Basic finger drumming technique and pad layout in 3 minutes

In this article I’ll explain the pad layout that I’m using for finger drumming as well as some of the most basic techniques

In this tutorial I’ll explain everything you need to know if you want to get started with finger drumming. Like how to set up the pads and how to play some basic grooves right away. Feel free to watch the video above for the same information, and if you’re more of a reader, read on!

Quick start

  • A pad controller like an Akai MPC/MPD, Korg PAd Kontrol or a Native Instruments Maschine type device.
  • You’re also going to need some kind of software drumkit. I use XLN audio’s Addictive drums 2 at the moment, but feel free to use anything else. As long as you have kicks, snares and hihats.
  • Most of the time you’ll also need a computer and an audio interface, but that depends a little on the other stuff you own. For example, some Akai MPC devices are standalone units and will not need anything else. And the Maschine Mk3 does need a computer to run, but it has an audio interface built in, so you won’t need that if you own a Maschine mk3.

For more information on what stuff to buy and what I recommend and use myself, please check out this article.

Pad layout

Now, make sure your pads trigger the following sounds:

Finger drumming technique

You might want to check out the video so you can hear examples of me playing the patterns written out below. Count along with the diagrams and hit the pads in the right order.

Use your right hand and hit the following pad combination

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Now try and hit some open hi hats. Notice how you can use the alternative kick and snare pads.

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Now you can start playing 16th notes with your left hand in between the right hand hits.

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Obviously you can also hit other pads. Like in this pattern where you play ghost notes on the snare.

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Or just that one open hihat hit at the very end of the bar (subtle, smooth and effective)

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How to move your hands

Try and make a downward wrist motion every time you hit a pad and don’t press the pads with your fingers as if they’re buttons. Think hitting, not pressing. Think drums, not piano.

How to make it groove?

When you’re just starting out it’s going to be hard to really make your beats groove without quantizing them. Even if you have a good inner clock, you’re going to have to train your hands to execute all motions in the exact way and at the exact time you want them to. This will take time, just like learning any other instrument. Try and have fun while playing, practice consistently (at least 5 times a week for 20 minutes) and evaluate your progress a few months in.
Obviously you can use this website and all the courses, articles and videos on it to figure out what to work on next and how to work on it in the most efficient way possible. Which bring us to the last paragraph of this mini finger drumming course:

Hungry for more?

This article is basically a quick summary of the free beginner course on this website. In the beginner course on this website I also give tips on what equipment and software to buy as well as advice on how to install everything, what to do when you’re having problems and I’ll teach you some nice tricks that make you progress better and faster when practicing finger drumming. For those of you who already got all the basics down, I also have a completely free 6 week intense training course to take your drumming to the next level called “Grooving & Improving“, so at some point that might be worth checking out as well.