Having a good reliable practice pad is essential when trying to become the best drummer you can be in the year 2023.
Being able to practice your chops on the move or in a quiet environment is a great way to keep things loose and oiled up.
Becoming stale, taking time off the kit, can be detrimental to your progress on the instrument, and with how many drummers are trying to make a living out of it, the only way to get there is to be the best.
In this article, we will be looking at some of the best practice pads out there currently. We will be excluding bass drum pads as that requires a whole other set of criteria.
Why do I need one?
Again, time away equals time wasted.
Not everyone has the luxury to play the drums whenever they please, having a practice pad allows it.
Some people have jobs that require them to be on the move, unable to bring a kit with them. Others live in highly populated areas where no one wants to hear banging and clanking at three in the morning.
A pad is the best next thing to keep up on your practice, and to keep your body in the groove of playing.
How do I pick?
That is completely up to your personal preference. Every pad has their own personality in a way. There is not one to rule them all as everyone has their own personal preference and feel.
You can hit a pad that everyone else loves but completely hate it, and that is ok.
The best way to pick is to get your hands on some of these to try them out. Go to your local music store and ask to try out a few pads.
Use this article as a guide to help steer you in the right direction.
Get a mirror!
Commonly amongst drummers we are ego maniacs and love looking at ourselves. But on a serious note, get a mirror!
Practicing with a pad in front of a mirror is a major advantage. You can see your techniques from different angles, that’s right, surround yourself in mirrors!
Ideally, yes, that would be great, but one in front of you is sufficient. It allows you to see how each of your arms are moving.
If your right hand is your strong arm and is moving differently than your left one, then maybe try matching your left to your right.
There are honestly so many different uses for playing with one, matching up your arms to keep them equal is one of the greatest uses.
Another great one is watching your posture, look at Buddy Rich and see what happens when you have bad posture on the kit.
These are the best drum practice pads you can buy:
Evans RealFeel 12″ two-sided
The RealFeel is a classic in the drum pad game. It features a two-sided model, one with a harder gum rubber. This side allows for realistic rebound mimicking that of a real drum.
The other side is a recycled rubber which is softer. Having the softer side allows the player to practice their endurance, or to work on getting those double strokes up to snuff.
Most standard snare stands will be able to hold it, or you can nestle it on any standard sized snare, allowing for practice to occur right at the kit before shows.
The pad also comes in a 6-inch model. Evans does produce a line of smaller one-sided pads that are also mountable but having the two sides is a great addition.
The only downfall is that you cannot mount this pad, and it can have a strong smell coming from the glue when you first purchase it. Other than that, it is one of, if not the best pad on the market.
Remo Silentstroke 8″
Another classic that we have found in almost every high school band room we have entered, the Remo Silentstroke.
Let us get this out of the way first, it is not exactly the most silent pad on the list despite its name.
What makes it so popular is the resemblance to a real drum it provides and the tunability. It comes equipped with a mesh drum head that again, is supposed to reduce the volume by 80%, it is quiet but not the quietest on the list.
The tensions screws on the sides allow for it to be slightly tuned to fit your preference, it also may increase or decrease the bounce.
A key factor that we quite enjoy is the rim, training players to be wary of it when playing real drums. In theory you could also practice rim shots on this pad as well.
Mountable, yes on an 8mm stand, as well as being tabletop safe. Silentstroke’s bottom features a rubber bottom preventing slippage when placing it on a surface.
Overall, this is the ugly, cheaper brother to the Real Feel but provides a great practice surface, the only downside may be that it looks like a kid’s toy.
Vic Firth 12″ two-sided
Vic Firth are the crème of the crop when it comes to drumsticks, but how does their practice pad shape up?
Just like the RealFeel it features a two-sided design. One side is black with a bouncy rubber, this resembles a tight snare head providing heavy bounce and rebound. Flip it over to the grey, this has less bounce, providing a good endurance workout.
You can also purchase this in a smaller 6-inch size for easier transport and practice on the go.
A small pet peeve of ours on this pad is the wasted space at the top. The Vic Firth logo is there when it could be extra pad space to help it further resemble a real drum.
In comparison to the RealFeel, they both have similar playability and function. It comes down to price with the Evans being a bit cheaper.
Though, if you love Vic Firth do not be afraid to pick up this pad at your music store!
