Sticking and Zoning 101 - Pt 1

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

Welcome to the start of this concept of Sticking and Zoning. Firstly, I want to say this is not my original idea, far from it, but it's something that you're going to find really useful.

This first lesson may seem basic if you're a grade 4 student or above, but work through it as it'll help form the foundation of much harder things and a strong foundation of basic skills is hugely important.

As you read through the lesson, do stop and do each exercise as it comes up.

The video lesson is at the end if you want to skip to that. It's worth reading everything first though.


Ok, sticking just means the order of the sticks we're using and in this lesson it's just right then left (r, l). However, we're going to start by working with note divisions: quavers, semiquavers and sextuplets on the snare drum. The sticking is just r, l the whole time.

Work to a metronome or the click on your electric drum kit. Set it to a speed you can comfortably play with. If you're new to drums, start at no faster than 70 beats per minute (bpm).

Starting with the quavers, count in for a whole bar before playing a bar. That'll look like this:

Then repeat.

Now we're going to do the same with semiquavers, which looks like this:

And repeat.

Finally, sextuplets, which looks like this:

And repeat.

Now can you play all of these exercises one after the other?

Really focus on this as it's all about timing. Make sure you're playing each beat perfectly so the right hand is always hitting on that click when it should be. If the sextuplets are hard at first, try decreasing the speed of the click by 5 and try again. Repeat this till you're confident. Remember, all the exercises should be played at the same bpm.

If you're using an electric kit for this, you will most likely have a record function. Record your self and listen back. Were you perfectly in time?


This is when we group drums together so we can work in a more organised way to create patterns. This is really useful when coming up with drum rhythms and fills especially when improvising, writing or just playing for fun. Think about your Session Skills section of the exam for example.

In this lesson, we're just going to pair drums together, and we're still just using r, l sticking. The groups are:

  1. Just the snare.

  2. Snare and left tom.

  3. Floor tom and snare.

  4. Floor tom and left tom.

  5. Ride and the snare.

  6. Hi-hat and snare.

Your first task is to play each pattern just to get used to it. Remember r, l sticking. Keep doing this until you feel confident.

Got it? Ok. Now use the exercises you played earlier on the snare for each 'zone'. So play the quavers, semiquavers and sextuplets for each of the zones using the same bpm as before. You've already done Zone 1.

This is worth doing as you need to get used to the different sounds now coming from the drum kit and the different positioning of the hands. The movements need to become automatic in order to use them on the fly.

In Use

Now, we get to use the zones and sticking in our playing. We're going to create unique drum fills simply by combining the sticking and zoning ideas.

Here are the ones I play in the video at first:

Next, you're going to come up with some of your own. A great way to do this is to start with an idea and then move the zones around. Look at the way the zones move around in this one:

What order are the zones in in the final bar?

Now take a few minutes and create 5 of your own.

You may well have found that you like some more than the others you've come up with. This is great as it means you can try to remember those for your own use and it is the first step in creating your own unique sound.

Also remember, all we've done so far in this section is create patterns using quavers. What about adding in semiquavers on zone 1 (snare drum) for example?

Video Lesson

Here's the video lesson. Watch through for a demonstration of all of the above, and have fun! Remember to make sure you do the exercises as they come up. Don't jump right to the end...

#lockdown #drumlessons #drums #fills

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