Why you have to practice to go pro

mrchattr

Gold Member
I have been asked or questioned a bunch of times recently (both on here in threads, and in private messages; and in real life) about my practice habbits. When I talk about the times that I have spent practicing 8 hours a day, or how I still try to play for a minimum of four hours a day, I am often met with puzzlement, or even called a liar. So, I decided to actually post a thread about it, explaining why that is important if you want to make it as a pro. Any comments, or if any other people want to post their practice schedules, would rock.

First off, there are a ton of variables in making it as a pro. There are better drummers than me who play less gigs in a year than I do in a week, and there are worse drummers than me who make way more money from drumming in a month than I do in a year. Networking, attitude, etc, are all a big part of it. This is just dealing with the practice, and getting better. It also ignores any natural talent, etc. Practice time is one of the few things that you can truly control in trying to make it as a pro (although there are certainly things you can do to help with the attitude, networking, etc).

Assume that you (the reader who wants to make it as a professional drummer, but hasn't yet) and I are starting this last week off at the exact talent level (which, in itself, is a misnomer, but roll with me). This is my schedule from the last week just from rehearsals and gigs (in other words, ignoring any personal practice, for now):

Saturday - 4 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Sunday - Off
Monday - 4 hour rehearsal
Tuesday - 2 hour afternoon gig + 3 hour evening gig + 1 hour in soundchecks
Wednesday - 4 hour rehearsal
Thursday - 3 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Friday - 4 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Saturday - 3 hour gig + half hour soundcheck

That is a total of 31 hours of drumming, just with my bands in the week. Now, there are weeks when it will be less playing time (though that is rare), and there will be weeks when I'm doing studio work for 10 to 12 hours a day, 5 to 6 days in a week. Now, since drumming is my day job, that also means that I am able to practice during the day. On average, I put in 2 additional hours drumming, either on a kit or on a pad. Also, when I have a day off, like on Sunday, I try to do at least 4 hours, if not more, of practice.

That means that, for the person who starts the week at my same talent level, to "keep up" with me, you will have to play at least 48 hours, just to get in the same amount of playing that I do in a week. If you accept, as most musicians do, that any practice helps you get better, then to get past where I am at, you are going to be putting in 48 or more hours in a week behind the kit. It's hard to do when in school, or when working a full time job to support yourself until the music career takes off. It takes a ton of extreme dedication and desire, and requires a lot of sacrifice...but so does pursuing any career.
 

freebirdgdw

Silver Member
My hat goes off to you sir. Very impressive. You must be very dedicated to do that much. At the minute I play about 2 hrs a day but I think this is going to go up now :) probably more on rudiments also rather than just kit playing. Time to whip out the old practice pad methinks.
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
My hat goes off to you sir. Very impressive. You must be very dedicated to do that much. At the minute I play about 2 hrs a day but I think this is going to go up now :) probably more on rudiments also rather than just kit playing. Time to whip out the old practice pad methinks.
It is amazing what you can do if you pull out a practice pad and then play while watching a movie or something...it can be 2 hours of practice, without it really feeling like practice!
 

jjmason777

Senior Member
I would respectfully submit that some drummers NEED more practice time than others, just to keep up with the ability of more naturally gifted drummers. Buddy Rich comes to mind. Not everyone has the same "talent" as others, and have to try harder, and put in more time to get to a certain level, while others can sit down and play amazingly well with very little practice time. I've seen drummers who have only been playing a couple of years drum circles around guys who have been playing for many years.

Me, I'm somewhere in the middle, but I AM envious of the amount of time you get to spend drumming, Mr. Rossi. I wish drumming was my day job! It could have been, I suppose, if I had remained single, and had no family until after I had established a professional drumming career (sigh), but alas, life choices, you know? You are very fortunate. God bless.

