Welcome to The Drum Lesson Blog! I want you to feel like home – so just browse through the lessons/blog posts and contact me if you have any questions. To ensure that you don’t miss out on any content:
1) Subscribe to my email-list & get a free drum course (look at the menu at the top of this page).
2) Bookmark this site on your phone & laptop so you don’t forget about it.
3) Click on individual blog posts to see all of the content & to be able to comment.
Now let’s get to work!Richard Sandström
Fill in the form below to get the free play-along.
In this post I want to address one of the most common issues when it comes to drummers being frustrated with the progress of their playing. I’ve teached hundreds of drum students. And for the most part they want to practice way too many things at once.
An impossible quest if you want to make real progress on the beautiful instrument called drums.
If you can relate to the stress of wanting it all at once – it’s time to take a deep breath and calm down.
The result of practicing too many things at once is that your learning curve will be VERY slow. If that’s the case, you will most likely never experience the great feeling of real progress. I think most of us can agree when saying that slow progress can be one of the most effective ways to KILL our passion to play drums. After all, if we practice hard but don’t see, hear and feel the progress in our playing – what’s the freakin’ point?! We might as well lay on the couch, watching reruns of Desperate Housewives…
To make this post as concise and actionable as possible, I’m going to give you a little mission. Imagine you had a wand (why not the Elder Wand itself?) that could take away ONE problem in your playing – what problem would you choose to get rid of? Single strokes with your left hand? Double strokes with your right foot? Improving your timing playing half-time shuffles? Be as specific as possible.
”Hand technique” is not good enough. What PART of your hand technique is causing you the most headache? Is it the left hand on the floor tom? When you switch between singles and doubles on the snare drum? If you can identify the problems in your playing (…and we ALL have them) and have the knowledge to make a plan on how to fix them (and sticking to the plan), it is IMPOSSIBLE to not make progress on the drums.
Imagine practicing exercises that will turn your current weakness into a strength. Imagine the freedom it will give you when playing music. It’s time to get excited and get to work.
So, what is YOUR number one problem in your playing – the ONE thing that, if fixed, will open up your playing the most?
It’s interesting to see that we drummers, in almost all cases, have a very uncreative way of using our left foot on the hi-hat. Why must the hi-hat foot only play static quarter notes, eighth notes or off-beat eighth notes? There is not much sense in always doing that. Every musical situation is different, so let’s prepare ourselves to be creative when the right moment comes.
This is probably one of my favorite drum fills right now. The way that it is layered, with the crash and kick drum at the same time, sounds very interesting when looped. Please spend a lot of time orchestrating the stickings in as many ways as possible. That’s when it really comes alive. Also add accents, decrescendos and crescendos as you find fitting.
In other words: Make it your own!
Here it is. A topic that so many musicians absolutely hate: Reading rhythms. Ouch!
When I was young and started taking drum lessons at the music school in my village, I was just like most others, I absolutely hated reading rhythms. Simply because I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t understand the foundation, so most of the time it felt like I was guessing. When looking back at those early lessons and how people have taught me how to read and write rhythms, I must unfortunately say that I believe most music teachers make this part unnecessarily hard.
I want to give you one way you can use to learn the fundamentals about reading rhythm. This is to give you a basic knowledge, it won’t be every rhythm played by mankind. I believe we often tend to share too much information at the same time, leading to a lot of confusion. I’ll try not to go down that path. Let’s keep it pretty simple.
The goal of this post is to show you a method on understanding some of the most commonly used rhythms in today’s music.
First, let’s go through the names of the different note values and rests, so that we can have a conversation where everyone understands everything. You don’t have to understand the notes and rests, so don’t worry about that for now. Just check out how they look and what they are called.
The notes that have the most brackets are the the fastest ones. As you can see, the eighth notes have one bracket, the sixteenth notes have two brackets, the thirty-second notes have three brackets. The best thing about this is that the rest’s brackets correspond with the number of brackets their note values have. As an example, a sixteenth note rest have 2 brackets, and so does a sixteenth note. Isn’t that brilliant? It makes things easy to remember.
Although thirty-second notes are shown in the illustrations, we are not going to go through how to read them right now. That is a topic for another blog post.
