BY FRED DINKINS
Whenever I’m asked about how to improve my drumming, it’s always more about finding the right practice methodology than it is about knowing the right way to play drums. Everyone should be learning and practicing their drums to reach a higher level of proficiency, but some people just don’t have a system and eventually give up, while others have one that they don’t have the knowledge to build upon their own learning methods. I’ll go over everything you need to know about how to practice drums like a pro.
Do you have a system for practicing drums? Good! It’s important to track your progress so you know which skills you should be focusing on. But if not, then you might want to consider starting one today. You don’t need to be a professional drummer to start a practice schedule and make sure that you’re practicing the right things at the right time in order to build up your skills. That way, when it comes down to competing against someone else’s drumming skills, they will come off as being more proficient than they really are.
Step one is to create a practice schedule. Take a sheet of paper and write down the amount of time you need to set aside for practice. Next, make a list of the areas that you will focus on while practicing, such as “rudiments” or “foot control.” Break your drum practice down into 15-minute segments. This way you can work on one specific area in which you need to improve for a set amount of time each day.
To help with your scheduling it’s good to have a timer. Set it for the desired practice time and when it goes off proceed to your next subject. To avoid becoming exhausted you can take a 5-minute break between intense 15-minute practice sessions.
It goes without saying that you need to find a good place to practice as well. Though a drummer with a stick and a pad can practice anywhere, it also helps to have a place you can go regularly. It may be a school room, a friend’s basement or a garage, but you need to set up your practice retreat to keep yourself motivated.
Now that you’ve got control of your practice time, and a spot to practice, you need to get the proper mental focus. Let’s take a look at the approach of a professional athlete again. The athlete is always thinking about the big game, the ultimate contest. For a musician it’s the stage, like getting on the Warped Tour or performing at Carnegie Hall. But the path from where we are today to our ultimate goal can be long and arduous. Without focus on each step of the journey, we’ll never reach our goal.
Practice the right things. Part of focus is doing the right things as well as doing things right. You can practice for hours but if your time and technique are terrible, you’re just rehearsing bad technique. Always practice for a reason. Think about what you are practicing, what the goal is, and listen for what needs to be improved in your playing.
This mental aspect of our practice includes the need for a positive attitude and the ability to visualize our future success. One of the main obstacles we all face in any endeavor is our own fear of failure. We have to learn to control our attitude and our thoughts in the practice room, because once we get in front of an audience it may be too late. Before and during your practice, give yourself positive affirmations. Tell yourself that you will make it and that you can play. If needed, talk about your problem areas and fears with a teacher or someone who believes in you.
5. USE THE METRONOME
It is critical that you practice regularly with a metronome, especially when learning and improving your time sense. Although initially the metronome is a little discouraging for new students (“Why is my time so bad?”) you’ll soon find that you are improving.Once you’ve got some basic mastery of simple 4/4 time, you need to mix up your practice routine with exercises to challenge yourself. One way of practicing with the metronome is to use the click as beats 2 and 4 to aid you in playing styles such as jazz, Latin, rock, and funk. It helps you keep a solid groove.
Another technique is to make the metronome beat 1 and the upbeats such as the &’s (eighths) the e’s and ah’s (sixteenths). This method will also encourage you to keep your grooves precise.
When you encounter a difficult pattern in your practice, try using the metronome as the subdivision of the pattern. Then be patient as you work the pattern from very slow to very fast.
Finally, remember that the metronome is there to help you achieve smooth control of your playing, not speed. Speed comes from good technique, not the other way around.
6. DRUM PRACTICE ROUTINE
A drum practice routine will provide structure to your drumming practice sessions. With it, you can focus on improving specific areas of your playing rather than just randomly jamming on the kit without any direction or purpose.
If you want to know how to practice drums properly, improve your drumming skills and get the most out of your drum practice routine, it’s important to follow some basic guidelines. Here are some tips on how to practice drums that will help you become a better drummer:
Make a daily schedule: One of the simplest ways to make sure you practice drums is to commit to a specific time each day.
