5 Best Drum Practice Pads: Practice Makes Perfect
By Mason Hoberg
There are so many different parts to being a musician that people who don’t play an instrument never consider. It’s actually the main stumbling block for most beginning musicians. Learning how to play an instrument is important obviously, but keeping up with proper maintenance or purchasing necessary accessories can be a bit overwhelming when you’re just starting out. It’s a time intensive activity, and it can put a pretty hefty strain on your wallet.
The hardest part is that most beginning musicians just aren’t going to know what they should buy. There’s just so many different choices available that it’s hard to know which purchase is going to work the best for your needs and budget, and drum practice pads are no exception. So rather than going in blind, why not let us help? This article will give you all the information that you need to figure out for yourself how to select the best drum practice pad. Even better, at the end of the article we’ll even give you a few great recommendations to aid you in your search.
- Drum Practice Pad 101
- What Should I Look For In A Drum Practice Pad?
- Top 5 Drum Practice Pads
Drum Practice Pad 101
A practice pad is an accessory that allows drummer to silently hone their technique. Essentially, it’s a drum head that doesn’t resonate. The best part about this is that by design a lot of practice pads are incredibly portable in addition to being extremely quiet. This makes them a great fit for everything from practicing techniques late at night to warming up backstage before a show.
There are also a couple of different types of practice pads. There are those that imitate the spacing of a drum kit, including stands and pedals. These sets will set you back around $200, and they offer a bit less utility than just a pad. It’s nice to have them because they’re still a great way to warm up silently, but because they’re not very portable and they’re not exactly cheap an electronic set might be a better option for silent practice.
The other main type is simply a pad, which can be used however you see fit. The downside to these is that they don’t really replicate the spacing of a drum set, but they are much more portable. They can easily be rolled up and placed into a bag or case, and while they may not be quite as good for practicing they are great for warming up. Even better, most practice pads are only going to set you back about $20.
Lastly, there are a few practice pads that offer a happy medium between the two extremes. The first example that springs to mind is the Vic Firth Quadropad, which is a designed similarly to the upper portion of a kit (including spaces for cymbals and floor toms). This pad is great for practicing in places where it’d be inconvenient to use a kit, and it’s much more portable than pads that require stands.
What Should I Look For In A Drum Practice Pad?
When you’re looking for a practice pad the first thing you’re going to have to know is what you want to use it for. While that sounds pretty obvious, it’s something a lot of people don’t really consider before they purchase a piece of gear. You have to be really aware of the various pros and cons associated with whatever piece of equipment you want to buy, and make sure you think about how it’s going to line up with your needs. If you’re looking for a pad that’s going to allow you to hone your technique silently you’re going to want to try and find pads that are going to be as close a representation of your kit as possible. Likewise if you’re just looking for something to silently practice on the go you’re going to want something different.
Also, there are a few different ways that different practice pads go about replicating the feel of a drum. For example, the Remo Practice pad is a tunable head that replicates the “bounce” of a true drum head. Other pads prefer to just stick with a rubber surface. We’ll get more into this in the review section, but you should definitely try to decide on what type of feel you want before you make a purchase.
Top 5 Drum Practice Pads
As always, our recommendations are meant for widespread applicability. Ideally, everyone reading our lists should find at least one product that will work with their needs and budget. And while we recognize that more expensive pieces of gear are generally objectively better than their cheaper counterparts, we also know that it doesn’t matter how good a piece of equipment is if you just can’t afford it. So as always, just keep in mind that the best choice for you may not be the best choice for your fellow musicians.
Evans RealFeel 2-Sided Practice Pad
A subsidiary of D’Addario, Evans has been a household name in drum accessories for decades. The company was actually founded more than 40 years ago, and it’s been innovating and creating some of the best accessories and products for drummers since its inception.
As musicians, there are a lot of things we take for granted. For most of us, certain things have just been around forever. We don’t remember when everything but pricey American guitars were essentially unplayable, and we don’t remember the struggles that drummers had to go through before synthetic options were widely available.
