10 easy drum songs for beginners to learn

11.03.2022 Ben Maloney Drums

Chances are, even if you’re starting out as a drummer, you’ve already had a bash on the kit. If so, then easy songs such as the ones below might not seem challenging - or appealing - enough.

Moreover, you might feel that the instrument doesn’t lend itself to learning music rigidly fixed on the page, that drumming is about learning beats, and learning to embellish and adapt them in a natural way.  

But, as with any other instrument, the usefulness of learning specific pieces can’t be stressed enough. It helps you to focus on and develop particular skills, and it introduces you to a range of beats, drumming styles and other stock elements of performance and technique. 

Not least, learning a song from start to end requires discipline. And if you’re going to be a great drummer - and you absolutely are - then you’ll need heaps of that. That means no rushing, no dragging, and no spontaneous 20-minute solos.
 

Easy drum songs for beginners
 

  1. ‘One Love’ by Bob Marley and The Wailers
  2. ‘Take Me to Church’ by Hozier
  3. ‘At Last’ by Etta James
  4. Dreierleier by Ralf Kleinehanding 
  5. ‘Domino’ by Jessie J
  6. ‘Rockaway Beach’ by Ramones
  7. ‘Little Talks’ by Of Monsters and Men
  8. ‘All Time High’ by Rita Coolidge
  9. Première Marche by Jacky Bourbasquet
  10. ‘The Modern Age’ by The Strokes

1. ‘One Love’ by Bob Marley and The Wailers

Where better to start than a song that celebrates unity and togetherness, and which happens to have ‘one’ in the title? ‘One Love/People Get Ready’, among the peak achievements of Bob Marley and the Wailers, delivers this powerful message over a trademark roots-reggae groove. 

At some point, all drummers will have to reckon with this unmistakable beat, typical of a range of popular-music genres that originated in Jamaica - reggae, ska and rocksteady. This involves emphasising beats two and four of each bar with the snare, as opposed to the usual three. Few tunes will help you master it better than this textbook example.

For the Wailers, the supplier of this ‘skank’ was none other than Carlton Barrett - with the group from 1970 until its disbandment in 1981. He’s credited with innovating the so-called ‘one drop’ rhythm, a particular articulation of the beat that features in this song, involving hi-hats on every quaver/eighth note and a kick/cross-stick combo on two and four.

2. ‘Take Me to Church’ by Hozier

Fast-forward to the 2010s and we’re taking on Hozier’s impressive debut single, ‘Take Me to Church’. The then-unknown Irish musician recorded the tune in the attic of his parents’ house, and it became one of the most popular songs of its time. Several singles, EPs and studio albums later, and Hozier has categorically hit the big time. 

A meditation on sexuality and intolerance, the song implements many clever metaphors that make reference to religious themes and practice. The wordplay is complemented by Hozier’s soulful vocals, a perfect stylistic match for the subject matter. There’s also a thinness to the texture that gives his voice the space to really project. 

Despite that thinness - and the homemade quality - Hozier did get a drummer in to play the part (no drum machine sounds that good). Although like the wider soundworld the drums are quite sparse, they are powerful, so you’ll have to bring some passion to your performance. There’s a lot of action on the kick drum that needs to be played with care.

3. ‘At Last’ by Etta James

You can usually find Etta James somewhere between rhythm and blues on the one hand, and rock and roll on the other. With ‘At Last’, however - probably her finest tune - she fuses straight-up soul and that easy-listening, orchestral pop that they just don’t make anymore. And there’s more than a whiff of gospel about her phenomenal vocals on this recording. 

These are the kinds of vintage styles you can engage with by playing ‘At Last’. The song was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the 1941 film Sun Valley Serenade. In the film it was played by jazz giant Glenn Miller and his band. Although Miller recorded it a handful of times, it’s now 100% James’ tune. 

As for the drums, this song’s all about the hi-hat action. It’s notated in 4/4, but it might be better to think of it as 6/8, as it has nothing but triplets on the cymbal, a pattern typical of vintage popular music. If you’re keen to absorb classics like this into your repertoire, then you definitely ought to take the time to rattle off these bars alongside Etta.

4. Dreierleier by Ralf Kleinehanding

Of course you’re desperate to play great songs that you know and love. But working through a few drum studies like this one will be well worth your time. These are pieces specifically composed with your needs in mind, designed to help you hone this or that aspect of your technique and musicianship. 

The playbook NullkommaNixx, written by Ralf Kleinehanding and published by Breitkopf and Härtel, comprises a diversity of these educational pieces. A standout among them is Dreierleier. The title plays on the German word meaning ‘three different ways’, and sure enough in each bar of 3/4 we have three articulations on the kit. 

What’s excellent about this little work is that it exploits the combinations between the different parts of the kit. Working through these combos will help you to get away from standard gestures - kick and crash, snare and hat, etc. It encourages a more organic approach, independence in your limbs and equal treatment of the kit’s elements.

5. ‘Domino’ by Jessie J

Jessie J has always been celebrated for her distinctive stage persona and performing style, and it’s tracks like ‘Domino’ that won her these admirers. Recorded and released in 2011, the song first appeared on her breakthrough album Who You Are, before being re-released as a single. 

Aiming to emulate the likes of Whitney Houston and Prince, Jessie J wanted ‘Domino’ to be a funky, feelgood anthem. Her bright melody and exuberant singing definitely inject a lot of that energy, but the dynamic drums have to take a great deal of credit. That said, don’t they always?

