Beginner - easy songs are freaking hard!


Hey all, still new enough to this forum so I don't know if there is a "new thread" stigma around here - just let me know!

I posted a couple weeks back about looking for a teacher and chose one. Been practicing daily for maybe 2 or 3 months on drills, rolls, basic beats, combinations etc. I'm now getting in a session a week on a kit in a local rehearsal space.

Anyway, I figured as much as my end goal isn't playing covers, it would help me appreciate drums more as an instrument and get a feel for incorporating drums into music if I learn some easy songs. I have been shying away from the classic "learn AC DC" thing but finally gave in to myself, printed out some sheet music and went to the studio.

Holy balls, that's hard! I naively thought maybe a few months of coordination practice and lessons would make an easy song easy. But after the 21.5 bars of a simple beat (you shook me all night long), I suddenly was like BLLAAAHHHH pppthhhh.

Took me a half hour without the music just to almost get through the next 8 bars at a slightly slower tempo. Turn on the tune and utterly fail again as soon as anything but the basic beat comes in. And I absolutely can't pick all the drums out of the song by ear.

Should I hold off another month or 2 on trying to learn easy songs, or should I power through a couple? Would it do any good to spend a solid month just trying to learn an easy song (on top of all the basics I am training)?

Thanks for any help guys!


Platinum Member
At this point playing anything is good. You'll get more comfortable the more you do it. It takes most people a long time to play and make it sound like music. You can play those simple beats without the music and get used to playing them. It would be best if you played along with a metronome. that will help you play steady tempos. Play whatever tempo that you are capable of and after a you get good at that tempo bump it up a little. Warning, drums are habit forming and may take the rest of your life to learn. Just play and take lessons, the rest will come in time.


Platinum Member
Paying songs is what it's all about.

Carry on with playing songs, but remember, all of those guys playing easy songs are professionals, and ironically, one of the toughest things to do is to play something straightforward and give it authority and groove.

Others to try...

Billie Jean
Honky Tonk Women
Wicked Game
Pretty Woman


Junior Member
I've been playing for almost 2 years now. You sound like I did in the first several months. You seem like you've taken a researched and disciplined approach to learning the drums.

I highly recommend diving into sheet music or learning by ear to set yourself up to play along to songs as part of your regular routine.

It's been a slow process for me to build up my internal library of recognizable patterns to make it easier to learn new songs. I feel it's paid off for me approaching learning both from sheet music and 'transcribing' (I use this word but that doesn't mean I'm always writing it down, I'm talking about learning parts by ear and committing to memory here as well, but often I do write it down for posterity).

My advice is start putting time into playing to songs early. Your failures can guide your instructor in providing guidance if you communicate it. You'll also be able to change the way you practice to cover your current shortcomings when playing with music. I use songs I'm interested in learning to push me to greater tempos with current techniques and learn new techniques and patterns. I find that motivates me more than being able to hit a particular rudiment or pattern at a particular tempo solely for the sake of general prociency.


Platinum Member
There are apps that you can load your music on to, which allow you to change the tempo. You can then play along to a real song at a speed that is comfortable and achievable for you. You can also loop part of the song - that nasty tricky bit! - so that you can practise it over and over again, nice and slowly, until you've nailed it and then incorporate it seamlessly into the rest of the piece.

Having your caek and eating it is always good.


Platinum Member
Should I hold off another month or 2 on trying to learn easy songs, or should I power through a couple?
Power on through. Definitely.

If you can't play time, you can't play drums. It's really that simple. That's not said to be discouraging, but rather to impart to you the fundamental responsibility of being a drummer driving a live band.

The more you practice that basic skill, the more it becomes ingrained. There are many, many things you can work on in order to become a great drummer, but the most basic of these skills is learning to lay it down. To become the bedrock that all the other instruments launch off.

Don't shy away from it. Embrace early as you can......and get better as a result.

No one said it was easy. But it is a fundamental requirement.

Have at it. Learn it. And in no time you'll be enjoying it.


