PRACTICE- SONGS VS. EXERCISES

53Rockets

Member
Hey all, I've been drumming for just over a year.
The best money i've spent on drums has been on my teacher. Weekly lessons have made a huge difference. I just had the opportunity to play with a guitar player for the first time and it makes the need to have some songs/structure down. As far as practice goes, how much time would you keep devoting to exercises/basics/technique vs. playing along with songs?
As a beginner, i know both are necessary, but i definitely think i need a few songs solidly under my belt if i'm going to be able to meet and play with other musicians, which is my goal as opposed to being a solo 'basement drummer'.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
You need to be able to apply what you're learning and have it make sense to you. Example being, you work on this cool groove or fill, but can't figure out where or how to use it. You can either try and shove it in somewhere, then discover that was a bad idea, or you can play to music and figure out there's a type o flare to making things fit, you just don't get by sitting and practicing patterns only. To give one of my own examples, I've really been working hard on independence and more complex patters, jazz, bosa nova. etc. Got the patterns down at the speed I was supposed to, played then naturally, then happened to find some drumless tracks on Spotify and the whole exercise was very humbling. It don't fit and has no flow is all I could think of. Patterns were correct, flow was correct, but no feel and no soul.

Feel and souls is something you don't get from books, videos, or live lessons. That part takes playing along to music and figuring out. The genre doesn't matter and complexity doesn't matter. Feel has to come from within. Besides, it's way more satisfying than just playing beats and patterns. Music makes it real. That is after all, what we're trying to do isn't it?
 

jimb

Member
I'm hopeless at rudiments, they bore me so I just do my own thing and play to records...but the trick is to gradually play to harder material and to keep pushing the envelope...and if u hit a difficult bit practise till its right.
 

blinky

Senior Member
The last 5 years or so I've been practicing 99% on the pad. While I think that is good, not so much translate to the kit. Now I try to play a long to music at least 20 minutes everyday and it feels so much better in the practice room with my 2 bands. Out of an hour for me I spend 30 minutes on the pad, 10 minutes on the kit working on coordination and the remaining 20 minutes on play-a-longs.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Just be certain to maintain a balanced approach toward practice (i.e., devoting equal attention to rudimental development and kit work). If you play nothing but 4/4 backbeats, you'll be conditioning your dominant hand more than your weaker one. Lopsided command of your limbs will result. A pad regimen will keep things nice and even.
 
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Seafroggys

Silver Member
Over the years, I devote less and less practice time to playing along to songs.

So right now, I'm working on playing along to the tracks from Groove Essential. So to me, that's my 'playing along to songs' I guess you can say, although I'm recording new drum tracks as the goal so it's a bit different from playing to songs off the radio (or, I guess, from Spotify).

If you look at my practice schedule, Sunday through Friday I'll practice maybe a total of 30 minutes a day. Warmup on drum pad, then I work out of New Breed for 10 minutes or so, then I work on whatever the next groove is out of Groove Essentials, but just the groove by itself, so I can get the technique down. Then on Saturday, I go out to my studio, put on the drumless song, and then start learning the song and begin playing and recording. That whole process can take me 1-2 hours. But that process also counts "recording" which I feel should be distinct from "practice" time, so maybe practice time there is only 30 minutes at best?

So that means a good 85% of my time is devoted to exercises, and 15% to "songs".
 

MntnMan62

Junior Member
Hey all, I've been drumming for just over a year.
The best money i've spent on drums has been on my teacher. Weekly lessons have made a huge difference. I just had the opportunity to play with a guitar player for the first time and it makes the need to have some songs/structure down. As far as practice goes, how much time would you keep devoting to exercises/basics/technique vs. playing along with songs?
As a beginner, i know both are necessary, but i definitely think i need a few songs solidly under my belt if i'm going to be able to meet and play with other musicians, which is my goal as opposed to being a solo 'basement drummer'.
I’d spend most of my time working on exercises for my hands and feet, working on different grooves and fills. Maybe 2/3 of my time. And I’d spend 1/3 on learning tunes. Remember, in order to play the tunes you have to have the chops to do so. That comes from working on rudiments, exercises and learning how to groove and play different beats complete with fills. That kind of practicing is what will build your base and give you the ability to copy Bonham, Bozzio and Blakey.
 