Ok. Now to the business. This is how this method works.
If you have a combination of rhythms with either whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes or their rests, ALWAYS COUNT IN SIXTEENTH NOTES. That will make this method very easy for you to use.
Let’s figure out what this rhythm sounds like:
Actually, we’re not going to just count them, let’s write them down like below. Each box represents the length of one sixteenth note.
1 half note or half note rest = 8 boxes
1 quarter note or quarter note rest = 4 boxes
1 eighth note or eighth note rest = 2 boxes
1 sixteenth note or sixteenth note rest = 1 box
Let’s analyze the rhythm. We got 2 sixteenth notes (2 boxes), 1 eighth note (2 boxes) , 1 eight note rest (2 boxes), 1 eighth note (2 boxes), 1 sixteenth note rest (1 box), 1 eighth note (2 boxes), 1 sixteenth note (1 box), 1 eighth note (2 boxes), 1 eighth note (2 boxes).
Since we now know how long (how many boxes) the rests and notes are, it is a simple matter of placing an X for each note, and an O for each rest. After you have filled in that information in your boxes, you can simply count out loud and play the notes where you have written the X:es. Like below.
Be aware that if we play for example an eighth note, that eighth note klings for two boxes. Since we are drummers, this can be hard to understand. But imagine a trumpet player playing the named eighth note. That will make it easier to understand.
The arrows in the picture illustrate how long each rest and note actually is. If you just want to know when to hit the notes: Look only at the X:es. The O:s mean rests.
You can easily use this method to find out how common rhythms, made up by the note values we have talked about, sound like.
One last thing. In the beginning bar of a piece of rhythm, there should be information about what time signature the rhythms are played in. Like this:
To keep it simple for now, all you have to know is to write up boxes that corresponds with the time signature. If the time signature looks like the picture above: Simply write out boxes, with counting underneath, like this: 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a 5 e & a
For a time signature in 3/4. Write it out like this:
1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a
Let me know if this method has helped you with reading rhythms by writing below.
You can download a free PDF with all of the material above, so that you can access it whenever you want. Just fill in the form below and I’ll send it to you.
You might recognize the feeling; You know that you should be practicing a certain technique exercise, but you think it’s so freakishly boring. So you simply avoid the exercise, and at the same time ruin your progress on the instrument. One part of me want to just say ”Suck it up, stop whining and just go and practice!”, and a big chunk of the answer is in there. It’s your attitude that is the most important thing. Deep inside, you must be willing to put in the time to practice.
But we are not machines. Sometimes it’s really tough to get yourself to play certain exercises 7 days a week. That’s exactly the reason why I want to share a way that might actually make you look forward to the previously boring exercises.
When I was a kid, I started using this method. Being a huge Jeff Porcaro fanatic (…and still am, by the way) I made playlists with songs in different tempos, so that I could practice a certain groove to a whole playlist. I remember one list was named ”16th note half-time grooves alá Jeff” (or something very similar). Playing the same kind of groove for an hour doesn’t sound THAT exciting, but time seemed to fly by when playing it to my favorite music.
The approach I recommend you take, to create your own musical & technical experience, is to write down three different aspects of each song, so you later can categorize them. Here they are:
2) Time signature
3) Grid (is the song based on a triplet subdivision, or 16th notes, or…?)
Take a day or two browsing through your music library, with a metronome near by. Write down (either on a piece of paper, or using your computer/phone) the tempo, time signature & the main grid of the songs. Then, with the exercises you want to practice on in mind, divide the songs in categories that suit your practice session needs. One playlist can be named ”Hand technique – Moeller”, or ”Foot technique – single stroke roll”, as some examples.
It’s really that easy.
This is a great way of making technique exercises really fun to do. You’re playing along to some of your favorite songs on Planet Earth, and developing your technical abilities simultaneously. What’s not to love?
Here are some GREAT exercises that will take your diddles in a musical direction. We will take a look at one way to create interesting phrases, built around some common rhythms in today’s music scene. These exercises will give you the ability to spice up these common rhythms. When you take these ideas to the drum set, you will probably have a smile on your face. I know I do. They sound awesome.