Evans was actually the company that invented the synthetic drum head. Chick Evans (the founder of the company) made the head from a blend of plastic and polyester. Before synthetic options were widely available drum heads were extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. While this was manageable for hobbyists, it was incredibly limiting for touring and professional musicians. The introduction of a synthetic drum head changed the drum world forever, and cemented Evans’s reputation as a reputable and important manufacture of drums and drum accessories. In 1996 the company was acquired by D’Addario, who has continued Evans’s original commitment to producing a quality product. No exception to this trend, the Evans 2-Sided Practice Pad offers a great value to any musician on the hunt for a practice pad.
The most important thing to recognize if you’re thinking about purchasing this practice pad is that it’s intended to serve a dual purpose. One side is made from a natural gum and is intended to replicate the feel of an acoustic drum head, which is great if you’re looking to practice techniques or warm up. The other side is made from a recycled rubber, which is much harder. This side is intended to build endurance when drumming. Because it doesn’t have the bounce of an acoustic drum it requires more effort to play, which in turn will help you build the muscles necessary to play for long periods of time.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while the thicker rubber side of the pad is obviously going to be much more quiet than an acoustic drum head it still isn’t silent. While this may not be a deal breaker for some people, you should keep in mind that the harder rubber surface does produce a very audible sound. It’s been described as a sharp-ish click, similar to that of a metronome. However, the gum side is quiet enough to not disturb those around you.
Evans produces quality products, so it’s no surprise that the Evans RealFeel 2-Sided practice pad is incredibly durable and very well made. The pad also benefits from its materials, because it’s very unlikely that you would be able to do anything to damage the product through normal practice. It’s essentially a big piece of rubber, so as long as you don’t expose it to dramatically low levels of humidity it should last you for a very long time.
Currently, the Evans RealFeel 2-Sided Practice Pad is sitting at a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on Amazon, which is frankly amazing for any product. It’s not common for any piece of gear to be that well received, so should you purchase this practice pad you can rest assured that so long as it’s a good fit for your needs you will be very happy with your purchase.
The only downside of this pad is that it’s a bit more expensive than its competitors, but it’s not a huge different. Most drum practice pads are going to run right around the neighborhood of $20, while this one costs $30. If you’re on a very thin budget the extra $10 might be enough to dissuade you from buying this product, but we would imagine that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the majority of you.
While the Evans RealFeel 2-Sided Practice pad may be a tad bit more expensive than some comparative products, it is made from very durable and realistic feeling materials. It offers a great platform both for practicing techniques and building your stamina as a drummer.
Remo Practice Pad
Founded in 1957, Remo is one of the premier manufacturers of drumheads in the country. The company has been making some of the finest drum heads available for decades, and believe it or not they’re actually one of the pioneers of synthetic drum head options.
Though Remo D. Belli (the founder of the company) wasn’t the first to produce a synthetic drumhead, he did pioneer the use of Mylar. Shortly after WWII the polyester film Mylar was slowly making its way into commercial applications. The material was light, heat resistant, and was relatively unaffected by changes in temperature or humidity. The original use for Mylar was actually as a light heat resistant film used to coat planes that specialized in nighttime reconnaissance missions.
At the time, drumheads were almost exclusively made from calfskin. While calfskin arguably has a better acoustic quality for certain types of music, it’s not a very reliable material. Calfskin requires consistent tuning, making it a poor choice for professional or touring musicians.
What attracted Remo D. Belli to Mylar was the fact that it was much more stable than the calfskin drum heads of the time. Though many musicians originally resisted the change, eventually Remo worked its way to being one of the top manufacturers of drumheads in the country. Remo’s habit of innovation continues today with the Remo Gray Tunable Practice Pad, a product that offers a huge amount of utility at a price that almost any musician can afford.
The defining feature of this practice pad is that it comes with a tunable drum head. The problem with a lot of practice pads is that they don’t offer a response similar to a real drum head, which unfortunately makes it a bit harder to use them to develop your technique. However, they are great for working on your rhythmic chops and building up endurance as a drummer.