Silver Member
Hi aaronmcd, yes as has been said it's about playing songs. As a self taught drummer my first experience of drumming was setting up a broken down old kit in a youth club and sitting down and trying, to this day I don't know a paradiddle from a Ratamacue but I can play the backside off a rock song. I recently had to learn the shuffle intro to Ballroom Blitz, I found a great video that really helped me......and it ended by suggesting you play the bass drum like this! Which inItself was a total mind bender but the entire focus was on the hands.
As for the suggestion about AC/DC songs being easy that in my opinion isn't true. Sometimes es the drum beats are "deceptively simple" until you delve into them, I think people mistake a lack of fills with simplicity , a point I disagree with. Many AC/DC songs have "a moment" in there that even experienced drummers need to sit back and think about. Plus in You Shook Me All Night Long you're tackling one of the less straightforward AC/DC songs, we play it in our set and I enjoy it immensely because there's a challenge to the whole song including the cymbal crashes before the solo and in the outro that I'm not at all surprised to hear would flummox a newer player.

But get stuck in, play songs and I suggest Highway To He'll if you're in an AC/DC mood as a less tricky option. It still has its mo nets though :)

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Definetly keep working those fundamental hand things you're doing.

Playing a groove at the kit is a completely different thing and you should do that as well. That's you'll probably end up doing the most, but getting in on a roiutine with hand technique, learning how to read and so on will help that, too. It will help a lot, because you'll both know, understand what you're doing and be able to communicate as well.


Senior Member
When you learn those "deceptively simple" performances, you realize that even if you get the notes technically correct, there's still something missing. There are so many subtle things behind the notes, the time, the rhythm, and more.

Playing covers while learning is important, because it immerses you into certain things.

I recently started taking Music Theory lessons and I asked the guy how it was that I could survive 35 years making music without knowing any of the terminology or what was what. He said that living in the West, listening to the music on a constant basis, and learning to play covers contributed to my "knowledge" about this [among other things]. Immersion!

You'll get this feeling that "this is how the song goes." Intros, breaks, fills, transitions, heading into the chorus, going into a bridge, what to play over solos, what to play with singing.

It's almost like inheriting knowledge via osmosis.

So when you hear about how Paul McCartney knew nothing about Music Theory, and yet wrote the songs that he wrote, remember that he spent years playing covers in clubs. Over time, he absorbed what was going on, and put enough work into it to make those things his own by putting his own twist onto it.

Don't get discouraged, and keep it up!


Definitely keep playing songs as much as you can. The trick, though, is to remember and apply all the basics that your drum instructor is trying to beat into you: how you hold your sticks, the different strokes, your posture and all that.


"Uncle Larry"
Don't breeze past the basics thinking they are "too easy". Biggest mistake for beginner drummers is not focusing on the very basic of the basics. The basics are all you really need to be a gigging drummer with groove and lyric based songs.

Because when you are a gigging drummer for non extreme music, the basics are what you will be playing most of the night.

A lot of beginner drummers approach their instrument like a lead instrument.

Don't do that. Understand that the drums hold up everything, they aren't meant for lead playing. Playing well within your skillset....comes off way better.

One of the hardest things is to just keep it steady. Most guys want to play their toms way too much. Or their cymbals. They don't yet get the value of space in music. Drummers need to restrain themselves from getting too notey.
It's a maturity thing. You eventually get past the need to "be creative" or "show off", and then at that point you start really understanding what the drums purpose in a band is.
Hey Aaron,

I think AC/DC is among the hardest things to play as a beginner. I recommend the White Stripes as a great starting point, partly because the arrangements are so spare, there's no doubt what's being played on drums.

I also recommend drumless tracks. You can find some free ones on Youtube. What I do in my practice time and for fun is to load up an iPod playlist with a favorite song followed by the drumless version. When I'm trying to learn, I often play along with record, play the main parts on my own, then marry what I'm playing to the drumless track.