You can get a free PDF, with notation of this lick, right below:
This is a post with a lot of info, if you want a condensed, 1-page PDF with a method on how to figure out and learn any polyrhythm, fill out the form below to get the free PDF-file sent to your email.
This post is all about polyrhythms. Learning polyrhythms will make your drum life both easier and certainly more exciting. If you decide to invest your time in them, they will open up new doors in your playing. Doors you probably never knew existed.
So, before getting into the details, let’s talk about what polyrhythms really are. The word “poly” basically means “more than one”. Polyrhythms therefore means that more than one rhythm are simultaneously played. There is more to it than a one sentence description, but some things are best described when shown.
Before we get into the actual polyrhythms, it’s essential that you are well aware of the rhythm scale over one beat. Simply because once you know it, you are able to derive any polyrhythm from it. Sounds exciting? It is. That leads us to the inevitable question: What is the rhythm scale over one beat?
The Rhythm Scale over One Beat
The Rhythm Scale is sometimes also known as the Table of Time or the Rhythmic Pyramid. The rhythm scale over one beat is the most important one to learn first, since it’s the foundation of rhythm. Let’s use the wonderful world of mathematics to explain how the rhythm scale is constructed, because that’s exactly what these rhythms are: math.
Put your metronome at for example 40 BPM. Every ”click” you will hear is going to be the quarter notes. The quarter notes are often referred to as the pulse in many songs. To understand the rhythm scale over one beat, our task is now to fit evenly spaced strokes between the quarter notes. One quarter note equals one beat here. In other words, we could also call this scale the rhythm scale over one quarter note, just to explain it clearer for the moment.
Back to our task, try to play at the exact same time as the quarter notes. Now you are playing one evenly spaced stroke for each quarter note. In other words; you are playing quarter notes. The next step is to play two evenly spaced strokes at the time of each quarter note. You are now playing eighth notes. Three evenly spaced strokes? That would be eighth note triplets. Four evenly spaced strokes? Sixteenth notes. Five? Quintuplets. Six? Sixteenth note triplets. Seven? Septuplets. Eight? Thirty-second notes. You can, of course, take it as far as you would like to. Theoretically, you can play 1000 evenly spaced strokes for each quarter note.
Now that you are familiar with how to play the rhythm scale over one beat, you will probably be surprised at how simple it is to figure out polyrhythms. By simple, I mean the thinking and understanding of polyrhythms, to practice them to the degree that they are a part of your vocabulary is another thing and of course takes a lot of work.
The Rhythm Scale over Two Beats
Now we have come to the exciting part; creating polyrhythms. We are gonna play the rhythm scale over one beat using single strokes (right, left, right, left etc.), just as before, but we are gonna take away the left hand part. That leaves us playing every other stroke of every note value. That will make our rhythms twice as long before resolving, compared to the rhythm scale over one beat. Hence ”the rhythm scale over two beats”.
Let’s take the eighth note triplets as an example. In other words; playing three evenly spaced strokes between each quarter note.
Counting is, by far, the most important part of learning and understanding any rhythm. The way we are gonna count the eighth note triplets is: 1 & a 2 & a. Time signature: 2/4.
By taking away the left hand, leaving us with playing only every other note, we are left with only the bold ones: 1 & a 2 & a. That rhythm, together with the rhythm that the metronome is playing, will form the polyrhythm of 3 over 2. In the notation below, the snare drum plays the “3”, and the bass drum plays the “2”.
Let’s make this clearer, by taking another example as well. We’ll make things a little trickier this time and select the note value of quintuplets. Quintuplets = five evenly spaced strokes for each quarter note. A common way to count these are using the five-syllable word ”university”. The way I like to count it is using ”un-i-ver-si-ty”, but replacing the first syllable with numbers. So, instead of ”university-university” etc., I like to count ”1iversity-2iversity” etc. This way, it’s very clear where every quarter note lands. It also makes it easy to count quintuplets in different time signatures.
We’ll maintain the single stroke sticking and once again take away the left hand. We are now left with the bold ones: 1 i ver si ty 2 i ver si ty
Together with the metronome, that will form the beautiful polyrhythm 5 over 2. Quite easy to understand, right? To recap: Chose a note value, play a single stroke roll sticking with your hands, take away one hand and you will have that note values number as the polyrhythm over 2.
