In this article, I want to share with you my five tips for practicing the drums and cutting through the information overload:
Before you start reading: If you prefer a structured approach where a teacher will show you exactly how to build a practice routine and improve as a beginner drummer, this video course was created for you. It’s called New Drummers Start Here, and it’s only $7 – less than your last Uber ride!
Always go into a practice routine with a plan. I’ve known this for years, but it was reinforced recently when I attended one of Benny Greb’s Master Sessions.
I think Benny is an amazing drummer, but that didn’t just come to him without hard practice. I actually think he’s just damn good at practicing and being super efficient with his time, which turned him into an incredible drummer.
So before you sit down at your drums, plan out exactly what you are going to do. If you want to just play around for a bit, then at least plan to do that (not what you’re going to do, but the fact that you’re just going to experiment for a while).
The point of this isn’t to make your practice routine ultra rigid – and you can still be spontaneous if you’re feeling inspired – but you need to be more intentional with what you want to accomplish with your time behind the kit.
Once you’ve set your goals and made a public commitment to them, it’s time to establish a daily practice routine. This is the most important step for habitual drummers, because we can’t make progress until we take the time to actually get behind the kit and work on new things.
Start by ranking your five goals – most difficult first. This will help you determine how to break up your practice time. Keep in mind, your goals need to correspond to the amount of practice time you have available in each day. If you only have ten minutes to spend at the kit, your timeline for accomplishing your goals should reflect this. You need to set yourself up for success.
Here is an example of a practice routine for a drummer who has one hour available each day:
Notice how the list starts with the most challenging goals, and the time is split up based on difficulty. Take a moment to list out your goals using this approach. Grab a journal, start a new note on your phone or tablet, or whatever works best for you. List the most difficult things first, and split up your available practice time using the same approach.
I go through phases where I become obsessed with certain things. Like when I practiced finger technique non-stop for years, or sat in a room slowly practicing the Moeller motions for days and days. I would literally not hang out with my friends so I could stay at home and practice my rudiments. I know, I know, a bit boring but I am happy I did it – well, most of it.
One big mistake I made, and still sometimes make to this day, is that I don’t balance my practice enough between technique and musicality. What point is having good technique if you have nowhere to apply it? So for me, I need to be very intentional about playing music and becoming a better musician.
Practicing technique won’t make you a better musician. Playing music will make you a better musician. Technique is easy and fun to practice because it’s quantifiable, but it’s not the be-all-end-all with drumming. No musical director cares how fast you can play, or how good your medium full stroke roll is. So try to balance your practice between technique and musicality (if you need more help with this just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tell your friends, wife, brother, sister, bandmates, dry cleaner, pastor, whoever, that you’re going to do something. Ask them to hold you accountable if you want. I did this once, and I had to learn the hardest thing I’ve ever learned.
It was a Virgil Donati exercise where he plays a single paradiddle between his right hand and right foot, then a double paradiddle between his left hand and left foot).
It was crazy hard, but I’m glad I did it. You don’t have to choose something as hard as I did, but it’s really motivating to pick something and go for it. Not only is it motivating for you, but you’ll be surprised that it might give someone else a kick in the butt to be more productive!
This isn’t some hidden pitch for Drumeo. Obviously I think Drumeo is amazing; that’s why I work my ass off every day to make the best drum lessons in the world. You can get your lesson plan from anyone who is qualified. Go get a private lesson with a local instructor, take a Skype lesson with a drummer online, or maybe you could even get some Drumeo lessons.
Of all the tips, this is the most important. Maybe that means it should be number one, but oh well – let’s leave it at number five so only the hardcore drummers who read the whole article get the best tip!
Whether you’re actively listening to music, tapping on your legs, or just playing on the practice pad, do something every day. Even if it’s just 10 minutes each time, it’s better than nothing.
There are no excuses for not practicing. Don’t get into the mindset that the ‘stars have to be aligned’ for you to practice on the kit. Just do something.
I’ve been teaching online drum lessons over the past 10 years, and I’ve always been adamant that I will answer my own emails. To this day, that is still the same (I’m not lying, try me: email@example.com). I love connecting with my online students and helping their drumming in any way I can. I’ve manually responded to tens of thousands of messages from my online students and there always seem to be common themes that come up.
The biggest theme I’ve noticed is that most people don’t know how to get into a drum practice routine. I’m not sure why students are having problems with this, but I definitely want to find ways I can help. Part of me thinks that I’m partially responsible. With Drumeo, we provide so much information that people might not know where to start. If you started watching Drumeo lessons today – and you watched 24 hours a day (I don’t recommend this, haha!) – it would take you more than 100 days to go through them all.
This massive amount of information can be deceiving because students think they have to watch it all. But that’s not the reason we have so many lessons. The reason we have so many different lessons is because there are so many different drummers who all want to learn something different. We want to help everyone!
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