Practice- To book or not to book

pcjazzdrums

Junior Member
As a preface, I have been studying for most of my seven years on the drums with a variety of tools, but mainly using various books. I have worked my way up through the standards (Stick Control, Portraits in Rhythm) and am now focusing on some more complicated stuff like Gary Chester's The New Breed and John Riley's awesome bop books.

So, essentially I spend 70% of my practice time (1-4 hours per day) on books and the other 30% on things like creative soloing, playing along with tunes, etc.

This was all going well, until I went to clinics in Cleveland with Mr. Dave Weckl, who mentioned that books aren't always the best route. I would never argue with his expert opinion, but I was just a little confused. I guess my question is, if not books, then how else should I go about this?

I understand that there are infinite possibilities for what I can practice. But I feel that just aimlessly messing around without the guidance of books will lead me nowhere. Also, I hear stories of professionals practicing 6-8 hours a day. If they're not using books, how do they efficiently use their time?

Any tips would be awesome. I do take lessons and my big goal here is just to learn as much as possible and be the best I can. Thanks everyone.
 
As a preface, I have been studying for most of my seven years on the drums with a variety of tools, but mainly using various books. I have worked my way up through the standards (Stick Control, Portraits in Rhythm) and am now focusing on some more complicated stuff like Gary Chester's The New Breed and John Riley's awesome bop books.

So, essentially I spend 70% of my practice time (1-4 hours per day) on books and the other 30% on things like creative soloing, playing along with tunes, etc.

This was all going well, until I went to clinics in Cleveland with Mr. Dave Weckl, who mentioned that books aren't always the best route. I would never argue with his expert opinion, but I was just a little confused. I guess my question is, if not books, then how else should I go about this?

I understand that there are infinite possibilities for what I can practice. But I feel that just aimlessly messing around without the guidance of books will lead me nowhere. Also, I hear stories of professionals practicing 6-8 hours a day. If they're not using books, how do they efficiently use their time?

Any tips would be awesome. I do take lessons and my big goal here is just to learn as much as possible and be the best I can. Thanks everyone.
Well, I think practice methods are going to vary greatly from one drummer to another. I think books are probably the best way to start off, to get yourself a foundation going, but after that, it's really down to you, practicing whatever you think will help you improve the most. If that includes working out of a book, great, do it up. In saying that, I've never actually had the patience to sit down and work through books (I know, I'm awful...). When I practice I play along to songs, usually with increasing difficulty, from various styles. I also like to get video lessons online and put them on my iPod and then play with those. I haven't been able to take formal drum lessons, as I can't find a teacher near me (not that I could afford the lessons if I did find one. Stupid University kid budget...). Whatever works for you!
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Obviously, I wasn't there to hear exactly what and how he said it, but I don't think Weckl meant don't use books.

Early in his career, Weckl would go on at length about working out with Gary Chester's The New Breed, so he himself was very much from the book school of thought.

My guess is, based on seeing him in clinic 10,000 times and such since the 80's, is he meant don't rely on just books. One criticism he took early in the career was some people (keep in mind very few) thought his playing was too technical (i.e. he played like he was spouting off pages from a book rather than playing from the heart).

So I would assume he was simply warning against falling into the trap of just being a book player, and not doing other things, like playing with people, which is much different than playing parts out of a book. Or going to see live music, and listening to albums.

Books teach how to play drums, but few, if any, books, really explain how to play music with other people. And I assume that was his point.
 

toddy

Platinum Member
my favourite way to practice is with a bassist/guitarist and/or DJ. we just set up for a few hours most afternoons and 'jam'. each of us has stuff we need to practice so we just rotate in and out of random things every few mins/as we feel like it. then again i always make sure to practice on my own too.
 

mikeg

Senior Member
I also doubt that Dave Weckl is discouraging the use of books, and I would agree that books are not the best route. A qualified teacher is probably the best route. Dave Weckl was fortunate and studied with Gary Chester. It also sounds like you're spending too much time practicing by yourself. Grab any opportunity you can to play with other musicians. Many times the focus of my practice comes from ideas I get while playing with others.
 

pcjazzdrums

Junior Member
I also doubt that Dave Weckl is discouraging the use of books, and I would agree that books are not the best route. A qualified teacher is probably the best route. Dave Weckl was fortunate and studied with Gary Chester. It also sounds like you're spending too much time practicing by yourself. Grab any opportunity you can to play with other musicians. Many times the focus of my practice comes from ideas I get while playing with others.
Thanks to everyone for the answers so far.

