My finger drumming covers

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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Completely isolate them might be not the best, but turning them up and making them louder is actually very much possible,

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There is already a fair amount of tools for this. Both free and paid. Paid are obviously much better.

Last time I checked RIPX was the best available on the market


This one is free. I downloaded it but since I didn’t have yet the need to use it, I really didn’t test it that much. It’s a bit complicated but there are YouTube tutorials out there.

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Finally I performed a live looping song! Originally, I stared learning finger drumming because I wanted to live loop – this was my global music goal.

Usually, during live looping drums are overdubbed by layers: first kick, then snare, then hi-hat with other embellishments. After gaining a solid finger drumming skill I can do it efficiently in a single pass.

This was a raw first take.


Nice!!! I saw those bells laying there on the desk and immediately knew it was gonna have the right Christmas vibes :slight_smile:

Also great to hear that energy boost when the drums come in. That’s the sign of a good drummer!

Great live performance! “raw first take”? For me it’s already good and does not require improvement. Not super complicated drums part but great timing which I can only dream of) You had a metronome in ears for first keyboard parts?

By raw first take I mean first take after I turned camera on. Of course I spent weeks learning parts, understanding choreography of live looping and making hands independent for playing bells and melody.

Metronome was on for first three parts: synth riff, bass and drums. I used 16th note quantization during the recording. This means that all my notes are automatically adjusted to 16th note grid after I played them. This gives a sense perfect timing.

In fact, when I tried to record without quantization, things became muddy. Even with quantization turned on, I struggled for a few days to play synth riff in time so that notes are quantized to the right 16th note (they are moved to the closest one).


Thanks for sharing! The most interesting thing is to find out the behind-the-scenes recording details. Anyway, until parts get looped and quantized, they performed and sounds in time.
“making hands independent for playing bells and melody” - Yes, I also thought it was difficult to play. And need to turn on the microphone for bells only.

I think I have found a perfect song for Launchpad X :slight_smile:

Here is my a live looping performance inspired by Rob’s video.

I perform without quantization. The most difficult part is to press record button before measure ends. This will start looping the clip. Notice the unevenness of a bass clip. All these scale runs are approximated and are easy and fun to play. Although it is a melodic piece I would consider this more on finger drumming side because of note slides and pizzicatos.