To make your understanding of polyrhythms even clearer, we’ll now take a look at the rhythm scale over three beats.
The Rhythm Scale over Three Beats
Can you figure out how to create any polyrhythm with the bottom number of 3? Let’s dive into it together. For this example, we’ll chose the polyrhythm 5 over 3.
Play the quintuplets with a three note sticking, for example: right, left, left. The next step is to simply remove the left hand strokes. We are then left with 1 i ver si ty 2 i ver si ty 3 i ver si ty, plus the metronome playing the quarter notes. That will form the polyrhythm of (all together now) 5 over 3.
By now, you should have a clear understanding of the bigger picture when it comes to polyrhythms. But, don’t stop there. Now that you understand the basics, I want to give you a formula (or method) you can use to figure out, and master, any polyrhythm of your choise.
The Polyrhythm Formula
This lesson is not meant to explain drum set applications and possibilities with polyrhythms. But still, I want to make it very clear that it’s important to practice to be able to ”feel” the polyrhythm that you are working on in different ways. Here’s what I mean.
In its natural form, each polyrhythm can be played in two time signatures: The time signature corresponding to the top number of the polyrhythm or the bottom number. For example, the polyrhythm 5 over 4 can be played in a time signature of 5/4 or in 4/4. To be able to effortlessly jump between these pulses and play around with them, is what will open up a new world for you, when it comes to the endless possibilities with polyrhythms. You’ll see what I mean in the explanation of the polyrhythm formula found below.
Example with the polyrhythm 5 against/over 4.
1) Using one of the two numbers of the polyrhythm, decide what time signature you should play the polyrhythm in.
Two options: Choose either 5/4 or 4/4.
Let’s choose 5/4 for this example.
2) Subdivide the quarter note by the other number, the number we didn’t choose as the time signature.
In this case: 4. 4 equally spaced notes for each quarter note = sixteenth notes.
3) Use the number you picked as the time signature and space the accents with the corresponding number. Remove the unaccented notes.
5 was the number we used as our time signature. Therefore we will accent every fifth stroke of the sixteenth notes. Then we simply remove the unaccented notes.
Take away the unaccented snare notes, and we have our polyrhythm:
As mentioned earlier, it’s important that you can count the polyrhythm in both time signatures. So, to make the experience complete, let’s stick with the same polyrhythm (5 against 4), use the same steps as previous but flip it all over.
1) Using one of the two numbers of the polyrhythm, decide what time signature you should play the polyrhythm in.
Two options: Choose either 5/4 or 4/4.
This time we will choose 4/4 as our time signature.
2) Subdivide the quarter note by the other number, the number we didn’t choose as the time signature.
In this case: 5. 5 equally spaced notes for each quarter note = quintuplets.
3) Use the number you picked as the time signature and space the accents with the corresponding number. Remove the unaccented notes.
4 is now the number we use as our time signature. Therefore we will accent every fourth stroke of the quintuplets. Then we simply remove the unaccented notes.
Puhhhh… There you have it. A formula/method you can use to work out any polyrhythm of your choice. My goal was to shed some light to the “dark magic” kind of rumors that polyrhythms have. You can learn anything as long as you have a method on how to do it.
Let me know your thoughts on this info. I hope you loved it.
To download a free, 1-page PDF with the polyrhythm formula – fill out the form below and you’ll get it sent to your email.
I just want to share a simple and extremely cheap solution that has made my drum tuning easier and more comfortable. No more constant turning of the drums until your back starts to hurt. I like that. A lot. I’m a big believer in the theory that we learn better when we enjoy something. Therefore the below solution is right up my alley. Let me explain it all.
Maybe you’ve seen the DW product called the ’John Good Tuning Table’? It’s just what you think it is – a spinning table made for drum tuning. It looks great, but it’s always nice when you can save a buck or two (or 150…) The solution I’m using instead came from a guy at a drum forum. Someone posted a link with DW’s tuning table, and another person responded that it looked kind of pricey. ”How about this one from IKEA instead?”, he said and linked to an IKEA product (a spinning one) that was priced at around $10. DW’s product goes for around $150-160. It was a no-brainer for me – I just had to try it.
