Unlike guitarists or wind players, who can carry their instruments with them relatively easy and practice almost anywhere, the time and space it takes to assemble a drum kit can be a limiting factor when it comes to practicing percussion—and while brass players have mutes and guitarists can turn down their amp, the sheer volume of a drum kit can make it difficult to practice in certain locations, or at certain times of the day.
A high-quality practice pad can let you work on your technique without waking the neighborhood. It can also be an excellent tool for students and percussion ensembles, letting you isolate your stroke and rhythm from the sound of your drum. The style and type of drums you play will often determine which practice pad is right for you, but whether you’re a marching snare student or a gigging professional, one of the pads on this list will be right for you. They’re, in our humble opinion, the best drum practice pads on the market.
Drumeo P4 Practice Pad
The P4 pad from Drumeo is perhaps the most versatile practice pad you’ll ever use. While many practice pads only give you a single, snare drum-like surface, the P4 pad uses four different surfaces. Along with the standard gum-rubber surface, there’s a neoprene area similar to the feel of the high tom, a rubber-like area that simulates the floor tom, and a hard surface with a feel similar to a ride cymbal. This gives you more options to develop your technique for the various pieces of your kit all on the same convenient pad. The feel and rebound of your stick will be realistic to those surfaces, meaning you’ll be better able to hone your technique consistently on all the drums and cymbals in your kit.
Evans RealFeel 2-sided Practice Pad
This practice pad from Evans has a larger surface, designed to fit in a standard snare basket. You can practice with this pad in your natural position and the stand gives it support, meaning you don’t have to alter your technique. The two sides give you two different feels, with a standard gum coating on the snare side and a harder surface of recycled rubber on the other side that gives you more of a workout and helps improve your endurance. This pad is built to take a beating, too, and won’t wear out even if used for daily practice. Bar none, this is one of the best drum practice pads you can buy.
Vic Firth Heavy Hitter Slim Pad
If you’re looking for a practice pad that feels more like a marching snare, check out the Vic Firth Heavy Hitter. It uses a thin layer of rubber mounted on a base of wood to give the feel of the Kevlar used in modern marching snare heads. Its slim size also makes it convenient for the marching percussionist. You can throw it in your backpack without adding too much weight or bulk, letting you practice anytime and anywhere with ease. It’s also quieter than most practice pads on the market, which your friends and roommates will appreciate if you like to practice in your dorm room or on the band bus.
If you’re on a budget and would rather spend your money on drums than a practice pad, consider the RT-0008 pad from Remo. The 8” diameter means it can be mounted on a stand, but it also has a rubber coating on the bottom that prevents it from slipping if you use it on a table while protecting the surface you’re playing on from scratching. It gives you a rebound similar to that of a concert snare drum, with a natural feel that makes your practice translate better when you sit back down at your kit to apply what you’ve been working on.
Why You Need a Practice Pad
The most obvious advantage of owning a practice pad is that it’s far more convenient than practicing on a full kit. Even if you put your pad on a stand, the set-up is all but non-existent, meaning you can get in a few minutes of practice even when you don’t have long stretches of free time in your day. Because the volume of your strike will be softer than with a standard drum head, you can even work on rudiments while you’re watching TV if you want to, and they’re perfect for apartment and dorm living, where the noise of a drum can be a disturbance to your neighbors—not to mention the fact that most won’t have the space for a full kit.
Even if space and noise aren’t concerns, however, a practice pad can be an exceptionally useful tool in perfecting your technique. Because your playing will be quieter, you’ll be better able to play along with a metronome, making it an excellent tool for working on your time. Practice pads are also less forgiving than standard drum heads, which have a tone and sustain that can cover up issues with your technique. Practicing on a practice pad can show you where the weaknesses are in your playing, letting you better isolate where you need work and improving your overall performance.
Materials of the Best Drum Practice Pads
There are two schools of thought when it comes to practice pad materials. Some people feel that limiting yourself to the single surface of your standard practice pad is one of the main advantages of using one, keeping you from becoming distracted by all the various components of your kit and letting you focus in on just the rudimentary aspects of your playing. For others, being able to practice on various surface strengths and materials makes for a more natural practice session. The rebound and feel of a tom or cymbal is different than that of a snare, and pads like the Drumeo model (see full specs) above let you experience that difference.
Ultimately, the choice of which materials and how many surfaces you want in your practice pad is individual. In other words, the term “best drum practice pads” really depends on the person defining it. If you’re a relative beginner, a single-surface pad is likely to be the best option for you because you’ll be working on things like stick control and internalizing time that are universal across all your equipment. Intermediate and advanced players who are more focused on the details are more likely to benefit from the variety of surfaces offered by pads like the Drumeo, though may still find a single-surface or double-sided practice pad suits their needs just as well.