My finger drumming covers

This song has a triplet feel and interesting open hi-hat pattern. It is fast but is played with quarter notes. Fills are 8th triplets. Tambourine is played every other back beat in verse and every back beat in chorus.

  • I practiced playing tambourine with a side stick pad. AD tambourine has a weak sound I would say, so I tried to apply reverb to it and lower pitch slightly.
  • Also spent some time practicing triplets: in the beginning they were either too fast or uneven. But after each sleep I was making a noticeable progress.
  • I really wanted to add a triplet feel to a chorus and play 8th triplets with hi-hat. But I couldn’t get right sound (on studio recording you can hear tambourine triplets in the back) - note velocity was unstable on MPD 218.
  • Also I skipped claps except the re-intro section. AD claps are also too weak, so I distorted them a bit and passed through reverb.
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Haha you’re so right about AD claps… I keep using them because I don’t want to look for something else and I always regret sticking with those samples and not just using claps from another library. :slight_smile:

Solid time by the way! The hardest thing with this stuff I found is to play those quarter notes for a long time and then after a long time of that you have to play some triplets for 1 second.

To get those triplets 100% in the pocket is very hard because you sort of need to get into the triplet vibe after playing quarter notes for a long time and you only have one chance. :smiley:

Well, now I know that I can learn a medium complexity song in two weeks.

Learning experience of this song was similar to the Offspring’s “Kids Aren’t Alright”. I approached 100% bpm asymptotically. Last step from 105 to 110 bpm was the longest. The most difficult part was to lock with a backing track. Distortion guitars, screaming vocals are far from crisp metronome clicks.

I learned about in-ear monitoring, when a drummer has his own mix in headphones when performing live. So, I tried to do somewhat similar. I applied EQ

  • to my drums to make kick sound dry and clear
  • to backing track to hear more bass and less vocals

Also I continue shaping my way of practice

  1. Divide drum part into sections
  2. Learn how to play each section (that include transitions from/to neighbour sections) @ 80% bpm
  3. Play a full song and learn how to lock with a drumless track
  4. After you caught the groove, gradually increase to 100%
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Hey Paul,

Great work! A mix that works for drums is always a goof way to go. Sometimes the drums will sound the best in the mix when they’re a little more in the back, with the guitars taking front and center. But… when you’re playing you just want to hear everything well. So making the mix sound a little weird in order to play everything well is a great idea.

I switched to a less intense mode and played 5-15 mins a day.

There are a lot of ghost notes in this song. I just placed them where I thought it would be comfortable for me to play and where it sounded cool.
I played ghost double strokes with a rolling gesture (middle then index finger hitting each its own pad). This was the easiest for me.

To make snare sound quiet-loud I tweaked a pad curve like this:
Screenshot 2023-03-22 at 01.23.48

There is a lot of dynamics on an open hi-hat. I tried different combinations and fingerings and ended up with a single open hi-hat sound for simplicity. I wanted to use a foot pedal to control openness, but my sustain pedal was actually an on-off switch :slight_smile:

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Very nice feel! Man, this brings back some teenage memories :slight_smile: The roll works well; with two fingers. Nice and subtle!

What I like about this song is unusual crashes on 1+ in verse sections. There are other places where crashes are played on 2, 2+.

Ghost notes were not so difficult to play. I played single strokes according to a groove and double strokes randomly on 4a.

Fills were also pretty straightforward. I changed orchestration to what I feel sounds better and to avoid finger crossing when playing descending toms. Overall, Fairfax 1 drums sound dry and I cannot make them sound thicker.

Intro section is an interesting one (share notes are highlighted with blue). It shows a limited dynamics of MPD218. Basically, even with adjusted curves the lightest but reliable touch starts from 64.

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Good job! With that intro I would probably always draw in a nice velocity buildup in the midi file after recording. Ofcourse this cannot be done live, but if you’re recording, working with a small dynamic range, you can always do that to make the drums sound great dynamically.

Not perfect but decent cover. It is about 120 bpm, so I had to stop practicing at some point and record. I would say that when I cross 100 bpm line things become complicated. First, I learned this groove with ghost notes after each back beat but with higher speed I simplified my fingering. Also I hear how notes are floating around the 16th note grid :slight_smile:

I am happy that I have found a good fingering for this groove and was able to fit it into 4x4 layout. Here it is.

|     |         |     |       |
| FT2 | Foot HH | FT1 |  CY   |
|     |         |     |       |
|     |         |     |       |
| SN  |   OHH   | HH  |  RI   |
|     |         |     |       |
|     |         |     |       |
| KI  |   SN    | SN  | STICK |
|     |         |     |       |
|     |         |     |       |
| T2  |   KI    | KI  |  CY   |
|     |         |     |       |

Descending tom pattern T2 - FT1 - FT2 is played now easy and ergonomic (without finger crossing).

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I learned this song before I started recording my finger drumming covers. I thought it would be a great sond for my 10th video.

But after all those covers I have already learned, I played this song differently. There is a steady 8th note tom groove across the entire song. I used to play it with an alternating hands method previously. Now I tried independent hands method and it was much easier and allowed me to put more dynamics to both hands independently. Foot hi-hat is located to the right of floor tom pad. I played them with middle and ring finger because that seemed more natural for me.

Also I really like to divide speed in half and use alternating hands method like I did in a chorus section.

So these are my results after 8 months of practicing and recording. I think I’ll do a summary of what I learned during this time.


Thanks for sharing. I would love a summary!

