My Playing - The Horror!

Hewitt2

Senior Member
Hi everyone -

I took the plunge and started more consistently recording myself playing and listening to the results a few months ago. While my sense of time is generally ok when playing along to music or a metronome, drumless tracks are a massive challenge to me. This is a little surprising as before I started recording myself I thought I had a good natural sense of rhythm. But the tape doesn't lie and I am shocked that I am all over the place, especially with slower BPM quarter note grooves. Leaving aside questionable musical choices and spotty use of dynamics, my timing for grooves and fills is embarrassing and atrocious.

My question: given this massive gap in my playing, I am seriously considering whether there is any point to practicing anything else other than getting better time? What's the point of practicing hand/foot speed, polyrhythms, odd groupings, etc. when I can't hold down the money beat at 85 BPM? Would you guys agree?

If so, what would an effective practice regimen look like?

Some things about me to give you context:

- Been playing for about 5 years now
- Have about 1.5-2 hours per day to practice
- I'm not currently gigging or part of a band although I do jam with others on occasion
- Regularly use metronome when practicing
- Given my weird work schedule and at-home commitments, getting a teacher at this point will be very difficult (although I have used them in the past)

Thank you all for your help!
 

TripleStroke

Senior Member
Hi everyone -

I took the plunge and started more consistently recording myself playing and listening to the results a few months ago. While my sense of time is generally ok when playing along to music or a metronome, drumless tracks are a massive challenge to me. This is a little surprising as before I started recording myself I thought I had a good natural sense of rhythm. But the tape doesn't lie and I am shocked that I am all over the place, especially with slower BPM quarter note grooves. Leaving aside questionable musical choices and spotty use of dynamics, my timing for grooves and fills is embarrassing and atrocious.

My question: given this massive gap in my playing, I am seriously considering whether there is any point to practicing anything else other than getting better time? What's the point of practicing hand/foot speed, polyrhythms, odd groupings, etc. when I can't hold down the money beat at 85 BPM? Would you guys agree?

If so, what would an effective practice regimen look like?

Some things about me to give you context:

- Been playing for about 5 years now
- Have about 1.5-2 hours per day to practice
- I'm not currently gigging or part of a band although I do jam with others on occasion
- Regularly use metronome when practicing
- Given my weird work schedule and at-home commitments, getting a teacher at this point will be very difficult (although I have used them in the past)

Thank you all for your help!
hey fellow torontonian (i rmb u pming me when i joined)
not playing with other people def makes for an isolated experience. but even with people playing with you, you can be carrying the entire teams pace and notice that you have brought the beat up and down all over the place. i know because ive heard it after recording a practice session

thing is though sometimes, it is because you are seriously critical of your own playing and playing too consciously into expecting it will sound decent. also keep in mind that most people will tend to SLOW DOWN or speed up as soon as something is on ur mind during a groove or a beginnig of a fill and overthinking the process. i realized that in the end, in a way it is better to "mess up" or not play the certain fill using some technique i had in my mind 100% properly and clean, IF you are still in the pocket and kept it on time.

nothing sounds worse than tryin to perfect what you had prepared in mind but your head ends up controlling your limbs and speeding/slowing the BPM

oh and to answer ur question... i cant think of anything other than practice. however given your playing experience in years, id say you are pretty much ready to tryin find a small group to play with. lone drummer wolf life can only take u so far. Toronto isnt the most musical city in the world (nowhere as much as it is a expensive car/shopping/consumerism-city it has bcome), but downtown core still has decent pockets of music areas (namely bathurst/bloor or queen) and multiple jamming rehearsal areas you can meet with people to play. ive even seen some ads on craigslist and kijiji where guitarists were looking for drummers to play with. give those a try
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Yes I would forget about working on speed, polyrhythms, fancy anything, etc. Good time is #1 in my opinion.

But don't be too hard on yourself. There is a lot of spaces at 85 bpm. Its Ok to practice slow, but getting that quarter note down at that speed is an effort. Also, In reality most things you will play are not so slow.
How are your results at 100, 120, 130 bpm?

I'm going to go against the grain here, and suggest you could address this in a second, more fun way. Do some of you practice WITH some simple music at slower speeds.....Easy basic rhythmic stuff, R&B, .....Stax, Muscle Shoals or Motown stuff. Use it as a crutch until you feel comfort and natural at those speeds and have a good sense of time.