It starts off easy but punchy, with four-to-the-floor kicks. The snare then adds another layer to the part halfway through the verse. Building the tension, on-beat hats thicken the texture further at the pre-chorus, before moving to the off-beat in the chorus, alternating with the kicks and snares. Simple but effective - often the best drumming is.

6. ‘Rockaway Beach’ by Ramones

No genre embodies that simple-but-effective mantra better than punk. And in this context, few bands deserve to be mentioned ahead of the Ramones, one of the movement’s pioneering bands. After their first two albums, these pioneers released Rocket to Russia in 1977, the favourite Ramones record of many critics. 

On Rocket you’ll find one of the group’s finest songs: ‘Rockaway Beach’. Written by bassist Dee Dee Ramone and named after a part of New York City’s borough of Queens, the song brings all the raucous energy that the Ramones are renowned for, via machine-gun power chords and a head-banging drum beat punctuated by heavy crash cymbals. 

Drummer Tommy Ramone left the group after recording the album, making ‘Rockaway Beach’ one of his final - as well as his finest - performances. His part isn’t too complex, but it’ll test your endurance, and it moves at pace. It can be hard to be precise at high tempos, so practise at a more comfortable one, before working your way up to Tommy’s.

7. ‘Little Talks’ by Of Monsters and Men

Reykjavík, 2010. Up in the world’s northernmost capital city, Of Monsters and Men was formed. Within a few years, the group had established an international reputation, and produced a series of acclaimed releases. ‘Little Talks’ is one of them, the outfit’s debut single from their debut album of 2011, My Head Is an Animal

Despite its indie-folk idiom, the song had an impressive mainstream appeal, and ended up ranking highly on pop charts the world over. Written by the band’s guitarist-singers Nanna Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Thórhallsson, ‘Little Talks’ is loved for its exhilarating brass hook, as well as the distinctive vocal exchange between the two songwriters.

Underpinning the texture is drummer Arnar Hilmarsson’s beat, with snares on two and four and the second kick of each bar pushed back to the upbeat - a shape you’ll often see. Do watch out for the fills. For these you’ll have to up your snare game to carefully outline the rhythms shown.

8. ‘All Time High’ by Rita Coolidge

Say what you like of the James Bond films - and of the 1980s installments in particular - but the music has never wavered from the very top tier. The series boasts some of the finest film music of all time, with figures as iconic as Shirley Bassey, Louis Armstrong and Paul McCartney gracing it with some theme songs for the ages.

Rita Coolidge’s ‘All Time High’ is frequently overlooked in this company. But it is a beautiful ballad - with music by stalwart John Barry and words by the great Tim Rice, you can’t go far wrong. From its silky saxophone lines, through Coolidge’s composed vocals, to the classic Bond gestures in the strings, it’s all gold. 

There isn’t much to do in the intro and verse other than outlining the pulse with a motif on the bass drum. But you settle into a steady groove in the chorus, and the fills en route are some of the best on this list. The version above is a PepperHorn arrangement for big band - there are many similar titles on the app if you’re keen to engage with this style.

9. Première Marche by Jacky Bourbasquet

Batterie-trophée 4 is another collection of drum studies from one of the great European publishing houses, Alphonse Leduc. Comprising studies by several contributors, the title really focuses on technique, and none embodies that better than Jacky Bourbasquet’s Première Marche.

Courtesy of the military connotations, a good march needs a snare drum. In the case of Première Marche, it’s nothing but snare. It’s probably the most important part of the kit, and to reach full drumming maturity you’ll need to learn to articulate your strikes with accuracy, at varying tempos and volumes, and with a range of left-right combinations.

In just 25 seconds of music, Première Marche teaches you to do just this. Combining a diversity of rhythmic statements with shifting dynamics and irregular, syncopation-like accents, it offers the player a whirlwind exercise in snare control. Open each practice session with this miniature drum lesson and you’ll be a percussion master in no time.

10. ‘The Modern Age’ by The Strokes

The Strokes’ Is This It was a seriously exciting release. The 2001 album brought a fresh sound by a young band for a dawning era. Its opening statement is the exceptional title track, but straight after that comes ‘The Modern Age’, which even now has to be one of the group’s great numbers. Get ready for some indie-garage-post-punk rock. 

The band - at least at this stage of their career - pursued the distinctive aesthetic of a raw and stripped-back sound. They influentially achieved it, so said the critics, and a lot of praise was heaped on the twin-guitar riffs, but the tight, unassuming drumming of Fabrizio Moretti deserves equal recognition. 

‘The Modern Age’ captures all of this perfectly. The guitars couple running power chords with off-beat stabs, while Moretti’s work features heavy action on the toms and passages with snares on each beat. This classic groove, which marks genres as disparate as punk and Motown, forms an essential part of every drummer’s arsenal.

Your next steps for drum music


You'll find all these pieces, as well as everything else for the kit that nkoda has to offer, among the app's collection of drum sheet music. There are titles suitable for beginners, as well as more difficult ones that will meet your needs and test your skills as you improve.

If you’re coming at your drum set from the angle of a percussionist, you might be interested in the essential percussion playlist, which features some of the great works for the family in the repertoire - by Béla Bartók, Evelyn Glennie, Dai Fujikura, and others. 

But if you’re keen for similar blog content, check out the other drum-related articles. For awesome repertoire, try the hardest songs to play on drums and the best drum songs. And for the incredible musicians that play and write it, the best drummers of all time. Prep yourself for some AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Green Day and tonnes more.

If you love the look of all this music, but can’t yet engage with the notation, you can learn to do so by reading the post on how to read drum sheet music. Get to finding, reading and playing the music that you’re passionate about as quickly as possible.

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