Efficient Practice

ok...Devils Advocate here in a way:

but isn't moving correctly, comfortably and efficiently the foundation of what we do as drummers?

if you told a trumpet player, or piano player, or vocalist to forget about technique and "just play music", they would be very limited to what they can do. Technique - at least to me - takes you beyond intuition. It takes you beyond "natural talent". It takes you beyond "luck"

Whether or not they dwell on it, or know that they even did it, the legendary players developed technique that allowed them to get to that level. Ignoring technique in drumming is like ignoring the keys to the car. Yes, the car can move without turning the engine on, but it is way more difficult and presents insurmountable roadblocks as you go.

music is actually about efficiency to me...and developing the ability to make that efficiency seem to be automatic. I am pretty sure that Elvin, Miles, Geddy Lee, Wynton, Geoff Tate, Dave Brubeck, Chopin, Mozart, Stockhausen, Copland - all of the greats - did not want to waste time getting what they heard in their heads out, and that ability became easier as their technique got better, and more varied. They might not have been "technique nerds" who talk about it and analyze it, but they developed it and used it. Those guys playing ability did not come from luck, or "just jamming with people"...

in my experience of playing with amateur musicians over the last 47 years, I find the worst experiences I had were ones where time was wasted, or mistakes were made because we were waiting for someone to find ways around a technique issue....in my experience, the players who did not, or had not learned the proper technique became the "problem" and caused whatever musical strife ended up happening. They are always the guys who say :" man, this is harshing my groove. You guys take this too seriously" and then they leave and have trouble finding bands who will play with them.

and I was one of those problems until I developed techniques that allowed me to execute musical ideas quickly so as not to bog down the playing process.

so to end this....rant, I guess?....I still believe that technique is a crucial element to playing an instrument, or doing anything physical really. Being efficient at something makes it more fun to do. It allows you to enjoy the higher level parts of an activity. music needs to be efficient, but not in a mechanical way. Efficiency begets clarity, and music definitely needs to be clearly readable to be effective.
I don't think "moving correctly, comfortably and efficiently" is the foundation of what we do as drummers...at all. I do not mean to disagree with you on that, but I have to, sorry.

I believe playing drums in actual musical situations, is much more about feel and awareness of what type of music you are playing, rather than what type of technique or stroke you are using.

It's about sounds and how one gets those sounds out of the set, along with whatever vibe the music calls for.
It's about taste, dynamics and tempo combined, all in one, and one does not necessarily need to be a technical virtuoso on the instrument to display any of those things.

Is it beneficial to start out on the right path (the way you teach it)...of course it is! But is it a prerequisite to getting real good at the instrument in most musical situations? I don't think so, sorry.

What one really needs is 'musical vocabulary' and the familiarity with it's styles that its applied to. If someone wants to dig deeper and get into the nuts and bolts of his playing and movements, good on him, but it's not what will make you succeed at playing with people.
 
  • Like
Reactions: OHD
I don't think "moving correctly, comfortably and efficiently" is the foundation of what we do as drummers...at all. I do not mean to disagree with you on that, but I have to, sorry.

I believe playing drums in actual musical situations, is much more about feel and awareness of what type of music you are playing, rather than what type of technique or stroke you are using.

It's about sounds and how one gets those sounds out of the set, along with whatever vibe the music calls for.
It's about taste, dynamics and tempo combined, all in one, and one does not necessarily need to be a technical virtuoso on the instrument to display any of those things.

Is it beneficial to start out on the right path (the way you teach it)...of course it is! But is it a prerequisite to getting real good at the instrument in most musical situations? I don't think so, sorry.

What one really needs is 'musical vocabulary' and the familiarity with it's styles that its applied to. If someone wants to dig deeper and get into the nuts and bolts of his playing and movements, good on him, but it's not what will make you succeed at playing with people.

If you’re playing speed metal, fast Brazilian samba, etc., technique DEFINITELY matters.
 
EFFICIENT practice......I actually think that it's a hard topic to really answer succinctly.

I think the guys out there that really know what path they want to take in terms of genre and career direction with the drums have more insight into what they need to learn and what they don't. So they can really zero in on what they need to practise.

I dunno........

But for people like me who really still has absolutely no idea where they want to go with it, knowing what to practise, when and how becomes a bit more clouded. Ultimately, in all honesty.......I personally don't think that I am a musician.

I am a dude who just loves noodling and doodling on the drums.