As it turns out, the IKEA version fits up to 14″ drums. If you have bigger drums that you want to use on the IKEA version, you could for example put a bigger piece of flat material on top of the spinning table. It will still be able to spinn. Mission completed.
Here’s a link to the IKEA product, called ‘SNUDDA’: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90074483/
And no, I’m not affiliated with IKEA at all.
Hope this will make your tuning easier and more fun, without putting real money on other stuff than drums. 😉
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” – Pablo Picasso
I remember a particular ”practice session” where I made the effort going to my practice room (a 15-minute walk), sitting down at my drum set, picking up the sticks and feeling so overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities that was available for me to practice on, that I actually stood up, looked the door and went home – all before playing one single stroke (no pun intended). It just seemed pointless.
Looking back at that experience have been very valuable to me. I now know how I could have prevented that from happening, or at least how I could’ve drastically reduced the risk of that happening. In this post I want to give you a method, with step-by-step instructions, that you can use to reduce the risk of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with your practicing. It all has to do with having a plan on what, when & how to practice – and equally important – WHY you want to practice in the first place.
Do not confuse frustration from not knowing what to do, with being lazy. To practice and to get really good at something IS hard work. Really hard work, actually. But if you’re willing to do that work – I believe that the below instructions can completely change the way you practice, and as a result, the way you play and perform.
What you’ll discover in this post:
x How to know what areas you should be focusing on in your drumming
x How to design a practice schedule
x How to remove distractions from your practicing
x How to use evaluation charts as a guide on both noticing your progress and how to use them for improving your future practice sessions
x How to avoid losing hours of valuable practice time
To download a free eBook with step-by-step instructions on the method described in this blog post, just click here and fill out the form. The eBook will be sent to your email. Feel free to print out the pages and write on them. That’s the way they are meant to be used.
Reverse-engineer your Practicing by first analyzing your Dreams & Goals
Here is the framework I suggest using when finding out what you want to practice on. Unless you are a very experienced drummer, I strongly suggest doing the below steps with a drum teacher, either offline or online. You can also email me for any questions you have about this: email@example.com
What are your musical dreams?
What skills are you lacking, the things you can’t do yet or need to do better, that is keeping you from reaching your dreams?
Prioritize those skills by using the 80/20 rule.
”The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” – Wikipedia
In other words: Which are the top 20% of your weaknesses (skills that you don’t have yet) that make up 80% of your problems, when it comes to reaching your musical dreams? Make a list by writing it down. This isn’t a math assignment, but a good way of thinking about how to prioritize anything and everything.
For example; If you want to become a first call studio drummer when it comes to Brazilian music, you want to identify the most common styles and rhythms (Samba, Bossa Nova, Partido Alto) and focus on mastering these first.
Design a practice schedule that will fix your weaknesses.
If you’ve done the above exercises correctly, you will now have a clear idea of what skills you need to focus on the most.
For each week: Write down at what time you should practice each day of the week.
Decide what exercises you will practice on and for how many minutes you will practice each exercise. (Hint: The exercises should fix the weaknesses you listed above.) Start working on your biggest weaknesses first, then work yourself down the list.
Follow your plan by practicing the exercises according to the practice schedule you’ve created.
You lose 23 minutes & 15 seconds each time you do this
According to a recent study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after an interruption. You can read the documentation about it, here: https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/chi08-mark.pdf
In other words, every time you get distracted (checking email, social media, responding to a text message etc.) you stand the risk of losing around 23 minutes of focused practicing.
That is some scary reading. So, how can we avoid this from happening?
Remove all distractions and you are left with (all together now): focus. One of our times biggest challenges.
If you’re not focusing on things that move you away from your goals, doesn’t that mean that you actually are moving closer to your goals?
To prevent you from losing time, I want to suggest two apps that will keep you more focused. There are more apps like the ones below. Just type in ”productivity apps” on Google to find one that suit your needs.
I want to point out that I do not get paid, in any way, for recommending these apps.
