It’s been a wee while since I’ve done anything with the website, so I feel it’s a good time to come back. In the next few weeks you will find more articles and more updates, including an overall upgrade of material on the site. To start, here is an article from my book, The Church Drummer, about practicing (pp25-6).
Why, When, What, and for how long?
Everyone has a different method of practicing, so this article is not to necessarily answer these questions, but to just address the topic of practicing. I also sympathise with drummers who want to practice but just don’t know where to start! The issue of putting time aside to practice is really down to how much you can realistically commit to. I fully understand that life can get really busy, with work, families and other commitments getting in the way. You may serve the Church in many areas, and this is just one, so how on earth can you find time to practice?
Well, there are certain obstacles to overcome these issues:
- 10 minutes of rudimental practice a day on a pad. Never underestimate this. (see Tommy Igoe’s Great Hands for A Lifetime DVD from Hudson Music, a must-have for those without a “rudimental” background).
- Listen to a different style of music or a new drummer each week.
- Practice time-keeping with a metronome.
- Learn to read charts through the Charting method.
- Watch the accompanying DVD performances with this package.
- Watch videos on drummerworld.com or on YouTube.
- Practice the CD play-along tracks and various other songs either once a weekor on a fortnightly basis.
- Practice the concepts mentioned in this book either once a week or on afortnightly basis.
- Attend a gig.
- Watch Paul Baloche’s Worship Band videos on YouTube or read a book aboutWorship Music, such as ‘Worship Matters’ by Bob Kauflin.
To actual practice methods, here are a few practical tips which I’ve taken from well- respected drummers such as Dom Famularo, Steve Smith and Joe Morello:
1. Make Good Use of Time
A disciplined practice session is much better than one that’s spent messing about the drum kit. Of course, it’s good to practice with elements of spontaneity, but when you’re practicing on a pad it is especially useful to dive straight in. A few examples include: Stretching your muscles first, briefly warming up, checking your technique is looking efficient and relaxed, work on some technical exercises and round up with a collaboration of rudiments. If you’re on the drum kit, stretch, warm up, work on some groove ideas, play along to a song and round up with a drum solo.
2. Go Slowly at First
It is extremely important to practice all exercises slowly at first, as this helps you control everything. It doesn’t so much matter how fast you can go, I find it’s more useful having control over slower tempos! Dom Famularo says: “your mind learns and reprograms habits by constant repetition. Slow, consistent, correct strokes will ensure that you are reprogramming your old habits with more effective ones!”
3. Use A Watch and a Metronome
Simply put, if you want to improve your time the metronome is a very effective tool for that. It is also a very frustrating tool at times, but, when you learn more about time and feel and groove, you will enjoy playing with a metronome. A good way to learn certain exercises is to play them for 2 minutes with a stopwatch: eg. starting 50bpm, going up 5bpm at a time to where it feels most comfortable.
4. Stay Relaxed At All Times
Dom Famularo states: “there is a major difference between tension and intensity. Tension is the tightening of your muscles. Intensity is full commitment and total focus.” Make sure you are relaxed as you practice, both on and off the drum kit.
5. Be Patient
Sometimes you feel like your not making any progress with the sounds you create from the drum kit, but its important to remain patient. Some things do take longer to understand, control and then execute out on the drum kit. I often find when I’m working on a tried and tested method of practicing, I persist with it, especially if a particular exercise is going to be useful in my playing.
6. Think About the Overall Tone of the Drum Kit
What I mean here is thinking about each part of the drum kit as several instruments, or voices, if you wish to use that term. Think like a painter who has many different colours. How is he going to use them effectively to create his masterpiece? Relating this to the drum kit, when you play grooves, think about how loudly everything should sound. Is the hi hat too loud, is the bass drum lining up with the hi hat? You could also practice with very few parts of the kit, or just on a pad using very little notes, and then build from there. In short, analyse your playing, scrutinise it, but don’t be too critical. In a short time you will find yourself twice as good as you once were.
*For more useful information on this topic, please check out Dom Famularo’s drum book, It’s Your Move, published by Warner Bros.