How to Play Rim Shots on the Drums: Ultimate Guide

How to Play Rim Shots on the Drums - Ultimate Guide

Rim shots are a commonly used drumming technique. They’re mostly played on the snare drum, and they’re an incredibly powerful tool for achieving intense dynamics within grooves and fills. 

They’re both over and underused by many drummers, so it’s important to know how and when to use them to serve whatever music you’re playing as best you can. 

In this guide, I’ll explain exactly how to play a rim shot on the drum kit, and I’ll give you a few exercises to help improve how you perform the technique. 

What is a Rim Shot on the Drums?

A rim shot is when you strike the drum head and rim of a drum at the same time. The tip of the drumstick hits the drumhead while the body makes contact with the rim. 

Rim shots produce a very powerful and focused sound, and they are used almost exclusively on snare drums.

Many people get confused between rim shots and cross-sticks, and they often mistake their names for each other. But a cross-stick would be when you hold your stick across the drumhead and only play the rim to get a softer clicking sound. 

When Should You Play Rim Shots?

It all depends on the music that you’re playing. Some styles of music, particularly rock music, thrive off of having rimshots sitting strongly in the mix.

Rimshots are the most powerful technique for playing a snare drum, so you’ll always get the loudest and punchiest snare drum sound.

In styles like punk, rock, and metal, you typically want to get the most powerful sound as possible from your snare, so rimshots are very commonly used. 

But rimshots sound too aggressive for softer styles of music like country folk or soft pop music.

Drummers that play that style tend to only hit the center of the snare drum, as well as keeping the snare tuning relatively low. 

When doing a drum recording, rim shots tend to sound fantastic coming through drum mics. They make your drums sound punchy and distinct. 

They tend to sound a bit different in live settings, though, so always keep in mind that playing live and recording drums should be approached differently when it comes to rim shots. 

The Importance of Rim Shots

The Importance of Rim Shots

The main purpose of a rim shot is to get a very loud and punchy sound, but you can also change the kind of sound you get by altering where your stick strikes the drum. 

This change is known as a dynamic change, and dynamics are what you can use to make your drumming sound musical. A rim shot is a technique that you can use to get various sounds from your snare, and that’s what makes it such an important tool for every drummer to have. 

If you don’t know how to play rim shots, you’re severely limiting the number of beats and fills that you can play on the drum set.

So, rim shots should be a technique that you learn very early on in your drumming journey. 

Ultimate Rim Shot Technique Guide

Playing a rim shot is relatively simple, as you just need to focus on three things – the angle and height of your snare drum, the position of your stick, and how high you lift your stick. 

Before attempting to play rim shots, you need to make sure your snare drum is positioned more flat rather than at an angle.

Snare Drum Height and Angle

To achieve the perfect rimshot, you’ll need to position your snare drum so it is rather flat so the stick hits the rim in addition to the drumhead.

If your snare is angled too far toward you, you’ll have trouble getting a flat stick strike to achieve a strong rim shot sound. 

If your snare is angled too far away from you, you’ll most likely only be hitting the rim.

You also need to make sure that your snare drum is raised high enough so that you don’t need to straighten your arm downward to play the rim shot.

Your snare should be high enough so that your forearm rests at a relatively flat angle. 

To achieve the best rimshot sound, you should experiment with different angles so that you can find the sweet spot where you hit both the rim and center of the drumhead consistently.

Stick Position

The best position for a rim shot is when the tip of your drumstick strikes the center of the drum heads.

You’ll get the fullest sound from this, and the rim shot will have plenty of body. However, you can move the stick forwards or backward to achieve different tones. 

If you move the stick backward toward your body, you’ll get a higher-pitched sound from your rim shot. It won’t sound as full, but it will be cracking. 

If you move the stick forward so that the tip of the stick strikes slightly above the center, you’ll get a lower-pitched sound. 

Stick Height

Once you have a position in mind, you need to focus on how high you lift your drumstick. 

The higher you lift the stick, the louder your rim shot will be. The lower you lift it, the softer it will be. 

Rim shots don’t always need to be very loud, so having a short range of motion between each strike often sounds a lot better. 

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your stick positioning and height, you can strike the drumhead and rim at the same time, and you’ll have your rim shot. 

Rim Shot Drumming Exercises

Here are a few exercises to work on playing rim shots on the snare drum. Make sure to work on them at a few different tempos, and then you should have the technique nailed in no time! 

Exercise 1

Exercise 1

This first exercise is just a basic drum groove. It’s the simple rock beat that beginner drummers learn to play in their first lesson, but you’re going to only use rim shots when playing the snare drum. 

You should be comfortable with this groove already, so it’s a great one to use when focusing on perfecting your rim shot technique. 

Exercise 2

Exercise 2

For this next exercise, you’re going to play the same rock groove as before. However, you’re going to alternate between a standard snare drum strike and a rim shot. 

The idea here is to give a clear difference between the two techniques. On beat 2, you’re going to simply hit the snare in the center. On beat 4, you’re going to play a rim shot by striking the center and the rim at the same time. 

Exercise 3

 Exercise 3

Here’s a single paradiddle. It’s one of the most important rudiments to learn, and it’s relatively simple to play. 

You’re going to incorporate rim shots by accenting all the downbeats in the bar. This is a great exercise to work on playing rim shots with both your right and left hand. 

Drummers often forget to work on developing their rim shot technique equally on both hands. 

Exercise 4

Exercise 4

Now, you’re going to play another rudiment called a single stroke roll. This one is even easier than a single paradiddle, as you’re just alternating your hands constantly. 

You’re going to switch from standard strokes to rim shots after every four notes. This is another exercise that will help you develop a clear difference between those two techniques. 

Exercise 5

Exercise 5

The final exercise is another groove. You’ll play 16th notes on the hi-hat, and then you’ll play two rimshots on the snare with both your hands. 

It can often be tricky to land rim shots after playing the hi-hat, so this exercise aims to develop that skill. 

Make sure to play both rim shots with equal volume. 


One important tip to note about rim shots is that it’s always better to hit the drumhead than the rim. If you feel that your rim shot isn’t quite going to land, make sure to lean your stick forward to get a sound from the head. 

It always sounds like a mistake when drummers hit only the rim, but most people don’t notice if you only hit the head. 

Remember to practice. The more rim shots you play on the drum kit, the more natural the technique will come to you when you play drums.

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