You have 1 - 2 hours per day?! That is plenty of time to make progress.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
Very early in my playing "career" I recall the discovery that singing along was a great way to get the groove. I vividly recall playing along to something or other and having the sense that I wasn't really sure where the pulse was. But the minute I started singing along (and singing may well mean "singing"), and as soon as I began "singing" there was a sensation of 'snapping to the grid', and while I was singing my feel of where the pulse was improved dramatically.

Nowadays I do find that there are songs where what I am drumming uses that much processing power that I just can't sing along, but those are typically songs where I am counting under my breath, which may achieve the same effect.

It's a simple thing to try, and you'll know right away whether it makes a difference or not.
 

ghostnoted

Member
I wouldn't sweat it that much. I had really bad practice habits for years and only after many years I started really sitting down and focusing on practicing my rudiments diligently and trying to develop a "clean" technique. Much of how I developed my time came from playing with other musicians and eventually a lot of live gigs. This will force you to have to think on your feet and stay locked in. It'll also keep you devoted to practicing certain concepts because I think it's best to focus on when you need for the gigs. Try to play as many genres as you can because this will help you adapt to different feels.

If you need polyrhythms, odd times, and ostinatos, then by all means practice them, but good time is universal to all gigs. I've known some drummers over the years that could execute some polyrhythms, blazing fast double bass, and intricate fills they had rehearsed but they couldn't play much else and their rhythm wasn't the best.

When I started practicing playing at super slow tempos and then progressing faster, my general flow became so much easier and more precise. Just keep working those money beats at 85 (or slower) until they sound tight. I have an app (ProMetronome) that allows the click to be removed every X number of bars, which is really awesome. It's a great way to practice fills, beats, etc. and put your skills to the test. It also has an accelerando mode where you can have it speed up every number of bars or mins. It's worth paying for honestly.

And when you practice, really start looking at your hands during exercises and observing how much tension you're putting in and correcting yourself by loosening your grip adequately.

Very early in my playing "career" I recall the discovery that singing along was a great way to get the groove. I vividly recall playing along to something or other and having the sense that I wasn't really sure where the pulse was. But the minute I started singing along (and singing may well mean "singing"), and as soon as I began "singing" there was a sensation of 'snapping to the grid', and while I was singing my feel of where the pulse was improved dramatically.

Nowadays I do find that there are songs where what I am drumming uses that much processing power that I just can't sing along, but those are typically songs where I am counting under my breath, which may achieve the same effect.

It's a simple thing to try, and you'll know right away whether it makes a difference or not.
Seconded this. It's an extension of audiation, which is hearing the music in your head. The idea is if you can sing it, you've already gone through the mental motions to realize your next move, which makes it easier for your limbs to get those messages. It may be difficult/sound stupid at first, but you'll not only improve your time but also you'll have better control over what you're playing if you can sing it first.

Singing the actual drums can be difficult, so even trying to sing the bass part or something else can keep you locked in well. When you do this, really try to keep in mind the inflection of whatever you're trying to emulate.

More on this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMqOOokv4TM
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
...Singing the actual drums can be difficult, so even trying to sing the bass part or something else can keep you locked in well. When you do this, really try to keep in mind the inflection of whatever you're trying to emulate.
I may not have been clear: what I meant was singing the lyrics to the song, rather than vocalising the drum sounds.
 

Hewitt2

Senior Member
Thanks everyone for the replies so far, much appreciated and it's comforting to know many of you also experienced similar challenges.

Opentune - at faster tempos my playing is cleaner but not perfect. I really struggle at slower quarter note tempos.

I don't sing the songs but maybe that is something I will start doing
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Refining your sense of timing is one aspect of your playing. No reason you should ignore technique, speed, and vocabulary -- just make sure a healthy portion of your practice focuses on developing your inner clock. It's entirely possible to be bad at playing with a click, or with a drumless track, and to improve in this skill. But you'll need some new practice methods, since the old ones didn't adequately address your issue. Here's a few ideas:

1. Learn to "flam" with the click, and also play on center, as you play quarter notes on the snare. Repeat for bass drum, hi hat, and, eventually, simple beats. Become able to deliberately vary your speed a tiny bit until you're behind, ahead, or on center with the click.

