This informative article comes from drummer and music educator, Gideon!
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the phrase: “practice makes perfect.” While it’s a nice idea, it’s not entirely correct. Many people don’t know what to practice, and struggle to find the time and motivation required to hone their skills as a drummer.
In this article, I’ll share my top tips and suggestions on how to practice drums effectively while having fun building on existing techniques in the process. Let’s get right into it!
1. Divide Time Between ‘Fun’ Practice and Improving Technique
Let’s start with the intention of practice. Everyone wants to get better, and everyone would like to be able to play to a professional standard. And of course, everyone wants to have fun too! But the reality is that ‘fun’ practice alone will hinder your development.
For example, if you enjoy playing drums along to your favorite band, that’s great. You’ll have a lot of fun jamming out to songs you’re already familiar with. But you won’t be dedicating time to learning new techniques or significantly advancing your skills.
On the flip side, if you spend all your time practicing rudiments on a snare drum along to a metronome, the likelihood is that you’ll get bored quickly and lose motivation to play.
The goal here is to divide your time between your enjoyable practice time and building your chops. That way, you can actually begin to incorporate the new techniques and skills you learn into your fun practice time. It might take time for this to happen, but you’ll start to see new grooves and fills enter your natural playing.
2. Feel Inspired!
Finding motivation and inspiration is crucial for making time to practice drums. Dedicating time playing drums can sometimes be difficult; whether you’re juggling school, or a family and work life, we all have commitments.
YouTube is a wonderful resource for listening to and watching performances of the best drummers in the world. Soak it in and feel the inspiration to want to replicate performances like these.
Also, try and be open-minded to new styles of music and genres you might not typically steer towards. There are gems in every genre, and I guarantee you’ll enjoy listening to music you’ve previously been opposed to. For example, Jazz and Metal drummers are some of the most technical musicians on the planet. There’s a lot to learn from these styles of music!
3. Practice With a Metronome
I can’t stress this point enough. Sure, the repetitive click of a metronome can be tedious. But there is no better tool for building timekeeping and consistency as a drummer. Simply put, if you want to be a good drummer, you must invest in a metronome.
The drummer is the backbone of any musical group and is required to play with authority to support the rest of the band. The drummer is the unsung hero and is responsible for making everyone else sound good!
How do you learn to play in time? A metronome! Whether you’re practicing basic drum beats or rudiments, always have your metronome ticking away. It will cement a strong understanding of time that will be invaluable to you as a drummer.
Don’t rush increasing the tempo of a metronome; 1 or 2 beats per minute per practice session is enough if you struggle to increase the tempo. Slow and steady wins the race here!
4. Strengthen Your Weaker Hand and Foot
Every person has a dominant hand and a weaker hand, and the same applies to feet. Most drummers are right-handed, and therefore will naturally neglect their weaker left hand and foot. Something I’ve learned that is crucial is building consistency between both hands and feet to match your dominant limbs.
A simple piece of advice I can offer is to pay attention to how you grip your drumstick with your right hand and make a conscious effort to match this with your left hand. Feel the fulcrum between your thumb and index finger and notice what happens to the drumstick after it strikes the drumhead and how it rebounds back.
You can also start alternating your rudiments. Here’s a simple 16th note rudiment exercise you can practice that involves leading with your left hand to strengthen it. If you’re left-handed, then vice-versa.
5. Film or Record Yourself Playing
This might be the single best piece of advice I can offer you for improving behind the drums. It will increase your awareness of your own playing style, and you will pick up on small mistakes and find areas of improvement better than anybody else.
You don’t necessarily need a full recording studio setup; you can even use something as basic as your phone camera. But if you ever wanted to learn how to record drums, I’ve written a complete beginner’s guide to recording drums that will certainly help offer some guidance.
When you play and watch yourself back, you’ll spot room for improvement. You can even compare before and after versions, and look back on your progress over time, which can be really motivating. I’ve found this to be the case for myself personally.
Just a note – to record drums at home with microphones, you’ll need a drum recording interface that connects to a computer via USB. But they don’t have to be expensive!
6. Set Yourself Realistic Goals and Commit to Daily Practice
Just like any relationship, the relationship you have with your musical instrument needs time, dedication, love, and practice. Building a routine is the best way to improve on the drums.
Commit to regular practice of even just 15 minutes a day on the drums. It sounds like a small amount of time, and that’s the point! It makes it achievable. If I was to say 1 hour a day, that’s daunting and near impossible for most people with busy lives. You’ll find that your 15 minutes will hopefully turn into 30, or even an hour naturally some days.
Lastly, set realistic goals. Don’t expect to become a professional overnight. It’s widely regarded that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to become an expert in any skill. So try not to have crazy expectations. Enjoy learning new skills and seeing your own improvements on a weekly or monthly basis.
Have patience, and be sure to check out these drumming tips if you’re a beginner just finding your feet. The key to becoming an excellent drummer is to develop muscle memory, and this makes playing difficult grooves feel effortless! But this takes time.
Enjoy practicing drums and be patient with yourself when learning new techniques. After all, there’s no rush! Happy drumming, folks.