Jeff
 

Dedworx

Senior Member
I have been asked or questioned a bunch of times recently (both on here in threads, and in private messages; and in real life) about my practice habbits. When I talk about the times that I have spent practicing 8 hours a day, or how I still try to play for a minimum of four hours a day, I am often met with puzzlement, or even called a liar. So, I decided to actually post a thread about it, explaining why that is important if you want to make it as a pro. Any comments, or if any other people want to post their practice schedules, would rock.

First off, there are a ton of variables in making it as a pro. There are better drummers than me who play less gigs in a year than I do in a week, and there are worse drummers than me who make way more money from drumming in a month than I do in a year. Networking, attitude, etc, are all a big part of it. This is just dealing with the practice, and getting better. It also ignores any natural talent, etc. Practice time is one of the few things that you can truly control in trying to make it as a pro (although there are certainly things you can do to help with the attitude, networking, etc).

Assume that you (the reader who wants to make it as a professional drummer, but hasn't yet) and I are starting this last week off at the exact talent level (which, in itself, is a misnomer, but roll with me). This is my schedule from the last week just from rehearsals and gigs (in other words, ignoring any personal practice, for now):

Saturday - 4 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Sunday - Off
Monday - 4 hour rehearsal
Tuesday - 2 hour afternoon gig + 3 hour evening gig + 1 hour in soundchecks
Wednesday - 4 hour rehearsal
Thursday - 3 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Friday - 4 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Saturday - 3 hour gig + half hour soundcheck

That is a total of 31 hours of drumming, just with my bands in the week. Now, there are weeks when it will be less playing time (though that is rare), and there will be weeks when I'm doing studio work for 10 to 12 hours a day, 5 to 6 days in a week. Now, since drumming is my day job, that also means that I am able to practice during the day. On average, I put in 2 additional hours drumming, either on a kit or on a pad. Also, when I have a day off, like on Sunday, I try to do at least 4 hours, if not more, of practice.

That means that, for the person who starts the week at my same talent level, to "keep up" with me, you will have to play at least 48 hours, just to get in the same amount of playing that I do in a week. If you accept, as most musicians do, that any practice helps you get better, then to get past where I am at, you are going to be putting in 48 or more hours in a week behind the kit. It's hard to do when in school, or when working a full time job to support yourself until the music career takes off. It takes a ton of extreme dedication and desire, and requires a lot of sacrifice...but so does pursuing any career.
its awesome how much you play and the time you still put into practise even after establishing yourself as a working drummer. i;'ve read about drummers practising loads when they're young, turning pro, then sort of not practising.

i would disagree about someone only being able to get past you by putting in more time. what you practise i think is more important than how long you practise for.
 

JPW

Silver Member
Is it always better to practice more? I mean I can get my body all sore and weak after 5 hours efficient practice with all four limbs practicing something all the time. I _could_ up it to 8 or even 12 hours but I have had the feeling that it has diminishing returns and my body needs the rest more than the monotonous practice withouth focus anymore. So I rather listen to music and get new ideas or contribute something in the internet community. This all gives me better understanding what I'm doing while giving my body a chance to restore.

So my question would be, if you can call all of 12 hours a day playing practice you would have to maintain focus all of that time. How on earth are you doing it? I'm not saying you can't, but you must be doing something interesting mentally.
 

tbmills

Gold Member
well, im impressed. im on tour with my band right now and i have honestly only played my drums one time when not at a gig. (it was after and the owner didnt care) ultimately, i end up listening to music everyday, all day and i actually like doing so much mental practice without touching my kit. its all cool thing to try.
 

ChipJohns

Senior Member
I would respectfully submit that some drummers NEED more practice time than others, just to keep up with the ability of more naturally gifted drummers. Buddy Rich comes to mind. Not everyone has the same "talent" as others, and have to try harder, and put in more time to get to a certain level, while others can sit down and play amazingly well with very little practice time. I've seen drummers who have only been playing a couple of years drum circles around guys who have been playing for many years.