Another great thing about this drum is that you’re able to mount it onto a stand, which allows for relatively quiet upright playing. This is a feature that’s sorely lacking in a lot of other practice pads, and it definitely does help increase the utility of the product. It also makes it a good option for pre-show warmups because you’re able to run through your warm-up routine in a position similar to what you’d be in during a performance. The Remo practice pad also features a plastic rim, which is great if you need to practice rimshots.
Lastly, the rubber bottom makes this practice pad great for use on a wide variety of surfaces. The rubber bottom keeps the pad from sliding around when you’re trying to play, and it also prevents the pad from scratching delicate surfaces. The Remo practice pad is available in three different diameters: 6”, 8”, and 10”.
The main downside of this pad is that it’s loud compared to your other options. While it’s obviously not going to be as loud as an acoustic drum, it’s volume is a bit excessive for a practice pad. It’s quiet enough that you could most likely get away with playing it in another room without disturbing anyone, but it is loud enough to be noticeable heard if you’re occupying a room with another person.
A major upside to this pad is that it’s incredibly durable and it feels almost exactly like a part of an acoustic kit. The tunable head is perfect for replicating the feel of your existing drum, which makes it much easier to properly practice techniques or patterns. The head is also replaceable, which is a feature that a lot of practice pads don’t have.
As far as overall quality is concerned there’s nothing about this pad that’s lacking in regards to its intended purpose. There are no reported issues with quality or widespread structural problems, and because the head is replaceable the practice pad is likely to last for several years before it needs to be replaced. The only thing that’s a minor concern in this department is that the head is tuned with a Phillips head screwdriver as opposed to a drum key, so when you go to tune your head you’re going to have to be very careful to not strip your screws.
While the Remo may be a slightly louder than the other practice pads on this list, in the right situation it has the potential to be a great asset to any drummer.
Vic Firth 12” Double Sided Practice Pad
Founded in in 1963 by Everett Joseph “Vic” Firth, Vic Firth has been one of the premier manufacturers of drum accessories for decades. The company has been on the cutting edge of percussion accessories for decades, and exists today as a perfect example of what a company dedicated to producing innovative and high quality products can accomplish.
A little known fact about Vic Firth is that the founder was actually an extremely capable percussionist in his own right. Firth was the son of a successful trumpet player, and at age four began learning to play the cornet. He also learned to play the trombone, clarinet, piano, and learned the ins and outs of musical arrangement. By the time he was 16 he was a professional percussionist, and even founded his own 18-piece band. He went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in music as well as in Honorary Doctorate from the New England Conservatory of Music inn Boston, Massachusetts.
In addition to being a well respected professional musician Firth was also a part of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. At the time of his induction he was actually the youngest musician to ever be accepted into the symphony, and eventually went on to become the principal timpanist.
Firth originally didn’t set out to become a businessman, rather all he wanted to do was create a drumstick for his own use that would allow him to advance his abilities as a musician. He actually hand whittled the original prototypes for the SD1 and SD2 drumsticks, sending them off to a wood turner in Montreal who completed the design. Though these sticks were originally intended for Firth’s personal use they went on to become incredibly popular with his students, and eventually were stocked in music stores around the country.
Given the history of the company, it’s no surprise that Vic Firth has become one of the premier manufacturers of drum sticks in the world. The company is dedicated to providing extraordinary pieces of equipment to percussionists of all kinds, and the Vic Firth 12” double sided practice pad is no exception.
Like other practice pads available, the Vic Firth 12” Double Sided Practice pad provides two distinct practicing surfaces. The first is made from a soft rubber, which while it doesn’t perfectly replicate the feel of a traditional acoustic drum head (more on this later) it does provide a similar level of bounce. The second side is made from a harder rubber, which is great for building endurance and dexterity with a technique.
The pad features a dense wooden base, which does a better job in replicating the feel of a drum’s rim. While the rim itself isn’t abrasive, it should be noted that it does have the potential to mar a delicate surface under the right conditions. This issue is easily alleviated provided that you use the pad on a more durable surface, but it is something you should be aware of regardless.
