How do I develop good timekeeping on the drums?

Author: Simon DasGupta.
August 18, 2022

In this article

Playing the drums is all about keeping good time. That means keeping a steady beat without speeding up or slowing down. Many beginner drummers ask:

  • How can I improve my timing on the drums?
  • What tools are available to help me achieve better timekeeping?
  • Can understanding music notation and counting help?

It's all about keeping a solid, steady beat.

Timekeeping is the top priority, and as drummers, this is our primary job. The ability to maintain a steady beat at the required tempo without speeding up, dragging, or slowing down is absolutely critical.

It seems pretty straightforward but can often present a significant challenge to beginner drummers. Some people have naturally good timekeeping skills, but most of us need to work on it.

The good news is that you will be developing these skills, sometimes subconsciously, from day one by following our courses.

Here are five useful timekeeping hints for beginner drummers.

1. Play slowly.

During our course preview, we'll show you how to play a fun and popular drum beat and consistently stress the importance of playing slowly.

Many beginner drummers have a natural default tempo that they start at, and more often than not, it's too fast. Slowing things down allows you time to think about the steps you are going through.

Many beginner drummers will start a beat at a slow tempo and gradually speed up after a few measures. While it sometimes seems easier to play basic beats faster, slowing down requires a higher degree of accuracy and will lead to better control, technique, and timekeeping.

Don't be in a rush to play your first beats too fast. Speed is a byproduct of control, which must be patiently built over time. You'll have much more fun if you build a solid foundation - by taking things slowly and steadily.

2. Count out loud.

Our courses teach you how to count drum beats, which will also help develop good timing.

This is so important, yet this is something that most beginner drummers often neglect. There is a direct and proven link between counting out loud and developing good solid timekeeping.

Not only does counting help you with your overall coordination, but it also helps you lock in better with a metronome and gives you an obvious audible cue if things are starting to speed up or slow down.

In the early days of drumming, counting in your head is unreliable. It won't always be that way, and as you develop your playing and inner clock over time, you will rely less on counting.

3. Use a metronome when you are ready.

A metronome is a device that sets the beat's tempo, measured in beats per minute and abbreviated to bpm.

Practicing with a metronome will help you develop good timekeeping, but we recommend that you are confident playing basic drum beats first. While it will ultimately benefit your drumming, a metronome can be somewhat distracting in the early days of playing.

Once you are satisfied that you have control over the beat you are developing at slow speed, try playing with a metronome at 50 bpm, and be sure to count out loud. It's a good idea to count along with just the metronome before you attempt to play the beat.

The closing comments in our free preview video will teach you how to count with a metronome. There are plenty of good metronome apps available, and many are free.

4. Learn to read basic music notation.

There are many benefits to learning to read music. For timekeeping, it is essential because learning to read music facilitates an understanding of rhythm. We learn rhythm through counting, and as discussed, counting out loud is one of the best things you can do to develop good timekeeping skills.

The ability to count your drum beats and drum fills will help you play accurately with a metronome. Music notation will also help you understand the sticking concepts that build control. The more control you have over your playing, the more likely you will play with good timekeeping.

5. Play along with songs.

One of the best things you can do to work on your timekeeping, and certainly one of the most fun, is to play along with some of your favorite songs. Don't pick anything too fast to start. It's always best to try something in the 50-70 bpm tempo range once you become confident with the basic beat you see in our course preview.

Simplifying drum parts is perfectly okay if it makes it easier to play. You'll undoubtedly have more fun with this approach.

Want to learn more about developing good habits? Our FREE guide can help!

free guide, 10 bad drumming habits and how to fix them
Rich Redmond

“I have never encountered a drumming course this complete. It has everything you need to start your life-changing journey.”

Rich Redmond

Drummer - Jason Aldean, Kelly Clarkson

“I feel more confident as a drummer after one month of Drum Ambition than I did after 4+ months of alternatives.”

Drum Ambition Logo

“I am loving this beyond words. I am a 55 year old physician. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about playing the drums.”

Drum Ambition Logo