Ten Classic Songs to Help You Get Back Into Drumming

Have you picked up the drum bug again later on in life? Perhaps you put down the sticks when it was time to have kids or when work started getting busy, and now, you’re finding yourself tapping your fingers on the steering wheel and bopping your head to imaginary beats around the house, itching to relive your fantasies as a young rock god.

Thankfully, unlike sport, music doesn’t have an age limit, and even if it’s been years since you last sit down at a kit, there’s really no better time to pick up your sticks and get jamming than today. All it takes is a bit of constant practise, a passion to improve your technique and a genuine willingness to learn. You’ll be surprised how much comes back to you naturally with just a few minutes of daily practise, and before you know it, you’ll be jamming along to your favourite tracks and ripping epic fills in no time.

Contributed by Will Brewster for Roland Corporation Australia
First things first, if you want to learn drums in a home environment, it’s worth looking at buying a good electronic kit. In most scenarios, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to thump the tubs in your garage like you did in your youth – unless you want to risk becoming the mortal enemy of your family or neighbours – and it’s important to regularly practise if you’re serious about improving your technique.

The latest generation of electronic drum sets are lightweight, compact and feel extremely responsive in use, and their inbuilt sound modules are loaded with just about every famous drum sound from the past 75 years of recorded music history. Whether you’re looking to dial into a pounding stadium rock sound or a muted, warm tone for jazz and funk, you’ll have all bases covered with an electronic kit, making your learning process all the more enjoyable.

If you’re looking to rekindle your lost love of hitting the tubs, here’s ten tracks worth learn-ing to put your chops to the test. Each song here is a classic radio hit that’s relatively easy to learn, but make sure to go easy on yourself as you sink back into your groove. It’s not all going to come back to you right away, and patience and practise is going to be the only way you’ll achieve improvement.

To get started, try pick some songs that offer a balance of risk and reward, and make sure to pay attention to the little nuances of each track to help hone your technique, fill and timing. Good luck!

‘I Love Rock n’ Roll’ - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Joan Jett was the queen of making simple songs sound enormous, and ’I Love Rock n’ Roll’ is a perfect example of that. Similar to Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ (but arguably cooler),’I Love Rock n’ Roll’ an easy way to learn the basics of your drum kit and takes no time to master, making it a no-brainer to ease your way back into drumming again.
For most of its runtime, ‘I Love Rock n’ Roll’ makes use of a steady kick-kick-snare groove, with drummer Lee Crystal adding in a hi-hat on the 1 & 3 in the chorus to thicken up the sound a little. A nice, simple snare roll also occurs in the intro and pre-chorus, which should let you practise making sure that both your hands are precise and in-time when adding fills later on.

‘Start Me Up’ - The Rolling Stones

As a drummer, Charlie Watts is all class, and there’s many a trick to be learnt from his playing with The Rolling Stones. One of the band’s better moments from the ‘80s, ’Start Me Up’ is an undeniable hit, with the stop-start guitar rhythm and steady drumbeat mak-ing it a memorable song to hone your chops with.
Starting off in a sophisticated manner against Keith and Ronnie’s guitars, Watts main-tains a straightforward kick, hat and snare pattern throughout the song, making heavy use of his snare and crash cymbal for his fills every fourth bar.
It’s also worth paying attention to Charlie’s jazz sticking technique, as well as that he doesn’t play the hi-hat over the snare to create a fuller, thicker snare sound. This little tweak to your technique will let you play faster grooves, as your leading hand won’t be caught up playing all the eighth notes. A subtle cowbell and syncopated hand-clap also adds an interesting polyrhythmic feel to the track, which is a good way to practise playing off the grid and improve your feel.

‘Walk This Way’ - Aerosmith

When it comes to iconic drum breaks in rock music, there’s nothing much cooler than the opening groove of Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’. However, there’s much more to this 1975 classic than its first four bars: Joe Kramer’s drumming on this tune is outstanding, and it’s a surprisingly simple song to learn too.
Once you master that iconic intro – which you can also recycle for any classic hip-hop track you may want to pursue later down the line – you’ll be able to nail the driving groove and syncopated cowbell rhythms that pop up in the verse. There’s also a lot of interesting fills that Kramer performs to accentuate different parts of the song that are worth keeping an ear out for, and locking in with that funky bassline is an awesome way to test your tim-ing.

‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ - U2

This one might seem a little confronting at first, but once you get the rhythm of the snare and hi-hats down, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ is relatively easy. It’s one of the most recognisable drumbeats of the ‘80s, and should be an essential for every budding drummer to add to their early repertoire.
Over the course of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, drummer Larry Mullen maintains a thumping four-to-the-floor kick and a constant sixteenth note feel hi-hat, using an ostinato snare roll as the song’s focal point. Once you get a feel for the way he times his snare hits through-out different sections of the song, you’ll soon find out that ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ is very repetitive, so it’ll be a great way to test your concentration, stamina and stick technique.

‘Brass In Pocket’ - The Pretenders

‘Brass In Pocket’ is a criminally underrated contribution to the new-wave canon, with Chrissie Hynde’s jangly guitars being backed by a slick, laid-back beat from Martin Chambers. It’s not as instantly recognisable as some of the other tunes you’ll learn from this list, but there’s plenty to learn from the swagger of this song in regard to working on your pocket.