Vic Firth Heavy Hitter Slimpad
Another pad by the kings of sticks, how will this stack up?
Starting at around $45, the Slimpad is ideal for drummers in the marching band. The thin rubber surface provides a feel very similar to that of a marching snare drum.
Keeping your chops and rudiments in line will be easy with this pad.
The bottom side features a grip that helps keep it in place when playing on tabletops, in your lap, or on the ground. Being 12 inches also allows it to fit into most standard snare stands, as well as making it portable.
In terms of the build quality, it seems to be quite complimented on its wooden base beings strong and sturdy.
Just like with the other pad, our only complaint is where the logo sits, we prefer a complete circle on the pad area to try and keep the real drum authenticity a bit higher.
Terminally, it is a great pad for marching drummers especially, if you’re a regular kit player don’t be afraid to try this one out either.
The QuietPad is seriously one of the quietest pads on the market. Off the bat I will say this is my go-to pad and I have been using it since it came out about two years ago.
Before we get to the quiet side let us talk about the blue. This side feels like every common practice pad, it has a lot of bounce, and the sound has very audible attack. What I enjoy most here is the thickness of this side.
Flip it around and we have the quiet pad which is very quiet. It feels like a foam, you will be able to tell through the stick, that is the only downside to this innovation, sometimes the foam presses down to the wood and it sends a shock up the stick.
When it is played at normal force you can surely tell the difference in volume. Now if you are a heavy hitter the quietness will not show through as much, but if you try and play lightly the sound is practically gone.
It is a bit on the heavier side but if you need to keep quiet in an apartment this is the pad for you.
Zildjian has quite the name in the cymbal market as well as diving into sticks and practice pads.
The Reflexx pad comes in at around $85 looking like that price. Compared to some of the other more expensive pads on the list, the Reflexx looks of a high quality and feels that way as well.
With two sides, one being called the Flexx side and the other Workk, you have two different playing surfaces too work with.
On the Flexx side Zildjian claims for it to have medium resistance and rebound, more so mimicking the feel of a tom. Workk does require more work, it has high resistance and low rebound, this side is made for building endurance and exposing technique.
Another cool feature is both sides being quite quiet, claiming to be 50% quieter than the average pad.
It comes in a 6-inch and 10-inch size, also with a few color options. Zildjian came in strong here, we would say the price could be a bit less, but you are getting good quality here.
RTOM Moongel 7″
Some pieces of gear belong in every drummer’s arsenal. The perfect tool to build strong endurance, the fastest chops, and the strongest arm around. Every drummer will need… a pillow!
What, you don’t want to be seen smacking down an innocent pillow? RTOM, has you covered with their Moongel workout pad, starting at around $45.
This pad is great for building up your strength on the kit. Hitting a normal pad is meant to simulate a regular drumhead with some bounce, here bounce doesn’t exist. This more so emulates a very loosely tuned floor tom but worse so you will really need to work to get doubles or any rolls in.
The pad comes in at 7 inches which makes it very portable, and the slight blue tint gives a very cool look, simple colors and design to be very modern. On the bottom it can be screwed onto a stand.
In terms of volume, it is quiet compared to a regular pad. This pad needs to be with all drummers as it is an amazing tool to build clean speed.
This is one of the more expensive pads on the list at around $80 on the Drumeo website, but it is well worth the extra cash.
Uniquely designed here are four separate playing surfaces all shoved onto one 12-inch pad. The bottom blue resembles that of a normal gum rubber pad, next up is the black resembling the feel of a tom, white feels like a floor tom, finally the orange on top is a harder surface to simulate a cymbal or marching snare.
This pad will have you creatively flowing, the different surfaces of course make different sounds making this pad fun to practice on.
Being able to flow around it as you would a drum kit is a giant plus, something no other single pad provides.
The pad is a bit thicker as the different surfaces stack up.
In all the pad is great for drummers who are already into the hobby, due the price we wouldn’t recommend this to any beginners.
Ahead Wicked Chops
The smallest pad on the market, one of the best built pads on the market, the Ahead Wicked Chops practice pad is another great skill-building tool needed in your toolbox.
What no other pad can do is force the player to home in on one specific spot, the one-and-a-half-inch space does just that. Building your accuracy is heavenly focused here.