Me, I'm somewhere in the middle, but I AM envious of the amount of time you get to spend drumming, Mr. Rossi. I wish drumming was my day job! It could have been, I suppose, if I had remained single, and had no family until after I had established a professional drumming career (sigh), but alas, life choices, you know? You are very fortunate. God bless.

Jeff
Not disagreeing with you here Jeff, just expounding on your thoughts...

I use to do quite a bit of public speaking, For me it kind of comes naturally. A friend of mind, it wasn't so natural for him. He worked very, very hard to do it. He still wasn't quite as good as me, however, very competent. I always thought to myself, "If I worked at it as hard as he does, how good would I be?"

Buddy Rich had an awesome amount of natural talent. I think Jo Jo mayer must fall into this category as well. Buddy Rich was so great because he worked harder than most everyone else. Otherwise, he would have been one of the greats instead of, in my opinion, still the drummer that holds the most distinction ever. He is the mark.

I feel had he set back and lived with his natural talent he would have been just one of the greats instead of the greatest. (was this sentence redundant?)

(if you disagree that he is the greatest that ever was, that is really a separate issue to the point I am making!)

Natural talent is not an excuse for not practicing. Buddy focused on being HIS best, not in comparison to anyone else. I think that's what makes any champion.

If you are going to play drums for the long haul professionally, for you own self-wellbeing, you need to constantly be improving or you will not succeed for very long...

...and as they say, "Practice makes perfect."
 

Moldy

Silver Member
This is indeed true, but I think the point he was making is that person B might be able to do in 4 hours what it would take person A 10 hours of practice to accomplish, simply because they are more talented, adapt quicker and/or are just having a good day.

I also think it's a matter of quality with quantity. While rudiments are necessary, they shouldn't take up 2 hours a day if you're solid in them. So it's not only about how much time you put into it, but also how you use it.
 

ChipJohns

Senior Member
Is it always better to practice more? I mean I can get my body all sore and weak after 5 hours efficient practice with all four limbs practicing something all the time. I _could_ up it to 8 or even 12 hours but I have had the feeling that it has diminishing returns and my body needs the rest more than the monotonous practice withouth focus anymore. So I rather listen to music and get new ideas or contribute something in the internet community. This all gives me better understanding what I'm doing while giving my body a chance to restore.

So my question would be, if you can call all of 12 hours a day playing practice you would have to maintain focus all of that time. How on earth are you doing it? I'm not saying you can't, but you must be doing something interesting mentally.
Agreed: Practiceshould be balanced with goals...

If I were going to be in a drum competition next month that could score me $50,000. I may practice for 12 hours a day from now till then. after the competition, probably not,

Practice is for two reasons.

  1. to maintain. (you may suggest gigging maintains. Usually not true. Gigging drains. We need to check our form to make sure gigging isn't teaching us bad habits.)
  2. to improve

Amount of time and the activities we use for practice should be governed by our goals.
 

JPW

Silver Member
Amount of time and the activities we use for practice should be governed by our goals.
Yes, and even then you can't compare amounts of time practiced until every one practices as efficiently as others. This is by far the most important thing. You have to know what your goals are and what is the most efficient way for YOU to achieve those. Time doesn't matter, it's the practice routine, and the ability to maintain focus.

Of course you can practice 12hours a day and hope you are doing something correctly, if you just randomly do stuff for such a big amount of time it most propably will benefit you, but that doesn't mean someone else couldn't get the same benefit from 5 hours of _efficient_ practice. I think genetics are a really marginal thing compared to practice efficiency and focus. And again I'm not saying original poster didn't practice efficiently, but the amount of posts about practice TIME gives me the impression that most people assume it's all about time consumption, when in my experience it isn't quite true.