Here, Chambers plays a straightforward kick, hat, snare and rack tom pattern in the verse before shifting to a ride in the chorus, with the majority of his fills evolving around simple snare hits. However, it’s the slight swing of this song that makes it worth learning: Chambers has a unique feel that helps add the X-Factor to the original track and working on emulating a similar feel will work wonders for you own drumming.

‘Superstition’ - Stevie Wonder

Featuring a beat borrowed from Jeff Beck, ‘Superstition’ is one of the most famous funk songs of the ‘70s, and Stevie Wonder’s drumming on the original recording is an absolute masterclass in groove. The loose feel of the hi-hats, a driving kick drum and some fun snare fills make it a doozy to learn, and some of Stevie’s more technical moments on the track will inspire you to try out zany fills of your own.

The most important part of playing ‘Superstition’ is remembering to keep your kick drum banging steadily on the downbeat, which is a key ingredient of funk music. There’s also a lot of open hi-hat action in the second half of this track, so pay attention to the subtly of Stevie’s touch to get an idea of how to conquer the velocity of each stroke on the hats. Once you’ve studied how he approaches the hits, try play along with this drumless version, and see if you can work any of Stevie’s fills into your repertoire.

‘Paranoid’ - Black Sabbath

Onto something a little more rocking now, let’s take a look at Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’, which has proved to be a huge influence on rock, punk and heavy metal drummers for the past 50 years. Bill Ward’s drumming on this song is heavy as hell, and makes for an awesome song to play along with on those days when you’re really looking to make a racket on your kit.

Charging ahead at a speedy 160 beats per minute, Ward opts for a relatively simple pat-tern throughout the verses of ‘Paranoid’, hitting his crash and ride cymbals every fourth bar to counter Tony Iommi’s blistering guitar riff. There’s also a classic snare roll deployed strategically by Warn throughout various instrumental sections of the track, which really assists in injecting a frenetic, rabid feel into the song.


‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ - Thin Lizzy

An upbeat, debaucherous hard rock anthem from Ireland’s Thin Lizzy, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ is best known for its killer chord progression and sensational guitar har-monies, but there’s some seriously fantastic drumming on the track from Brian Downey that shouldn’t go unnoticed too.
To achieve the galloping feel of ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, you’ll need to master a rock shuffle groove, keeping the right hand nice and free to get that loose, but not too wonky feel. End-of-the-bar crash help to fuel the track’s driving groove, while Downey’s off-beat hi-hat variations work in tandem with the duelling lead guitars to make for an irresistible combination.

‘Psycho Killer’ - Talking Heads

Blending funk, afrobeat, punk and new-wave into a whole new style of their own, Talking Heads were one of the most influential bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and ‘Psycho Killer’ might just be their biggest hit. A paranoid funk-rock romp that loops around a simple bass motif, the song features some stellar drumming from Chris Frantz, who locks wonderfully with bassist Tina Weymouth to give the tune its bouncy feel.
For this track, Frantz takes cues from the era’s preeminent disco drummers for his steady hi-hat grooves that pepper the track, particularly throughout the ‘fa-fa-fa-fa’ section of the chorus. Cracking snare rolls lead into each new section and crash cymbals are used to accentuate every second bar, with Frantz really opening up and delivering some sophis-ticated tom fills towards the end of the track to bring it to a memorably cacophonic end.

‘Roxanne’ - The Police

Stewart Copeland is one of the most unique rock drummers of the ‘70s, and his playing on The Police’s breakout single ‘Roxanne’ is absolutely second to none. Syncopation is king throughout this track, which makes use of a tango feel, with subtle hi-hat inflections, a sporadic snare hit and clever use of space also making it such a memorable groove.

Keep an ear out for when Copeland shifts the feel of the track by reverting to a new rhythm on his toms and ride cymbal in the B section of each verse, and note how frequently he places his kick during each chorus to aid in giving it a driving feel. There’s some pretty easy hi-hat variations that lead into a mean little solo to see out the end of the track to, making ‘Roxanne’ a real chop-worker by the end of its three minute runtime.

Finally, it’s important to remember that drumming isn’t going to be as easy as you once remembered it to be initially. You probably won’t be able to learn at the same pace you used to when you were younger, and that you might pull up a little sore after a longer session in front of the kit more often these days. Be aware of your limits, slow things down and see if changing your posture makes a difference to how you feel afterwards.
If you are worried about your aches and pains, it might be worth trying to adjust your kit or drum stool a little differently; ideally, you don’t want to have to reach too far too hit any-thing, with both feet resting flat on the pedals and your legs angled parallel to the floor.
It’s also worth recording yourself practising so you can keep track of your own progress and listen back to old sessions to figure out where you stumbled and how you can keep improving along the way.
Most importantly, don’t be too afraid to track down a drum teacher if it’s all a bit too much. Having a good music teacher who inspires you to learn and drives you to better your technique is one of the greatest blessings you could ever have, and you’ll notice the dif-ference in your playing within no time.
Above all, remember to have fun – in the end, that’s what it’s all about. Good luck!

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Created by Roland V-Drums specialist Simon Ayton, these patches were designed using the internal factory sounds and many of the techniques covered in the TD-50 guide. Enjoy exploring the possibilities!