Beginner Tom-Tom Drum Beats

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Easy Drumming That Sounds Hard

In this free video drum lesson, DrumLessons.com instructor Jared Falk teaches you how to play five beginner tom-tom drum beats that you can use to get acquainted with this concept. Jared also goes over some tips on how to use these exercises to practice 4-way coordination.

Toms are very useful when it comes to creating drum beats for a verse or bridge section of a song. One very popular example of this is the tom-tom drum beat played by Travis Barker on the verse section of the song “Adam’s Song” by blink-182. Two other very popular tom-tom beats are the Bo Diddley beat – played by Clifton James on the song “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley – and Steve Gadd‘s tom-tom groove from “Late in the Evening” by Paul Simon. Be sure to listen to some of the great drummers that have made this concept popular, for more cool sounding and original tom-tom drum beats.

Drummers: Ginger Baker (Cream), Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience), Ringo Starr (The Beatles), Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band), Travis Barker (The Aquabats, blink-182, Box Car Racer, +44, The Transplants), Steve Gadd (Eric Clapton, Chick Corea, Steely Dan, Paul Simon, Joe Brucato).

Drum Beats

Exercise #1 is a simple 8th note rock tom-tom drum beat. If you remember the 8th note drum beat you learned how to play in the free drum lesson “How To Play Drums“, you’ll notice that that beat is exactly like this one. The only difference is that the hi-hat pattern is played on the floor tom instead. This exercise is a great way of showing you how to come up with tom-tom drum beats by just moving ride patterns from the hi-hat/ride to the toms.

Exercise #2 is basically the previous drum beat with extra 16th notes on the “ah” of counts 2 and 4. Playing these 16th notes is somewhat of a challenge if you’re fairly new to tom-tom drum beats. The cleaner you learn how to play the pattern, the faster it will actually sound. So be sure to practice this tom-tom drum beat slowly at first. This is a very cool groove to use with fast paced punk rock music.

The first two counts of beat #3 are the same as the ones on beat #2. It’s on the last two counts that you’ll find differences between these two exercises. There’s an extra kick drum on the “and” of count 3, and the hi-tom stroke of exercise #2 that is played on the “ah” of count 4 is shifted to the “e” of count 3 and played on the mid-tom instead. Make sure you’re not flamming the unison strokes between the floor tom and the bass drum.

If you play the 8th note floor tom pattern on the hi-hat and the rack tom strokes on the snare drum instead, you’ll see that this is actually a very famous drum beat. Exercise #3 is just another great example of how useful stroke orchestration is for giving birth to new and creative ideas.

Counts 2 and 3 of beat #4 are the same as the ones on beat #3. It’s on counts 1 and 4 that you’ll find differences between these two exercises. Count 1 has an extra high-tom stroke on the “e” and an extra bass drum stroke on the “and”. As for count 4, there’s an extra floor tom stroke on the “ah”.

This last exercise is a little more challenging. The bass drum is played on all quarter notes, and the snare drum is played on counts 2 and 4. Once you have these two patterns down, you’ll have to go down the toms with single stroke rolls.

There are two transitions in this tom-tom drum beat that will prove to be challenging. The first one is going from the floor tom on count 3 to the snare drum on count 4. You’ll have to quickly move the weaker hand out of the way of the stronger hand, as it makes way to hit the snare drum on count 4. If you don’t, you may end up clicking your sticks, hitting rims or worst, your own hand. The second one is going from the floor tom on count 4 to the high-tom on count 1. This last transition has the same issue as the first one, plus, the distance between the two drums makes it hard to play it in time.

The secret to playing this pattern as Jared does in the video is to start out real slowly, making sure everything lines up perfectly. As you get really comfortable with this tom-tom drum beat, you can start increasing the speed.

Once you’re able to play these tom-tom drum beats quite effortlessly, incorporate the hi-hat foot by playing quarter notes, 8th notes, and off-beat 8th notes. Doing so will make these tom-tom drum beats much harder to play. You can also use the drumless version of the song “Calling” from the rock band Dying Hearts Desire, that we have on this website, to practice these tom-tom drum beats or any other of your own variations. If you’d rather move on, check the free drum lesson “Intermediate Tom-Tom Drum Beats” next.


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