Drum practice pads are one of the best ways to develop sticking technique in a quiet and controlled manner. They allow drummers to really hone in on the more mechanical aspects of rudiments to perfect their approach when it’s time to play the real thing. Even though there’s nothing like the feel of playing a real acoustic kit, or a high-end electric one, practice pads let you play anywhere.
What Makes for a Good Drum Practice Pad?
Pads are uncomplicated implements. Their main purpose is to give drummers the means to work on their chops. Apart from size, there are only a few key features that which set them apart, and we’ll take a brief look at those below.
As far as size goes, if portability is a factor, then you’d probably want to go with a smaller pad. These also have the advantage of forcing accuracy due to a smaller playing surface. Larger pads more closely resemble the size of a real drum.
Quiet practice anytime, anywhere is a tremendous part of what makes practice pads so viable in the first place. You can work on rudiments and patterns late-night, between classes, on the couch, or wherever life takes you. For most drummers, the quieter the better. Try to find a pad with a softer, more absorptive top if you want to keep the volume down.
Practice pads try to simulate the experience of playing a snare drum. Some replicate what a tighter snare would feel like, with a lot of bounce back, and others feel like a looser snare drum with less recoil. It’s important to try to find the right stick response that makes sense for your style of playing or the desired technical development.
Most of us probably wouldn’t associate versatility with something as elementary as a practice pad. However, you can find two-sided pads that offer a different stick response and/or quietness on either side for a touch more versatility than a standard single-sided one.
The 10 Best Practice Drum Pads in 2023
The Evans RealFeel is a 12″ pad that fits in most snare stands. It’s very quiet, and one side has a quiet, gummier surface closely replicating the feel of a real snare, while the other is hard rubber for a more tactile and bouncy feel. Drummers can get the best of both worlds with the two-sided RealFeel.
Aquarian’s Tru-Bounce pad offers a sort of two-in-one solution for either practicing on your real kit at low volumes, or practicing standalone using the pad. It fits right on top of your existing snare drum, and the shock-absorbing surface transfers less energy to the snare for quieter drumming. You can also just set it on a table, in a stand, or anywhere else for standard pad usage.
Remo’s 8″ tunable pad is a highly affordable and versatility practice solution for drummers. It features the look and feel of a real drum, and you can actually adjust the tension by “tuning” it. Overall, it provides a muffled response and is the perfect tool to keep in backpack with some sticks whenever you’re on the go and need to get some practice in.
The Zildjian Reflexx is a proper workout device for any sticks-man. On one side you have the Flexx surface providing a realistic stick bounce; on the other side is the Workk surface for lower-velocity exercises and quieter sound. The 10″ surface is akin to a real drum, and the quality is very high.
Believe it or not, there are brands out there innovating the humble drum practice pad. Drumeo leads the way with their unique three-tiered P4 practice pad. At the bottom is a gum rubber section mimicking a snare; the next section has harder rubber and is split into a high-tom side and a floor tom side; at the top is the hardest section that simulates a ride cymbal. For the most musical feel, nothing compares.
The Heavy Hitter consists of a wooden base with a 3/16″ rubber pad on top. It’s meant to recreate the feel of a marching snare specifically, so it may not be the best choice for the average drummer. For marching percussionists, though, this is a sturdy and portable pad with a realistic feel.
Remo’s Silentstroke drumhead promises to reduce practice volume by up to 80%. The 8″ surface is on the smaller side, so accuracy training is possible with it. You can mount the pad in a stand, or use the rubber bottom to place on any hard surface or tabletop.
Sabian’s 14″ mesh pad may offer one of the most realistic snare playing feels without any of the noise. You can conveniently place it on top of your regular snare, in a stand, or even just in your lap. The stick response of mesh is quite different to that of rubber, and the included tuning rods allow you to adjust the tension.
Now here’s something unconventional. The Putty “Pad” by Remo is literally just a container of silicone putty that you can spread on any hard surface and practice rudiments on. For something that’s truly portable and also moldable to different thicknesses and shapes, Putty Practice may be just the thing for some players.
Finally, we arrive at another unconventional practice pad in the form of the 1.5″ Wicked Chops developer. The tiny playing surface requires utmost precision to help build accuracy and power over time. Fit it to any 8mm cymbal stand and you have a quiet, portable practice companion that will surely develop better technique through hours of use.