Do 'Conditioner' Exercises Work


Silver Member
I'm a big subscriber to what could be called the Mangini practice method: slow, deliberate, repetitive, focussed, thoroughly mastering an item before moving on. Those familiar with his Rhythm Knowledge series will know what I'm talking about.

However, I'm curious about the effectiveness of these so-called 'conditioner' exercises, a la Stick Control etc. A book like Stick Control, Chaffee's Patterns series, and Mangini's own Vol. 2 present all possible sticking and limb combinations of a particular rhythm group, phrase, sub-division, time signature etc. Of course, there are hundreds of possible combinations. Something like a setptuplet has 128 possible combinations using just the hands, let alone getting the feet involved.

Of course, with so much information, you can't practically dedicated hours and hours to each and every combination in the hope of, eventually, years and years and years down the line, mastering them all. Instead, these books prescribe conditoiners: run through the whole collection x number of times each. Stone, for instance, says do each exercise per page 20 times per day.

With Mangini's ATP (combinations for odd groupings), I do 20 per day of each limb pair.

What I'm wondering is, do these actually work? With Mangini himself talking so much about the brain's learning process, with repetition, repetition, slow repetition, can such small snippets of practice time for each combination actually reap any benefits.

If we took the first page of Stick Control, if would take a whole week to do each exercise 100 times. Yet Mangini prescribes spending 90 minutes per day, 4 times a week, for 6 weeks, to just master ONE thing. Can these conditioners really work?

So far, I haven't been doing these limb combinations long enough to tell myself yet, but I'm hoping that, so long as I'm regular, running through the combination conditioners every day, they will slowly absorb into my vocabulary.

What do you think?


Pioneer Member
Ensure that you are constantly evaluating the quality of the repetitions as you play them, both by feel and sound - stick heights, hand form, dynamic consistency, space between the notes, accuracy to click.

These patterns will sink in a lot quicker if practiced consciously. It's largely a waste of time to mindlessly complete hours of repetition where no attention is heeded to form, groove and tone.

To add, unless you're blessed with great concentration i'd advise sticking to two or three sticking patterns in a day. Don't be afraid to revisit singles, doubles and paras. Run the patterns through the rhythm scale (eg. half-note triplets through to 64th notes), and around the kit

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
Mangini states that repeating a motion for 90 minutes for 3-4x weekly for 6 weeks will greatly improve it and the results will stick.

The key word here is "motion". He is not saying to repeat any and every exercise/combination for 90 minutes.For example: If one wanted to improve his double stroke roll one could play that for 90 minutes. The exact phrasing and tempo is irrelevant. The key issue would be to continue the motion for the 90 mins. So, you could play up the table of time, or around the kit or just stay at one tempo/note rate.

Some things that can be worked on with this technique include: Free strokes, Moeller, finger control, double bass rolls, etc.

Exercises like the permutations are played until they are mastered to the appropriate level. Usually several hundred reps of each for the time required to burn it into your nervous system. You might spend 1-10 mins on each, for example.

Hope this helps.


Gold Member
The exercises like the ones Stick Control aren't designed to be "mastered" in and of themselves. The purpose of that book and books like it is mastery of playing style and technique, not necessarily the permutations. Staying relaxed, with a natural playing style, good technique, tone, touch, etc -at all tempos and dynamic levels- are the skill sets to master from those books. Mastery of the stickings themselves is largely inconsequential. The exercises and permutations are there to challenge your abilities in those high level areas I mentioned before. In many ways, there really isn't any way you can prove to yourself that you've completely mastered some thing like 'touch' on the drum set. That's what makes books like Stick Control so wonderful. Its truly a life long study that you can't get enough out of.

In short, the purpose of those exercises isn't so you can master one before moving to the next. But rather, you use those exercises as tools to continually improve your playing on a higher level where mastery isn't really something you can attain.
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Silver Member
Thanks for the replies. However, I feel people have missed the point slightly. I WANT to master all of the permutations in this specific exercise, and I'm asking if treating them as conditioner exercises everyday will work, as there are hundreds of them. I don't think there are enough hours in the day to work on each one individually, so doing 20 or so repetitions of each one every day, which in itself takes a couple of hours.