Most 'talents' we see are mysteriously gifted because they just haven't told anyone about their practice routines. It's like magicians, it isn't magic if anyone knows how to do it. =P

One thing I like to add is that there certanly is a minimum amount of time to practice to get better. I think it's something like 1hour per day 3 times per week or something. You won't get to be the greatest drummer that way because you just can't get enough of practice in a life time that way. But I also think there's a personal and goal spesific maximum amount of time where the amount of time added doesn't anymore add to the benefit. And I think that will most propably be somewhere around 5-6 hours per day, every day. But ofcourse if you are gigging and practicing with a band that will give you different sort of new benefits, but they most propably aren't the same ones you practiced for earlier. That's why I don't call them 'drumming practice' and don't count them as such. They are 'band practice' and that is a very important thing also. But so is listening to music and haning out with people to get contacts and also LIVING a life to be able to make music out of it.
 
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keep it simple

Platinum Member
The pro drumming world is one big competition. Initial success is based on displayed ability and being in the right place at the right time. After a while, success is based more on performing history and getting your name about. Like any "competitor", you need to put the hours in until you win a couple of races. Once up there, you can throttle back to concentrate on weaknesses or specialities. Good luck, you'll need a lot of that as well.
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
Is it always better to practice more? I mean I can get my body all sore and weak after 5 hours efficient practice with all four limbs practicing something all the time. I _could_ up it to 8 or even 12 hours but I have had the feeling that it has diminishing returns and my body needs the rest more than the monotonous practice withouth focus anymore. So I rather listen to music and get new ideas or contribute something in the internet community. This all gives me better understanding what I'm doing while giving my body a chance to restore.

So my question would be, if you can call all of 12 hours a day playing practice you would have to maintain focus all of that time. How on earth are you doing it? I'm not saying you can't, but you must be doing something interesting mentally.
Honestly...my mind is always focused on drumming. It takes no work. It's just how I am. My whole life, if I'm watching TV, I have a pad out. If I'm listening to music, I'm analyzing it. If I'm talking to someone, part of my mind is still focused on music. It's actually a bit of an issue at times...in school, I wouldn't do homework 'cause I was studying drum/music stuff. I have turned down dates because I hadn't had enough time to practice that week. When working office jobs, I would always blow off said job to go gig, or even rehearse, which cost me some jobs. It caused me a lot of problems in life, but I have no regrets or complaints.
 
D

DamoSyzygy

Guest
I have been asked or questioned a bunch of times recently (both on here in threads, and in private messages; and in real life) about my practice habbits. When I talk about the times that I have spent practicing 8 hours a day, or how I still try to play for a minimum of four hours a day, I am often met with puzzlement, or even called a liar. So, I decided to actually post a thread about it, explaining why that is important if you want to make it as a pro. Any comments, or if any other people want to post their practice schedules, would rock.

First off, there are a ton of variables in making it as a pro. There are better drummers than me who play less gigs in a year than I do in a week, and there are worse drummers than me who make way more money from drumming in a month than I do in a year. Networking, attitude, etc, are all a big part of it. This is just dealing with the practice, and getting better. It also ignores any natural talent, etc. Practice time is one of the few things that you can truly control in trying to make it as a pro (although there are certainly things you can do to help with the attitude, networking, etc).

Assume that you (the reader who wants to make it as a professional drummer, but hasn't yet) and I are starting this last week off at the exact talent level (which, in itself, is a misnomer, but roll with me). This is my schedule from the last week just from rehearsals and gigs (in other words, ignoring any personal practice, for now):

Saturday - 4 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Sunday - Off
Monday - 4 hour rehearsal
Tuesday - 2 hour afternoon gig + 3 hour evening gig + 1 hour in soundchecks
Wednesday - 4 hour rehearsal
Thursday - 3 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Friday - 4 hour gig + half hour soundcheck
Saturday - 3 hour gig + half hour soundcheck

That is a total of 31 hours of drumming, just with my bands in the week. Now, there are weeks when it will be less playing time (though that is rare), and there will be weeks when I'm doing studio work for 10 to 12 hours a day, 5 to 6 days in a week. Now, since drumming is my day job, that also means that I am able to practice during the day. On average, I put in 2 additional hours drumming, either on a kit or on a pad. Also, when I have a day off, like on Sunday, I try to do at least 4 hours, if not more, of practice.

