Has practicing on pillows helped with your speed or control

Has practicing on pillows helped with your speed or control? Famous drummers known for speed like Buddy Rich, Dick Cully and Dennis Chambers talk about practicing on pillows as a way to increase speed and control.

From what I gather, the basic idea is when one practices on a surface that gives no rebound the arm muscles are worked to raise the stick and push the stick down equally giving the muscles in the arms a more well rounded workout instead of just working on the muscles that control the down stroke, which theoretically may cause an imbalance in the way the arm works because one set of muscles are alot stronger and fine tuned than the others, but this is theory of course.

From what I have read and heard first hand, practicing on pillows allows a drummer to be able to play on any surface regardless of rebound (I was told by Dick Cully that this is why Buddy Rich could fly from drum head to rim to cymbals etc without his chops slowing down).

I wonder what Mike Mangini, Tom Grosset, Art Verdi and Matt Smith would have to say about this type of practice technique.

I know that this theory has a lot of holes in it, but I wanted to get everyones take on it thanks.

One more thing, After practicing for a few weeks on a feather pillow that had no rebound I experienced more control over my strokes and a slight increase in speed.
 
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RickyBobby

Member
Absolutely it does! Absorbs all of the blow for 0 rebound.
I like to sit on my bar stool, put the pillow on another stool and practice Rudiments varying in speed. Just started this about 6 months ago and could DEFINATELY tell a difference in control in the first month :) of course with consistent practice!
But make sure you use sticks that aren't all chewed up from playing or else your pillow case might shred during super fast (closed eye) singles hahaha
oops
Cheers
 
The funny thing is I can play at my top speed while playing on pillows for a lot longer than on a drum head. I guess this is because the pillow allows the natural arm motion to move without any interuption. Like a hard piece of plastic (drum head) waiting to pound back at your stroke. Playing on pillows isn't going to get me any gigs tho lol. It is what you can do on the drums that count. But as I said before I have experienced some improvments after using this practice method.
 
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thatoneguy

Guest
Jojo Mayer has said (more than a few times) practicing on pillows leads to sounding like you are drumming on pillows when you play. It certainly doesn't promote good control. If you really want to have those super singles find what works for you and isolate your single stroke practice from everything else. Put a pad in a separate place than your kit and steadily practice with a metronome constantly reaching for that next level and so forth. If you really want to do the pillow thing it would be more productive to get a nice pad and one at a time layer a hand towell over it until you have reached a level you feel just right. It will serve you better than pillows. Doesnt matter if you practice with pillows, towells, or a marble counter. If you don't log the smart hours you won't be near as fast as you could be. There is a fundamental difference between control and speed and pillows will not help control in any way. TS could have spent the same few weeks practicing on an actual drum, pad, leg-meat, etc. and still seen the same results especially if you have never seriously worked on singles before. The faster you get the harder it becomes to speed up. Fast singles is not something one should go about half heartedly. It takes time, constant, productive practice, and more time.
 
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thatoneguy

Guest
Most importantly get yourself a drumometer. Not only will you gauge your progress but it teaches you how to practice more efficienty. It is not how much you practice. It's how smart you practice.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
That's a dead link, Matt.
You're right zlumpy, but for some reason you can still read the posts from the search engine under practicing pillows

I said this on one post:

I've viewed similar pillow pro/con posts before, and when someone asks me all I can give is the personal experience.

1. Dennis Chambers shared with my first good teacher that limited pillow practice in conjunction with other activities leads to good things.

2. That teacher passed the idea a long to me, and I added a 15 minutes of pillow to my routine, especially if I had laid off drums for a while.

3. The results were pretty obvious after a couple of weeks.

4. If I remember this right, after I won WFD in 2006, Tom Grosset asked around about this pillow stuff, then he added it to his routine. He went from a solid technician to a world beater.

If we're delusional, then that's a pretty good placebo effect.
__________________

Than Jeff Almeyda said this on another. It's a nice exercise he discusses.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pillows and other "non-rebounding" techniques can be an effective part of a sensible routine. Also, not all pillows are created equal. I use a sofa pillow that is extremely firm.

Here's an example:

15 min warm up.
30 minutes practicing on high rebound surface. Here I work on the "top end". I play shorter length phrases near but never at my limit.
20-40 min on low rebound surface. Here I practice extremely slowly, with extreme attention to form. I never push it physically here rather I seek to make the motion comfortable. Sometimes I play with the fulcrum only at extremely low dynamic levels. I might play a single stroke roll at piano for 30 mins at this point.

and/or

20-40 minutes bare hands on legs extremely slowly (never more than 16th at 130 BPM)

This routine transformed my hands.

I look at it this way: Mike Mangini can play over 250 BPM with his BARE HANDS on his leg. No rebound, not even sticks. It's IN him. That is what I aspire to and that is who told me to do this routine.

Anyone who's ever hurt themselves on a pillow overtrained the small muscles and connective tissues of the hand. The fault lies in the incorrect application of the technique not the technique itself.