In response to this message, I do have a qualified teacher but the way he chooses to teach me is typically by working through books. Also, I play in various small jazz and big band settings as much as I can but I guess I could always play more with others.

So, let's just say I stopped using books for a week. If I wanted to fill in an hour each night with stuff on my own, what would you recommend that I practice? Should I try to work out fills or just play along with songs? I'm just confused with how to think of things to work on without the aid of books.

I might have heard Mr. Weckl in a way that I interpreted his comment differently. I believe he said he doesn't necessarily endorse the book method, perhaps he meant that you shouldn't only use books. I am in complete agreement that it's never good to just practice one way. Thanks again to everyone.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
The late Tony Williams once said in an interview he would turn on the radio, turn it to a random stations, and try to play along to just whatever came on.

Now, here is a guy who was already a jazz legend, but he was open to playing along to modern rock, pop, country, whatever songs to expand his knowledge. I thought that was pretty cool.

I've only tried a few times, and I admit, I cheated by choosing a station I liked.
 

mikeg

Senior Member
Thanks to everyone for the answers so far.

In response to this message, I do have a qualified teacher but the way he chooses to teach me is typically by working through books. Also, I play in various small jazz and big band settings as much as I can but I guess I could always play more with others.

So, let's just say I stopped using books for a week. If I wanted to fill in an hour each night with stuff on my own, what would you recommend that I practice? Should I try to work out fills or just play along with songs? I'm just confused with how to think of things to work on without the aid of books.

I might have heard Mr. Weckl in a way that I interpreted his comment differently. I believe he said he doesn't necessarily endorse the book method, perhaps he meant that you shouldn't only use books. I am in complete agreement that it's never good to just practice one way. Thanks again to everyone.
I'm positively not saying don't use books. If you have a teacher and he's asking you to use the books, then your doing the right thing by following his request. Many of the drum exercises in Gary Chester's The New Breed were given to Weckl before they were published. I read this in Modern Drummer article about Gary Chester a couple of years ago.

Are you recording any of your practice sessions? Video is best (in my opinion), but if you at least record yourself every so often, you can better identify areas that should become the focus for your next practice.
 

mikeg

Senior Member
The late Tony Williams once said in an interview he would turn on the radio, turn it to a random stations, and try to play along to just whatever came on.

Now, here is a guy who was already a jazz legend, but he was open to playing along to modern rock, pop, country, whatever songs to expand his knowledge. I thought that was pretty cool.

I've only tried a few times, and I admit, I cheated by choosing a station I liked.
I do this all the time. I put my iPod on shuffle play. I have a very eclectic collection of music, so there's no telling what will pop up next. I do cheat and go to the next one on classical cuts or tunes that have little or no percussion.
 

pcjazzdrums

Junior Member
I'm positively not saying don't use books. If you have a teacher and he's asking you to use the books, then your doing the right thing by following his request. Many of the drum exercises in Gary Chester's The New Breed were given to Weckl before they were published. I read this in Modern Drummer article about Gary Chester a couple of years ago.

Are you recording any of your practice sessions? Video is best (in my opinion), but if you at least record yourself every so often, you can better identify areas that should become the focus for your next practice.
Yes, I understand that you're just trying to help out so thanks. I usually only record with audio but perhaps some time soon I can get some video going.

