You can get ten different people playing on a basic drumset, playing a basic rock beat, and they will all sound different. We each have a signature, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s not “my way or the highway”—it’s about you doing your own thing. The three basic beats and fills included here should be used as a springboard for discovering your own interpretations.

As basic and simple as it may seem, it’s important to play quarter notes on the bass drum and keep them consistent in tempo and volume. When adding 8th notes with the right hand on the hi-hat, play the main beats with downstrokes and the &s with upstrokes. Practice these strokes in front of a mirror, so you can observe the motions of your arm.

In Example 1, be sure the 2 and 4 on the snare match up exactly with 2 and 4 within the hi-hat part. Then add in the bass drum on beats 1 and 3.

In Example 2, the hands are doing the same thing as in Example 1, but the bass drum has an extra note on the & of beat 3. Take note of the movement of your right arm to be sure you’re using a consistent up-and-down motion. When moving the right hand from the hi-hat to any other instrument, be sure the timing of the 8th notes is consistent.

In Example 3, you will play the & of beat 1 and the & of beat 3 with the bass drum. Count the 8th notes out loud while practicing the beat. As before, make sure the motion of the right arm is consistent.

When practicing drum fills, you want to maintain the same dynamic level with each hand. Following are three fills to practice around the drumset. Play the following four-bar phrase with the fill placed in the last two beats.

Once you get these down, don’t be afraid to take risks and try your own variations. I love seeing artists taking risks when playing live. That’s exciting to me. You never know what’s going to happen, but that’s the beauty of improvising in the moment.