Musicians know that practice is essential for progress, but for drummers, sometimes it’s not so simple. A drum set is loud, takes up plenty of space, or set up time may not be available.
One of the top solutions for the inconvenience of practicing drums is to grab a practice pad. Practice pads (sometimes referred to as “drum pads“) are useful for keeping skills sharp when on the road, can’t make too much noise, or to pinpoint specific aspects of a drummer’s playing.
So what are the best practice pads for drummers? With so many different pads available on the market, it can be confusing and overwhelming. I’ve compiled this practice pad buyers guide of the top selling pads to make things easier.
What to Look for in a Quality Drum Pad
All drummers need to practice, and it is of my own opinion that all drummers should also have a practice pad. If you talk to any drummer, no matter their skill level, they will tell you that they use one. They also make an excellent gift for any drummer. Before you go out grabbing the first one you see, be sure to know what to look for.
Size, Weight, and Portability
Drums are large, bulky, and take up a lot of space. The advantage of a practice pad is that it provides portability. Pads are not suitable for live performing, but they have the advantage of keeping skills sharp without the need of a drum set.
It is important to consider whether or not transportation of the pad is needed. Depending on your needs, portability may or may not be a huge issue. For example, you may want to have a pad beside your desk during breaks at work. If left at the office, it won’t need to be moved around often.
Size is the second factor. Some practice pads mimic the size of a standard snare drum (14 inches), while others designed for travel are as small as 4 inches. A large surface area is easier for practice but takes up more space, and a small surface saves space but can be trickier to use.
Lastly, consider the weight of a pad. The smaller and lighter the pad creates problems with the pad moving around with use. A heavier pad might stay in place, but sacrifices portability.
Feel and Volume
When choosing the right pad, think about what feel you want. Some pads mimic the feel of real drums, while others create different levels of resistance for practice purposes. Do you want more bounce in your strokes, or are you looking for a softer surface to build muscle and conditioning?
Look at the material that the pad is using to determine how it is going to feel. Pads are made with a range of plastics, rubbers, and woods to produce all sorts of different resistances.
Materials also have an effect on the volume and sound quality created during use. In a situation where playing quiet is crucial, a softer pad is needed. If volume isn’t an issue, there are more options. Some pads even mimic the sound of marching snares but have louder volume.
Skill Level and Features
Depending on your skill levbel, some pads will be more suitable. If you are casually practicing during free time, any standard pad should do as long as the feel and volume is right. If you are a serious player looking for a higher performing pad, there are other options.
Every pad should have at least one side that you’ll practice on (Or else why did you buy it?). Some pads can be flipped over to get a different sound and feel. Other pads offer multiple surfaces.
There are pads designed for drum lines and drum corps. These have thicker surfaces and some use “snares” to produce sounds to mimic snare drums. No matter the skill level and purpose, there will be different options to choose from.
Pads are great due to the large amount of practice power in such a cheap package. Considering the price of a drum set, practice pads are especially affordable.
Some pads cost more than others, but the average price will run around $20-30. The more pro pads range a little higher from $40-55, and the most expensive ones range from $60-100+.
Reviews on 11 Different Drum Practice Pads
I’ve gone ahead and done the hard work to review the best practice pads for drumming. There are quite a few out there, so make sure to know what you’re looking for in a pad before reading ahead.
The Real Feel pads are made by Evans, better known as a drum head company. The pad features a gum rubber surface for the main striking side, and a much harder neoprene surface on the back. The body is made of a lightweight MDF type material, which is nice for portability, but might break easier than other materials.
On a positive note, the pad is lightweight and the gum rubber surface provides a nice bouncy feel. In my personal opinion, it doesn’t feel much like a real drum, but is still a good surface to practice on. The gum rubber is also very quiet, which makes it ideal for practice situations where volume is an issue.
The second side is a thicker layer of neoprene for more definition. It is a good option for those looking for an experience closer to that of a marching snare. It is also louder.
There are two sizes available:12 inch, and 6 inch. The 12 inch is a good size and has the ability for mounting on any regular snare stand. The 6 inch pad is good for travel, but due to it’s light weight, can be prone to moving around while being played.
