Some thoughts on practicing

Numberless

Platinum Member
So I'm just coming off a whole month without practicing, it was a combination of not having a dedicated practice room, (thankfully) having a lot of work and preparing to move to Montreal to start my master's degree. However in that time I did think a lot about practicing and I felt like sharing some of my thoughts here:

Effective practice and not being overwhelmed
The key to getting the most out of your practice is to address your weaknesses first. Don't waste time practicing something if you don't know how it will eventually benefit you. Instead ask yourself (or better yet: write it down) "What are my technique issues?" What are my coordination issues?" "What styles do I want to be better at?". Now take a general issue and get as specific as possible with it. For example: I want to have a better sound (or touch), specifically I want to have better control over opening the HH with my foot and better dynamic control moving around the kit. Even more specific: better dynamic control when my right hand moves between the high tom/snare and my left hand moves between ride/snare. Alright, now you need to ask yourself "Why do I want to work on this?" The answer to this question should be your final goal. If you can't come up with a clear answer then stop practicing and go think about it for a while, again, be honest with yourself. In my sound issue example my answer would be: "I'm working on this because I admire how some of my favorite drummers shape and impact the music they create with their absolutely fantastic dynamic control, it is a powerful tool that touches me emotionally sometimes even more than fills and chops do, one of my goals is to achieve this same level of dynamic control."

Now that we have our issues properly laid out and a clear ending goal, we can start to work on our weakness. This is the time to research and look up videos on youtube, using our general and specific issues as a filter to not get bogged down in the hundreds of blogs, videos and books available out there. It'll also be easier to come up with your own exercises, something I recommend doing. Finally keep in mind that your weaknesses, goals and issues will be constantly changing as you continue growing as a musician. So don't be afraid to change something in your practice routine if you feel it isn't working, as long as you're honest with yourself (something that's easier said than done) it'll work out.

Drum journals
Everyone who's practicing seriously should be keeping some kind of record of their practice sessions. Writing it down gives you the benefit of working on it later, not to mention you can write down stuff that spontaneously happen that would otherwise be forgotten. However the true value of the journal for me is that it allows you to view and chart your progress, something that's essential for staying motivated and sticking to your goals.

Staying motivated
Do what you need to do to stay motivated, seriously. A lot of people here complain about youtube covers but if they motivate you to get behind the kit and practice then record a thousand of them. Go play at the top of a mountain, jam with other people, transcribe, see bands, anything you can think of that helps, do it.
 

mandrew

Gold Member
Probably one of the biggest mistakes made in practicing is going over a whole piece of music repetitively, stumbling on a few places, and keep on practicing what is already OK. Too many people skip over the hard parts, when that is where the focus should be. The result is they always stumble at the hard part!
 

Bonzo_CR

Silver Member
Great post Numberless. This more or less sums up my ideal approach to practice.

I have made so much more progress than ever before since I went to a Terry Bozzio clinic and he said: "Practice things you CAN'T do". Ever since then I have been focusing on learning new things, and I really enjoy practicing.
 

PlayTheSong

Senior Member
Two schools of thought here, and it probably depends on your personality type:

Some say "Don't get bogged down in despair focussing on what you can't do. Instead enjoy every minute of playing, because that's what drumming is about!"

The other philosophy (seen in this thread) is "Don't waste time practicing what you can play, instead spend all your practice time on your weaknesses"

I think this second approach is best IF:

1 - It is applied to your private practice time
2 - You have regular opportunities to play with others.

For me it would be a mistake, if practice time is the only time you ever spend on the drums, to spend ALL that time grinding away at weaknesses. Unless you have masochistic tendencies, this sounds like a good way to lose your love for the drums.

However, if you DO get to play with others regularly and are keen to improve, this is the way to do it, no doubt.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Two schools of thought here, and it probably depends on your personality type:

Some say "Don't get bogged down in despair focussing on what you can't do. Instead enjoy every minute of playing, because that's what drumming is about!"

The other philosophy (seen in this thread) is "Don't waste time practicing what you can play, instead spend all your practice time on your weaknesses"

I think this second approach is best IF:

1 - It is applied to your private practice time
2 - You have regular opportunities to play with others.

For me it would be a mistake, if practice time is the only time you ever spend on the drums, to spend ALL that time grinding away at weaknesses. Unless you have masochistic tendencies, this sounds like a good way to lose your love for the drums.

However, if you DO get to play with others regularly and are keen to improve, this is the way to do it, no doubt.
Agreed. You are supposed to enjoy drumming, and I practice so I can gig or play with others. I mainly practice songs for the set, and plenty of new to me or tricky stuff comes up in that as we regularly change our set.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Just a question, inside the thread, not a desire to hijack.

Bad at what? I have watched hundreds of pro drummers at top gigs, very closely, and the vast majority of what they do is what I would call "nuts and bolts drumming" Once in a while something spectacular comes up and If I think I can use it I will try to figure it out at home.

So, what do you mean by "Bad at"? Am I missing a level or genre of drumming or going to the wrong gigs?
 

PlayTheSong

Senior Member
Just a question, inside the thread, not a desire to hijack.

Bad at what? I have watched hundreds of pro drummers at top gigs, very closely, and the vast majority of what they do is what I would call "nuts and bolts drumming" Once in a while something spectacular comes up and If I think I can use it I will try to figure it out at home.

So, what do you mean by "Bad at"? Am I missing a level or genre of drumming or going to the wrong gigs?
An Excellent point!!!

Spectacular finesse, grace notes etc. are only appreciated by a few.

I think what our bandmates most value is a drummer who can capture the desired feel for the song and hold that steady throughout. None of the other skills have much value until you've mastered this. Once you're a drummer who can do this, you can work on subtleties.

For some this ability is a gift, but for most of us it is developed by lots of time playing with others, always striving to improve this central ability.

Which is why "find some other musicians and play with them as much as possible" is the one of the most common pieces of advice we see here (along with "get a teacher" so that an objective person who knows about drumming can identify what needs work and can tell you how to work on it.)

Drummers need to play with others, otherwise what's the point?
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Keeping a log is the single most important thing. In less than a month no matter how confused anyone, ANYONE, will understand what's happening, why and where the sensible path goes.

So simple, solves so many thing, yet noone listens. lol

What happens is that get down on paper what you actually know and can do and define clear goals.

You have a mindmap.

The weeds just pull themselves out and it happens so quickly if you just do it.


Now remember to stick to it, so have reminders.

Write them everywhere:

Bathroom mirror
Fridge
Head of your main snare
Car dashboard
Forehead of significant other.
Meticulously shaved out of the fur on your dog's left side.
 
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