Drums for Folk: Practical Guide & Expert Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. History and significance of drums in folk music
  2. Selecting the right drum for folk music
  3. How to play the drums for folk music
  4. Practical exercises for folk drumming
  5. Tips for maintaining your drum
  6. Recommended drum accessories for folk music
  7. Exploring the sounds of different folk drums
  8. Expert tips for folk drumming

Embracing the rhythmic heartbeat of folk music means understanding and mastering the beats of its signature instrument - the drum. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned drummer looking to delve into the realm of folk music, knowing how to play drums for folk is a journey worth embarking on. This blog will guide you through that journey, offering guidance on selecting the right drum, providing practical exercises, and sharing expert tips to enhance your folk drumming skills. So, if you've ever wondered 'how to play drums for folk?' - you're in the right place.

History and significance of drums in folk music

The drum is not just an instrument in folk music, it's a storyteller. For centuries, it has played a key role in the cultural and social fabric of communities worldwide. But why is it so significant? What role does it play, and most importantly, how did it earn its place in folk music?

  • The Beat of the Community: In many cultures, drums were, and still are, considered a form of communication. The beat of the drum was used to alert the community of important events, much like a town crier.
  • The Rhythm of Dance: Folk dances are incomplete without the rhythm provided by drums. The beats guide the tempo and mood of the dance, making the drum an integral part of any folk celebration.
  • The Sound of Tradition: Each region has its unique drumming style, which is passed down through generations. This makes the drum a living, breathing chronicle of a community's history and traditions.

Drums have always held a special place in folk music. They serve as the pulse of a community, dictating the rhythm of its dances, communicating its stories, and preserving its traditions. So, when you're learning how to play drums for folk, remember - you're not just playing an instrument, you're becoming a part of a rich, vibrant history.

Selecting the right drum for folk music

Choosing the right drum is the first step in your journey to mastering how to play drums for folk. Not all drums are created equal, and the right drum can make all the difference in the world. But how do you know which drum is the right one? Here are a few key factors to consider:

  • Sound: Each drum produces a unique sound. For folk music, you might want to go for drums with a warm, rich tone like the Djembe or the Bodhrán. Remember, the sound of the drum can greatly influence the mood of your music.
  • Size: A big drum isn't always better. Consider your physical comfort and the portability of the drum. Smaller drums like the Tambourine or the Bongo are easy to handle and great for folk music too.
  • Material: The material of the drum affects both its durability and its sound. Traditional folk drums often use natural materials like wood and animal skin, but modern variations with synthetic materials are also available.

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to drums for folk music. The right drum for you depends on your personal preference, your physical comfort, and the kind of sound you wish to produce. So, take your time, try different drums, and you'll soon find the one that resonates with you — literally!

How to play the drums for folk music

Now that you've selected your ideal drum, let's dive into the heart of the matter: how to play drums for folk music. Folk drumming can be a lot of fun, but it does require some basic skills and techniques. Before you start, remember that practice makes perfect. So, let's get started!

  1. Understand the rhythm: Drumming is all about rhythm. In folk music, the drum often sets the pace for the other instruments. Listen to a lot of folk music, tap your foot, clap your hands, do whatever it takes to feel the rhythm in your bones.
  2. Learn the basic beat patterns: Most folk tunes have simple, repetitive beat patterns. Start by learning these basic patterns. As you get comfortable, you can experiment and create your own beats.
  3. Practice your grip: How you hold your drumsticks or beaters can affect your control and sound. Practice your grip until it feels natural and comfortable. Remember, you should have firm control, but your grip shouldn't be too tight.
  4. Start slow: It's tempting to jump right into fast, complex rhythms, but start slow. Master the basics first, then gradually increase your speed and complexity as your skills improve.

Playing drums for folk music is an art, not a science. There's no "right" or "wrong" way to play. The most important thing is to enjoy the process and make music that speaks to you. So, what are you waiting for? Grab those drumsticks and let's make some noise!

Practical exercises for folk drumming

So, you've got a grip on the basics of how to play drums for folk music. But practice is key to mastery. Here are some practical exercises you can use to improve your folk drumming skills:

  1. Playing along with music: One of the best ways to practice is to play along with your favorite folk songs. This will help you understand how the drums fit into the overall sound of the music.
  2. Mastering different rhythms: Folk music is diverse and the rhythm can vary from song to song. Challenge yourself to learn different rhythms and practice them regularly.
  3. Improving your speed: Start by playing a rhythm slowly. Gradually increase your speed while maintaining the rhythm. This will help you improve your speed without losing control.
  4. Practicing with a metronome: A metronome is a device that marks time at a selected rate by giving a regular tick. Practicing with a metronome can help you maintain a steady rhythm.