- Decent quality
- Affordable price
- Good amount of rebound
- 2 surfaces
- 6 inch pad might move while being played
- MDF not as durable as other stronger materials
This is the main competition to the Evans Real Feel pad and is arguably the better option. Created by stick company Vic Firth, this pad features similar properties: 12-inches in size with two playing surfaces. Vic firth has a few other pads with similar properties, but this two sided pad is their top seller.
In most respects, this pad is pretty close to the Evans 2-sided pad. The difference is in the nuances of playing feel and sound which is very much personal to every drummer. As a plus, it is a few ounces lighter than the Evans pad and a few dollars cheaper.
The main side of the pad features a soft rubber which is slightly louder than the Evans version, but with a little less bounce. The backside has a harder rubber surface to simulate a marching snare feel. This side is louder and provides less rebound, but is a good option.
One gripe to note is that the top portion of the pad is removed to make room for the Vic Firth Logo and is not playable. In contrast, the Evans Pad has a fully playable surface. This could be an issue if a pad with a completely playable surface is needed.
- Great Quality
- Two different surfaces
- Good rebound
- Slightly cheaper than Real Feel pad
- Pad surface is not fully playable
There is a high chance you have already seen this pad before in music class while growing up. This 10″ pad made by drum head makers Remo is a mainstay and has remained a staple practice tool for years.
Over time, little has changed with this pad’s design. It features a real 10″ Remo coated Ambassador head, which covers a layer of foam. The resistance is not quite as bouncy as some of the rubber heads, but still gives good rebound. When compared, it has a much softer feel than other pads.
One thing to note in this particular practice pad is that it is very loud, so if volume is a concern, stay away. Additionally, there is a plastic rim around the pad for rim shots and clicks. The rim is fairly thin, so be forewarned that you will chew through your sticks quickly with extended use.
An interesting feature of this pad is that it is tunable. Around the edge are 8 screws that can be adjusted using a flat head screwdriver. Why they chose against the use of standard lugs that can be changed with a normal drum key is beyond me. Nonetheless, if you happen to have a screwdriver handy, you have the option of changing the tightness of the head for a custom experience.
The bottom of the pad cannot be played, but does have a rubber ring around the edge to keep the pad in place. There is also a small threaded hole in the center which allows for mounting on specific cymbals stands. Most cymbal stands will work, just make sure that they are threaded all the way to the top, otherwise you will not be able to mount it.
- Affordable Price
- Added rim gives a more authentic experience
- Mountable on a cymbal stand
- Very lightweight
- Very loud
- Rim can destroy sticks
- Only one playing surface
- Tuning feature requires a screwdriver which some drummers may not have
This pad comes in a small container roughly the size of a plum. Inside is a bright orange, silly putty-like material. If you’ve played with silly putty before, you’ll know the feeling.
The putty is spread out to become a small practice pad. Almost any flat surface will do, which allows practice nearly anywhere. It will not leave any marks or residue on the surfaces it is placed on. The rebound may not be as strong as other pads, but portability is this pad’s strength.
Volume-wise, it is about the same as other rubber pads. One disadvantage (Or advantage depending on preferences), is that it creates a very small surface area for practice. Additionally, after a while of practice, the putty will lose it’s grip and needs to be pushed back into place.
Overall, if you’re really broke and need something to practice on, this is a great option. For those on the road a lot, this is a decent alternative to lugging around a pad. In the end, if you’re in the market for a pad and have the money, there are better options available.
- Extremely portable
- Really cheap price
- Sticks to most surfaces
- Fun to play with
- Not an ideal practice surface
- Small surface area
- Requires a hard surface to use
Easily the most portable and affordable option are the rubber practice tips from Vic Firth. Coming in at a cheaper price, these tips give the putty pad a run for its money. These tips will turn almost any stick and surface into a “practice pad”.
According to Vic Firth, these tips are universal and will fit most sticks. I use 5a’s, and have used the tips successfully before, but have not personally tried them on any other stick. I would assume any sort of marching stick with a very large tip would not accommodate these very well.
As for rebound, it is not as ideal as a well chosen practice pad, but it is a significantly better alternative to nothing. The volume is also quiet, which is preferable.