My efficient practice involves spending time with the very basic rudiments, playing them in various ways, moving accents all over the place and slowly, including feet and so on......aaaand with a metronome.

I also play to songs...... from easy to a bit more complex.

To me.....that's efficiency.

Virtually everything I do seems to come from those basic rudiments.

I'm not a jazzer, or a jazz fusionist, or rog-prock or prog-rockist.

I dabble in basic jazz patterns and what-not, but it's just to avoid total ignorance to other genre's in their basic form.
 
This thread is pure gold to me. It's like a debate in the Congress of old on how to balance the budget only musical in context. So much to digest here. Worth a years subscription to Modern Drummer.
 
This thread is pure gold to me. It's like a debate in the Congress of old on how to balance the budget only musical in context. So much to digest here. Worth a years subscription to Modern Drummer.

that'l be $375....you can send it to xstr8edgtnrdrmrx's "musical studies" fund ;)
 
I don't think "moving correctly, comfortably and efficiently" is the foundation of what we do as drummers...at all. I do not mean to disagree with you on that, but I have to, sorry.

I believe playing drums in actual musical situations, is much more about feel and awareness of what type of music you are playing, rather than what type of technique or stroke you are using.

It's about sounds and how one gets those sounds out of the set, along with whatever vibe the music calls for.
It's about taste, dynamics and tempo combined, all in one, and one does not necessarily need to be a technical virtuoso on the instrument to display any of those things.

Is it beneficial to start out on the right path (the way you teach it)...of course it is! But is it a prerequisite to getting real good at the instrument in most musical situations? I don't think so, sorry.

What one really needs is 'musical vocabulary' and the familiarity with it's styles that its applied to. If someone wants to dig deeper and get into the nuts and bolts of his playing and movements, good on him, but it's not what will make you succeed at playing with people.

I also don't think you are wrong in what you have mentioned above, but I still feel that ignoring technique development for whatever reason sets up roadblocks down the road that some people try to break down with "feel" and "playing with others"...you definitely can't get dynamics with out technique...

and again, I think we are misunderstanding what technique means...for me, it doesn't mean "chops"...it means the ability for muscle groups to move fluidly with each other to create an effect. Like an artist with a paintbrush. I can put paint on a canvas, and make it look sort of like a farm scene, but an artist with brush technique is going to paint a way better picture than me, probably in a faster time, and with more detail. And it doesn't matter how many pictures I try to paint, or how many art shows I got to to look at others paintings, if I don't develop technique, I am limited.

...and again, my real world experience with this is the numerous people who have come to me in lessons with questions about why they can't execute a certain passage or play a certain feel or style (which is usually shuffles and swing)...it is always a deficiency in technique...that is it. Once we work out the technique, the feel and musicality comes gushing out.

If you’re playing speed metal, fast Brazilian samba, etc., technique DEFINITELY matters.

or Giant Steps by Coltraine....or the Purdie Shuffle...or 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover....

Yes, but that's a musical 'problem' for those genres, so it's all good

meaning what?.....
 
I'm not against good technique. No one has said to ignore technique. We are just saying that there's got to be a musical goal behind it, that's it.

It may be obvious to you, because you've been at this for a long time, but for most people it's not. Social media, youtube, etc, is blinding everyone into believing that technique is the ultimate goal when in reality it's just a means to an end. All those guys you talked about had a musical problem, and they needed to improve their technique to solve it. That's how it's supposed to work.

Like Benthedrummer said, if you know your path you'll know what to practice (or you find out). For people that are into drum corps, or know that they want to be professional drummers, it makes more sense to invest a lot of time in different techniques. But not everyone is on that path.

And it's not just about techniques like push-pull exclusively, it's about the new "flavor of the month" (more like the flavor of the day with youtube). For instance, Dave Elitch said that he wasted an incredible amount of time learning left-foot clave independence when Horatio came up. Not that it's bad per see, but he has never used it in his life, and even if it may help with his general independence, there are a lot of things that he could have worked on that would have served him a lot more.

Sometimes you're gonna practice stuff that is not that useful, but if you start with your musical goal first, you are much more likely to succeed. And it doesn't mean staying in your comfort zone at all, it may mean learning to play latin music to expand your musical horizons. Then playing left-foot clave won't be your 1st concern at all, learning the basic styles it's much more important.

That's what efficient practice means to me. Technique is a big part of it, but not the only one, and not always the most important.

