When you’re practicing the drums and learning new rhythms, one of the best ways to perfect your skills is to have something to copy and imitate. Playing along with your favorite songs is a great idea, but you need to make sure you’re practicing the right way. All of that fun could go to waste if you’re not targeting the proper patterns!
Selecting Your Songs
When your drum teacher gives you new rhythms to practice, ask him or her which songs might have some examples of these rhythms. This is why working with an instructor who knows what type of music you enjoy listening to is key. Even better is having an instructor who listens to the same type of music as you do! Chances are if you both enjoy the same genres, he or she will have a bunch of examples of songs with each specific pattern.
Of course, just because the music is your favorite, doesn’t mean it’s the only song you should practice drums along to. It’s good to keep your mind – and your ears – open, so that you don’t fall into a rut. Even your favorite songs can become boring after listening to them five or more times in a row!
Should You Use a Practice Pad or Drum Set?
When you’re planning to practice drums along with a song, there are a few different things you should keep in mind. First, ask your instructor whether he or she recommend s working on a drum set or using a practice pad. Of course, playing a drum set requires that you have access to it when you’re ready to practice drums, so if you normally practice drums at home and only have a pad at your house, your decision has already been made for you. In this case, it might be necessary to find a drum set to practice on for at least a little time every day.
Your teacher may encourage you to learn new patterns on a practice pad, so it’s easier to focus on the actual rhythm without getting distracted by multiple drums or cymbals. Other times, it might be better to learn the rhythm on the actual drum set, so you don’t get a pattern ingrained from practicing on the pad alone, and then have to take the complicated rhythm from one surface to multiple different parts of the set. This is especially important when a rhythm played on the pad may feel easier if you cheat and use each hand in sync, rather than how the pattern will be played on the set. For instance, if you have a constant strike on the ride cymbal, along with a syncopated rhythm in both the snare and toms, it might feel like you can play the pattern easier on the pad by alternating hands — but when you try to practice the pattern on the set, you’ll run into trouble.
How to Listen Along With Your Playing
When you’re planning to practice drums along with a song, you’ve got a few options. Depending on your practice area at home, you might need to use headphones to listen to the song. Ideally, you should practice the new patterns with the music playing at a somewhat low volume, so that you can hear your playing over anything that might overpower it in the song. This way, you can still play quietly, but you can hear everything you’ll need to in order to practice the pattern well. It’s tempting to turn the music up so that you can enjoy it, but this might backfire if you can’t hear yourself playing. You need to be able to hear your own drumming at all times; that way if you play something incorrectly you can fix it.
On the other hand, if your practice space is soundproof, feel free to let loose and have some fun! You can practice the rhythms as well as experiment with how hard you’re hitting each surface, which helps you learn how to emphasize certain parts of the rhythms. It’s amazing to hear how the exact same pattern can sound so differently when you’re playing the snare more prominently than the high hat, or vice versa.
Practicing the Rhythms
When your instructor gives you a handful of songs to practice drums along with, ask him or her if the patterns have the same emphasis as the one that you’re trying to learn. It can be difficult to master a new pattern if you’ve learned it differently than it’s played, but once you have the basics down, it can be fun to play around with the prominent parts this way. Just like practicing with a few different songs, hearing the same pattern played multiple ways can help to break the monotony.
Now that you’ve got a good idea of how to practice drums along with your favorite tunes, it’s time to go play! There’s no better way to improve your drumming than by just continuing to practice everyday, as even the best drummers started in the same spot that you did. The only difference between them and you is the years of practice behind them. So continue working hard — who knows, maybe one day you’ll be the drummer that everyone else is looking up to!
Photo by Denise Chan