Starting on this pad will be difficult, it took me a while to finally get a groove of hitting the pad, I kept swinging and missing, pure frustration. My sticks kept hitting the metal on the s… wait did I say metal?
Yes, the base of this pad is made of aluminum making it extremely heavy, sturdy, and strong. Don’t drop this on a tile floor as the tiles will crack.
Its 8-millimeter hole will screw into any standard cymbal or pad stand.
It is a 2-inch cylinder making it the most portable pad on the list, it practically fits into your pocket.
Coming in at about $30 the pad provides way more than the cost, in terms of its great build and its accuracy focused design.
The only complaint here is that when struck sometimes you feel more of the metal underneath than the pad itself. We would highly recommend beginners to get a hold of this to get an early start.
RTOM Black Hole
Forget about the traditional practice pad, turn your whole drum set into a practice kit! This is a bit of a stray from the article, but this is a worthy mention for those who cannot stand being away from the kit.
These pads snap on to your drums easily for a simple conversion. RTOM makes pads of all sizes to fit on top of almost any sized drum including the bass drum.
Some drums with die-cast or wooden hoops may require the straps that are sold separately at about $7 apiece, either way the install is not difficult.
RTOM claims the mesh plays at only 20% the volume of a regular drum, for my ears the attack is practically gone.
In terms of feel they are mesh heads so there is a bit more bounce than a regular drumhead, they sort of sink in.
Remo produces a set of silent heads; these may be far superior as they snap right on without having to change heads. The Black Holes also have a single tuning screw making that process much easier.
Pairing these with a set of quiet cymbals you can have a complete practice kit.
You can purchase the pads separately at around $70 apiece. Sweetwater also sells a set at $300 in the sizes of ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, and twenty-two inches.
To be able to practice quietly behind the kit is a great advantage to keep the fluidity around the drums smooth.
DW Go Anywhere
Another odd one out, but a more traditional pad in mind.
DW is the high-end of the drum market so you cannot go wrong with one of their products.
With five separate pads this is the ultimate way to stick with practice pads and feel the most like you are behind the kit.
Two of the pads are 8 inches, the other two are 10 inches, you can adjust and do as you please with them to fulfill your preferences.
Pads wise they feel like a traditional one, what makes this the ultimate set is it includes a kick pad as well with a spot to mount your bass pedal.
Figuring out new grooves, moving your rudiments around, and coordination between your hands and bass drum can now be practiced quietly with very little room taken up.
The stand collapses in just like a cymbal stand to make transportation a bit easier, also the pads can be folded inwards to further minimize it.
In terms of price this does come in at around $330. Something we wouldn’t recommend to a beginner due to that price, but if you are really digging the instrument and need a quiet way to practice the kit then this is the way to go.
Ahead Strap-on Practice Pad
If you are looking to be able to practice the drums anywhere this is the pad for you. Different companies have come up with strap-on pads but Ahead’s seems to be the best of them all.
It comes in at about $25 and comes in three different sizes, five, seven, and ten inches. All of which are reasonable to have on your knee for practice.
Now many people despise the knee pads as they can feel awkward, but if you really want to get used to it you can. The main issue is unless you have very long legs the pad can feel very close to you causing your arms to scrunch up a bit to be able to play.
In the right situations though some people can really benefit from having such an item. Perhaps you live in a hustle and bustle city where space to place your pad publicly is not available, just strap it on.
Personal experience with this pad for me is ok, but I don’t enjoy the gum rubber on it. When playing you can feel the stick strikes and it can get annoying when trying to focus; a foam or more absorbing material would greatly help.
With these ideas whether you like them or not they can be useful in certain situations.
Across the drumming community and market, you will come across far more practice pads than listed here, as well as hearing many more different rankings of which are best.
We have seen many people who take on the art of going out into nature or maybe a city and finding odd surfaces to practice on. Some people air drums to work on their endurance. Others have the luxury of being able to practice on the kit whenever they feel pleased to do so.
No matter your situation a practice pad is a great way to keep yourself focused when practicing, they expose the way you play in a way the drum set cannot.
It is just you and the pad, no tones coming from the toms, no snare wires, no desire to play other things, all you here are the initial attacks and if you are playing with a mirror as stated earlier you can really see how you are playing.
Every pad is made differently with none being made for one person, as with everything in life try out as many as you can before picking just one. The more options you have the closer you can get to the perfect one.