, it isn’t necessary to “lift” anything.

Well, thanks to this experience you now know what a big favor mother nature does to all percussionists: the rebound, actually.


Now turn on the metronome at 60 bpm (beats per minute), that’s to say the speed of the seconds:

  • Start counting “one, two, three, four” coordinating your voice with the metronome beats. Force you to count in English even if your pronunciation (like mine) isn’t perfect because you will find out that this “Anglo Saxon” system will be very useful also for what you are going to do very soon.
  • Now, focusing on one hand a time and always counting aloud, start coordinating the base movement we talked before with the metronome beats. Every time you arrive at “four” start again counting from “one” without stopping the strokes. Do this exercise for at least two minutes and then change your hand.


  • When you finish this first exercise you have to play two strokes for each beat (also this time use one hand at a time) and count in this way: “one-and two-and three-and four-and”. This time a stroke will correspond to every number and the following stroke to every “and”.

Also for this exercise practice two minutes per hand. You will notice from the first moment that with this second exercise is more difficult to follow the metronome and do a good movement with your weak hand. It’s absolutely normal.


  • To conclude produce four strokes for every beat alternating your hands and counting in this way: One-e-and-ah Two-e-and-ah Three-e-and-ah Four-e-and-ah.

You may have noticed that with this exercise the hand you use first will always be coordinated with the numbers (one, two, three, four) and the four “and” while the other hand will play when you pronounce “e” and “ah”.

Ok.. my last sentence is a bit nonsense, read it again and you will understand it!

  • After two or three minutes start again with the other hand. Keep the movement fluent because in this third exercise you will probably stop the rebound accidentally while being concentrated for the first time on both hands.



Practice time for percussionists

Well, you have learned how to move your hands correctly, now we have to make this approach a natural action your body reproduces without thinking about it. In this way you don’t have to think about your movement every time you play.

The only way you can teach your body the correct movements for the musical practice is…. the practice itself, actually. And the practice needs time, dedication and commitment (go to the first lesson of this series where I talk about motivation). Every aim you want to reach will be reached only if you’ll be able to manage all these three components.

So, because of this lesson’s goal requires at least one week practice, here’s how I suggest you how to train during these 7 days. And yes, in the study of a musical instrument Sundays AREN’T considered days off.

The work I suggest won’t takes you more than 30 minutes per day and it will be done in two sessions of 15 minutes with a break of one hour at least from the first session. Fifteen minutes practice for percussionistsIn every “training session” work with the three exercises we have just seen and try to keep the coordination between the movements, the metronome and the vocal counting.

Use a timer and for those 15 minutes focus on what you do, shut down your mobile phone, switch off the computer, don’t check Facebook, and so on. Watch my video only if you need to see again the correct movements. They will be 15 minutes completely dedicated to the music and to yourself. All the other things can wait.

After about one week doing these routine exercises your body should already has learnt and memorized the correct way to play. If you have the possibility to be followed by a teacher, make sure that he checks your position and movements.

Learning a wrong habit now could ruin a big part of the work you’ll do then.



With this video the mini four-lessons series dedicated to who wants to start playing percussion instruments ends. As always I conclude with a final question and I invite you to answer in the comments below. Bye!

Question: have you ever thought about the importance of a well done gesture to learn at the beginning of your study? Leave a comment!