We’ve all seen the picture: the drummer’s playing a quiet intro to a you-don’t-know-what-will-happen-next kind of number. It almost sounds like there’s someone sneaking around the place or doing some shady business en général. Does that sound a bit familiar? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a drummer utilizing drum brushes!

Needless to say, drum brushes are one of the most important pieces of drumming equipment. They’re used by various musicians worldwide. Drummers without a set of drum brushes can’t really call themselves drummers, right? Right. Because of their quietness, brushes are absolutely fantastic for practice, too. That’s exactly the issue we’ll tackle today by answering the question: how do you practice drum brushes? 

If possible, obtain a top-quality practice pad carefully designed to be used with brushes (Sabian Quiet Tone, for instance). Alternatively, you can use newspapers, some cardboard (pizza) boxes, or an LP album sleeve. If you’re just starting out, make sure you practice your brushing technique for at least half an hour each day. 

There’s simply no reason to stop right there! There’s more interesting stuff about the drum brushes practice from where that came from!

Table of Contents

Drum brushes 101 (FAQ)

Before we consider the main question, the one that’s proposed by the title, let’s answer some FAQs associated with the article’s topic.

Why do drummers use brushes?

First things first, you’ll wanna know that the use of drum brushes (outside jazz) wasn’t so common until just recently. Nowadays, musicians (drummers) from various genres find brushes pretty darn useful. Here’s why that’s so: by playing with brushes, drummers can create a varied, softer, yet exciting sound that regular drumsticks fail to deliver. Also, drummers that don’t want to play loud, see brushes as their most trustful allies in the battle against excessive noise.

Oh, and if you’re, by any chance, curious about why some drummers put water on their drums, follow the highlighted link.

Can you use brushes on a practice pad?

For those that don’t know, a practice pad represents a standard piece of drumming equipment. Drummers use it to practice quietly, or just to prepare (warm-up) for the upcoming show. Anyway, you’re able to use brushes on a practice pad. Drumming equipment manufacturers such as Remo or Sabian produce the aforementioned practice pads that have coated drum heads as a playing surface. Practicing your drum brushes on these babies shouldn’t be an issue (not even close).

Speaking of drum heads, here’s an article you’ll want to read.

Can you use brushes on cymbals?

Now some of you might wonder: will using drum brushes on cymbals damage them (cymbals)? Luckily, there’s really no chance of that type of scenario coming to life. You might’ve asked this because you thought wire brushes would scratch your trusty cymbals. You can rest assured knowing that that’s impossible. There’s a far better chance you’d damage your brushes’ wires on the cymbals (if you’re wondering how come they never go out of tune, click right here).

Why do jazz drummers use brushes?

We’ll start off this one with something of a statement: drum brushes are one of the most criminally-overlooked pieces of equipment in drumming. Unfortunately, that’s just how things stood until recently, as we’ve already said. The thing is: jazz drummers loved this alternative to drumsticks all along; it allowed them to play quieter, while, at the same time, losing nothing of the dynamic. Originally, brushes were designed to soothe the sound of the snare, and simultaneously – let the snare be heard!

Before the invention of the drum brush, other musicians in an orchestra had a hard time being heard while the drums were playing. Also, the process of recording music was made a lot easier with the introduction of drum brushes. One can say that if it wasn’t for drum brushes, the whole history of popular music might’ve looked very different. Luckily, we’re not stuck with that alternate reality!

What are drum brushes made from?

First of all, we’ll have to differentiate between the material used for the making of the brush itself and the substance used in the production of the handle:

  • the handles are mostly made from plastic, aluminum, or rubber. It’s best you choose the last option since rubber handles are pretty soft to the touch, yet they allow a better grip. 
  • the brushes are mostly made out of metal, but recently we’ve also seen the appearance of nylon and plastic brushes. 

Okay, so with this info we’ll conclude the first segment of the article. Now it’s time to consider the main dish on today’s menu: how do you practice drum brushes? Stay tuned!

A drummer wearing a hat, with his drum set, holding drum brushes.

