Lesson 3: Kicks, Snares, Straight Beats & Breakbeats

What are Kick & Snare Drums?

Kick Drum

A ‘kick drum’ (aka ‘kick’, or ‘bass drum’) is the loud low ‘boomy’ sounding drum which acts as one of the most important elements in almost all modern music. With drum kit drumming, the kick drum is played with a foot pedal (hence the ‘kick’). It is the largest and deepest sounding drum in a drum kit.

We recommend placing your kick drum on the bottom left pad on your controller.

Snare Drum

A ‘snare drum’ acts as the ‘backbone’ of most modern music. Snares are generally played loudest at regular intervals, making it easy to follow the tempo of the song. Metal wires are stretched across the underside of a snare drum which gives it its distinctive metallic ‘pshhh’ sound.

We recommend placing your snare on the bottom row of pads, on the next pad to the right of your kick drum.

The Importance of Kick & Snare Drums

In modern electronic music and hip-hop, the kick and snare drum are generally the two loudest elements within a track. All other elements of music are usually written around the kick and snare drum.

There are various techniques that can be used to make your kick and snare stand out within your track, which we will talk about later.

Straight Beats

Straight beats aka “four on the floor” beats have kick drums and/or snare drums on each beat. These drum patterns are used for house, techno, trance, hardstyle, some rock music and a lot of EDM.

Here are some examples of straight drum beat patterns which just use kick and snare drums – Play along on your pads:


Breakbeats typically have a kick drum on beat 1, snares on beats 2 and 4, but also have other kicks (and sometimes snares) added in between (on 1/8, 1/16 and sometimes even 1/32 notes – we will explain those shortly). Breakbeat drum patterns are more commonly used in funk, hip-hop, drum and bass, dubstep and garage.

Here are some examples of breakbeat drum patterns which just use kick and snare drums. Play along on your pads:

What are 1/8, 1/16 and 1/32 notes?

1/8 notes occur twice as often as beats (or 1/4 notes). 1/16 notes occur twice as often as 1/8 notes. And 1/32 notes occur twice as often as 1/16 notes.

Here is an example of kick drums being played on every 1/8 note:

Here are kick drums being played on every 1/16 note:

And here they are being played on every 1/32 note:

Finally, here is an example of a breakbeat which features some 1/16 notes. When beginning learning finger drumming, its easiest to learn with one hand, but patterns that feature 1/16 notes are much easier performed with two hands, so we will come back to exactly how to play this pattern later on:

Next Lesson: Closed and Open Hi-Hats >>