(Works on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac and Windows computers)
From their website:
”Freedom makes it easy to block the most distracting apps and websites. Block what you want, when you want, and be more productive.”
(Free Mac application)
Thanks to Benny Greb for sharing this app.
From their website:
”SelfControl is a free and open-source application for Mac OS X that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites–even if you restart your computer or delete the application.”
Now that you are more prepared to actually practice, instead of looking at cute dogs chasing tails, the next step is to keep track and to evaluate your practicing. We do this by writing a practice log.
A practice log is an invaluable tool. What the Force is for Yoda in Star Wars, the practice log is for a drummer and his/hers progress on the instrument.
For each day you practice, I recommend that you evaluate the exercises by grading how you perform them. You can for example use a system like 1-5. 1 meaning something like ”In the beginning stages of learning it. Can be improved a lot.” And 5 meaning ”Fantastic.”
For each exercise you practice, write down the date, minutes practicing it, tempo and evaluation of the exercise.
One huge advantage of evaluating your practicing is that you can go back and see your progress over a long period of time. It will also give you invaluable knowledge about the things that worked well for you, as well as the things that didn’t work so well. Do more of the things that worked well, and improve/remove the things that didn’t work.
Now you are learning the art of practicing! Can I get an ”Ohhhhhhhh, yeah!”?
This method will help you feeling less frustrated about your practicing, since you now have a plan. Your own blueprint to success. In this case success means to follow, and to eventually reach the goals that YOU have set up for yourself. It’s hard to imagine a greater goal than that.
“Were do I go from here?”
Practicing is hard, no matter how disciplined you consider yourself to be. We all need as much help as we can get. To make your journey easier, help you progress as fast as possible and have more fun, you can now download a free eBook with detailed instructions and a step-by-step guide on how to use the method described in this post.
You can print the eBook and use it for writing on. That is actually the way it is meant to be used. The eBook also includes a practice schedule you can use for writing what exercises you will practicing on during the coming week, as well as when you will practice. The idea is that you should print out a new page of the practice schedule every week.
To recap, the eBook includes:
x A method on how to know what kind of skills and exercises you should be focusing on.
x Info about how to design your practice schedule so that you make as much progress as possible.
x A personal, weekly practice schedule you can print out and use over and over again.
Fill out the form below to get the eBook & start to practice better & smarter. It’s for free.
I love linear grooves! Don’t you? This is very exciting stuff. So let’s get into it right away.
You can download a free PDF with detailed explanations about the steps demonstrated in the video. Just fill out the form below and I’ll send it to you.
You can download an easy 5-step checklist on how to start practice rudiments as demonstrated in the video lesson. Just fill out the form below and I’ll send it to you for free.
This lesson has caused a real headache for many drummers. More than a few have written on YouTube, Facebook and emailed me about this one. And that’s not strange at all. These are very challenging exercises. Therefore, you can now download a free PDF with the exercises in this lessons – print it out and take it to your practice room. Work hard and have fun!
Just fill out the form below to get the PDF.
Here is an amazing way to really spice up your shuffle grooves. Let us start using that hi-hat foot in a creative way!
Have you tried this before? Comment below!
Here is a tasty little drum fill for you. It’s a simple, but effectful, way to spice up your playing a bit.
We all want to have more control over our instrument and the ultimate goal is the ability to create whatever we want on the drums – total freedom. But how do you practice to get the most out of the time you put in behind the drums?
I’m now gonna write down some methods that have made my practice alot more efficient, more enjoyable and have helped me understand what I’m playing in a better way.
- RECORD YOUR PLAYING
This is truly one of the best ways to develop as a musician. One of the reasons why studio drummers have such great timing is that they constantly listen to what they have played. That gives them a chance to analyze their playing and change things that they’re not satisfied with.
You don’t need an expensive studio to use this method of recording and analyzing. For example, if you have a phone that can make audio recordings you’ll be surprised by how much information you can get out of that. Record yourself, then listen to your playing. Does the groove flow? If not, why? Is the snare dragging or are you rushing the kick? Immediately write down the things you want to improve then start working on correcting the flaws in your playing. We all have them! And it’s really a lifelong exercise to improve ones timing.