BTW, reading what I wrote it may seem that I'm too serious or upset, but I'm not, it's just that English is not my first language and I want to clarify my points as much as possible. I'm really enjoying this discussion. Bring it on! 😁
 
Oh, and sorry for hijacking the thread 😅😅😅

To answer the OP, I would pick a phrase that excites you, either from Wilcoxon, a recording or whatever, and play around with it. A lot.

1st get it down mechanically (that's where you pay attention to technique) by playing it over and over, not necessarily in the same practice session. Outside of your drum shed, you can sing it on your head, play it with bare hands and feet, and try mentally & physically apply it to any music that you hear during the day (like TV, songs or even video game music).

Then move it around the drums, and around the time as well, starting and stopping it at different spots of the measure (see Bob Moses' points of resolution for a way to do it systematically), try it with different ostinatos, different subdivisions, etc.

Play it without a metronome first, then with it, then with loops (like toddbishop suggests) and then with playalongs if you want and full songs. Then the scary part: play it with other people 😱

At first, it will feel like you are shoehorning it, but that step is necessary. It's on your hands already, now you need to put it in your ears. You need to hear how it feels inside the music clearly. Then it will become automatic.

You can also compose a solo with it, adding your variations, and playing around with different structures... There are a million ways to work with anything!
 
What a fantastic thread, and thanks for the shoutout in the original post.

I don't have much to add really, because there are some great points being made on all sides.

For my own personal two cents, I think it comes down to a number of variable factors. For instance, a couple of you have been debating whether comfortable and efficient movement, "technique", is fundamental to what we do. Well even that depends, because "what we do" is so fluid and varies between drummer to drummer. It's a fundamental part of what I do because I work primarily on the snare drum as a solo instrument, writing and playing technically demanding and precise repertoire and, crucially, teaching that. If my technique wasn't up to par, I wouldn't be able to operate professionally in that capacity.

If another drummer is working in a party band where the main goal is to get the crowd dancing, and to absolutely nail the feel of Superstition, then it's a completely different beast. Feel, touch, groove, time keeping, confidence, are all far more important in that situation that the sort of technical details I obsess over.

Ultimately, I feel efficient practice requires consistency. You can't effectively learn anything in a few practice sessions over a few days. You have to persist and evolve your methods over many weeks or months, and gradually work towards short, medium, and long term goals. That of course requires having those goals in mind. Short term goals, like Benny Greb talks about, need to be measurable and readily achievable, whereas a long term goal might require years and be far more abstract. Nevertheless, it gives us something to work towards.

I don't think "effective practice" can be reduced down to a set of exercises. The first half-hour of my own practice is always a few sets of repetition with the core strokes (singles, double, and paradiddles), and I always have a piece of repertoire on the go. But that's because it's pertinent to what I'm working towards, my medium and longer term goals. For a dedicated kit player and gigger, that might be totally different. When I worked primarily as a session player, I'd always begin a session playing along to music to get my ear in.

Fascinating stuff!
 
I dont really feel there needs to be a schedule/list/program for efficient practice. To me, efficient means productive.

If I set aside an hour to practice, and I spend half of it dicking off, that's not productive.

If I set aside 10 minutes, and really focus for those ten minutes, thats productive.

Ultimately, in all honesty.......I personally don't think that I am a musician.
Oh yeah? Because...

efficient practice involves spending time with the very basic rudiments, playing them in various ways, moving accents all over the place and slowly, including feet and so on......aaaand with a metronome.

Virtually everything I do seems to come from those basic rudiments.
This is EXACTLY what a musician does.

A non musician owns a musical instrument, never learns anything about it, and might play it a total of 45 minutes in a year. They are more concerned with other things.
 
I think this is one of the dangers musicians face nowadays. Your goal is to learn a "technique".
Not at all. I've seen so much bad technique over my lifetime of playing that I'm a true believer that everyone, EVERYONE, should be practicing basic techniques for a portion of their daily practice.
A "technique" can't be a goal by itself, as todd & others say, the goal has to be something directly related to music. For instance, you could have the goal of faster/smoother 16ths on the hi-hat for a song or a genre. That may lead you to learn moeller or push-pull, but the key thing is that it may not!
I included other examples (learn a new Marimba piece, etc.). Lets take that, for example.

Poor single alternating strokes on marimba – something that is considered "basic" technique in 2023 – is going to inhibit learning how to play nearly any major work out there that requires one-handed rolls, etc. In my experience it's more common to see students jump into a piece without the correct technique and fumble through it rather than have a solid foundation to work with.