Lastly, this pad measures 12” in diameter. This will help the pad feel a bit more like a traditional drum, but it does also require a larger surface area in order to play. This isn’t going to be an issue for the majority of you, but if you’re living in a cramped space you may want to consider a smaller practice pad.
While this is a good quality product, it does not offer a playing surface that will approximate the feel of a traditional drum. If you’re buying a practice pad because you have a hard time consistently practicing on your kit due to the noise inherent to the instrument you may want to find a pad that’s a bit closer in feel to a traditional acoustic kit. However, if you’re just looking for a pad to quietly practice techniques you can’t go wrong with this one.
As far as overall quality is concerned, there’s nothing about this pad that suggests it’s not durable or useable for its intended purpose. It’s made from a high quality material, and unlike other pads on the market it offers an almost silent practicing surface.
The Vic Firth Double Sided Practice Pad offers a great value to drummers on the hunt for a silent playing surface that they can use to hone their technique, though drummer looking for a pad that feels like a traditional drum should look elsewhere.
Sabian Quite Tone Mesh Practice Pad
Founded in 1981 in Meductic, New Brunswick by Robert Zildjian, Sabian is one of the most important modern manufacturers of cymbals and accessories for drummers. A little known fact is that Sabian and Zildjian’s adversarial relationship is inspired by not just being competitors in the same niche, but also by the fact that bad blood exists between the two branches of the Zildjian family.
Robert Zildjian believed that he was better suited to lead the company, though traditionally the eldest son was always put in the role of leadership. This resulted in a bitter law suit in 1979. Robert left the company following the lawsuit, though he was awarded the Canadian factory as a settlement. A condition of the settlement was that Robert Zildjian wouldn’t claim that his new cymbals were the same as any Zildjian products, and that he wouldn’t associate with or use the Zildjian name.
The name of the company comes from the first letters of the names of his three children (Sally, Bill, and Andy) and the surname “ian” to indicate the company’s Armenian roots. Though the Zildjian name remained with the original company, a great number of the artisans originally employed at Zildjian chose to leave for Robert to work with Sabian.
Though the company may have a troubled legacy, their products are undoubtedly on par with any other company’s offerings. Sabian is the cymbal of choice for a huge number of notable musicians, such as: Terry Bozzio (who has drummed for Frank Zappa and Jeff Beck), Ray Luzier, Rob Hammersmith, and occasionally Dave Grohl (from time to time he used 2oo2 Crashes while playing with Nirvana).
The first thing players are going to notice when they look at the Sabian Quiet Tone Mesh Practice Pad is that it looks strikingly like a real drum. It obviously doesn’t have a drum’s depth, but it does closely replicate the dimensions of a drum. The rim is also a nice touch, allowing drummers to practice rim-based drumming techniques in relative silence.
The 10” diameter may not sound like a lot, but it is enough to offer a similar experience to what you’d find with a snare drum (a snare drum generally has a diameter of 14”, so while the difference is noticeable the two will feel at least somewhat similar. If the difference is too large for you to reconcile with there is a 14” diameter version available. The 10” diameter practice pad is roughly $25 as opposed to the 14” diameter’s $35 price tag.
While the mesh head may not look like much a standard drum head, it is intended to closely replicate the feel of a traditional drum head. As an added bonus, you can also tune the drum head yourself. This allows you to tailor your pad to your needs as a drummer. A tighter head will give you more bounce, which will in turn make it easier to work on new techniques and/or exercises. A looser head will help you work on your stamina, or help you solidify techniques you’re working on.
Lastly, you can also use this drum on either a table top, on top of a snare stand, or on top of an acoustic drum. This is perfect for a wide variety of situations, which definitely increases the utility of this practice pad.
The good thing about practice pads is that they don’t really require a lot of upkeep or babying. Through normal use (excessive force doesn’t count as normal use) just about any drum pad is going to last you for a long time provided that you don’t subject it to excessive changes in temperature or humidity.
