What's the one exercise you are doing right now that's having the biggest impact on your playing?

pbm2112

Senior Member
I was on a different thread where someone was touting a swerving, curving, corkscrew hand technique that seemed like it wouldn't be useful even if you put the time in to master it (apologies if that sounds unkind). But it got me thinking about things that we really feel were worth the time investment that we might want to offer up to the forum...

I'm a match grip player. My right hand alternates naturally between French, American and German depending on how it feels and what it wants to hit. My left is pretty much American. I hadn't really thought much about this until recently. I had a forearm rotation problem on my left side which has meant that holding a stick with my thumb pointing up (or even slightly rolled over to the left) has been the most comfortable. However, American/German finger technique (fingers closing into the palm) is pretty useless when the thumb is pointing up as the stick just waggles from side to side over the drum head - the fingers need to sort of swivel up and down on either side of the fulcrum.

As my right hand knows what to do I used it to teach my left, and I've been drilling my left hand while watching TV or waiting for the kettle to boil. Nothing fancy, just slow consistent strokes on a cushion or into my right palm (so it isn't noisy) really concentrating on how it feels in the right hand and trying to replicate that feeling in the left.

After only a month of this my left hand control has improved dramatically now I've returned to American. My fingers are starting to have a similar connection to the stick as my right hand, something that has eluded me for the decades I've been playing. I can play left hand lead hi-hat/ride with a much better feel and touch and I'm sure this will only improve the more I practice this technique.

For me, with where my technique is at, it's felt like so little effort for a significant reward. So I wondered if anyone else had similar anecdotes?
 
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Al Strange

Well-known member
I work on singles, flams and doubles every day leading with both hands. When watching TV I play on my knee and as well as singles, flams and doubles I also like to play around with what I call “ABCD triplets” where you play and repeat (accents are in capitals):

A: Rll Rll Rll Rll
B: rrL rrL rrL rrL
C: Lrr Lrr Lrr Lrr
D: llR llR llR llR

Then I start randomly mixing it up a bit without thinking too much about it; so I might play something like:

A: Rll Rll
B: rrL rrL
C: Lrr Lrr Lrr Lrr
D: llR llR
A: Rll
B: rrL

This was a concept my late great teacher introduced me to, and it really brought on my weaker hand. I also enjoy noodling around with paradiddles. :) (y)
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
My focus has been on a mindfulness thing versus an actual technique.

Instead of putting my limbs on autopilot while playing, I'm forcing myself to pay attention to the things that line up, and ensure that they do. For example, while playing 8th notes on the hi-hat I pay special attention to the snare hits and kick drum beats that occur in unison with those hi-hat strikes and ensure that they happen at precisely the same time. You would think that it would make my playing stiffer or less relaxed but I find it just cleans things it up a little. It's a really small thing but it makes a difference.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I work on singles, flams and doubles every day leading with both hands. When watching TV I play on my knee and as well as singles, flams and doubles I also like to play around with what I call “ABCD triplets” where you play and repeat (accents are in capitals):

A: Rll Rll Rll Rll
B: rrL rrL rrL rrL
C: Lrr Lrr Lrr Lrr
D: llR llR llR llR

Then I start randomly mixing it up a bit without thinking too much about it; so I might play something like:

A: Rll Rll
B: rrL rrL
C: Lrr Lrr Lrr Lrr
D: llR llR
A: Rll
B: rrL

This was a concept my late great teacher introduced me to, and it really brought on my weaker hand. I also enjoy noodling around with paradiddles. :) (y)
My teacher gave me something similar:

Rrl Lrr Llr Rll

It still messes with me after all these years. I can play each of the 4 sections of it no problem. Putting it together does something to my brain.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
It's not one exercise in the typical sense, but it' basically working through All American Drummer and compound stickings playing them on both my Xymox laminate pad as well as the Moongel pad. Obviously, there are a few prerequisites to make this work, but at this time it works really really well for me.
 
Not sure if it's a real "breakthrough" exercise but one exercise I've done recently which seems to slowly make my triplets cleaner is from "The Art of Drumming" by Robert Kaufman. It's basically just counting Swing rhythms differently but it forces me to pay closer attention to the placement of the notes.
Instead of this regular way in 4/4 with triplets...
Code:
        1e+2e+3e+4e+
Ride    x  x xx  x x
Snare   x x x x x x
HH/F       x     x
...you count is a 6/4 with 8th notes:
Code:
        1+2+3+4+5+6+
Ride    x  x xx  x x
Snare   x x x x x x
HH/F       x     x
 

Old PIT Guy

Well-known member
I don't really do exercises anymore, and I wish I had more patience to do that because I know I'd grow. 80% of my practice is motif-based to compel improv and discovery. It may not be the most efficient way to go about that, I realize. But I'm 60 and spending time reading a lot of notes doesn't appeal to me with what time is left. I know that sounds morbid but I'm not trying to be.

There are a few things that would qualify as exercises, and the one I think is currently having the most impact is quads (dble. pedal) orchestrated as:

RH LF LH RF

with and without a click, building to using all of the drums (cymbals too) as sound sources. The goal is to get this to the point where dynamics and melodies between drums at various tempos evolve musically, and I become comfortable interspersing it with single strokes between one foot and a hand. The end game being able to incorporate this at will within anything else happening.