This method worked for me to achieve the sound I wanted. If I was playing jazz on a tight drum kit, I would probably spend less time with the bare hands and more with the sticks on the snare working on rebound techniques. Different practice routines achieve different results but many of them can enable one to achieve a high level of proficiency.

These techniques are all tools. The key is to realize what YOU need at a particular stage of your development. Don't close your mind to any of the available techniques.
__________________
Proud endorser of Longo Custom Drums and Soultone Handmade Turkish Cymbals.
 
Matt what you just said goes along with what Cully told me. He said it is best to of course practice on the drums, but that prciticing on pillows should also be added to what ever practice routine one has for optimal results.

Matt I also wanted to ask you, have you always been real fast or was it something you built up to slowly? What I am asking is was it more genetics or more determination or a litte of both. Man your hands blaze like humingbird wings.
 
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thatoneguy

Guest
You're right zlumpy, but for some reason you can still read the posts from the search engine under practicing pillows

I said this on one post:

I've viewed similar pillow pro/con posts before, and when someone asks me all I can give is the personal experience.

1. Dennis Chambers shared with my first good teacher that limited pillow practice in conjunction with other activities leads to good things.

2. That teacher passed the idea a long to me, and I added a 15 minutes of pillow to my routine, especially if I had laid off drums for a while.

3. The results were pretty obvious after a couple of weeks.

4. If I remember this right, after I won WFD in 2006, Tom Grosset asked around about this pillow stuff, then he added it to his routine. He went from a solid technician to a world beater.

If we're delusional, then that's a pretty good placebo effect.
__________________

Than Jeff Almeyda said this on another. It's a nice exercise he discusses.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pillows and other "non-rebounding" techniques can be an effective part of a sensible routine. Also, not all pillows are created equal. I use a sofa pillow that is extremely firm.

Here's an example:

15 min warm up.
30 minutes practicing on high rebound surface. Here I work on the "top end". I play shorter length phrases near but never at my limit.
20-40 min on low rebound surface. Here I practice extremely slowly, with extreme attention to form. I never push it physically here rather I seek to make the motion comfortable. Sometimes I play with the fulcrum only at extremely low dynamic levels. I might play a single stroke roll at piano for 30 mins at this point.

and/or

20-40 minutes bare hands on legs extremely slowly (never more than 16th at 130 BPM)

This routine transformed my hands.

I look at it this way: Mike Mangini can play over 250 BPM with his BARE HANDS on his leg. No rebound, not even sticks. It's IN him. That is what I aspire to and that is who told me to do this routine.

Anyone who's ever hurt themselves on a pillow overtrained the small muscles and connective tissues of the hand. The fault lies in the incorrect application of the technique not the technique itself.

This method worked for me to achieve the sound I wanted. If I was playing jazz on a tight drum kit, I would probably spend less time with the bare hands and more with the sticks on the snare working on rebound techniques. Different practice routines achieve different results but many of them can enable one to achieve a high level of proficiency.

These techniques are all tools. The key is to realize what YOU need at a particular stage of your development. Don't close your mind to any of the available techniques.
__________________
Proud endorser of Longo Custom Drums and Soultone Handmade Turkish Cymbals.
Good stuff, Matt. Good points with the not all pillows created equal and keeping an open mind (thats a must) which is why i might take you up on some of this. What I have been doing are singles switching my technique every few measures all around the kit or on drumopad or invader. It is fun and fairly productive.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
Matt I also wanted to ask you, have you always been real fast or was it something you built up to slowly? What I am asking is was it more genetics or more determination or a litte of both.
It's probably a little of both Jay.

I am also a natural lefty who was intentionally trained as a right handed drummer. I think this did a lot to strengthen my right hand.
 
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thatoneguy

Guest
I'd like to reiterate my first point which I didn't make too clearly. As drummers, we perform on drums and cymbals primarily. When you talk about speed one is thinking of speed on drums for the most part. It isn't practical to practice constant fundamentals (hours a day) on a real drum or kit (your neighbors and family would go crazy in no time) but if you can get a setup going where there's no one to complain and you yourself can handle the constant blasting (ugh) I highly recommend it. Earphone the nome and work your way up running singles across your set. You will get fast. As far as genetics goes I'd say as long as there no inherent deficit (muscle/bone disorders?) the TS could be extremely fast. It's all about confidence and belief in yourself and the right attitude. All about good attitude. You have to have it to practice the same thing so frequently. Also do the same on each drum individually for lengthy amounts of time (especially that floor Tom)
 
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bobdadruma

Platinum Member
I am also a natural lefty who was intentionally trained as a right handed drummer. I think this did a lot to strengthen my right hand.
I think that there is merit to that.
I also am a lefty who choses to play righty. I have played both lefty and righty over the years.
I will never set a world speed record but it has done wonders for my right hand.
 

Mapex----Maniac

Senior Member
Practicing on anything will help with your speed and control. But sense pillows have no rebound you have to physically lift your stick to get another stroke. When you practice on a drum set or snare it might be easier to play faster, considering you dont have to use so much physical strength.
 