These exercises may seem simple, but they can make a big difference in your drumming skills. Remember, it's not about how fast you can play or how complex your rhythms are. It's about playing in a way that enhances the music and expresses the spirit of folk. So, keep practicing, and most importantly, enjoy the journey!

Tips for maintaining your drum

Now let's talk about drum care. After all, a well-maintained drum not only sounds better but also lasts longer. Here are some tips on how to keep your drum in top shape:

  1. Regular cleaning: Dust and dirt can accumulate on your drum, affecting its sound. Use a soft cloth to clean your drum regularly. Avoid using harsh chemicals that could damage the drum surface.
  2. Proper storage: Store your drum in a cool, dry place to prevent damage from humidity and temperature changes. If possible, use a drum bag or case for extra protection.
  3. Regular tuning: Just like any other musical instrument, drums need to be tuned regularly to sound their best. Learn how to tune your drum or consider getting it done professionally.
  4. Reheading as necessary: Over time, the drumhead will wear out and will need to be replaced. If you notice a change in sound quality or visible damage, it's probably time for a new drumhead.

Taking good care of your drum ensures that it's always ready for a jam session. Think about it: you wouldn't drive a car without regular oil changes, right? The same principle applies to your drum. With these tips, you can keep your drum sounding as good as the day you bought it.

When it comes to playing drums for folk music, having the right accessories can make a big difference. Here are some of the key accessories that can enhance your folk drumming experience:

  1. Drum sticks: While some folk drums are played with hands, others require drum sticks. Choose wooden sticks as they produce a warmer sound, perfect for folk music.
  2. Drum brushes: For a softer, more textured sound, drum brushes are a great choice. They're typically used in jazz, but they also work well for folk music.
  3. Mute pads: If you're practicing at home and don't want to disturb your neighbors, mute pads can be a lifesaver. They reduce the volume of your drumming without affecting your technique.
  4. Tuning key: A tuning key is essential for keeping your drum sounding its best. Remember, a well-tuned drum is key to great folk music.

Of course, the most important accessory is your passion for folk music. With the right tools and a love for the genre, you'll soon be playing folk rhythms like a pro.

Exploring the Sounds of Different Folk Drums

Just like a painter uses different brushes to create varied textures on a canvas, a drummer uses different types of drums to bring out the depth and richness in folk music. Let's take a look at some of the popular types of drums used in folk music and the unique sounds they produce:

  1. Bodhrán: This Irish frame drum is played with a double-headed stick called a tipper. Its deep, resonant sound is a staple in Celtic folk music.
  2. Djembe: Originating from West Africa, the djembe is known for its wide range of tones. From sharp, high slaps to deep, low bass notes, it's a versatile instrument for any folk drummer.
  3. Dhol: The Dhol, a double-headed drum from the Indian subcontinent, produces a bass-heavy sound. It's often used in Punjabi folk music and is played with two wooden sticks.
  4. Cajón: The cajón, a box-shaped drum from Peru, is played by slapping the front face with your hands. Its muted tones make it a popular choice for folk music.

Each type of drum brings its own flavor to the music. Don't be afraid to experiment and find the drum that best fits your style and the specific type of folk music you want to play.

Expert Tips for Folk Drumming

Let's dive in, fellow drummers! Here are some tips to help you improve your folk drumming skills:

  1. Listen to a lot of folk music: This is a no-brainer, but it's worth emphasizing. The more you listen, the more you'll understand the rhythms, beats, and the role of drums in folk music. So, immerse yourself in the sounds of folk.
  2. Practice regularly: Consistency is key in mastering any instrument, and drums are no exception. Set aside some time each day to practice your drumming. You'll be surprised at how much progress you can make.
  3. Experiment with different drumming techniques: Don't limit yourself to the traditional way of playing. Try out different techniques, such as rim shots, cross stick, and brush techniques. You never know what might work best for your style of folk drumming.
  4. Play with other musicians: There's a lot you can learn from jamming with other musicians. It helps you understand how your drumming fits in with the overall music and also helps improve your timing and rhythm.

And remember, the journey of learning how to play drums for folk music should be fun! So, stay positive, keep practicing, and most importantly, enjoy the music.

If you enjoyed our "Drums for Folk: Practical Guide & Expert Tips" blog post and want to further explore unconventional ways of making music, we recommend checking out Tom Glendinning's workshop, 'Making Music From Everyday Sounds.' This workshop will teach you how to incorporate everyday sounds into your music, adding a unique twist to your folk drumming techniques.