Here's a good source of drumless versions:


Senior Member
Yes, sure, play to songs but...use them as metronomes(ignore fills and any "tricky" parts). Once you learn the basic beats, to slow and medium tempo songs, increase to a faster tempo song and an even slower tempo song, still ignoring the fills. Now add the rudiments just on the snare using the songs as tempo guides to see how they might fit in. Soon you'll see how a fill works: which hand should you start with, which to end with, where's the "1" or the "2", etc...
This is where the real drum kit learning starts.

Matthew L

Junior Member
Hi Aaron,

My two cents:

I had a martial arts instructor who would often say, "Simple does not mean easy."

I think that "simple" grooves can really highlight your weaknesses because there's nowhere to hide.




Junior Member
I found ac/dc too hard and tried CCR. It was tough as well but Cosmo seemed to have less accents than Rudd, even though he throws in fills here and there.
You may have even heard the songs enough (if you're older) that it will help.


Platinum Member
Should I hold off another month or 2 on trying to learn easy songs, or should I power through a couple? Would it do any good to spend a solid month just trying to learn an easy song (on top of all the basics I am training)?
When you're practicing fundamentals (beats, fills, coordination, reading), what will NOT happen is that you'll magically become able to play songs. Many songs have parts that are not taught in books, and need to be practiced separately.

BUT YES, you should practice songs!

If a part is too difficult, simplify it until it's more manageable. Slow down the recording (you can do this on YouTube now) and see if that helps.

For example, if a beat is too tricky to play, remove the hi-hat or ride part, and just try to play the kick and snare (snare would still be played with the left hand). After a couple days of this, add back in the hi-hat part, and see if it feels more manageable.

Songs will also teach you technique, because when you're practicing by yourself you can stop and take a break at any moment. But when playing a song you'll learn to relax and think ahead so that you can play without stopping for 4-5 minutes.

Billie Jean
Honky Tonk Women
Wicked Game
Pretty Woman
Highway To He'll
the White Stripes
Great ideas here. For a beginner, Shook Me All Night Long is not slow or simple.

Rochelle Rochelle

Senior Member
I would not start with You Shook Me All Night Long. Just displacing that bass drum from 3 to the and of 3 threw me off for a while. The first songs I tried to play along to were Tom Petty "I Won't Back Down" and Survivor "Eye of The Tiger".

I greatly increased my confidence when I started playing those songs because I could play the basic beat and a few fills for 3 to 4 minutes at the tempo of those songs. Just being able to say I played through a whole song was great for me even if I did make a mistake here or there.


Silver Member
As already mentioned, the drum parts for simple songs aren't always "simple." I had a VERY tough time getting past CCR's "Looking Out my Back Door." But when it clicked, syncopated beats never flummoxed me again.

Vocalists singing out of meter, syncopated beats, drums not starting on count "1", drums played behind or ahead of the beat and a bunch of other 'flies' get stuck in the ointment of a "simple" song. When you can identify each of these "flies" in a song, the simple songs will become simple(r!).

I try to lock in with the bassist where possible, and ignore the vocals and guitars as timekeepers. It won't be long and you'll be able to identify and overcome all the flies in simple songs. Keep at it!


Senior Member
I found ac/dc too hard and tried CCR. It was tough as well but Cosmo seemed to have less accents than Rudd, even though he throws in fills here and there.
You may have even heard the songs enough (if you're older) that it will help.
Really??? My band covers Six CCR songs and i find them wayyy harder (in relative terms... theyre hardly "hard" in grand scheme of things) than ACDC

Just something about the snare and tom tom work for Cosmos fills just got me a while to master... i think he enjoys leading with the left hand a lotta times as a ghost note (example of Travellin band). He is very smooth with that subtle half beat left hand lead because he uses traditional grip i think. Anyways yea ACDC to me, didnt seem difficult at all one bit for me.

New Tricks

Platinum Member
You have to crawl before you can walk.

Play "easy" songs until they are actually easy and you can feel your part...... and then learn to play them right :)