Some disadvantages include a few reviewers saying that the tips are having difficulty staying on the stick and keep falling off. For some sticks with very small tips, this could be a problem. Additionally, due to the added weight, the performance of the stick itself is altered, which can be a problem for consistency.
In Summary, if you are looking for the least expensive option with the most portability, this is your best bet. However, if you don’t like the idea of altering the weight of your sticks, or are concerned with the tips falling off, you may want to head back to the putty pad. Otherwise, spend the money and invest in something more professional. You can always pop these into your stick bag and grab a pad as well.
- Most lightweight option available
- Cheapest price available
- Works on nearly any surface
- Quiet (depending on surface used)
- Fits most drum sticks
- Not for high performance practice
- Tips might fall off
- So small that they can get lost easily
- Alters weight of the stick
Taking the standard pad design a little further, drum education company Drumeo, designed a unique and interesting practice surface. The aim is to mimic the different tensions of each drum in an acoustic drum kit.
Drumeo teamed up with drummer/educator Pat Patrillo to create this pad, and it looks like they did quite a bit research. This pad features four different playable surfaces with different levels of hardness. Additionally, the pad has different heights for the each sections to aid in movement when applying techniques to the drum set.
At the front is a standard gum rubber pad similar to the Vic Firth or Real Feel pad, designed to mimic the snare drum. Up a little higher is the black pad on the left made of a tougher neoprene surface designed to mimic the tighter rebound of a high rack tom.
The white area on the right is a less responsive and softer surface designed to feel like a floor tom. And finally, the highest level features an orange pad made of a dense material, designed to feel like a ride cymbal or a tough kevlar marching snare drum.
If looking for the most versatility possible, you’ll find it in this P4 pad. The different tiers provide conditioning which might be useful when getting on a real drum kit. Volume-wise, this pad ranges from very loud to very quiet. Depending on circumstances, you can find a volume that will work.
On the negative side, this pad is one of the least portable. The pad is 12″ in diameter, however the elevated levels create a bulky design. It is also slightly heavier than some pads weighing in at around 4lbs.
Lastly, the price of the Drumeo P4 practice pad is the highest out there. Coming in at $65.99, you’ll want to make sure you will be using all of the pad’s functions to get your money’s worth.
Overall, I like this pad for it’s versatility, it’s good looks, and it’s uniqueness. Those looking for a lot of features in one pad will want to grab this. However, I feel overwhelmed by the options, and find that it’s just too tempting to jump around to the different pads. It’s fun, but might end up being more of a distraction than a conditioning tool.
If you have the money and enjoy multiple features in one package, you’ll want to grab this one for sure. If you prefer a simpler practice experience at a cheaper price, look elsewhere.
- Multiple playing surfaces for maximum versatility
- Volume ranges from quiet to loud
- Unique tiered design looks great and might be applicable to drumset
- Ability to mimic different playing surfaces in one package
- Heavier and bulkier than most pads
- Multiple surfaces can be distracting and may be unnecessary depending on personal preferences
- High price point
If you are like me, there are times you don’t have a drum pad handy right before a show, but you want to get your hands moving. To avoid annoying everyone around you by hitting a hard table, you use your leg. This works, but also hurts and causes bruising. Gibraltar has attempted to remedy this situation with their Pocket Practice Pad.
Coming in at 4 inches, this pad is very portable, and can even fit in your pocket. It has velcro straps that wrap around the leg, allowing practice virtually anywhere while seated. It uses a stainless steel backing for support, but also has a rubber bottom to allow you to place it on any flat surface.
I really like this pad because it can fit in any stick bag so I always have a pad handy. It also remedies the previously mentioned issues with the putty pad and rubber tips. Not to mention it also has great rebound and is quiet.
Be forewarned, 4 inches is very small. If you are a beginner drummer and are having issues playing in the center of the drum, you will find this pad extremely difficult to use (same goes for the putty pad). It is not meant to replace a standard pad, but to be a decent backup when a bigger pad isn’t around.
If four inches is too small, Ahead makes a similar version that is 5-inches in size for $1.00 more. Additionally, Gibraltar has a different 5-inch version with a more ergonomic leg contoured design. I do not like this pad however because it is much bulkier and defeats the purpose of the original pocket pad. Feel free to check them out.