This is a great example of how independent hands can all of sudden be way better than alternating. It’s so worth to learn both ways because you just need to switch according to what works!


8 months ago I decided to invest my time into finger drumming. I took several beginner and intermediate courses at QFG before but I hadn’t really put it into practice.

So I set a goal to record 10 drum covers in genre of rock within a half-year timeline. Also I wanted to develop my musical ear skills as opposed to playing sheet music thoughtlessly. And have fun, obviously.

With this intention I started to investigate two big topics – active listening and practicing.

Active listening

Active listening means that while you are listening to a song you are paying attention to song structure, individual drum patterns, orchestration, dynamics, other instruments, etc.

As a result of active listening I have a song roadmap. Essentially, it is a compressed sheet music that contains all information you need to perform a song live. After I create a song roadmap, this is the only sheet I use to learn a song.

I use existing sheet music and video tutorials a lot to refine fills, ghost notes and other difficult parts. But for the basic groove (kick, snare, hi-hat) I try to count and figure it by ear.

Yes, I learned how to read a drumming notation. It wasn’t difficult at all and it opens you an access to countless drumming resources. For writing drum notes I use a simplified notation that I can read and understand. Who cares whether it is right or not?


The main idea I have learned here is that in order to learn a song faster you should play all notes 100% correct. This habit helps to develop muscle memory faster. This fits well with another common advice: slow down.

Another important idea is to make a real workout form a practicing session. That is, you should constantly challenge your brain and practice drum parts of next-level difficulty instead of playing what you already can play decently.

I usually split a song into drum parts, e.g. intro groove, main groove, a fill before a chorus, etc. Then I learn each drum part separately starting from 50 bpm and gradually increasing speed with 5-10 bpm increments. I make these drum parts overlapping, so if I learn a verse groove fill that leads to a chorus I also play 1 bar of a chorus. This really helps to make transitions nice from the beginning.

After I can confidently play all drum parts at 80% bpm I switch to a song mode and learn how to play it from start to end. Last 20% is where the progress may slow down. It happens with me for two reasons.

Because song tempo is too high and I need to practice hands coordination. This can be fixed either with practicing or simplifying a groove.

Because I do not feel the groove, miss the beat grid and need to practice locking with other instruments. This can be fixed with a dedicated song mixing for practicing. The idea is to bring forward instruments you need to lock in (usually it is a bass or rhythm guitar) by using EQ.


I ended up with a minimalistic set of a tripod, two light sources and an iPhone camera recording FHD@60fps video.

Important thing here is that vibrations from your pad controller will be seen on a video if a tripod stands on the same table. I fixed this with a kitchen sponge under each tripod leg.

Song choice

Obviously, I picked songs that I like. But after learning them I would have done it differently. I would have picked more simple songs to have more fun with them. And maybe one of five would be a difficult one.

Three most difficult songs I have learned were “Kids Aren’t Alright”, “By The Way” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I’ve spent 2-3 weeks on learning each song but I cannot reliably perform them live after I recorded them once.

However, now I know that I can learn a simple song in a week and a medium-complexity song in two weeks. 16th note grooves over 100 bpm and 8th note grooves over 120 bpm may be difficult to play consistently.

Gear and software

I have AKAI MPD 218 as my main controller. Pads are not sensitive enough but I learned how to fix that with electric tape and velocity curves.

I bought Machine Micro mk3 three times over a 2 year timespan but each time I had to return it back – they all have issues with sensitivity when two neighbour pads are pressed simultaneously. I have never experienced this with Launchpad X and MPD 218.

I use Addictive Drums FAIRFAX vol.1 Neutral preset most of the time and adjust it manually to match drum sound on a recording. Claps and tambourine samples that come with AD are very weak, I hate them.

To find a drumless track I search for existing tracks on youtube. Otherwise I use to split the instruments. You may get satisfying results sometimes but it really depends on an original recording.


I find valuable that this practice has made me a better musician. Now I’m sure that I can play with better accuracy on any instrument, listen to other instruments, understand how songs are structured. Also I developed appreciation to drums and listen to songs differently.


Hi! Do you played some musical instrument before start fingerdrumming? I looked all your covers and very surprised by such fast progress!

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Played piano and guitar a bit, without using a metronome. I think that several things contributed to fast progress

  • A big will to play
  • Specific goal I set - record 10 covers within a half year
  • Conscious practicing, this is what I described here
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I see. It’s still easier to start having experience playing some musical instrument in the past. Anyway, 10 covers in 6 months it’s a lot! To be honest, it was your videos that inspired me to break down and record one cover. And it takes 5 months! And the most challenging was to figure out what exactly drummer is playing. And I regret that I didn’t make a song plan as you because of laziness)

The more you do it, the “easier” it gets. Nowadays there are tools that isolate drums from the rest of the music. Together with a tool that can playback at a slower speed (any daw basically) you probably will be able to get it done.

I use Isotope RX music rebalance but I believe there are some free online alternatives as well.

Yes, I slowed down track with regular music player and use segment repeat trying to break down drum parts. And still, some 4/4 measure tooks literally 3-5 days (not whole day of course, I practice not more then 1 hour a day) to dig in what is going on there)) I also find that song on Songsterr but not shure is it reproduced right without mistakes. I was going at least print that version and use it as a map of the song, but put it off due to laziness))

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It,s interesting, but my first reaction: I never believe that there are exist some algoritms that can pull out drum parts from that sound mess))) I should google that tools and try it as experiment.

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