If you are a drumset instructor, this is a question from your students that you cannot escape from. You have to tell them the truth about practising and practising the right way. This article I am presenting is not just “another one” in a piling heap of articles already in print or on the web on the subject of practising effectively. I am not going to offer methods but instead offer ONE simple concept to think about so that you can shape, customise, and tweak your current practice method to benefit you greatly from here on. It has worked for me and given me greater security as to whether I am practising “correctly” or not.
The concept is: Let The Music Be Your Guiding Force Always.
Drumming is a such a vast ocean of concepts, techniques, rudiments, different rhythms, time signatures, and all sorts of other hybrids. We must ask ourselves therefore, where do all these techniques and concepts come from? From drumming itself? NO. From drummers? Again, NO.It comes from………………………….MUSIC.
Let the music be your guiding force as to what to work on. If you are a beginner for example, your main concerns would be to groove well, co-ordinate your 4 limbs properly, have solid technique, execute your fills well be those original ideas or stock ones, sound good, and get through a song smoothly. You want to emulate the drummers who have played on classic records, chart topping albums, or simply on music that has moved you emotionally and spiritually. To develop the ability to emulate their great playing effortlessly, you will need to work on all the aforementioned areas. Keep working at it, record your practise sessions, be your own most honest critic, and write down your observations of both your good points in your drumming and the stuff you can improve on. Follow up and repeat the process diligently. This will never end for as long as you play the drums. There are always areas of subtle refinements to work on. If you keep an open and alert mind, these things will be made apparent to you.
With regards to technical development, that is your hand technique, bass drum/foot hi-hat techniques, and your mastery of the rudiments, and how you combine these on the drumset, remember that all these are born out of NECESSITY. That necessity is MUSIC. Again, let the music guide you. Do not be overwhelmed or discouraged or intimidated when you see a drummer on a video or even your drummer friend pulling off stuff way beyond your current capabilities. Shrug off that insecurity that makes you want to compete to be “better” than those drummers. I am not saying that competitiveness is negative, but rather it should not be your sole reason for playing the instrument. TAKE YOUR TIME to develop your skills. Take it step by step, building one idea upon another, like constructing a building. If in doubt, consult with your teacher/mentor on how to organise your practise sessions effectively that tailor to your CURRENT NEEDS. We drumset teachers always remind our students never to rush a groove or a fill. Likewise, we should not rush when it comes to our personal development on the drumset. Everybody’s journey as a student of the drumset is different and I believe this point must be treated with utmost respect. Only that way, will we draw more and more people to the joys of making music with the drumset as our tool of choice.
Finally, with regards to musical development which goes hand in hand with technical development, let the music be your guide. If you are into a certain type of music at the moment, listen to lots of recordings, see live concerts, take lessons if necessary with a teacher well versed on that style of music, consult the many wonderful and relevant instructional books and DVDs, and then draw from these experiences to develop the FEEL, the SOUND, and the VOCABULARY. The best way to expedite your mastery of a certain type of music is to get together with musicians who play well in that style. Go out and find those musicians – local jam sessions for example. Network, Take yourselves out of the practise room and just play the music. Make mistakes and pick yourselves up from there.
With this thought, I would like you to think about your relationship with Music. Not with the drums, but with Music. Are you playing the drums to make music or are you playing it to gain popularity with other drummers? Do you use music as a vehicle to uplift and empower people around you or do you use it mainly to highlight your skills on the drumset in the hope of scoring product endorsements or winning the first prize in the World’s Fastest Hands (or Feet) competition?
Here is a list of 3 essential drumming resources that I think every drummer of every style must have at the beginning of their career:
1) Stick Control (Technique)
2) Alfred Drum Method Vol. 1 and 2 (Sight-reading, rudimental development)
3) Groove Essentials 1.0 and 2.0 by Tommy Igoe (DVD + Book)
With these 3 resources, you can then go deeper into specific types of music, styles, and techniques that you wish to develop as time goes on.
I hope all of the above make sense to you!
Best wishes in your musical journey!