In summary, if you’re looking for a tiny pad that can be used on the go, this is a great option. However, if you are in the market for a larger more professional playing surface, use something else.
- Very portable (fits in pocket)
- Decent rebound
- Straps securely to leg
- Very small playing surface area
- Useless if strap is lost
Coming from cymbal makers Sabian, the Quiet Tone Practice Pad is my absolute favorite practicing tool. I find this pad is largely unknown, and judging from the lack of reviews available, could use some more exposure.
Designed to be just like a standard snare drum, the quiet tone pad features the largest playing surface available coming in at 14 inches. It uses a mesh surface covered by a coated drum head similar to a coated ambassador of Evans G1 coated.
In my opinion, I’ve never had a better experience on a pad than with the Quiet Tone. Playing-wise, I have always loved the rebound I receive from the pad. The sound is quiet but with plenty of definition. It is not the quietest pad available, but is very reasonable.
The real joys of the pad come in when utilizing all of it’s versatility options. First off, the coated head and large size allows practice with brushes just like on a real snare. If the coating is wearing off, the head can be replaced. This can greatly expand practice options if brushes are handy.
Secondly, the pad features an adjustable triple flanged hoop identical to the ones on a drum kit. This allows for practicing rim shots and cross sticks just like on a normal snare. The hoop is also tunable which can change the tension of the head.
In contrast to the Remo pad, the Quiet Tone features lugs that can be turned with a standard drum key. This is great, but due to a silly design flaw, you will need the aid of a wrench or pliers to hold the bottom nut in place when turning the lug. Sadly, tuning is a little more painful than it should be.
Lastly, the four legs that the pad is built on allows placing the pad directly on your snare, which double as a snare mute. This is interesting because you will be able to hear the snare sounds without the loud volume. Any pad can do this, but due to the Quiet Tone’s design, it gives a better snare response.
While this is my favorite pad to play on, it does come without some major drawbacks. First, the large size and weight (over 5lbs) makes portability a challenge. You won’t be taking this pad with you everywhere you go.
By design, when the pad is struck, it transfers the vibrations downwards through the four legs and into whatever surface it is placed on. This gets a greater response when placed on a snare, but when placed on a table, it makes everything louder.
Because of this volume issue, a snare stand is not required but desired. If those are not handy, you’ll find things slightly louder than you had hoped.
Lastly, the Quiet Tone has a higher price tag coming in at $49.95.
If the size is too large, Sabian does offer a 10-inch version for $39.95. This is a similar experience to the larger version, but playing the pad with brushes is not as easy. Sabian offers a line of mesh only pads without the coated head at an even cheaper price . However, since I find the coated head to be a huge selling point, I’m not as big a fan of the mesh line.
Overall, I find the Quiet Tone to be the best pad experience available, however if you don’t have the money and are looking for something more portable, consider avoiding this one.
- Coated head allows for both stick and brush playing
- Largest playing surface area available
- Great stick response and volume control
- Doubles as a drum mute
- Triple flanged hoop gives an authentic experience
- Not very portable
- Higher price point
- volume increases when used on tables and desks
- Tuning feature is a pain to implement
- Requires mounting on a snare stand or drum for best use
Now we begin to get into practice pads that are aimed at drum corps and marching players. Marching snares are tighter, have a dryer and crisper sound, and produce more definition. The heads are usually made of thicker material like kevlar. The Invader V3 by Offworld Percussion attempts to mimic that sort of marching experience.
The first thing to note is the price tag. The original V3 pad comes in at $61.90 on Amazon, which is expensive. On their website however, they can sell for $90 and up. Even though this pad is a staple amongst the marching community, is it worth the steep price?
Offworld Percussion has attempted to make a pad that feels exactly like a marching snare. They do this through what they call their “dark matter” polymer. Dark matter is essentially just a harder rubber. It is proprietary to Offworld as they are the only ones with the formula. Many marching drummers state that this pad is the closest they have come to a real snare feel.
The pad’s surface provides excellent rebound and a decent amount of volume suppression. It is louder than other gum rubber versions, but still quieter than the remo pad.