Now, I do agree that technical ability should be in place to, first, serve the musical situation. Think of music as a conversation and technique as the language: would you prefer to be fluent and have a large vocabulary on hand to choose from? Or would you prefer to fumble through limited phrases when the time comes and you get called for the job?
 
Last edited:
OK, I think that I'm not making myself clear. I'm not talking about technique in general, I'm talking about "techniques". Things like push-pull, moeller, heel-toe, one-handed rolls, etc. Things that people have put a special label on, and that everyone says are a "must" to play the drums. They aren't. You don't need them most of the time. But now you've got a bunch of beginners, or self-taught people that have been playing for a while, and they think all their troubles will be fixed by one of these fancy techniques. But it won't.

I'll say it again, I agree that technique is important. Fulcrum, relaxation, rebound, control, etc. But not "techniques." Those may be helpful in specific cases, but they're not for everyone.

BTW vxla, I was not referring to you particularly when I wrote "Your goal," I was talking in general.
 
As someone mentioned earlier, some people know what kind of music they want to play and therefore it is easier for them to find what they need to practice and what they don't, for most others still undecided, it will be more challenging due to the sheer number of things to be learned.
I my particular case, I never found that practicing rudiments was useful to me. What I meant by this is, I wanted to practice something that I could incorporate into the music I was playing. (This is a lot easier to do with original music, but, how many new drummers do you know are playing original music from the get go?) So, since most people start playing by covering someone else's music, a lot of those rudiments can't be incorporated into that. To me I get a lot more value from trying to play a complex part from a song I like. Most of the time I succeed in being able to replicate it, but even when I don't, I still learn a lot more than what I ever could just practicing rudiments. I also agree with OHD, a lot of the time Technique is NOT needed, I can play most styles I want and remain in the general tempo just fine, (with the exception of some ultra fast metal), and my "technique" is basically the same no matter what style I play, so learning (or perfecting) all those techniques doesn't make sense unless they are going to be used all the time. What has worked for me is focusing on serving the song. (Do I need to play slower?, faster?, louder?, quieter?, do I need to keep it simple or do I need to add a few things?) knowing when to apply those things will be much more valuable than mastering a specific technique but being unable to play a simple beat consistently. (A lot of people can do a gravity blast, but those same people are not able to play for example Billie Jean with a steady tempo to save their lives). I don't like ACDC, to me is very simplistic drumming, but there is something to be said about their drummer's ability to keep a solid beat and only play what the song needs, you have to respect that. I would find it very difficult to restrain from doing more than he does. Going back to a previous comment, in order to have an efficient practice, one must know what the goal is before just randomly practicing anything. I think that is where a lot of people's frustration comes from, there is no logical progression from one thing to the next in the way some people practice.
 
OK, I think that I'm not making myself clear. I'm not talking about technique in general, I'm talking about "techniques". Things like push-pull, moeller, heel-toe, one-handed rolls, etc. Things that people have put a special label on, and that everyone says are a "must" to play the drums. They aren't. You don't need them most of the time. But now you've got a bunch of beginners, or self-taught people that have been playing for a while, and they think all their troubles will be fixed by one of these fancy techniques. But it won't.

I'll say it again, I agree that technique is important. Fulcrum, relaxation, rebound, control, etc. But not "techniques." Those may be helpful in specific cases, but they're not for everyone.

BTW vxla, I was not referring to you particularly when I wrote "Your goal," I was talking in general.

yeah...technique types are different than the bigger picture description of "technique", which to me, is the combination of physical attributes and manipulations to get a desired effect.

I am not a fan of the Moeller technique type, but for some that is a tool to use to make their overall playing technique better, which is more important.