I'm finding that it's pretty good for improving balance with 4 limbs in motion, touch, and also feel. It's easy to meditate with as well.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Playing the jazz ride pattern in unison with each hand on a different cymbal did a lot for me. The jazz ride pattern needs some measure of control to sound good, and the weak hand is lacking in control the most. So I play the jazz ride pattern with my weak hand. It feels like brushing your teeth with the opposite hand, really uncoordinated at first.

Also attempting to bury the click at 20 or 30 BPM helped my meter/quarter note tremendously. I don't subdivide to make it harder on myself. I listen instead to the decay of the drumhead and try and feel the time without counting. Subdividing is fine though, I just like to increase the difficulty.
 

jimb

Member
Reducing arm movement..trad grip and keeping both elbows in tight so I have to flick and rotate the wrists across the cymbals....feels super controlled.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I don't know how people became so mono-focused on technique, as if that's going to lead to being able to play. You have to play SOMETHING. Technique is just the way you do it.

The major things I'm practicing right now are:
-- Three Camps for drumset-- I wrote a bunch of ways of doing that rudimental piece in a jazz feel. I find it to be a better way of drilling basic stuff than just playing one-measure patterns from Chapin or whatever.
-- A group of my "harmonic" independence exercises (scroll to the bottom and work your way up)-- similar to Dahlgren & Fine, or the first part of Stone's Accents & Rebounds, adapted for drum set. I've never seen a system like it, and it has been useful way beyond the system of difficult independence exercises it started out as. I use versions of it even with my youngest students.
-- I always practice from Syncopation a lot, and am continuing to develop ways of practicing it.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I find that general fitness, especially as I age (late forties now), has a very positive impact on my drumming. I keep myself conditioned through both cardiovascular and resistance training. Healthy muscles and tendons go a long way toward optimizing all forms of movement. When it comes to improving (or sustaining) our drumming, what we do with sticks in our hands is only part of the puzzle. The better we maintain the machine, the more efficiently it performs.
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
I don't know how people became so mono-focused on technique, as if that's going to lead to being able to play. You have to play SOMETHING. Technique is just the way you do it.

The major things I'm practicing right now are:
-- Three Camps for drumset-- I wrote a bunch of ways of doing that rudimental piece in a jazz feel. I find it to be a better way of drilling basic stuff than just playing one-measure patterns from Chapin or whatever.
-- A group of my "harmonic" independence exercises (scroll to the bottom and work your way up)-- similar to Dahlgren & Fine, or the first part of Stone's Accents & Rebounds, adapted for drum set. I've never seen a system like it, and it has been useful way beyond the system of difficult independence exercises it started out as. I use versions of it even with my youngest students.
-- I always practice from Syncopation a lot, and am continuing to develop ways of practicing it.
I'm curious how the teaching is impacted by the pandemic. And what would you consider to be pre-requisites to start a teaching business, particularly do your students look for a music degree? Thanks!
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I have been doing:

Drum set: Stone Patterns 1-8 in my feet, on double bass, playing different grooves over top. I start with the met at 90, and play 20 measures with the snare on true 2 and 4 and hi hat as 8th notes; then I "double time" the snare and hi hat for the next 20 measures; then I double time that for the next 20; it lets it progress from a "money beat" groove feel, to an up tempo rock feel, to a "D-beat" kind of punk feel, to a blast beat feel

all of this is to develop speed and endurance, and give my feet "choices" beneath the hands...

Marching/pad: I have been gridding out the Stone Patterns 1-13: 20 measures of each at around 110bpm
grid 1: as written with flams on the first partial of each grouping of 4
grid 2: as written with flams on the 2nd partial
grid 3: as written with flams on the 3rd partial
grid 4: as written with flams on the 4th partial
grid 5-8: same thing but with a drag moving down the partials
grid 9-12: same thing but with Cheese's on each partial (cheese is when you play a flam and a roll at the same time); I have to slow this down to 90bpm for now

Marimba: really digging into sight reading better with 2 mallets; and working on a little 4 mallet permutation exercise that Giff Howarth gave me years ago. It is like the same grid idea from snare above, but it moves accents throughout the permutation <--- reeeaaalllyyy makes my hands hurt...but in a good way

they are all impacting those 3 areas the most....
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
As was said once here, mine isn’t a drum exercise, per se, but just riding my bicycle around the hills of my community and making my heart pump for at least 30 minutes a day has improved so much more than my drumming. When the body is in general warmed up and limber, I don’t have a hard time playing anything. I recall someone asking bassist Victor Wooten what he did to limber up for a show and he said “playing some basketball”. He’s right.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
As was said once here, mine isn’t a drum exercise, per se, but just riding my bicycle around the hills of my community and making my heart pump for at least 30 minutes a day has improved so much more than my drumming. When the body is in general warmed up and limber, I don’t have a hard time playing anything. I recall someone asking bassist Victor Wooten what he did to limber up for a show and he said “playing some basketball”. He’s right.
yep...I get about 20-30 miles a weekend on my mountain bike; and on a goos day, will also get a 2 or 3 hour session at the skatepark on my BMX; just have to be careful about the wrecks; bur biking is my 2nd love behind drumming
 
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