The Invader V3 also comes with a “stick saving” rim around the edge. It is made of a dense plastic that is slightly rounded at the strike point. Marching players are known to hit hard, but the pad’s robust construction should withstand a beating and won’t break. If you’re using the rim, the volume of the pad increases significantly.
On the downside, the bottom surface isn’t really meant to be played. In terms of versatility, this pad only has one surface to hit. Additionally, the pad is not very light, weighing in at almost 5lbs. It is also a little larger (13-inches) and bulkier than other pads, making portability difficult.
Many reviewers have stated that the look and feel of the pad wears down over time, and requires a bit of cleaning to bring it back to it’s normal state.
If looks are what you’re after, Offworld provides many different versions of the V3 Invader with other color options, and there is a softer gum rubber version available as well. For the serious marching drummer, there are tougher versions made with a mylar coating for a higher cost. The standard V3 Invader is the top seller though.
In summary, if you are a marching drummer, you’re friends will probably be recommending this pad already. I personally find it overpriced for it’s heavier weight, and what little features it provides. If you are not involved with the marching community, ignore the hype and find a cheaper pad that gives a similar experience.
- High quality and durable construction
- Cool look with different color options
- Nice stick rebound
- Gives an authentic marching feel
- Strong stick saving rim
- surface requires cleaning from time to time
- Heavy and bulky
- Only one playing surface
Marching drummers that find the Invader V3 to be a good choice but too pricey may want to consider Vic Firth’s Heavy Hitter Slim Pad. It is designed with the same marching community in mind, but at a better price.
The Slim Pad has a simple design with a 3/16″ thin gum rubber surface. The surface is thinner to create a harder feel and more articulate sound. On the backside is a soft rubber backing to prevent slipping, which works very well. The backside is playable, but is not really designed for use. It’s a similar experience to practicing on a mouse pad.
On the main side, compared to the V3 Invader, the playing feel is similar, but the volume is much louder. The Slim Pad also does not have a rim. Lastly, the pad is much lighter (3.4lbs), thinner, and slightly smaller than the Invader giving far better portability.
Vic Firth also offers a replaceable mylar laminate insert that can be put on top of the Slim Pad for greater articulation. The laminate also gives a better surface for sweeps and scrapes. However, after a few months of use, the glue may come loose and a new laminate is required. This can get costly after multiple replacements.
Overall, the slim pad provides a very authentic marching feel at almost half the price of the Invader V3. If looking for a marching style practice pad at a cheaper price, this is a solid choice. It’s especially great for beginner snare drummers looking for a cheaper investment. Alternatively, if you’re a drum set player without any interest in marching, there are better pads for you.
- Authentic feel
- Replaceable laminate insert available for more versatility
- Lightweight and portable
- Half the price of the Invader V3
- Only one real playable surface
- No rim
- Surface not 100% playable
Honorable Mention: Vic Firth Heavy Hitter Stock Pad
Don’t be alarmed, I am not reviewing the same pad twice. The Stock Pad is the second in Vic Firth’s Heavy Hitter series. I have added this product to clarify the confusion between the Stock Pad and the Slim Pad.
Even on their own website, Vic Firth leaves very little information about the differences between the Slim Pad and the Stock Pad. In most respects, the Stock is near identical to the Slim. The only real difference is that the playing surface is slightly thicker than the Slim Pad. This gives the Stock Pad slightly more rebound, less volume, but with less articulation.
To be honest, since the Stock Pad is $3 more than the Slim Pad, and a tiny bit heavier, I would stay away. Vic Firth Already offers their standard double sided practice pad at a lower price point anyway. The Stock Pad attempts to bridge the gap between the two, but isn’t worth the cost and confusion.
- Durable construction
- Less volume than Slim Pad
- More articulation and authentic feel than standard pads
- Replaceable mylar laminate available
- Higher price than Slim Pad and standard pads
- Creates unnecessary confusion as to which Vic Firth product to purchase
- Only one playable surface
- Surface is not 100% playable
The Wrap Up
Clearly there are plenty of drum pads available for a wide variety of uses, feels, volumes, and playing styles. I haven’t covered everything available, but have tried to hit the best sellers on today’s market. Hopefully these reviews have helped narrow down which pad is best for you.
Which practice pad is your favorite? Have I missed anything? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!