Drumming Barriers/Plateaus

whitecatcafe

Senior Member
Hey guys, I've been practicing the heel down technique since 2011, inspired from Colin Bailey's DVD/book. I reached 80 bpm then and sadly it seems that I am still stuck at this tempo to this day. Colin says that I have to reach 104 before raising the heel, which is essentially the ankle stroke. The ankle stroke is really what I've been struggling the most at, I haven't been able to get it at all. I feel that until I can play 16ths at 104 like Colin says, I won't be able to get the ankle stroke..

I know that everyone reaches drumming barriers/plateaus, but my question is, for how long do they usually last? I've been stuck at 80 bpm for 3 years now. I work at it regularly but I don't seem to see the results. How can I stay motivated enough to not give up? It's so hard.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
Forget about the numbers and start playing. Drumming is about creating feeling, not tallying a spreadsheet. When you can "hear" something then your body will figure out a way to accomplish it.
 

whitecatcafe

Senior Member
Forget about the numbers and start playing. Drumming is about creating feeling, not tallying a spreadsheet. When you can "hear" something then your body will figure out a way to accomplish it.
If only it were that simple. I hear and know what I'm supposed to be playing. But I can't physically play it. I have tried just jumping into it, but my foot doesn't even move at 104, because it can't.
 

Dave_Major

Silver Member
You'll get there man.

Have you tried playing heel up using the ankle stroke? What tempo can you reach with that.

Are you still stuck at 80?

I can play faster heel up with ankle than I can heel down. Even though they are the same strokes I feel that different muscles are being used.

Have you tried different subdivisions and also different exercises instead of just straight 16ths?

Try this one. I got it from Derico Watson.

I groove over the top, sometimes I mirror the right hand with the bass drum and sometime I only play the foot. Do it for 5 minutes per day straight through.

I've been doing it for about a year (heel up/ankle) and have gone from 80 to 97 (99 on a good day)

It takes time but it's worth it

D
 

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whitecatcafe

Senior Member
Have you tried playing heel up using the ankle stroke? What tempo can you reach with that. Have you tried different subdivisions and also different exercises instead of just straight 16ths?D
Yes, I have tried playing heel up ankle stroke, I can reach about 90 bpm. Yes, it is way easier. But Colin is saying to only incorporate heel up after reaching 104 heel down. Coming from someone like him, there just has to be a reason for him to say that.

I have tried playing different subdivisions, maybe I should work on that more. Thank you for the Derico Watson exercise. Your experience with it is very encouraging to me. It's really hard but I'm just going to have to persevere.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Yes, I have tried playing heel up ankle stroke, I can reach about 90 bpm. Yes, it is way easier. But Colin is saying to only incorporate heel up after reaching 104 heel down. Coming from someone like him, there just has to be a reason for him to say that.
Because that is what works for him. You are not him. Do what works for you.
 

whitecatcafe

Senior Member
Because that is what works for him. You are not him. Do what works for you.
Yes, we all have pretty much the same basic body structure. We have the same tendons, ligaments, we all have ankles, calf muscles, etc. I know I'm not him but our bodies all kind of work the same way, we have the same mechanics. Heel down is the technique he teaches. I don't think he would insist on teaching this technique if he didn't think that I work on it if he didn't think it was useful, or if it was of no benefit to him.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Yes, we all have pretty much the same basic body structure. We have the same tendons, ligaments, we all have ankles, calf muscles, etc. I know I'm not him but our bodies all kind of work the same way, we have the same mechanics. Heel down is the technique he teaches. I don't think he would insist on teaching this technique if he didn't think that I work on it if he didn't think it was useful, or if it was of no benefit to him.
Structure and usage are two different things. Just because we are all structurally the same does not mean we all can do the same things with the same effectiveness. I am 6' tall and can't dunk a basketball. Spud Webb is 5'-7" and can. Why is that, if we are all the same? How come some guitar players can play faster than others? They are all built the same.

Again, just because something works for one person doesn't guarantee it will work for another. There are plenty of players who don't use heel down, and it is not an issue. Just use what works, you are over thinking this, and that might be your barrier.
 

maxim

Junior Member
yes, we all have the basic mechanical make up but I certainly can't run 100M in less than ten seconds or swim the english channel. we all have our limitations. I am by no means experienced or close to being a professional but from reading through the forums there is always more than one way to achieve anything. This technique certainly works for Colin Bailey and maybe a thousand people that have tried his method, but that doesn't mean that it will work for a thousand other people. Why would you want to lock yourself into one method?
Keep an open mind.
But getting back to your original question, Your not alone, sometimes it feels like my progress is slower than a snail. I can work on something for weeks and not feel like i'm getting any where.
I find playing in front of my wife is great for providing constructive feedback. she doesn't know anything about drumming but she knows when something is out of time or just sounds "off". She can be brutally honest and has heard me banging away since she bought my first kit and can tell if i am making any progress, no matter how small it may be.
I get inspiration from reading the forums here to get ideas from other more experienced drummers and watching videos of other drummers that utilise the techniques that i am trying to learn.
Stay positive never give up!!!!!
 

LukeSnyder

Gold Member
This is a topic that interests me greatly, and is something I intend to spend some time researching.

It's always possible to increase your speed, but there are of course diminishing returns with your training. I would expect that if you graph your maximum speed over a long time, you'd be able to find a best fit curve and take the limit of it, finding the maximum possible rate of your muscular contraction.

What I don't know is if this maximum rate of muscular contraction varies greatly between different people. I suspect that it doesn't vary too much amongst normal humans, since it seems like no one can play much faster that around 300bpm 16th note singles, and most people can play short bursts at that speed (although they can't control it).