However, as far as practice pads go most would say that the Sabian Quiet Tone Mesh Practice Pad definitely feels sturdy. The metal rim gives it a much more durable feel than pure rubber construction, and there’s no reported issues with the mesh head.
Reportedly, the Sabian Quiet Tone Mesh Practice Pad is also near silent when practicing on a stand or a tabletop. This is a huge advantage over similarly priced practice pads because a lot of stiffer rubber pads make a noticeable clicking sound when played, which has the potential to be disturbing to those around you.
While the Sabian Quiet Tone Mesh Practice Pad is more expensive than some of its competitors it does offer an experience more similar to a standard drum than similar products that are available.
Drumeo P4 Practice Pad
Designed by Pat Petrillo (a master drummer/seasoned educator based out of New York City), the Drumeo P4 Practice pad presents a unique value to musicians everywhere. The pad provides a unique experience that simulates the feel of an acoustic drum set, as well as offering the flexibility and portability that’s severely lacking in similar products.
The pad is also branded under the Drumeo name. For those of you not in the know, Drumeo is an online based education service in the vein of ArtistWorks and TrueFire. The service has been responsible for furthering the technique of drummers the world over.
Pat Petrillo has had a world spanning career, and though he may not be a household name he is undoubtedly in the upper echelon of professional percussionists. He’s been a hired gun in the studio for Patti LaBelle, Gloria Gaynor, and Debbie Gibson. Pat has also been a drummer for a variety of notable shows on Broadway, such as Newsies, A Chorus Line, Grease, and Footloose. Lastly, he’s also published a number of instructional videos ( Learn to Read Rhythms… Better!, Ultimate Drum Lessons: Fills and Chops, and Hand Technique and Rudiments) in addition to conducting several clinics and master classes for drummers.
The first thing that players are going to notice when they first look at the Drumeo P4 Practice Pad is that it has four different surfaces on three different levels. Though it’s definitely non-traditional in appearance, this goes a long way in helping musicians build a wide variety of important skills as a drummer. Moving between different levels simulates moving to different levels on a drum kit, which is a great way to increase accuracy in your playing. The different surfaces also work to simulate the feel of playing different pieces of your kit.
The blue surface is made from your usual gum rubber material, and is meant to emulate a snare drum. This surface features the trademark bounce of a snare drum, which is great for practicing new techniques. The black surface is mean to emulate a tight tom. The black surface is a bit stiffer and requires a bit more effort to play on, which can help you build endurance while still retaining some bounce. The white pad is even less responsive, but it’s also easily the quietest playing surface. The top surface is the hardest yet, and is meant to feel like a cymbal. This surface is great for building endurance on techniques that you already have a good handle on.
The Drumeo P4 Pad is undoubtedly a versatile product, but according to general consensus it’s also very durable and reliable. There’s no reports of this product failing to serve its intended purpose, which is likely why it sets at a stellar 4.2 overall rating on Amazon. The only con is that this product does not accept returns or refunds, which while it’s unlikely you’ll receive a damaged pad it is a possibility. While the policy is understandable due to its intended purpose, it is a bit strict. The pad is also about four times more expensive than others, though it’s obviously going to be significantly more expensive to produce because it’s made from such a wide array of materials. While those of you on a thinner budget may not be able to justify the extra expense of the pad, for those of you who can afford you’re most likely going to find that it helps to increase the quality of your practice during times where you can’t use a full kit.
However, the pad definitely has the potential to be a valuable practicing tool for just about any drummer. Most pads that try to emulate aspects of a drum kit suffer from a decreased amount of portability and/or increased volume. Thankfully, because of the different surfaces on the Drumeo P4 you still get a varied amount of playing surfaces and the ability to easily transport the pad. The four different surfaces are also great for everything from building endurance to increasing speed and accuracy.
The Drumeo P4 Practice Pad is a high-end accessory, which of course comes with an increased cost. The variety of uses for the pads make this pad an incredibly unique product, and though it may not come with a return policy or warranty there’s no reason to believe that this pad won’t hold up to regular use.