2. Count 16th aloud as you play, as in this Steve Smith video lesson., as you improvise basic grooves and fills. Become able to freely improvise as you continue to count out loud. This will develop your awareness of the evenness of your playing.

3. Practice the "table of time" or "rhythm scale" with the metronome, like this.

4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHWok5kyjiY

Hope this helps. Have fun!
 

Hewitt2

Senior Member
Refining your sense of timing is one aspect of your playing. No reason you should ignore technique, speed, and vocabulary -- just make sure a healthy portion of your practice focuses on developing your inner clock. It's entirely possible to be bad at playing with a click, or with a drumless track, and to improve in this skill. But you'll need some new practice methods, since the old ones didn't adequately address your issue. Here's a few ideas:

1. Learn to "flam" with the click, and also play on center, as you play quarter notes on the snare. Repeat for bass drum, hi hat, and, eventually, simple beats. Become able to deliberately vary your speed a tiny bit until you're behind, ahead, or on center with the click.

2. Count 16th aloud as you play, as in this Steve Smith video lesson., as you improvise basic grooves and fills. Become able to freely improvise as you continue to count out loud. This will develop your awareness of the evenness of your playing.

3. Practice the "table of time" or "rhythm scale" with the metronome, like this.

4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHWok5kyjiY

Hope this helps. Have fun!
wow - great suggestions. The Steve Smith bit really intrigues me.

I experimented with singing the melody line this morning and I was pretty much spot-on with the grooves and fills, so a huge improvement over-night. Interestingly, I noticed that singing also caused my head and body to rock in time with the music, something I've never been too conscious of but which really helped me to lock-in right away.

I've just got to be careful not to pull a Keith Jarrett or Art Blakey and have my horrible singing bleed into the mics!
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
My question: given this massive gap in my playing, I am seriously considering whether there is any point to practicing anything else other than getting better time? What's the point of practicing hand/foot speed, polyrhythms, odd groupings, etc. when I can't hold down the money beat at 85 BPM? Would you guys agree?
In short, yes for the most part. No point in attempting to master advance calligraphy if you haven't got a fully steady foundation on your alphabet and basic block lettering.
 

eddypierce

Senior Member
My question: given this massive gap in my playing, I am seriously considering whether there is any point to practicing anything else other than getting better time? What's the point of practicing hand/foot speed, polyrhythms, odd groupings, etc. when I can't hold down the money beat at 85 BPM? Would you guys agree?

If so, what would an effective practice regimen look like?
I can certainly relate to how you feel. I’ve been really trying to hone my own time lately, and here are a few ideas that have helped me that might help you:

1) Play grooves at a very slow tempo for sustained periods of time. Try to have the metronome at quarter note equals 40, 50, or 60. Even if you think you have the groove down at that tempo, resist the urge to speed up the tempo and just sit at the slow tempo for a while, feeling and playing the subdivisions as clearly as possible, with precision and a good feel.

2) Play grooves with the click on different places other than on one: on all the and; on all the e’s and a’s; on the and of 1 and 3; the and of 2 and 4; on all the e’s, on all the a’s; etc. If it’s a triplet based groove, put the click on the 2nd or 3rd triplet note.

3) Dave Dicenso has some great ideas about linking the voice to the rest of the body in his book Rhythm and Drumming Demystified. Here’s a tutorial where he lays out the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRl5Vw2AaHQ. I’ve been using these ideas and have found them helpful (it’s somewhat similar to the ideas Gary Chester lays out in New Breed).

4) Get a metronome app (I use Metronomics) that allows you to silence the click for certain periods of time. You could have three bars of click and then one bar of silence, or two bars of click and two bars of silence, etc. Play grooves and see if you can come out exactly with the click when it re-enters. Or play fills (or a combination of groove and fills) during the silent parts. I’ve been doing some of this lately, and I’ve found it helpful.

In addition to Dicenso’s book, some of these ideas come from Fred Dinkins’ It’s About Time.

I agree that spending a lot of your focus on improving your time will be time well spent. I wouldn’t necessarily say not to work on other techniques, but if you do work on those other things, you can approach them with the same focus as you do on playing time feels—perhaps spend time working on them very slowly and relaxed, and focus on getting a really solid sound at a slow tempo.
 
