Practice when you're tired or not at your best

8Mile

Platinum Member
I've noticed that my ability to play technical stuff up to tempo varies considerably depending on the time of day I practice. Especially later at night, I just can't pull off things at tempos that I could manage easily earlier in the day. I'm assuming this is something others have noticed and it's not unique to me.

But it got me wondering: Is it actually good or bad to practice hard during those difficult times when we're not at our best?

It seems to me there could be benefits (pushing through a difficult challenge) but maybe also potential downsides (forcing things and learning bad habits as a result).

I also wonder if the answer varies depending on what you're practicing. For example, pushing your technical limits with tempos on rudiments versus practicing a difficult independence exercise. For me, where I notice it most is chops/rudiment stuff, but maybe that's just because it's easier to compare because metronome settings don't lie.

Curious about the thoughts of others, especially teachers who have some insight into what kinds of practice are most productive.
 
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Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
As I've got older, I learned when to say 'no' to practising. In my twenties, I forced myself to do an awful lot of practice whether I wanted to or not, and I fell out of love with drumming, despite doing it for my profession. Now, I'm a little older, I've got a young child, I have plenty of work (which is a great thing in this industry!) and I'm more motivated than ever. I probably average 2-3 hours a day, most week days. I rarely practise on weekends (too busy teaching or gigging), or Fridays (half-day off).

The balance is great. By Monday, I'm itching to get back on the kit and get back to working on whatever I'm working on. I'm more productive, and get more rest time by knowing that forcing myself to practise when I don't feel like it is going to do more harm than good. Practising is very mood-orientated, primarily because the brain requires focus and motivation. If you're tired, ill, not at your best, or not in the mood, your productivity and, therefore, the gains of practising, drop significantly.

I therefore try to think of the longer game, practise consistently and regularly, without every forcing it. It seems to work for me, and in myself I feel I'm the best (and the busiest!) I've ever been.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I've always found it easier to work on independence stuff when wide awake and alert. If my brain isn't tip top, complicated stuff just isn't gonna happen.

Endurance wise, pushing while tired seems to work for me. I'm already worn out, so doing speed or stamina exercises seems to provide some benefits. This was actually my go to routine when building double kick. Do it after spending 8 hours in a hot warehouse where I would walk like 10 miles a day. Two hours a night of running feet while tired made it really easy to do when not tired.
 

CommanderRoss

Silver Member
I'll never force it as I won't retain the lesson. I'm currently working on triplets in the measure & I have to focus on that stuff. Late night or tired practice pad work won't cut it if I'm not focused.
 

ottog1979

Senior Member
My experience in the last few years is similar to 8Mile. My abilities are best when I'm awake & alert. When I'm tired, mentally worn out or had a drink at the end of the day, I find I don't learn or get as much out of practice. Quickly, it becomes frustrating and that's not a state that I want to play drums in. I practice best in the morning or mid-day. Ironically, I never have a problem playing late night gigs.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I would not recommend practicing when tired or when you know you aren't at your best. You stand the chance of repeating bad movements or habits which in my opinion will deteriorate your skills.
 

danondrums

Well-known member
I just change what I practice when tired. Sometimes we have gigs/work when we’re tired so we need to be able to perform independent of fatigue.

This is when I’ll play basic rudiments at 80-90% tempo and try to focus on making the strokes as even and consistent as possible.

My default is a measure of paradiddles, a measure of doubles and a measure of singles and it’s a nice brainless exercise with some benefit.

There’s definitely not much gained in pushing any limits when tired though. I’m pretty hyper literal though so I’ll say if I only practiced when I’m “at my best” I’d never practice. :)
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Will I practice on my own if I'm tired? Nope. Because I know me so well, I know that there's no point in trying. I will only face frustration.

I will always fulfill obligations to practice with others no matter how tired I am though. Absolutely.

On Wednesdays, this used to be my schedule:

Up at 6am.
Out the door by 7am.
Work from 8-5pm.
Arrive at church at 6pm after driving an hour.
Leave church at 7:30pm to take the kids home and drop them off.
Back to church by 8:15pm.
Practice (on paper) starts at 8:30pm, so at 8:30 I go sit behind the kit.
Practice (in reality) starts at 9pm (Yes, I sat on my drum throne for 30 min. straight on the regular while everyone else sat around and talked, tuned, or whatever).
Practice until 10:30-11:00pm.
Back home by 11:30pm.

After 10 years of doing a schedule like this (or close to it), this Sunday will be my last one for several months. I'm long overdue for a break.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I touch the drums only when I want to. If I don't feel like practicing, I don't. I'm totally fine wit dat. Drums to me are a source of pleasure. I am the boss. I get to decide when our time will be and when it won't. Practice is a source of pleasure for me. But I have to be in the mood and want to practice for it to be pleasurable. Drums are an almost perfect mistress, always happy to see you and they can't complain when they don't ha ha.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
I have found if I am consistent in my practicing in terms of consecutive days, I am able to continue "building" from the prior day, the time of day doesn't seem to matter.

What is most noticeable is when I go 4 or 5 days in a row without picking up a stick, then coordination is not an issue, but speed is. That said, I admittedly don't work on speed and technique in terms of 'improving them' - but do so for maintaining what I have. I am totally satisfied with saying the technique I have today is what I will die with.

I spent a good 20+ years SO heavily focused on practicing and such, that at this point of my life, I simply do it as the mood strikes and sometimes that's 20+ days in a row and sometimes it's 15 or more days without picking up a stick.
 
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J-Boogie

Gold Member
I just change what I practice when tired. Sometimes we have gigs/work when we’re tired so we need to be able to perform independent of fatigue.

This is when I’ll play basic rudiments at 80-90% tempo and try to focus on making the strokes as even and consistent as possible.

My default is a measure of paradiddles, a measure of doubles and a measure of singles and it’s a nice brainless exercise with some benefit.

There’s definitely not much gained in pushing any limits when tired though. I’m pretty hyper literal though so I’ll say if I only practiced when I’m “at my best” I’d never practice. :)
I shoulda read all the responses before replying. Danondrums said it all and better.
 
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