Jazz drummer Buddy Rich once said, “You only get better by playing.” But what really sets apart the great drummers from the mediocre ones? It’s not about how much you practice. It’s about how effective you are at practicing.
Not sure what that means? We came across a great article over at Rock Drumming Underground, with several tips for making the most of your practice time. Here’s an excerpt with five tips we thought were particularly important:
Take Your Time
When you start to learn something new, always start slow. Even if you think that you know the beat already, play it slow just to make sure that you are doing it right. Once you know that you are doing it right, then you can start to speed it up. Trying to play too fast at first will ultimately slow down your progress. It is important to learn to play things at a range of tempos anyway, so you might as well progress from slower to faster tempos than that other way around.
Don’t Give Up – Always End with an Accomplishment
If you are having a hard time on a beat or a section of beats, don’t give up! Take it as a challenge. All too often I see people get to the hard section of the beats and then give up. The whole reason you are practicing in the first place is to learn material that you don’t know. The hardest beats, when worked out and practiced hard, will probably become your favorite.
It’s always important to end practices on a good note. Overcoming small obstacles is a great way to wrap things up and give you that added confidence to take your playing to the next level. Always remember to push yourself to catch that one beat, fill, or pattern that is giving you trouble. In drumming and in life, confidence based on accomplishment is everything.
Practice Does NOT Make Perfect
Practicing RIGHT makes perfect. If you are working on a beat and are not quite sure whether or not you are playing it right, then you need to find out. There are many ways to check your work:
- You can ask a more knowledgeable drummer than yourself
- Take one or more lessons from your local drum instructor
- Simply count out loud to make sure everything is lining up
When you practice it wrong, you are only getting better at doing something the WRONG way. When you finally do realize what you are doing it is going to be that much more difficult to change back to the right way. Don’t get better at doing it wrong!
Use a Metronome (click track)
It’s important to incorporate a metronome into your regular practice. Don’t become reliant on it, but use it as a training tool instead. It will help you stay on beat when you are practicing at a wide range of tempos. If you don’t have one, you can get one at your local music store for $20-$50.
Sometimes playing a beat extremely slow can be just as difficult as trying to play it really fast. It’s important that you learn to be flexible enough to play virtually any beat in any setting. You’ve already learned to play through things slowly at first, but I’d recommend going back to push things even slower after you’ve mastered them. This will actually help you when begin to practice it faster, as your muscles will begin to memorize the pattern.
Set a Practice Routine
Ideally you want to practice every day of the week, but at the very least you want to get into any form of routine. This will help you learn at a steady pace – spending more time advancing your skills instead of re-practicing things that you’ve already mastered.
A professional body builder doesn’t go into the gym and lift one weight and then walk out. In the same way, you can’t practice drums hard for one day and then go back two weeks later and expect to remember everything you went over. You might still know a few of the things, but ultimately you will have lost much of what you worked on. As drummers, we are trying to build muscle memory. Practice and repetition is key to achieving this.
Read the rest of the article here.
Photo by Kyrre Gjerstad