Drum Set Technique

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be introduced to New Orleans techniques for performing on a Drum Set. Students will demonstrate how to incorporate the functions and techniques into their performance. 



  • Demonstrate body posture, hand positioning, and build endurance. 
  • Apply techniques for warming up on the Drum Set.
  • Demonstrate proper functions and techniques for playing New Orleans music. 



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Tell students that in order to develop a solid beat on the Drum Set they must adopt proper instrument techniques. The “Getting Ready” techniques are posture, grip, and endurance.


  1. Display slide 3 on the presentation, Drum Set Technique, to review the “Getting Ready” procedures. Demonstrate and define posture, grip, and endurance for students. Posture is the proper way to sit on your stool. Tell students they should have their feet flat on the floor, back straight-up, both arms relaxed to your side, elbow resting on your sides, and your thighs angled. Hand positioning is the placement of your hands and fingers on the drumsticks (traditional grip or match grip). Model for students the two different types of grip to determine which hand positions are comfortable for them. Define endurance for students. Endurance is the ability to play the Drums longer and at varying speeds without tiring the arms. 



  1. Seat students in a circle, with Instructor in the center. Tell students they are going to practice making a sound, prior to warming up. 


  1. Review the anatomy of the Drum Set on slide 4 of the presentation, Drum Set Technique.


  1. Once the students have their Drum Set ready, review the “Getting Ready” procedures: posture, hand positioning, and endurance. Allow time for students to review the techniques and get into position.


  1. Tell students they are now ready to make a sound. Model and explain to students how to warm up. Warm-up with Rudiments (Press Roll, Double Stroke), single strokes, double strokes, paradiddles. Display slide 5 of the presentation, Drum Set Technique, to show students The Snare & Press Roll


  1. After students are warmed-up, introduce techniques unique to New Orleans music. New Orleans musicians are known for implementing the following instrument functions in New Orleans music. 
    • The Big Four: Based on syncopated beats and influenced by African-Latin drummers in Congo Square.
    • New Orleans Street Beat: The three-beat, also called 3-2 pattern, is influenced by African and Latin cultures. The first measure – Bass beat downbeat of 1, then upbeat of 2, and downbeat 4. The second measure of the Bass Drum beat is on a downbeat of 2 and 3. The Snare Drum plays eighths notes, accenting with the Bass Drum pattern. When you put the two together you get a New Orleans Street Beat. Display slide 6 of the presentation, Drum Set Technique, to review The Street Beat
    • Roll Offs and Press Rolls: Roll Offs signal to the Band that it’s time to play. Press Rolls evolved in early New Orleans Traditional Jazz and are when one drumstick plays eighth notes as the other drumstick bounces across the snare head. Display slide 7 of the presentation, Drum Set Technique, to hear examples of Roll Offs and Press Rolls
    • Two Beat and Four Beat: Display slide 8 of the presentation, Drum Set Technique, for a Two Beat and Four Beat demonstration. 
    • Dirge: An expressive solemn song preferably a Spiritual normally performed when someone has made their transition or passed on. Drums would play a Roll or Press Roll. To get the sound of a Funeral Procession, the snare drummer plays with the snare strainer off giving it a high tom tom effect. Display slide 9 of the presentation, Drum Set Technique, for an example of a Dirge in Jazz Funeral Drumming
    • Call and Response: A musical phrase sung or played succeeded with a reply by a vocalist or instrument(s) of the same phrase. Display slide 10 of the presentation, Drum Set Technique, to hear the Drums Call and Response role.
    • Song Form: The arrangement of the song. Display slide 11 of the presentation, Drum Set Technique, to hear why Song Form is a key technique used in New Orleans Traditional Jazz.


  1. Have students practice the functions and techniques of New Orleans Traditional Jazz and Brass Band. Allow students time to practice at home and rehearse at school. 



  1. The teacher should assess students’ knowledge of Drum Set techniques by demonstrating posture, hand positioning, and endurance. Observe and provide feedback as students display how to warm up and apply New Orleans-style music functions and techniques.



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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