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thatoneguy

Guest
To each his own. But I just actually got a few different pillows together and "practiced." Felt like a waste of time to me. I take drums or a good pad any day. Or how about just stand a ride next to your sofa and work alot one hand at a time on the ride? Isolating things is a major part of development with speed, technique, control, etc.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Has practicing on pillows helped with your speed or control? Famous drummers known for speed like Buddy Rich, Dick Cully and Dennis Chambers talk about practicing on pillows as a way to increase speed and control.

From what I gather, the basic idea is when one practices on a surface that gives no rebound the arm muscles are worked to raise the stick and push the stick down equally giving the muscles in the arms a more well rounded workout instead of just working on the muscles that control the down stroke, which theoretically may cause an imbalance in the way the arm works because one set of muscles are alot stronger and fine tuned than the others, but this is theory of course.

From what I have read and heard first hand, practicing on pillows allows a drummer to be able to play on any surface regardless of rebound (I was told by Dick Cully that this is why Buddy Rich could fly from drum head to rim to cymbals etc without his chops slowing down).

I wonder what Mike Mangini, Tom Grosset, Art Verdi and Matt Smith would have to say about this type of practice technique.

I know that this theory has a lot of holes in it, but I wanted to get everyones take on it thanks.

One more thing, After practicing for a few weeks on a feather pillow that had no rebound I experienced more control over my strokes and a slight increase in speed.
I agree in this instance with the statement, to each his own, and I recall as a child I used to beat up my dad's la-z-boy recliner. However, I did have a teacher tell me at one point that practicing on pillows is good, only if you're waiting to do all the pillow drumming gigs in town! Back in Buddy's day, they didn't have specially made practice pad kits - I think your only choices were those funny wedge-shaped pads and the Gladstone pad. These days it's much easier to practice on pads, and even actual drums.

I think there's no substitute for putting in the time on the actual drums.
 
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thatoneguy

Guest
I agree in this instance with the statement, to each his own, and I recall as a child I used to beat up my dad's la-z-boy recliner. However, I did have a teacher tell me at one point that practicing on pillows is good, only if you're waiting to do all the pillow drumming gigs in town! Back in Buddy's day, they didn't have specially made practice pad kits - I think your only choices were those funny wedge-shaped pads and the Gladstone pad. These days it's much easier to practice on pads, and even actual drums.

I think there's no substitute for putting in the time on the actual drums.
Well said. I'd add that as much as I love Buddy Rich i've heard him make rediculous statements l whole hartedly disagree with. The dude played real drums, nonstop, his whole life! Professionally!! Since he was like 4!!! That's wild.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Learning to work the drumstick efficiently...I'll be practicing that until I croak...Surface can be anything, or nothing! Mid air practice! It's the muscles I'm training. HOWEVER....Nothing has the exact rebound of a drumset, and I think that the more time spent playing actual unmuffled real rebounding drums, the quicker you will make yourself sound better on those drums. Only your drums and cymbals have the range of rebounds that you are "fine tuning" your hands to. That's one of the main goals, to make your own personal drumset sound great, right? I find that after practicing singles on something other than my snare drum, when I do get to do singles on my snare drum, I always have to fine tune my touch/rebound control. Snares wires have no forgiveness, a good thing. Practicing singles on a pad feels totally different than on a snare drum or tom....
So it's all good, just make sure you practice singles on the drums too.

If there is one thing I've learned from this forum....there is no one right way. This is just my own personal take on it, so you can't argue with me lol
 
I know one thing, if Matt Smith, Tom Grosset, Buddy Rich, Dick Cully and Dennis Chambers all say that there is some benefit to practicing on a surface that doesn't give rebound I am going to listen, and of course there are benefits to practicing on drums. As I said before I did experience improvement in my control and speed after playing on a feather pillow, however, this was not after one single hour of practice, but over a two week period.

I think it's best to listen to your body before anyone else including pros. If a lot of people are having great results from practicing for 5 hours a day, but you have serious pains in your arms while doing this who are you going to listen to, them or your body (lol)? I also believe that when the body responds well to certain practice techniques one should listen, which is why I have kept on practicing with pillows as well as drums. If it works for you keep doing it, if it doesn't, move on.

That mid air thing is interesting lol might have to try that, my knee needs a new head.

Also I think if one is going to play on drum heads and never hit a cymbal or do a rim roll as Buddy does on West Side Story then maybe practicing on just a drum head would be best. I want total control over my stick no matter what I am playing on be it my knee, cymbal, drum head or rim. Practicing on surfaces that mimic these might be best if one wants to play their best while moving from one surface to another. Of course all of this is in my humble opinion :)
 
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thatoneguy

Guest
Mid air is something I do all the time. I've been doing that since middle school. Also, practicing in front of a mirror is very, very helpful.
 
You know I have never done the mirror thing. It does seem like it would really help in training your hands to execute certain techniques. As we all know, you can never have to many points of view :) so yeah it makes sense.
 
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