How do you practice drum brushes?

Now, there’s a reason why we’ve picked this out as the main question of this article. Many folks have a hard time practicing their drums at home. Whether it’s the ever-present issue of complaining neighbors or easily-irritated roommates that just don’t understand – it doesn’t matter. Even though drum brushes do produce a less noisy sound, it’s still an issue that folks bring up. So, how does one practice drum brushes without hurting anyone’s feelings?

Here we’ve made a list of ideas you might want to try out:

  • Opt for a high-quality, quiet practice pad. Drumming enthusiasts recommend you try Sabian Quiet-Tone or Ed Thigpen Brush-Up.
  • Use newspapers as your homemade practice pad. It won’t hurt if you try this one out, you must have some newspapers lying around somewhere.
  • Improvise with some cardboard. It’s a neat alternative to the solution we’ve talked about above.
  • Pizza boxes, anyone? If you’re a drummer that’s addicted to pizza, we completely understand your “problem”. However, instead of throwing away empty pizza boxes, you might find them pretty useful as your practice pad.
  • An LP album sleeve. We haven’t tried this one, but some folks say that it works like a charm.

There might be some other DIY ideas we’ve unintentionally forgotten to mention. As you can see, it’s not like one can’t improvise a lot here, so… Yeah, you might even come up with your own DIY practice pad idea!

How much should you practice?

Okay, so most expert drummers would recommend that you practice at least half an hour a day if you’re just starting out your drumming lessons (for fellow beginner guitarists, here’s a little article we’ve published recently). However, if you’re an experienced drummer, you should practice for at least one hour a day, or hopefully – more.

Tips for better drum brush practice

So you want to become a master of drum brushes? Okay, that one sounds a bit too corny. Anyway, if you want to brush up (another funny joke, you’ll notice) on your drum brushing skills, here are a few tips we’ve prepared to help you reach your goals! By following them, you’ll greatly enhance your brushing technique!

Afterward, you might wanna check out this piece on how to paint your drum shells.

Everything’s better when the lights are off

There’s this story about a young drummer practicing his brushing technique each morning before lectures in complete darkness. That was his way of meditating and getting ready for the upcoming day. He’s world-famous now (we’re not telling who’s in question).

So, what’s so special about playing in the dark? Let’s go back to the upstairs drummer. The thing is: while being completely surrounded by darkness, one can focus solely on the sound. This will allow the drummer to gradually make his playing as fluid as it’s humanly possible. We absolutely recommend you try out this form of exercise, it’s downright therapeutic.

Play while listening to records

There’s a good chance you’ve rolled your eyes after reading this title. Anyway, this is one of the most standard exercises in drumming, but it’s good we still mention it. This suggestion isn’t really that tied to brushing, it’s connected to every drumming technique out there.

So, what kind of records should you play along to? You might wanna start out with some good old Miles Davis. Many jazz drummers would suggest you start out with his album called Kind Of Blue, a true jazz classic. However, please note that you shouldn’t play every single sound and subtle nuance your ears hear.

Snare drum only

Here’s your motto: no kick drum, no hi-hats, just the snare drum. Some of you might already know this, but the snare drum is probably the most important drum to brush drummers. Therefore, it demands your complete attention and exercise. Additionally, playing only the snare drum will assist you in exploring your creativity and ingenuity. Once you’ve stripped yourself from all possibilities except one, you’ll be forced to think outside the box, as they say.

One last thing

We’ll be quick here. Last but not least, here’s a suggestion on how you should play: if you’re quite used to playing clockwise, you might wanna begin playing the other way around (counterclockwise). Why’s this important? Well, it will make things much easier for your once you try to switch in & out of various accents and patterns. That’s about it!

Parting thoughts

So, we’re almost there, at the southern margin of the text about how should one practice drum brushes! We hope you’ve enjoyed this one, as much as the last article you’ve read on this blog. If you’re interested in finding out more about drums, drumming, drummers & their habits, etc., feel free to check out our blog section dedicated to this activity and everything that’s related to it.