With drumming, it's not so much a matter of being strong and well conditioned as it is developing the neurological capability. The biggest part of the battle is being able to very quickly contract and relax your muscle groups, rather than increase their maximum load. It seems to me to be almost entirely a neurological process, in fact. I think practically everyone is physically capable of playing super death metal speeds, but they simply don't have the specific neural pathways needed to be efficient and relaxed.
 

whitecatcafe

Senior Member
It's always possible to increase your speed, but there are of course diminishing returns with your training. I would expect that if you graph your maximum speed over a long time, you'd be able to find a best fit curve and take the limit of it, finding the maximum possible rate of your muscular contraction.
Hey, I don't understand this part, can you please explain?
 

LukeSnyder

Gold Member
Hey, I don't understand this part, can you please explain?
Ok, if you've never played drums before, and you start working on single strokes, you're going to be able to work up to playing single stroke 16th notes at say, 160bpm within a few hours. However, to get up to 180bpm might take a week. Then, to get to 200bpm might take you months. Before you reach 300bpm, you could spend years practicing just single strokes!

That's what I mean by diminishing returns, as you spend more and more time practicing, your progress actually becomes slower and slower. However, it essentially will never be zero progress. You might have to spend five years to squeeze out another 2bpm, but you'll still be progressing!

If you graphed the speed at which you can play against the amount of time you've spent practicing, you'll get something like this:



Now, I'm obviously just kind of making up numbers there, but something very similar to this sort of progression actually occurs! Now, what I was saying at the end there is that if you actually generated a graph like this, you could fit a curve to it, and see what that curve asymptotically approaches. For example, a negative reciprocal curve looks very similar to the curve I drew up there:



If we fit that curve to the one we had above, we be able to find an upper limit. In this case, it would be somewhere around 1200 - 1300 strokes/minute. If our graph is correct, no matter how much time you practice, you would never actually be able to reach that limit, only approach it.

This is intuitively true, we all know that no one is going to be able to play 1,000,000 single strokes in a minute. Even 10,000 is out of reach. But what about 1500? 1300? There is a limit somewhere though! For non-compound motion, I'd say that the limit is somewhere around 1300, actually. Last I heard, the most anyone has ever done is 1247, by Mike Mangini in 2005.

Anyways, hopefully this made sense. For you personally, I don't know if you're at an actual physical plateau, or you're being inefficient in your motion, or what. There are tons of variables! If you want, shoot me a pm and we can sit down on Skype and I'll see if there's anything I can do to help out! I'm certainly not the fastest, but I'm pretty comfortable with 16th note singles on the hands and feet at 200-220 bpm, so maybe I can help!
 

cornelius

Silver Member
Heel down technique is a good foundation. Getting strength and coordination in your ankles will help with both heel up and heel down playing. As far as upping your tempo: Control + Endurance = Speed. In other words, if you want to hit a tempo, you have to slow things down and increase the amount of measures that you're playing.

Example - If you're able to play 4 measures of 16ths at 80 BPM, then to get 4 measures to 84, you're going to have to be able to play more than 4 measures while still at 80. Play the tempo that you can play comfortably and cleanly (control), and push the number of measures (endurance).

There are lots of variables to keep in check - seat height, pedal settings, posture, etc. So you might have to experiment...
 

kyledrums

Junior Member
Some very interesting points already. I agree that I think we all have similar bodys. However how we get from A-B can be very different. Some people play heal down, some heal toe. I mainly play heal up.

Maybe you're not meant to be a heal down player. Like people said just because it works for one person whos DVD you have doesn't mean it'll work for everyone.

Have you been working on the same exercise for 3 years? How long each day? I think there's something very strange going on and maybe you need to mix up the exercises and log how long you're practising each day to make sure you are putting in consistent work.
 

whitecatcafe

Senior Member
Have you been working on the same exercise for 3 years? How long each day? I think there's something very strange going on and maybe you need to mix up the exercises and log how long you're practising each day to make sure you are putting in consistent work.
The exact exercise is 4 eighth notes and 8 sixteenth notes in a bar. I practice this exercise everyday for 5 minutes. Only recently have I become more detailed in my log book but I have kept records of tempos in the past.
 

whitecatcafe

Senior Member
UPDATE: Fast forward 7 months (or so), I have finally broken through this barrier! The craziest thing is that I DIDN'T practice for 3 months!
 
Slow twitch vs fast twitch muscle fibers. Endurance vs speed. You have what you are born with, you just have to work with what you've got.

Well done, you must be a persistent fella.

Wayne.
 

Winegums

Silver Member
UPDATE: Fast forward 7 months (or so), I have finally broken through this barrier! The craziest thing is that I DIDN'T practice for 3 months!
You'd be surprised that taking a break from playing actually helps in some cases. I spent a few months from my guitar lately and just got back to playing it. I now have some fresh ideas and I feel like I've moved ahead another notch in my playing.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
You'd be surprised that taking a break from playing actually helps in some cases. I spent a few months from my guitar lately and just got back to playing it. I now have some fresh ideas and I feel like I've moved ahead another notch in my playing.
When I was in the thick of teaching students, I'd give them a simple illustration of what too much practice on one thing can do. I'd hold up an object in front of them and slowly move it closer to their face until it was touching the end of their nose while asking them to continue describe what they were seeing; at some point they give in and say "I can't see it anymore because it's too close."

Sometimes when you back away from an area of study and allow what you've learned to settle in, when you revisit that pursuit it's had a chance to take root and grow.

It's also like working out in the respect that you must allow your muscles to heal up for a day or two after you've torn the tissue up via lifting weights. You have to step away from it otherwise you'll end up hurting! :D
 
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