53Rockets

Member
I’d spend most of my time working on exercises for my hands and feet, working on different grooves and fills. Maybe 2/3 of my time. And I’d spend 1/3 on learning tunes. Remember, in order to play the tunes you have to have the chops to do so. That comes from working on rudiments, exercises and learning how to groove and play different beats complete with fills. That kind of practicing is what will build your base and give you the ability to copy Bonham, Bozzio and Blakey.
That makes perfect sense to me. Putting two of my favourite drummers in the response helped hammer that home!
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
3 hours 47 minutes a week to rudiments/fundamentals and stick control. The rest of the week should be used on the kit playing to music so you understand where to put your skills. Oh, if you're playing with others in a band, set aside about 19 to 23 minutes a week to explain your usage of flamadiddles and other rudiments throughout those empty places in the music. If it takes longer than the allotted time to explain so they understand the purpose of drums, then spend another 17 hours looking for a new band.
 

doggyd69b

Well-known member
I'm hopeless at rudiments, they bore me so I just do my own thing and play to records...but the trick is to gradually play to harder material and to keep pushing the envelope...and if u hit a difficult bit practise till its right.
I know the rudiments I practiced a few for a very short time, I was bored to death so I went back to practicing songs, and sometimes I find myself just playing along drumless tracks of known songs and trying to make them better than they are. I succeed sometimes, sometimes I don't. But it is a lot more "educational" than simple patterns and rudiments. Some of my favorite drum intros were made up without any specific process, and they are still very epic. You can spend a lifetime learning rudiments and not using them too much or you can just learn to play by playing along music and learning technique and playing to increasingly difficult songs which will invariably make you better.... You will also start to develop your own style.
I have taken only one drum lesson in my life, I was told to hold the sticks like a jazz player (which I can do and I can play just as well but I don't find it comfortable at all), needless to say that was the one and only "lesson" I took.... what really made me leave is when I basically outplayed the instructor...by then I have been playing for over 10 years... to this day nobody has told me that I am a bad drummer, they mostly say how good it sounded and that they had fun (and that I looked like I was having a lot of fun). I don't think I am a great drummer but so far I have done well. Fortunately I don't depend on drums to make a living.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
You mentioned form. Outstanding.

It's great when people play with nice technique, sound and time but without song form it just drops the ball in performance. Somebody with less technique and sound will rule over that.
Totally possible to do both at the same time. ie first verse doubles, second verse L lead singles, chorus paradiddles, bridge flam taps or whatever. All the books tell us in the introduction (that we don't read) to pat our foot and count as we do the exercises.
No mushy changes! Lead em
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Playing to songs has the benefit of becoming content for a YouTube channel. It also forces you to stick with a certain style for a few minutes at a time, and can even test your endurance. Since I grew up in the pre-internet age - 70s, there was less variance in the types of music I was able to listen to. I could afford only a few CDs and coming up with a practice list with different styles was pretty non-existent. So I can't really comment on how a beginner should proceed. I do know that young kids are more durable than their older counterparts.

I'm 54 and I've been playing off and on since I was 7. I've often used songs to play along as a way to get back into things after a break in playing. The last 15 yrs I've been actively trying to be the next Weckl - hey it doesn't hurt to dream - and so I've been looking at practicing every week somehow, somewhere. Consequently I'm a much better (and different) drummer than I was or thought I could be. If I'm learning a new hand technique and I have a break in playing within that learning, I may not put the playalong on but instead will practice with my own internal time.