I was just wondering what people like Elvin Jones or other greats did way back when, when recording wasn't so easy and maybe books weren't so common. Yet I've still heard that some of the jazz greats got 6-8 hours of practice in a day. I wish I had the attention span for that...
 

denisri

Silver Member
Books,CD's etc..provide concepts that you should develop modify to your personnel touch. I'll take a concept from a book and work it for days,weeks,months and years! Denis
 

skreg

Senior Member
It's also important to keep a log of what you spend your time practicing. This allows you to closely examine your practice routines and gauge how fast you're improving.

I play between 20 and 30 hours a week, and I like to split my time up like this:
  • 60% Books - working on grooves and coordination. I focus on one book for a few months but also work on something different every day, so two books at a time.
  • 30% Technique - hands or feet, playing on the pad between homework assignments, while drinking coffee, etc. any time I can.
  • 10% Playing with drumless tracks or jamming with people.

I played for four years just playing 5-10 hours a week, and sometimes not at all. In the last year I've maintained this new routine and can now play simple stuff very well, keeping the groove tight and at least sustaining momentum during fills. I can play simple stuff well in most genres, funk, jazz, rock, although my double bass skills are pretty pathetic and I haven't had a chance to study Latin music (yet).

Now that I have a lot of coordination problems solved, I'm starting to focus in playing with drumless tracks more.
 

pcjazzdrums

Junior Member
Cool, Skreg, thanks for the input.

I actually recently started making schedules for practicing in a journal of sorts, and then I analyze how everything went after each session. It's starting to help out.

Sounds like you have a similar program to me, as in the last week or so I've started playing more to music and such.

By the way, hit the Latin when you can. One of the coolest and most challenging styles of music, if you ask me.
 

Drums101

Senior Member
So, essentially I spend 70% of my practice time (1-4 hours per day) on books and the other 30% on things like creative soloing, playing along with tunes, etc.
I would say that I do the opposite. I spend 70% on things not related to a book, and 30% related to a book.

I think of books as not as important as performing or soloing. Books can help you improvise, but the best practice would be to just completely improvise on your own. To me, exercises in books are like going to practices for a sport. There important, but there not actually playing the sport.

So, both practicing with and without books are important, but I would practice more without a book.
 

pcjazzdrums

Junior Member
I would say that I do the opposite. I spend 70% on things not related to a book, and 30% related to a book.

I think of books as not as important as performing or soloing. Books can help you improvise, but the best practice would be to just completely improvise on your own. To me, exercises in books are like going to practices for a sport. There important, but there not actually playing the sport.

So, both practicing with and without books are important, but I would practice more without a book.

Alright, I understand what you're saying. But what kind of things do you work on in your 70% non-book practice? What's a typical routine for you?

Thanks for the reply, by the way.
 

Drums101

Senior Member
Alright, I understand what you're saying. But what kind of things do you work on in your 70% non-book practice? What's a typical routine for you?

Thanks for the reply, by the way.
This is what I normally practice when I play without a book:

I play along to all sorts of different tracks, mainly jazz, but some funk and rock.

Then, I work on my soloing. Recently I've been doing latin type soloing. I listen to a lot of solos and try to make my ideas in the solos flow. I try to make my solos one long idea.

I'll also work on technique, rudiments and moving around the kit.

Next, I will probably listen to music and if I hear something cool I'll try to imitate it. Or I will just mess around the kit and try coming up with some new beats.
 

Fishnmusicn

Senior Member
Feel who you are when you practice and you will be your own best teacher, its already there. Kind of Zen I know but I believe it. You're trying to learn from others but find out who you are from yourself.

Fishnmusicn
 

pcjazzdrums

Junior Member
Right, I guess the best way to figure this out is to experiment on my own. I've been doing this, but just trying to seek some guidance from others as well.

Just had a bad day on the kit, but I'll be at it again tomorrow.
 

Fishnmusicn

Senior Member
Good for you keep trying that's the right attitude regardless of where you find it, you'll make it yours when you're ready. Believe it or not I'm in the same boat and I'm trying to help us both.

Fishnmusicn
 

JoeLackey

Senior Member
I would say both. Stick to books AND give yourself freedom. You've got to develop the groove on your own - books can't teach you that. Always be studying a book though. Keep yourself educated.
 
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