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Being a drummer is more than just a hobby; it is a lifestyle – one that takes a lot of commitment and diligence to succeed at. The payout; however, is immense. Being a drummer can be one of the most fulfilling things someone can do in their life. But how do you get to that level of musicianship? There is definitely a difference between a drummer who plays for a hobby, and a drummer who plays for a lifestyle. The big difference is attitude and practice habits. Having the self control and commitment to practice regularly is the only way you will improve as a drummer. There are a few tips that I have developed over the years of drumming that will help any drummer out immensely; tips that will speed up your learning curve and make practicing the drums a fun experience and not a chore. So read on to learn a few common practice tips developed to enhance your drumming.
One of the biggest errors a drummer can make is failing to make time for practice as well as time to jam. Believe it or not, there is a big difference here. Practice time is a chance to work on your stick control, drumming beats, skills, and other techniques that you may want to learn. Jam time is a chance to apply your newly learned skills to real applications. Most drummers allot a time to “practice / jam” and end up just playing to a few of their favorite bands. Now this is not a bad thing; however you never really get that focused practice time alone. So, my first tip is to schedule a time in your week to practice, and a time to jam. This way you can sit down and focus on developing your independence, speed, and control of your feet and sticks without getting distracted. For some great ideas on practicing the drums, check out the play-along section of FreeDrumLessons.com; there you will find tons of songs that you can download and take to your kit!
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This is an obvious tip for drum practicing; however it goes a little deeper than that. When you practice, you should spend half of your time practicing on the full drum set. And the other half of the time on a practice pad. This is something that most drummers know to do, but rarely do it. The benefit to using a practice pad is you are forced to develop your stick control. When you play on a full drum set, you have a lot of distractions in front of you, making it easy to play around the kit instead of focusing on one technique. A pair of sticks, a metronome, and a practice pad is all you need to improve your speed, control and creativity on the drums. Not sure what to practice on a practice pad? Check out the drum rudiments section where you can practice your single stroke roll, double stroke roll, paradiddle and more!
Following the practice pad tip is a small little tip that most drummers do not know about – using a pillow for a practice pad. Most drummers would never do this because there is little to no bounce from a pillow, it practically absorbs your full stroke; very inefficient. This is the whole point of using a pillow though, to force yourself to work that much more. When you get no bounce from the pad or drum, you are forced to use your wrists to bring the sticks back up. This really works your wrists out. Try playing a double stroke roll on a pillow, not as easy as you think!
This is another one of those obvious tips for practicing; however I cannot stress it enough! Practicing without a metronome can actually hinder your drumming, as you may learn how to play a drum fill or solo off time! We are drummers; our duty is to keep the band on time. If we cannot even play a solid drum beat or roll on time, then how are we supposed to lead a band? There are ways to add some creativity to this tip though, and that is by playing to your favorite band tracks. Most tunes recorded professionally are on time, so you can always play along to them instead of a click track. This way practice is a little less boring, being able to listen to your favorite songs while you practice. Just make sure you do not break tip number one and get distracted by the song!
One tip most drummers fail to do is set goals for their practice sessions. This does not have to be an unreasonable goal, just a very basic reachable goal. Make it challenging and sensible at the same time. The reason for this is you are more focused on the time you are practicing. If you go into a practice session with no goals, then you will have no drive to learn anything! A very common goal I like to set is tempos in which I play my essential drum rudiments at. For example, I may set a goal to play a double stroke roll at 180 bpm one session, and 185 bpm the next. So as you can see, this is just to give yourself some guidelines for your time spent practicing.
A really important tip I will share is to surround yourself in challenging music and drumming. If you want to learn how to play the double bass drum, then surround yourself in music that incorporates the double bass drum. The same goes for all styles of music; you will not learn jazz by listening to rock. When you are constantly listening to advanced beats and odd time signatures, you are sub-consciously implementing it into your brain. You will be challenged much more, and have a much greater creative edge this way. So try and find some music that challenges you a little.
The last tip is another given – have fun no matter what you are playing. This means even if you are practicing boring rudiments, try and find a way to make it fun. If you are not having fun when you are playing, then you will not learn nearly as much. So play what you want to play, and practice what you want to practice! Drumming is supposed to be a way to express yourself in a good and positive way, so make sure you are having fun!
These tips are more like guidelines that every drummer should take into consideration when practicing. You will notice when you start following these guidelines, you will get much more out of your practice sessions! Once you are ready to start practicing, feel free to check out the beginners section of this site for great lessons on playing the drum!