Back to my goals, I'm no longer striving to be the next Weckl. Having a day job outside of music just doesn't allow time for it. And I'm getting old. I now need to fit in exercise everyday just to keep healthy, and that takes even more time away from the kit. Life goes on.

What was the question?
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
Bringing drills to music is challenging, and I feel should definitely be the goal of your pad work.
So let's say your teacher has you working on ratamacues and flam-taps every day this week on the pad. So you get them going on the pad, and THEN go sit at your kit and play a beat that's common to your genre, and start stuffing ratamacues and flam-taps in everywhere to see where they fit. You'll find uses for them and grow your sense of vocabulary. I play the Lifetime Warmup this way on the kit, it's a great way to get your pad work into actual music.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Practice songs and make exercises based on what's hard in the snogs or what you want to add to your vocabulary playing them.

I think the operative word here is "practice."

When people say practicing songs they often just mean playing through songs. Generally, that won't do anything about that section in the middle that you mess up every time. You need a strategy and if you're interested in general growth you'll create some exercises and work on some concepts to improve your general ability in that area, so it's not just that one specific lick you're getting down and you learn something more from it.

Don't just learn the lick.
Learn from the lick.
 

vxla

Silver Member
Take 10 of your favorite songs and practice rudiments over them.

For instance, practice 5-stroke rolls over Song #1, flam taps over Song #2, etc.

Bonus points if you can sing along to the song while playing the rudiments. It will wire you to be able to count aloud/sing when playing.

Double bonus points if you can add basic foot patterns while the hands go through the rudiments.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Practicing, learning, and growing as a drummer/musician is just the means to an end. That end is playing with other musicians. That is, playing songs. There are only a handful of drummers who are exceptions to that outcome - Terry Bozzio is a prime example. But don't forget that he also played a variety of music with a variety of players before opting for a solo career.

Anyway, balance your practice time accordingly. Assuming your goal is to play well with others, you should lean more towards practicing with songs.

For example, during my months off from playing with bands, my practice time consists of playing to songs. All sorts of songs. Zappa, Beatles, Weird Al playing my own parts, sometimes just a loop of something. I'm practicing what I do - playing songs.

Bermuda
 

bonerpizza

Silver Member
It depends on what your end goal is, if you want to be the fastest paradiddler in town then spend all your time diddlin', but that's not MY goal so that's not what I do. I only do rudiments as a warmup, I'll do singles in 8ths, 16s and 32nds, then paradiddles in 8ths, flam taps and 8ths with singles and doubles alternating. I do all of that in like 10-15 minutes, I'm not dedicating a ton of time to any particular exercise, just trying to get the rust off!

Now that I'm warmed up I'll spend a good amount of time on things I view as weak spots, right now for example I am working on stopping burying the beater so I'll play grooves and different patterns and make sure I'm pulling the beater back. Another weak spot is dynamics so I'll do 16ths starting quiet getting loud, then starting loud getting quiet, then I do a game I call the accent game (really creative I know) where I write out RLRLRLRLRLRLRLRL on paper and randomly choose 2-3 strokes to accent, then when I have that down I'll add 1 or 2 more and keep going.

THEN I'll play along to some songs for a bit and most importantly I make sure I'm not burying the beater and that my dynamics are on point.

My suggestion is to record a video of yourself playing and be very honest with yourself and find 1 or 2 things to focus on improving, then do that again after a few weeks and so on. If you're not comfortable playing with a click I highly recommend you start playing with one, even if you're just noodlin around, it will make a big difference over time.
 

Hewitt2

Senior Member
Never forget the importance of visualization and active listening of the songs in question (especially if you aren’t able to play along on the kit as often as you like).

These tactics can become just as - if not more important - to playing along.
 

Noisy

Well-known member
I can’t give any ratio advice but if you are practicing rudiments and want to transition them to the kit, this site’s demos are surprisingly good, to me. Quite musical compared to a pad.

 
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