Working on tough parts - various practice approaches

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
I'm trying to prepare for another recording session. We're doing two songs this session, both of which contain some tough parts that I can't quite play well enough to record yet.

What do you think is the best approach to working on them?

So far, I set the metronome somewhere between 50-75% of the full tempo, and practice all of the parts at that speed. Once all of the tough beats and fills are good at that tempo, I up it a little.

It's working quite well, but I'm wondering about breaks and rests. For example, various parts contain double bass work - not fast, but patterns that require quite a bit of control. I find myself working on these for long periods of time until my body is exhausted.

Is it better to work hard for a few hours, and then stop, rest, and come back to it, or is it better to keep on going and going until you get it? Does rest work the same way in musical practice as it does with body building? In body building, the rests are just as important as the working out, because you're muscles grow and develop during rest. Is it the same for drumming? Will I come back to it after a rest finding the parts easier, or do I need to push through until I get it with constant graft?


I did a good session this morning, and I'm not breaking for lunch, some more (non-drumming) work I have to do, then go back for another session this afternoon. However, I feel like I could do another hour or two right now, but due to how much time I'm spending on these particular parts, I'm not sure if it would benefit me or not.

What are your thoughts on hard practice and touch parts?
 

K.Howden

Senior Member
The attention span of the brain for long-term tasks is somewhere in the region of 20 minutes, when focusing on one particular task.

The key with practice I've always been advised is short but regular sessions. Maybe designating a certain amount time at exactly the same time each day might be beneficial, for example; you could do three 20 minute sessions with 5-10 minute breaks in between where you do something completley unrelated to your practice. If you were to do say two of those sessions; late morning and then do the same again late afternoon you'd be getting in at least 2 hours of actual playing in a day.

This of course depends on your deadline, when is the session?

Hope you're well,

Kev

Edit: you wouldn't happen to be on the Voices UK forum would you aswell?
 
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Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
Hi Kev,

Thanks for the input. I currently do stick to a time schedule, whereby I do 10:00 - 12:00 or thereabouts, and then 2:00 - 4:00, or thereabouts.

I generally stop short though if I feel my attention wavering. I don't spend all that time on one thing, but a number of things. When I just start bashing about, I call time on that session because I'm no longer working on anything.I think it's good advice to focus on a specific thing for 20 minutes then have a break. That sounds like a really efficient way of practising, so I'll give that a try.

And no, I'm not on the voices UK forums. I'm not sure what that is, sorry.

Jon
 

K.Howden

Senior Member
Glad to be of help, I've found that method really effective for myself, but as we all know different people respond better to different things. It's a tricky one to balance because I can think of plenty of things I've nailed from sheer persistance and ploughing through in one go until I got. It's all a balancing act.

The Voices forum is the UK Dream Theater fan club, used to on there a few years (not so much of a fan anymore...if at all to be honest) and thought I recognised your user name.

Good luck with it mate,

Kev
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Write out the parts! Of course it's time-consuming at first, and it takes a while to get used to reading repeats, codas, and so forth, but in the long run it will help your reading chops, possibly aid in developing more clever parts, and help burn those parts into your memory, so you can devote more of your intellectual resources to timing and feel.

If I'm trying to play a part that is very specific and without improvisation, I use a sort of hybrid notation style where I'll write the cymbal ostinato (pattern) for 1 bar (i.e. hi-hat 8ths, R.C. Bell 1/4's), and then write out bass, snare, toms, etc. as needed. I sometimes "cheat" when it comes to writing simple fills or crashes with markings like "1st time" or "4th time only".

As for notation software, I find Finale and Sibelius too time-consuming and somewhat cluttered in appearance for this type of drum set transcription.
 

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
Hi brentcn,

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll give it a try. The parts I'm struggling with, I know them perfectly. It's physically playing them that's the problem. I obviously had a big part in writing the drum parts, so I know exactly how they're supposed to be played, it's just performing them at the clinical level needed to record that I'm trying to work towards.
 
For what it's worth, I'd try recording what you're working on...you may find you're better or worse than you thought on certain parts, and can focus your time on the specific parts that need the most work.
 

DrummerJase

Junior Member
For what it's worth, I'd try recording what you're working on...you may find you're better or worse than you thought on certain parts, and can focus your time on the specific parts that need the most work.
I +1 that!

When I had to learn a really fast double kick part for a uni recital, I actually found that practicing more than an hour a day actually made it more difficult. It started to feel as if the improvements were made in the time between sessions not during the session itself! I guess a bit like weightlifting haha. By thrashing away for hours my performance really started to suffer. Don't know if anyone else has noticed a similar thing?
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
I think it's worth recognizing that when you're doing something new, like a new pattern or technique, there is a neurological change that has to occur in your body. So once you've convinced your body that it is going to be doing a new thing by practicing the technique for a while, some time away from that technique is needed for your nervous system and muscles to grow and adapt. So instead of playing the same double bass pattern for instance for hours a day, a 15 or 20 minute shot followed by more the next day should yield the result you want.
 

Thaard

Platinum Member
I tend to listen to the tunes(and listen to the drums if it's a cover), then play through the tune to root out the difficult parts.
Then I usually practice those for some time and expanding to the whole tune.
If something is really I hard, I usually slow the part down and practice it slowly.
I also record a lot.
 

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
Thanks for these interesting replies. I'm well aware that the neurological changes need to occur, which is why I'm asking really. Do you ever get the feeling, perhaps when learning a particularly complicated independence piece, that you can actually feel your brain making new connections?
 

brady

Platinum Member
Thanks for these interesting replies. I'm well aware that the neurological changes need to occur, which is why I'm asking really. Do you ever get the feeling, perhaps when learning a particularly complicated independence piece, that you can actually feel your brain making new connections?
I don't actually "feel" it but I I'm sure that is what happens. When I come back to a particularly difficult pattern the next day, it feels a little easier than the previous day, even if I don't have the piece down well enough to play it to a metronome yet. I feel the "muscle memory" kicking in and usually within a few sessions will have the pattern down.
 
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