BY “TIGER” BILL MELIGARI
There are plenty of exercises that concentrate on developing the hands while others concentrate on the feet. This cross-wiring workout happens to be one of my favorite multi-purpose drills. It’s extremely versatile and can easily be adapted to build hand/foot speed and/or endurance while increasing your four-way coordination.
Although I include some variations of this 24-bar exercise for “extra study” in the music notation — which you should add to your practice schedule — here are some additional suggestions that will help you adapt the exercise to improve your overall drum skills:
Endurance: The key to increasing your endurance is to practice long continuous patterns at slower tempos, non-stop, for extended periods of time. Start by setting your metronome at a tempo that is about 20-30 bpm slower than the fastest tempo at which you can comfortably play the 24-bar pattern. And by comfortably, I mean being able to play the pattern repeatedly without developing tension in your hands or feet. Your first goal will be to repeat the 24-bar pattern for five minutes without stopping. Once you can do that without getting tense, slowly increase the time up to about 15 minutes. The final step will be to gradually increase your metronome tempo during the 15-minute drill. Looping the 24-bar pattern like this will greatly improve your hand and foot endurance, as long as you stay loose and relaxed while playing it.
Speed: The key to increasing your speed is to practice short patterns at faster tempos, pausing briefly after each one. Start by setting your metronome to a tempo that’s about five bpm slower than the maximum speed at which you can execute any 2-bar phrase in this 24-bar pattern. Note that there are 12 2-bar phrases that make up the 24-bar pattern. Play each 2-bar phrase once, pausing for a few seconds after each one. Practice this routine daily and your speed will gradually increase, but only if you are playing each pattern without tension.
Coordination: To increase your coordination, break the 24-bar pattern into 24 separate 1-bar phrases that you will loop. Once you can repeat each separate bar in your sleep, meaning they have become part of your muscle memory, play the entire 24-bar pattern from beginning to end without stopping. Start at a slow, comfortable tempo and increase the metronome speed regularly until you reach your desired goal.
As always, I suggest that you track your progress by keeping a list of each exercise along with your metronome tempos in a notebook dedicated to your drumming workouts.
In Part 2 of this lesson, we’ll be making a slight modification to convert our pattern into one that was used extensively by the great Tony Williams. Until next time, have fun and stay loose!