That means that, for the person who starts the week at my same talent level, to "keep up" with me, you will have to play at least 48 hours, just to get in the same amount of playing that I do in a week. If you accept, as most musicians do, that any practice helps you get better, then to get past where I am at, you are going to be putting in 48 or more hours in a week behind the kit. It's hard to do when in school, or when working a full time job to support yourself until the music career takes off. It takes a ton of extreme dedication and desire, and requires a lot of sacrifice...but so does pursuing any career.
Im at a similar point, with playing and rehearsing usually taking up SIX nights of my week.

I personally believe that quantity of practise time should not be confused with quality practise time. Being behind a kit for a long time has never reaped me many rewards, but going into the studio/room for a shorter (but dedicated) practise session has always helped me achieve my goals quicker and more effectively.

Practise is important, but first and foremost Im a player who has a responsibility to paying customers (ie original and corporate band work) therefore Im constantly going over the same material, honing those same skills. The practise room allows me to push my playing further than my current jobs expect me, and this can sometimes be difficult to schedule, especially when touring away from home.

One of the most important things to remember is LIFE balance. Its not everything to be a great drummer, especially when you arent already filling your schedule with work. Take some away time, sit down with your wife or girlfriend, call your mother - Life WILL go on without you and you dont want to miss out on it!

As a side note, Ive always stressed to my students the importance of networking and professionalism. It will do far more for your drumming career than 6hrs in a practise room.
 

ed427vette

Junior Member
Not disagreeing with you here Jeff, just expounding on your thoughts...

I use to do quite a bit of public speaking, For me it kind of comes naturally. A friend of mind, it wasn't so natural for him. He worked very, very hard to do it. He still wasn't quite as good as me, however, very competent. I always thought to myself, "If I worked at it as hard as he does, how good would I be?"

Buddy Rich had an awesome amount of natural talent. I think Jo Jo mayer must fall into this category as well. Buddy Rich was so great because he worked harder than most everyone else. Otherwise, he would have been one of the greats instead of, in my opinion, still the drummer that holds the most distinction ever. He is the mark.

I feel had he set back and lived with his natural talent he would have been just one of the greats instead of the greatest. (was this sentence redundant?)

(if you disagree that he is the greatest that ever was, that is really a separate issue to the point I am making!)

Natural talent is not an excuse for not practicing. Buddy focused on being HIS best, not in comparison to anyone else. I think that's what makes any champion.

If you are going to play drums for the long haul professionally, for you own self-wellbeing, you need to constantly be improving or you will not succeed for very long...

...and as they say, "Practice makes perfect."
I could be wrong but its my understanding that Buddy Rich had been quoted on many occasions saying that he never played the drums outside of his performances. He never practiced or at least never admitted to it. I don't know if he was just bs-ing or not. But how insane is that? If true, that is some kind of gift. So I guess if anyone becomes as good as Buddy, you don't have to practice anymore....I can't wait.....any day now.........LOL!
 

Funky Crêpe

Silver Member
i'm at the awkward point of practicing things that are really hard to get, but you barely ever use, ie.one handed role.
before, practicing would'nt be that bad, i could easily learn a number of things in abot a half an hour, but now....i have accumulated all of these! the better you get, the harder it becomes to improve, tiring stuff really, but also liberating and intresting,
Like today, i practiced for 2 hours on the kit ( i did work on the pad aside of this by the way) and a lot of that was groove work at different tempos and changing it up a bit in between......which can take up to 20mins of straight playing, the same tempo and such.....

ah i don't really know what i'm getting at here, i hav'nt slept in 26 hours, and won't be sleeping for about another 20 or so! i'm just rambling
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
Im at a similar point, with playing and rehearsing usually taking up SIX nights of my week.

