You have to practice drums if you want to improve, but how can you make your practice time more productive? Here, Rosendale NY drum instructor Alan S. shares his strategy to help you create an effective drum practice routine…
Progress does not always happen in a straight line. During my years playing drums, I’ve been through periods of quick improvement, as well as darker times of actually getting worse. I’ve also been through phases of staying at the same level: In my case, instead of a straight line, my progress looked more like a zig zig.
After going in and out of these phases, I realized what I need to do to keep improving. I figured out a way to keep my practice time well balanced, simple but consistent, and most importantly, fun and fulfilling!
To illustrate this, let’s compare a drum practice routine with a well-balanced meal…
Building a Drum Practice Routine
You know vegetables are full of vitamins and nutrients, and you should eat them because they are good for you. Even though they’re not as desirable to eat as say, a slice of chocolate cake, you should still eat them to get the nutrients you need.
With drumming, I like to think of the vegetables as the fundamentals. These are things like drum rudiments, site reading, and four-way coordination. Choose two to three of these vegetables to add to your plate, or drum practice routine.
Although these things may seem tedious, doing them every day will keep your technique in check, and these skills will come out (sometimes unexpectedly) in everything else you do on the drums.
Next, you’ll need to add some protein. In an average meal, proteins include things like fish, steak, pork, eggs, or tofu.
When it comes to drum practice, your protein is the practice component with the most substance. What exactly do I mean by this? Well, unlike the vegetables, the protein is something that’s part of the big picture of what you want to accomplish on the drum set.
I consider working towards goals such as learning the beat to a song, transcribing, or learning a famous drum solo to be proteins. Choose two out of three to fulfill your protein portion.
Last but not least, everybody’s’ favorite: dessert. Translation for drummers: improvise!
Never heard of improvising? Well, here’s a quick definition: “To create or perform spontaneously or without preparation”. In other words, let go of any constraints and let your mind and body explore the drum set freely.
As you get better at improvising, you can start improvising over certain ostinato (repeated) patterns or exotic time signatures.
Remember, if you don’t behave during dinner, you won’t get any dessert!
Beginner Drum Tips
For each food group, use the same set of exercises every day for a week, then switch to a different (slightly more advanced) set of exercises. If you get stuck, don’t fret. Try picking a slightly less challenging exercise, and master that.
Learning drums takes time; patience and humility are key! Don’t expect to get better overnight. Increase your level gradually, step by step. It might not seem like you’re improving after a week or two, but that’s just because it’s a gradual process. After a few months, you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come!
Image courtesy Darrell Miller