My 2 cents: When practicing time - in any manner - do it at a variety of dynamic levels and as you move around the kit. To stay in time you will probably need to fine tune all the different motions when playing hard or soft, or when playing your snare or reaching for cymbals.

Like many others, I'm also a proponent for nailing things at a very slow tempo. Bring it down to 60 (or less). If you can make something groove at very slow tempos, it will sound and feel great as you get faster. Speed has a way of covering up sloppy playing.

And for those that recommend counting...YES! That was huge for me. Essentially it moves "keeping time" from your HH/Ride (or left foot) to your head. And that brings a whole bunch of unexpected challenges and freedom with it. Train that fifth limb!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
FWIW, time is the only thing I'm working on lately, it's THAT important. For me, my time has to be worked on regularly, or it degrades. But if I work on it, it improves. You get out what you put in. It's definitely an abstract concept that I have to try and flesh out. It's a mind f***. Being a clock takes me a ton of practice. It wasn't there naturally for me, but I'm grateful that it is something that absolutely can be learned. With a lot of mental effort.

Record record record yourself always. It's the fastest way forward through the deep, dark scary land known as "What the Hell is Time".
 

Hewitt2

Senior Member
Thanks Lar and the rest of the crew. I've got a lot of things to try out!

Counting out loud while playing has never been a big problem for me but for some reason I don't feel as locked-in as when I tried singing the melody line today. Singing really emphasized the ebb and flow of the music and my head/body also seemed to naturally emphasize the pulse. I'm going to continue experimenting with counting and singing (maybe combining both at the same time!).

And yes, ensuring I focus on good time in everything I do and take things slowly will continue to be a big focus of mine. Recording will tell what's working and what isn't.
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
If I may go a little deep here, sometimes I think when people are working on their time, it's almost like people working on perfect pitch.

I know you said you haven't started playing with others yet, but the reality is, yes, you must have a steady sense of time. Yet, at the same time, so does everybody else. My analogy to perfect pitch is like, a person who knows what a "C" note sounds like, will consider everyone else wrong. What is more important is knowing "relative" pitch, so if the entire group is a little off, you can go with them, or play harmonies around them, and it will sound in-tune. What usually happens with a person with perfect pitch is that they go crazy because nobody else has perfect pitch, they can't conform to the relative pitch around them.

Same goes for drummers. I think we're so programmed to be "the time keeper", we forget that everybody else on the bandstand also has to keep good time. So the drummer believes he must be this immoveable object in a sea of randomly changing tempos (like having perfect pitch). When everyone is keeping good solid time, if the tempo fluctuates a little, no one notices because the entire group is moving in one direction - this is why playing with people is so important to a musician.

So try not to be too hard on yourself for not really having it down. You've only been playing for five years - for some people it's a long time, for me it's relatively short - I must've been playing in my bedroom practicing for over ten years (age 3 to 14) before I ventured out of my room for my first goes with some friends who formed a punk band.

Continue to study the masters and emulate emulate emulate!
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
All I can say is that you have to feel the groove and be absorbed in it. Just watch a few Bernard Purdie videos. You can see it in his mannerism and the way he talks when he is behind his kit. He vocalizes it and moves to the groove that he is absorbed in.

You have to feel the beat and the groove that heavy. Hewitt, your location status says you're "Deep in the Groove" and I'll tell you what, like Bo is saying about emulating, Bernard Purdie is certainly one to emulate when you're talking about "Deep in the Groove".
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
All I can say is that you have to feel the groove and be absorbed in it. Just watch a few Bernard Purdie videos. You can see it in his mannerism and the way he talks when he is behind his kit. He vocalizes it and moves to the groove that he is absorbed in.

You have to feel the beat and the groove that heavy. Hewitt, your location status says you're "Deep in the Groove" and I'll tell you what, like Bo is saying about emulating, Bernard Purdie is certainly one to emulate when you're talking about "Deep in the Groove".
Or even Steve Jordan. Or Steve Gadd. Or Keith Carlock. But you can't go wrong with Benny Benjamin or Earl Palmer. Who was that guy that did all the stuff coming out of Muscle Shoals? That guy's on a lot of hits. The Meters...Al Jackson....the list goes on and on about who to listen to for solid groove.
 
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