I personally believe that quantity of practise time should not be confused with quality practise time. Being behind a kit for a long time has never reaped me many rewards, but going into the studio/room for a shorter (but dedicated) practise session has always helped me achieve my goals quicker and more effectively.

Practise is important, but first and foremost Im a player who has a responsibility to paying customers (ie original and corporate band work) therefore Im constantly going over the same material, honing those same skills. The practise room allows me to push my playing further than my current jobs expect me, and this can sometimes be difficult to schedule, especially when touring away from home.

One of the most important things to remember is LIFE balance. Its not everything to be a great drummer, especially when you arent already filling your schedule with work. Take some away time, sit down with your wife or girlfriend, call your mother - Life WILL go on without you and you dont want to miss out on it!

As a side note, Ive always stressed to my students the importance of networking and professionalism. It will do far more for your drumming career than 6hrs in a practise room.
Yeah, I agree with you that it's more important to have focused practice (quality) as opposed to a lot of time (quantity). However, 6 hours of focused practice is better than 2 hours of focused practice. 2 hours of focused practice is WAY better than 6 hours of farting around, though!

I do struggle with life balance. I'm lying in bed with my wife and puppy right now, but typing on here rather than sleeping with them. I have been doing networking stuff for the last two hours, and at some point, their nights ended. Fortunately, my wife understands that, for better or worse, that's the man she married. I sometimes wish I could be the "normal" husband...sometimes, I even wish I could put down the sticks and just be a 9 to 5 guy who spends every evening and weekend with his wife...but it's just not me.

I can't agree enough with your comment on professionalism and networking. It is a constant, endless job. You never know when sharing a card, e-mailing a person, or poking around on Craig's List will give you the next great opportunity in your career.
 

Bruce M. Thomson

Gold Member
Not disagreeing with you here Jeff, just expounding on your thoughts...

I use to do quite a bit of public speaking, For me it kind of comes naturally. A friend of mind, it wasn't so natural for him. He worked very, very hard to do it. He still wasn't quite as good as me, however, very competent. I always thought to myself, "If I worked at it as hard as he does, how good would I be?"

Buddy Rich had an awesome amount of natural talent. I think Jo Jo mayer must fall into this category as well. Buddy Rich was so great because he worked harder than most everyone else. Otherwise, he would have been one of the greats instead of, in my opinion, still the drummer that holds the most distinction ever. He is the mark.

I feel had he set back and lived with his natural talent he would have been just one of the greats instead of the greatest. (was this sentence redundant?)

(if you disagree that he is the greatest that ever was, that is really a separate issue to the point I am making!)

Natural talent is not an excuse for not practicing. Buddy focused on being HIS best, not in comparison to anyone else. I think that's what makes any champion.

If you are going to play drums for the long haul professionally, for you own self-wellbeing, you need to constantly be improving or you will not succeed for very long...

...and as they say, "Practice makes perfect."
It's a mute point but If you are talking about Buddy, he said he never practiced because he was getting all he needed from playing live and rehearsal (he said a lot of things), He was just that super talented, but you are correct in setting him as the standard. If any one wants to get just close to him it is defiantly practice, practice and more practice; and then practice again. (I have the article from whence this information came but it is not electronic and my attempts to scan and save have met with disaster, but I will try if you want to read it)
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
It's a mute point but If you are talking about Buddy, he said he never practiced because he was getting all he needed from playing live and rehearsal (he said a lot of things), He was just that super talented
he was talented for sure, but he also played *a lot* from a very young age, like as soon as he was old enough to hold sticks. and he was helped quite a bit by his dad, who was very into music.

that's one thing the great drummers all have in common. whether they've taken lessons, started young or old, have "natural ability", or whatever, they've all spent a ton of time behind the kit.

another thing they all have in common is a passion for playing. i don't think you can be a great musician without that.
 
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