Practice Tips for Drummers
Practice time is often at a premium, so I thought I would offer a few words and ideas on getting the best out of the time you do have.
It is also quickly worth mentioning – for the benefit of those readers who don’t practice at all: don’t sell yourself short! Developing your skill as a musician plays a big part in enhancing the joy of playing and if you can kick-start some kind of regular practice routine, I would guarantee you’ll get more reward from your drumming. Practice really does work!
1. Warm up. Stretching the fingers and wrist tendons gently; try wringing your hands to get the blood flowing to the finger tips. Basic snare exercises like slow singles (RLRL…) and doubles (RRLL…) are good – paradiddles if you fancy getting exotic – anything which gets your fingers moving and your head focused on the job in hand. Another good approach to try – especially if you only have a very short practice time allotted (I have coined this: ‘Power Practice’ – like a power nap!) is to start by warming up – very slowly and gently – playing whatever exercise you have planned to work on that day: this will get the hands working and, as above, your focus on what you are about to do.
2. Have a plan. However basic it might be, even if you have only 10 minutes to spare, be clear on what you are going to work on and take your time – you can always come back to it again later. Becoming a musician is a lifelong journey so don’t skimp – try to get it right first time by starting very slowly. This methodical approach means you will understand more thoroughly what it is you are actually trying to do and will also aid in maintaining the all-important quality in your playing. Cover all ‘in-between’ tempos as you develop an idea. A lot of players miss this in the rush to get as fast as they can as quickly as possible. Song tempos vary, so we should be comfortable with our technique and control across a wide tempo range. Work on ‘flat spots’ (tempos where an exercise feels particularly awkward) by pushing dynamic boundaries – loud and soft. This will increase control at a given tempo by widening subtle technique variations at the problem speed, helping you to push through constrictions.
Getting specific, a system I find useful for both my students and myself if you’re learning a new tune, is to play along with it and pause the track when you hit a point where you feel unsure, then work on that small part in isolation until it works. Think of a mechanic: find where the problem is and fix that small part, rather than repeatedly working through the entire ‘working’ engine. Fix the problem; re-fit the part and then run the whole thing.
Fluency and consistency are often factors which we find attractive in the playing of others, so developing this in your own performances can be an excellent basic goal for any practice time. If we can learn to execute all the ideas we sense as a track progresses, we will feel more in tune with the music and satisfied that we are contributing effectively to the direction and feel that the music is setting out.
Check out some of the ideas I shared during my workshop on practice at Leicester Drum Hang 2015: Dye House Drum Works YouTube site
“Success is a journey, not a destination” Ben Sweetland