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You don’t need to ‘believe’ in New Year’s resolutions to want to make a change in your drumming life. Some people don’t like to make resolutions because they think they’ll let themselves down, but here’s the cold, wintery truth: any drummer can reach their goal if they know how to stick to it.

Life tends to be slower around the holidays, which means your head might be clearer than usual. If you can use that clarity to develop a more effective practice routine this year, there are ways to make sure you can actually cross your goals off the to-do list (instead of regretting flimsy resolutions).

If you’ve been telling yourself you’re going to learn that Deep Purple song, improve your left hand control, or get acquainted with a new drumming style, this is the best time to do it. So here’s your recipe for resolution redemption:

Set achievable goals

If you set impossible goals – or even reasonable goals on an impossible timeline – you’re unlikely to achieve them, which will only bring you frustration and make it less likely that you’ll follow through.

How do you know if a goal is achievable?

  • It’s just outside of your comfort zone or above your current skill level
  • It can be measured
  • It’s foundational or can be broken down into manageable components
  • It gets you excited
  • It can be completed in a realistic time frame

You should be aware of your skill level and be honest about how much time you have in your schedule – otherwise you may be setting a goal or assigning it on a timeline that you won’t be able to achieve anytime soon.

If you really like structure, setting SMART goals can keep you on track:

  • S (Specific – be clear about what you want to accomplish)
  • M (Measurable – so you can quantify your progress)
  • A (Achievable – it isn’t impossible)
  • R (Relevant – it’ll move your playing forward)
  • T (Time-bound – you’ve given yourself a deadline)

Set specific goals

Saying “I want to be a better drummer” is a good place to start, but it’s a big, broad target that gives you too much room and can be overwhelming. What are some components that will contribute to your improvement? How far can you break down your goal? What do you have to learn or improve on to get there?

Sometimes it’s easier to choose a song that represents your goal outcome, and figure out what you’ll need to learn or practice to nail the track.

  • I want to be a better drummer > I want to play more fluidly > I want to get comfortable with at least 10 common drum fills
  • I want to get into a good practice routine > I want to play every day > I want to practice for one hour every day
  • I want to play funk > I want to be able to play “Funky Drummer” > I want to play syncopated beats without thinking about it
  • I want to get faster > I want to be able to play “Raining Blood” > I want to be able to play a thrash beat at 220 BPM

Decide exactly what you want to accomplish and what it’ll take to get there. Then work backwards toward your goal.

Master educator Dom Famularo has some fantastic and inspirational practice tips in this hour-long lesson:

Put it in your schedule

A great plan means nothing if you can’t make room in your schedule. No matter how badly you want to hit your targets, and no matter how rarely you make excuses, it may not be physically possible to put the work in if you haven’t set aside blocks of time in advance. And that’s exactly what needs to happen, whether it’s before you go to work or school, after rehearsal with the band, or when the kids are out with a relative. If you wait until you ‘feel like it’ or until you have a spare moment, you’re less likely to practice. Maybe ‘stop procrastinating’ is one of your resolutions.

You’re more likely to make quicker progress with more short practices than with fewer long practices, so if you can set aside even one 30-minute window of time per day – and actually block it out in your calendar for the next few weeks or months with a reminder on your phone – you should be able to check off all the boxes.

But if you can make it a goal to practice every single day, you’re likely to see progress sooner. Getting into a routine will also make sure you get the repetition you need for new information (and muscle memory) to stick.

Minimize distractions

When it comes to staying focused, it’s easier said than done. Everyone hopes they’ll maintain a steady track forward toward goal completion. The best way to focus is to eliminate as many distractions as possible and carefully control your environment when you’re practicing:

  • Put your phone in airplane mode.
  • Make sure anyone around you knows when to not interrupt you.
  • Set an alarm to go off when your practice session is over so you aren’t tempted to keep checking the time.
  • If possible, finish any work or stressful tasks before you play so you can go in with a clear mind (and have less to think about).
  • Make sure you aren’t hungry and keep a bottle of water beside you.
  • Close the door!

Hold yourself accountable

Many studies suggest you’re more likely to accomplish a goal if you tell someone about it (especially someone you consider successful or whose opinion you respect). But you should also be disciplined enough to hold yourself accountable. This might be tough if you’re extrinsically motivated.

But writing everything down, whether it’s on a physical calendar or as a daily phone reminder, can be a strong way to see your own message every day – and make it 42% more likely that you’ll achieve your goals. It’s the best gift you can give to yourself.

Some people find a reward system effective: “If I complete X by DATE, I’ll take myself on a trip“ or “If I practice 30 days in a row, I’ve earned that new cymbal.” If you respond better to instant gratification, give yourself smaller rewards every few days.

Other people are more likely to take action if they promise themselves a punishment should they fail to meet a goal by a certain date. If you know what best gets you motivated, do that – but only when you reach a predetermined, specific milestone.

Drumming Practice Timesheet

Are you a visual person? Click here to download or print this timesheet. Write down the date, the time you started and finished your practice, the specific goal you’re trying to reach (ex. tempo, song completion, number of exercises, practice duration, etc.), and the result you achieved that day. A timesheet is one great way to visually monitor your progress and stay on track!


Samantha Landa

Samantha Landa is a Canadian metal drummer and writer. She currently plays with Dead Asylum and has spent the last few years as a touring session drummer with Nervosa and Introtyl. Sam has been featured by outlets such as Sick Drummer Magazine and DRUM! Magazine, and proudly endorses Mapex Drums, Sabian Cymbals and Los Cabos Drumsticks.

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