- USE MIRRORS IN YOUR PRACTICE ROOM
This is a great way to see exactly what your motions are like on the drums. Compare your right and left hand. Do you sit straight? Do you look tensed up in your shoulders and why? Maybe the drumset is set too high. Make adjustment in your technique after analyzing.
- PRACTICE TRANSITIONS
Have you ever noticed that one of the hardest things about drumming is switching from one part to another? If you’re working on a fill it might feel great when you play it over and over again. But as soon as you try to apply it to music you may not pull it off. That is one of the reasons I strongly recommend you to practice going from a groove to the fill you are practicing and then back to the groove again. When you have practiced that you will feel much more confident playing that phrase in a song.
- SING THE PARTS YOU ARE PLAYING
I’ve heard so many world-class drummers mentioning it: Sing the parts you are playing. “Why should I sing?” Because when you can sing the bass drum part, the hi-hat part etc. you will have a clear understanding of where you place all the notes.
Besides from getting better timing, singing is an excellent way of getting rid of boredom during your practice sessions, because you constantly have to concentrate.
Also practice singing quarter notes, eight notes and so on while playing. A great way to practice is to sing something that you are not playing, a different rhythm. This will help you to develop the ability to hear different patterns against each other, just as if your were playing with a band!
Some drummers that recommend singing while practicing: Benny Greb, Virgil Donati, Dave DiCenso, Gary Chester, Mike Mangini. Do I need to say more?
- WRITE DOWN A PRACTICE SCHEDULE
I would strongly recommend you to write down how much time you can spend practicing every week. Be honest! After you know how much time you have on the drums, create your practice schedule. This includes which hours you will practice and what you will practice. The worst thing you can do (in my opinion) is trying to learn to much things in a short period time. Chances are nothing will stick and you’ll ending up almost being able to play alot of things.
I should mention that there are alot of different opinions on this matter but this is my personal thoughts considering my own experiences.
- PRACTICE WITH A METRONOME
This will improve your accuracy immensely and will make you a drummer with better timing and more confidence. The metronome is a great reference point that you can use to develop technique and a better sense of rhythm.
- PRACTICE AT A SLOW TEMPO
This is very important. Our goal is often to speed up as soon as we start to learn something new. The big danger about this is that our brain remember bad information as well as good information. In other words; If we practice playing fast and sloppy and with tension our brain will learn that. Therefore it’s important to start slowly, relaxed and with good technique. When you practice slow you will also have a better chance of hearing bad timing habits and fixing them.
- WRITE DOWN YOUR WEAKNESSES AND PRACTICE THEM
Playing and practicing are not the same thing. We practice to be able to play things we can not play at the moment. Many drummers often sit and play for hours without developing. Why? Because they only play what they already know. If you want to evolve as a player you most practice your weaknesses.
- PRACTICE TO MUSIC AND WITH OTHER MUSICIANS
There’s one thing to be able to play on your own in your basement. There’s a totally different thing to interact with other musicians and creating a beautiful piece of music.
If you practice to music and with other musicians you’ll be able to hear how every part of the music compliments each other and contributes to the big picture. Listen. What’s the bass part? When do the lead vocal have the most amount of energy and how do I support this? What should I play to enhance that feeling on the chorus? As long as you listen while you play you will grow as a musician.
Do you use any of these practicing methods?
It’s interesting that we drummers often find 4-way coordination playing to be so hard, compared to other areas of drumming. Well let me ask you this:
How much time do you spend practicing 4-way coordination?
If you practice your hand technique alot I can assure you that your hands will be better. It’s the same with every aspect of drumming. What you put in with hard work and time you will improve on. It’s as easy as that.
No one is born with amazing interdependence skills. The reason why drummers like Virgil Donati and Marco Minnemann can play incredible layers of rhythms is that they have practiced it. ALOT. In an interview I read recently Minnemann said that it took him about 15 years of intense interdependence practice for him to have such control over it that he could sit down behind the drums and actually make music with it.
The reason why I feel the need of writing about this topic is many. When we practice 4-way coordination we develop so many aspects of drumming and music.
Knowledge of rhythm
The ability to listen to many rhythms interacting. Just like we do when playing with other musicians!