Semantics....it took me reading a few posts to get where @OHD was coming from
 
  • Like
Reactions: OHD
As someone mentioned earlier, some people know what kind of music they want to play and therefore it is easier for them to find what they need to practice and what they don't, for most others still undecided, it will be more challenging due to the sheer number of things to be learned.
I my particular case, I never found that practicing rudiments was useful to me. What I meant by this is, I wanted to practice something that I could incorporate into the music I was playing. (This is a lot easier to do with original music, but, how many new drummers do you know are playing original music from the get go?) So, since most people start playing by covering someone else's music, a lot of those rudiments can't be incorporated into that. To me I get a lot more value from trying to play a complex part from a song I like. Most of the time I succeed in being able to replicate it, but even when I don't, I still learn a lot more than what I ever could just practicing rudiments. I also agree with OHD, a lot of the time Technique is NOT needed, I can play most styles I want and remain in the general tempo just fine, (with the exception of some ultra fast metal), and my "technique" is basically the same no matter what style I play, so learning (or perfecting) all those techniques doesn't make sense unless they are going to be used all the time. What has worked for me is focusing on serving the song. (Do I need to play slower?, faster?, louder?, quieter?, do I need to keep it simple or do I need to add a few things?) knowing when to apply those things will be much more valuable than mastering a specific technique but being unable to play a simple beat consistently. (A lot of people can do a gravity blast, but those same people are not able to play for example Billie Jean with a steady tempo to save their lives). I don't like ACDC, to me is very simplistic drumming, but there is something to be said about their drummer's ability to keep a solid beat and only play what the song needs, you have to respect that. I would find it very difficult to restrain from doing more than he does. Going back to a previous comment, in order to have an efficient practice, one must know what the goal is before just randomly practicing anything. I think that is where a lot of people's frustration comes from, there is no logical progression from one thing to the next in the way some people practice.

Practicing the rudiments slowly and carefully has done more for my touch, stick control, and groove than anything else I have practiced.

another thing that has helped me a lot is singing while drumming.
 
I dont really feel there needs to be a schedule/list/program for efficient practice. To me, efficient means productive.

If I set aside an hour to practice, and I spend half of it dicking off, that's not productive.

If I set aside 10 minutes, and really focus for those ten minutes, thats productive.


Oh yeah? Because...


This is EXACTLY what a musician does.

A non musician owns a musical instrument, never learns anything about it, and might play it a total of 45 minutes in a year. They are more concerned with other things.

Dave, that is actually a really sweet, kind thing to say.

From the bottom of my heart.......thank you.

I will never forget this.
 
As someone mentioned earlier, some people know what kind of music they want to play and therefore it is easier for them to find what they need to practice and what they don't, for most others still undecided, it will be more challenging due to the sheer number of things to be learned.
I my particular case, I never found that practicing rudiments was useful to me. What I meant by this is, I wanted to practice something that I could incorporate into the music I was playing. (This is a lot easier to do with original music, but, how many new drummers do you know are playing original music from the get go?) So, since most people start playing by covering someone else's music, a lot of those rudiments can't be incorporated into that. To me I get a lot more value from trying to play a complex part from a song I like. Most of the time I succeed in being able to replicate it, but even when I don't, I still learn a lot more than what I ever could just practicing rudiments. I also agree with OHD, a lot of the time Technique is NOT needed, I can play most styles I want and remain in the general tempo just fine, (with the exception of some ultra fast metal), and my "technique" is basically the same no matter what style I play, so learning (or perfecting) all those techniques doesn't make sense unless they are going to be used all the time. What has worked for me is focusing on serving the song. (Do I need to play slower?, faster?, louder?, quieter?, do I need to keep it simple or do I need to add a few things?) knowing when to apply those things will be much more valuable than mastering a specific technique but being unable to play a simple beat consistently. (A lot of people can do a gravity blast, but those same people are not able to play for example Billie Jean with a steady tempo to save their lives). I don't like ACDC, to me is very simplistic drumming, but there is something to be said about their drummer's ability to keep a solid beat and only play what the song needs, you have to respect that. I would find it very difficult to restrain from doing more than he does. Going back to a previous comment, in order to have an efficient practice, one must know what the goal is before just randomly practicing anything. I think that is where a lot of people's frustration comes from, there is no logical progression from one thing to the next in the way some people practice.
I need to really zone in on this and soak it in. You struck a chord with me. Not a minor..a major chord 😃.
 
Practicing the rudiments slowly and carefully has done more for my touch, stick control, and groove than anything else I have practiced.

another thing that has helped me a lot is singing while drumming.
I can sing while I drum but mostly don't need to, and like I said for me rudiments didn't help me but I didn't say they don't help others. I practice difficult parts (difficult for me) until I can play them correctly, that has help me with stick control, dynamics and time keeping, I also find that slowing down some parts and practicing the at that speed (say 70%) until I get them and can play them correctly, then jumping back to 100% usually works for me, others might have to speed back up more incrementally. For my goals that approach works fine, for my proficiency level that works as well. I don't think I will ever need to learn much more than what I know already in order to play what I like to play, however, I do learn something new every time I see a different drummer playing something I haven't heard before so I guess I will never stop learning.
 
  • Like
Reactions: OHD
Back
Top