5 Rockin’ Songs for Beginner Drummers

Last month we began to explore a selection of fun, popular music that might help beginners from all around the band with their particular instrument. We started this journey with one of the most popular and widely used instruments, the guitar, before moving on to songs for vocal students. From there we started a stroll through the orchestra, from the woodwinds, to the brass, and finally the string section.

This week we’re going to return to this topic, and explore some fun drum songs for beginners.

It’s been proven that playing the drums on a regular basis can be surprisingly good for your health. And it’s a lot of fun to do!

So whether you’re a guitarist looking to build up some extra skills on the drums, or a complete newcomer to the percussion section, we’ve scoured the internet to find this list of the top five drum beats that will help with your sticks. If you can master the techniques used in these pieces, then you’re on your way to mastering the fundamentals!

1. AC/DC – “You Shook Me All Night Long”

The legendary rock group AC/DC is backed by an equally legendary drummer in Phil Rudd. Or perhaps the word should be infamous. Specifically, Rudd is infamous for never, ever playing a drum fill ( if you think you’ve caught him playing one, it’s probably actually an “accent”). And it’s for this reason, as well as his simple grooves that really make AC/DC rock, that he’s actually a great drummer for beginners to study.

“You Shook Me All Night Long” is a great beginner song to learn because although the beat is simple, there is one tricky, but fundamental component: the kick drums land on the 1 and the “and” offbeat of 3. It’s a tricky bit of coordination, but if you can master it you’ll gain a better understanding of rhythm.

2. Nirvana – “Heart Shaped Box”

You can’t talk about modern drummers without mentioning Dave Grohl. Sure, he’s the front-man and lead guitar for the Foo Fighters now, but Grohl is a drummer through and through, and one of the more important ones to study. Whether it’s his work with Them Crooked Vultures, Queens of the Stone Age, Scream, Nirvana, or the early Foo Fighter albums, there is always a new and refreshing bit of creativity and energy.

“Heart Shaped Box” is easily one of his best, and one of his simplest performances. This tune is great for practicing the little technical things, like rim clicks and hitting the cymbals at the same time as the guitar, but it’s also great for working on your dynamics. Pay attention to how Grohl moves from the quiet verses to the heavy chorus and bridge. Each of these dynamics are achieved in the old style, the way jazz drummers would have done it – not by recording section separately, but by carefully controlling the dynamics.

3. Led Zeppelin – “Heartbreaker”

Beginner drummers would do well to study up on everything by John Bonham, Led Zeppelin’s incredible drummer. Every single Zeppelin song is worth studying for his amazing performances alone, but “Heartbreaker” offers one of his simplest, most effective drum beats, which he echoes a bit later in Kashmir, another fundamental song to study.

Make sure you pay special attention to how Bonham plays the hi-hat and kick drum, as well as how he transitions between song sections, and the way he accents the downbeat after the main riff.

4. Guns & Roses – “Paradise City”

“Paradise City,” one of GNR’s greatest songs, also happens to feature one of rock and roll’s most iconic drum openings. Steven Adler uses a simple kick-snare beat to build up the tension before the whistle. He then drops the beat right on one of the most amazing riffs on Appetite for Destruction.

There’s not a lot to this songs. The drumming is simple and unobtrusive, but it plays to the riffs in an incredible way worth studying.

4. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean”

“Billie Jean” is easily one of Michael Jackson’s post iconic tunes, and arguably one of the most well recognized songs ever. The hypnotics drum track was performed by award winner Leon “Ndugu” Chancler. Referred to as the “Money Beat,” this drum track went on to inspire the beat for many hit songs to come later. And it’s one of the easiest grooves to learn!

Thanks to the fact that this beat has become so common, the time you take to study it will help you in the future when you come across it time and time again.

5. Motorhead – “The Ace of Spades”

Motorhead, and other groups like Discharge and the Buzzcocks, use a swinging drum beat called the “d-beat,” which was pioneered back in the age of jazz, and has become one of the fundamental techniques for some of the harsher genres, like hardcore, thrash metal, or really any song that calls for an extremely fast tempo.

It can be a difficult beat to master, so start slow, and pay special attention to drummer Phil Taylor’s bass drum. The key component of the d-beat is the off-beat placement of the kick drum on the “and” of the third beat in each measure. As you slow it down, it should sound straighter than with the band’s final recording. The slower you practice it, the more you will get a feeling for how it’s done, and you’ll be able to speed it up with more ease.

As usual, this is by no means meant to be a complete, comprehensive list of great beginner songs for the drums. In fact, this list isn’t really even beginning to scratch the surface of the incredible songs out there. The percussion section is one of the most important parts of any band, no matter the genre of music. For example, if rock and pop aren’t your cup of tea, try country, hip-hop is doing some interesting things with beats, and of course, there’s always the classics.

Find what you like, and have fun with it!