I’ve discovered that 4-way interdependence isn’t hard. It just takes time, concentration and a plan on how to achieve it.
I will return with some coordination exercises that I think will excite you.
I got a mail from a subscriber asking me if I have some advices on how to develop speed. No matter what everyone says it IS nice to have speed. Simply because that allow us to play musical ideas in any tempo we want. That is the beauty of it, that we can express ourselves even more. That being said, I think that speed itself has nothing to do with music. But when applied musically it can really add to the energy in a song or solo.
Some things to think about when you want to develop drumming speed:
- Focus on accuracy
Without control speed is meaningless. And if you focus on control speed will come much easier because you are training your arms/feet to move as economic as possible. And that is a big key when it comes to speed. If you don’t develop the right playing motions it is impossible to have control and to get faster. Practice with a metronome to develop your timing and accuracy.
- Build endurance first
You must first develop endurance in order to later develop speed. Otherwise you won’t have a good foundation to build upon. Play endurance exercises several minutes before you stop. Try doing this with a single stroke roll (Right, Left, Right, Left), doubles and other rudiments/stickings and put a timer on 2 minutes, then 3 minutes then 4 minutes and so on. It is important that you are consistent with your strokes so be aware of motions and spacings of notes.
- Mimic your strong hand
It’s always a good idea to copy your best hand. Look at your strong hand and how it is angled and what motions you are playing and try to copy that with your weak hand. It’s a good idea to have a mirror in front of you and beside you so that you get the best opportunity to correct how you play.
- Play with small motions
This is as logical as it gets. The faster you play, the less time the drumsticks will have to travel up and down. Therefore you must use smaller motions when you play fast versus slow.
- Use the bounce from the drums
It’s very important that we use the bounce of the drums so that we don’t have to work hard when we play. If you can get extra help from the drums, why not use it? One technique that is an important part of playing with ease and to use the bounce is the Moeller technique. Videos about the Moeller technique will come later on.
It doesn’t matter how fast you play if it doesn’t sound good. Listen and correct if you play with a touch that doesn’t allow the drum to sing. Play off the drum, not into the drum.
Hope this helps!
Here’s another free lesson for you!
In this lesson I talk about some grooves in the style of Mozambique. This is an awesome sounding groove that really spices up your playing. But I must warn you; It’s close to impossible to put the drum sticks down once you’ve learned it.
What styles do you want to learn more about that you haven’t practiced yet?
Today I want to talk about different pros and cons when it comes to real drums vs. pad practicing. Let me start by saying that in the end of the day our goal is to express our emotions through the drumset, not a pad. Lets face it; no pad in the world will “come alive” like a drumset. The drums have a completely different tone and got both the high and low frequencies in it’s register. There is a slightly different feeling between drums and pads. You have to make the drums sing and to really improve that touch on the drumset you have to practice on a real kit.
Pads can be a great tool when it comes to developing technique. Because pads have a short sound it is easy to hear how accurate we are playing. And that’s a great thing. In my opinion you can’t get to technical. Technique is the tools we use to create whatever we like to play. To not being able to say what you want to say on your instrument is truly one of the most frustrating things when it comes to creating music.
If you compare your motions when you play on a pad to when you play on a drumkit I bet that you don’t use the big muscle groups as much on a pad as on the drums. When we play play the drums we use both small and big muscle groups. Everything from fingers to shoulders. On a pad we often just use the smaller muscle groups. It’s important that we also develop the big motions used on a real drumset.
We can’t forget that our technique is going to be used behind the drums, therefore we must practice alot on the instrument.
One advantage pads have is that our ears don’t get fatiqued in the same way, compared to drums, because of the lower volume it produces. One advantage the drumset has is that it is melodic, not just rhytmic. To play melodic is also a thing we have to develop to become a good musician. Just listen to Steve Gadd. He plays very melodic, just take a listen to one of his solos.
I recommend you use pads as a great tool for developing technique. But please do not make the mistake that I have done in one period of my drumming life: To almost exclusively practice on pads. That will not benefit your playing to the max. Trust me!
How do you divide your practicing between pads and drums? Comment below!