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Amazing chops aside, I never really 'got' Mangini, musically speaking. And practicing a paradiddle for 90 mins would make me want to kill myself. That's the opposite of being musical, more like athletics or something.


I think you should stick with it until you see an improvement. It seems to come in spurts and you've come this far, why not give it a bit more time?


Gold Member
That's how I learned to practice, so my answers is yes to the OP. Though I think eventually there is a piont where you have to move away from the books, memorize the stuff, and build your own practice routine.


"Uncle Larry"
To answer the thread title...yes. The question is how fast will they improve your hands. That depends on how you perform the exercises. In my world, I'll do a single pattern for fifteen minutes and many times much longer, with as perfect form as I am capable, so the muscle memory is literally burned in there. My goal is to fatigue my muscles, so the next time I practice, I am a tiny bit more developed. Not everybody agrees with this approach..."you gotta stay relaxed" and all that...which I subscribe to. It's possible to stay relaxed and still fatigue your hands, usually the accents are the things that really stretch and strengthen my muscles. I play relaxed and really lay into the accents so I can feel the tendons stretching in my hands.

My approach is first I want to strengthen and stretch and the muscles and tendons with these exercises. Relaxing them comes after I have sufficient facility developed. So if you do these exercises, and don't try and fatigue the hands, well... I feel that progress won't be as fast as the person who fatigues the muscles, assuming a proper form. I am a firm believer that drummers need to condition (read strengthen, build and stretch) the muscles and tendons in their hands, fingers wrists and forearms. So I treat rudiments like exercises, the kind where you fatigue your muscles. I don't expect everybody to agree with this, but my hand facility has progressed steadily over the years doing it like this.

At this point in my practice journey, even though I will still do paras once in a while, they are not my main focus. I'm still not happy with my singles, doubles and flams. So I work on just those, and accenting wherever I feel that day for the fatigue factor. By the end of a session, my hands are stronger than in the beginning of the session, because that's my goal, to strengthen and develop the muscles in my hand. Particularly, my weak hand.

My approach is...until I can get my left hand as nimble and as strong and as fast as my right hand, it's a bad use of time to do anything more advanced. In my mind it is almost a waste of time to try and move forward when my left hand is still not up to speed. I am so close to the point of equalization now, that I feel I can really start to work on the basics in earnest now, from an "equal hands" starting point. Even though I have been concentrating on mostly single strokes and left hand equalization for 10 years now, I feel I am right at the beginning. When I have lawnmower singles, and effortless blazing doubles, I will move on to the diddle rudiments. At this point, I think that in another year maybe 2, I will feel ready to move on to the diddle rudiments

So to answer your question, it depends how you use the conditioner exercises. I do think they work, it's just a question of how fast do they work. That depends on how you use them. My opinion only.
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Living Dead Drummer

Platinum Member
My practice routine is the slow, deliberate, repetitive, focused method your talking about.
Through I don't cram in dozens of sticking patterns. I have about 10 or so that I do every day in 5 min increments. The whole bunch takes about an hour to get through.

When I started with them I took it as slow as I could, 40 BPM, and as they improved, I sped up. Currently I'm working with them between 140-50 BPM. Again, 5 min every day for each. Total 1 hour.

My 2nd & 3rd hour of practice each day is grooves and fills, but with the same slow, repetitive technique, building over time to faster and faster.

I can say this really does work. When playing any of these patterns or exercises at higher temps, everything still sounds super clean and deliberate.


Platinum Member
I think the fastest way of getting anything into your vocabulary, whether its singles or metric modulation, is by playing it in a musical setting as often as possible.


Pioneer Member
Thanks for the replies. However, I feel people have missed the point slightly. I WANT to master all of the permutations in this specific exercise, and I'm asking if treating them as conditioner exercises everyday will work, as there are hundreds of them. I don't think there are enough hours in the day to work on each one individually, so doing 20 or so repetitions of each one every day, which in itself takes a couple of hours.

Again, it's quality over quantity. It's a rare breed of musician that could maintain a worthwhile focus over that many repetitions from the word go. Build up, get the most out of each sticking. There's very little point only treating them as conditioners. Your body and brain will assimilate the patterns more readily if you approach them musically.

Yes, repetition. Also - rhythm scale, kit orchestration, dynamics, dividing between hands and feet.