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Every percussionist, every drummer, every professional and every beginner needs a practice pad. We all have to practice, but not all of us have easy access to practice facilities or instruments. That’s where the pad comes in. If you have the correct pad for the correct application, you can practice anywhere. But with so many options how do you know which pad is right for you? Let’s look through those options together and decide what works best.

We’ll start by splitting our pads into 3 categories; Drumset, Marching and Concert. Keep in mind there may be some overlap within these 3 categories. Many pads on the market today are designed to be versatile enough to be used by a marching snare drummer as well as a jazz drumset player.

Drumset & General Snare Drum Pads

First let’s discuss drumset pads. We can also call these general practice pads or snare drum practice pads. You’ll hear a lot about “playing surface” when you research practice pads. That’s basically just the “drum head” of the practice pad. Playing surface is important when considering a new practice pad because the more realistic the pad feels, the more beneficial the results are. A suitable drumset practice pad will have a playing surface that closely resembles the feel of a drumset.

Most manufacturers will use a gum rubber surface for these pads. Gum rubber provides a similar feel to the drumset and keeps the volume level to a minimum. Many gum rubber pads are double sided. One side has a thicker, less dense rubber that works well for drumset players; the other side has a denser, harder rubber that may work well for marching players. Also note that the harder rubber side will be louder as well, giving you the ability to have two practice volumes.

These pads are available in various sizes and shapes, usually no larger than 14” in diameter. This makes them very portable and convenient when travelling.

Brush Practice Pads? Really?

Not all drumset pads are rubber though. What if you want to practice your brush playing? And yes, you should practice your brush playing. Come on…

Remo and Sabian both make practice pads with coated drumset heads as a playing surface. These pads work well as drumset pads, concert pads and brush practice pads. They come in multiple sizes and in most cases are tunable as well. When or if the heads ever wear out or start to lose their coating, just replace them!

Marching Percussion Practice Pads

Marching practice pads are very similar to drumset or snare drum pads. There are a few added features to these pads that make them more suitable to marching players rather than drumset players. However, this doesn’t mean these pads are exclusive to just marching percussionists. Many drumset players and concert percussionists can benefit from using these pads in their practice routines.

Marching Snare Pads

Marching snare drum pads will have a much denser material for the playing surface. This could be a thinner layer of gum rubber on a dense wood base, a hard laminate surface over gum rubber or even a carbon fiber playing surface that is replaceable just like an actual drumhead! Some manufacturers even use proprietary blends of materials to create their own unique playing surfaces. These pads are intended to mimic the feel of a high-tension marching snare drum head.

You’ll also see many marching pads come with a rim for practicing rim shots. Again, the more realistic the feel of the practice pad, the more beneficial the practicing can be. Some marching snare pads also feature a built in artificial “snare sound”. Basically, a bead filled cavity in the base of the pad that mimics the sound of snares when played.

Marching Tenor and Bass Drum Pads

Marching practice pads aren’t just for snare drum players though! Bass drum and tenor players also have practice pad options. Manufacturer’s like Vic Firth, Ahead and Offworld Percussion make pads that fit the needs of marching bass drum and tenor players. Bass drummers can choose from a gum rubber pad that can mount to a tripod stand base or a mesh head pad that is tension adjustable. Both options provide a vertical playing surface that is needed for proper marching bass drum technique.

Tenor players can also choose from a foldable 6 drum configuration or a few different full size 5 or 6 drum configurations. Tenor pads work great on flat surfaces, but many can also be mounted to a snare drum stand. Obviously, these pads aren’t the most portable. Many bass drum and tenor players will keep their bass and tenor pads in their practice space and carry a smaller, more portable snare pad with them for practicing on the go.

Concert Percussion Pads

The concert percussion pads category houses some classic pad designs as well as some more modern designs. There is also quite a bit of overlap with the general snare drum pads category. A concert snare drummer can benefit just as much from a gum rubber snare pad as a drumset player could. Most beginning percussionists are introduced to practice pads almost immediately. We can almost all point to one of these two pads as being our very first: The Gladstone snare drum practice pad or the Remo tunable practice pad.

The Gladstone pad fits over any 14” drum and has a raised rubber playing surface in the middle. The Remo tunable pad comes in either 6”, 8” or 10” options and features a coated Ambassador head (they’re now also available with a Remo Silentstroke head too!). It also has a plastic tunable rim.

One other concert specific practice pad of note is the A. Stubbs Timpani Practice Pad. This unique pad uses a proprietary blend of materials designed to mimic the feel of timpani. It can be mounted in a snare drum stand for practice, but also has a rubber skid resistant base to keep it from sliding around if being used on a flat surface.

Practice Pad Accessories

There are also additional practice pad accessories you can choose from. As mentioned before, some pads feature replaceable heads. There are also laminates available that can turn a gum rubber pad into more of a marching style pad. These are available for snare pads as well as tenor pads. Multiple stand options are also available. Remo has a stand that fits their tunable pads. Most of the other pads fit great in a drumset or concert snare drum stand. The Ahead tenor pads can be mounted on a snare drum stand as well. If you have any questions about what stands or laminates fit what pads, please feel free to give us a call.

It should be noted that there is not one PERFECT practice pad. There is no such thing as ONE PAD TO RULE THEM ALL! It’s often a good idea to have multiple pads with different playing surfaces and features. As percussionists, we’re playing on multiple surfaces all the time! Having the correct practice tools (and performance tools…) for the job is crucial to our success.

Percussion Source Knows Pads!

With so many different pads available it is easy to get overwhelmed. But the good thing about having so many options is that you are bound to find one that fits your needs. Your Percussion Source team is ready and happy to help you select the best practice pads for you! The practice pad industry is always changing. New pads are coming out every year and new features are being introduced that make our practice time more productive and enjoyable. Percussion Source works hard to stay on top of these trends and bring the newest, coolest products to market first! We want you to stay in the front row with us by joining us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where we will keep you up to date on the newest products! You can also always subscribe to receive our email newsletter through our website!

Test Drive A Pad!

Last but certainly not least, how can you try these pads out before you purchase from us? We love to bring a large sampling of pads to shows throughout the year! You can find us at numerous regional WGI events in the winter and spring as well as WGI finals with almost every available pad option on display. If you attend PASIC in the fall you can try out pads there as well. Your Percussion Source team has extensive personal knowledge and experience with all the pads we offer. We are ready and available to help you with any questions. We want you to enjoy your practice pads as much as we do ours!