Start with a warmup: Work on your timing and skill before practising new material. Try starting by playing a simple beat (like four beats to the bar).
Learn something new: When learning new material, start slowly. Read drum music in 4/4 time as if it were a grid. Each measure is a row, and each beat is a column. Then, play the measure one note at a time, moving down to the next measure when you’re ready.
Take things apart: If you’re having trouble with a certain part of a song, try breaking it up into smaller parts and work on each one until you’ve got them down.
Record yourself: Record your drum practice sessions to hear where you’re going wrong and what you need to improve on.
Practice with a band or group: Practicing alone is fine, but it’s best done in combination with other musicians so that everyone can get better together!
Effective practice is about being specific and focused on the things you are most struggling with. If you’re having trouble with the right foot, then isolate that limb and focus on it.
You can begin by practicing drums at a slower tempo than what you want to be able to play them at. This will help you reinforce proper technique so your hands and feet move as they should without straining or tensing up too much.
Once you’ve got that down, gradually increase the speed until you can play it at the original tempo. If something happens outside of the groove, stop yourself and start again from the beginning. It is important not to make excuses when this happens because if you do, it will become a habit that is hard to break later on.
How to practice drums without drums
There are many ways to prepare your mind and body for drumming, and you can even practice drums without drums! By taking advantage of the other things you can do when you can’t practice drums, you’ll improve your technique and ability to play the drums.
You don’t even have to have a drum kit to practice beats and rhythms. Find some objects that are safe for banging on (e.g., buckets, pots, pans). Get creative and see what sounds you can make! You can also use whatever percussion instruments you have lying around the house, like maracas or tambourines.
Snap your fingers, tap your feet, and clap your hands. Get used to using different combinations of these three rhythmic skills, and try to make each sound different. For example, clap with one hand open, and one hand closed, or snap with the fingers of one hand while snapping the thumb of the other hand. You can also stomp on the ground or tap on a hard surface. Practice in different tempos until you’re comfortable with improvising the rhythms at any speed.
Listen to music as often as possible, and study the different rhythms that you hear.
You can learn how to be a better drummer if you pick up some drum tips from famous musicians. Try to identify which sounds were added by a drummer, and figure out what kinds of patterns they’re playing. You can watch different drummers online free of pressure and just enjoy their technique. Later, you might feel inspired by their style, and it might become something you do on a drum, or you can invent something entirely new while practicing drums.
How to quiet drums for practice
If you want to practice drums, but your housemates or neighbors complain about the noise, there are a few ways to quiet down your drums.
Electronic drum kit is a great way to practice without disturbing others.They have pads that you strike with sticks in much the same way as a standard drum kit, but they don’t make any sound at all until they’re plugged into an amplifier. You can use headphones to hear what you’re playing and avoid bothering anyone else.
You can wrap a blanket around your bass drum and snare, then put a towel on top of each cymbal and hold it in place with tape or rubber bands. This will muffle the sound of your drums considerably without changing the way they feel when you play them.
Also, drum practice pads are available for practicing drums, most of which feature rubber or foam surfaces that are very quiet when struck with sticks or brushes.
How long to practice drums each day
There’s no single answer to how long your drum practice should be because every drummer is different. If you’re practicing for an hour a day, but you’re playing something that requires no effort or thought, then you’re basically wasting your time. But if you only have 30 minutes a day and you’re really pushing yourself and learning something new, then that’s valuable!
Practice on a schedule, even if it’s not every day. If you can only find time on Tuesdays and Fridays, those are your practice days. You’re more likely to make progress if you practice regularly, no matter how often that might be.
A drumming practice routine helps you become a better drummer. How you spend your drum practice time is just as important as how much time you spend in total.
Learn the proper technique for everything you play. It’s easy to practice incorrectly and form bad habits, so make sure you practice properly. Practicing drums slowly allows you to focus on your technique and get comfortable with any new movements or patterns you are practicing.
When practicing drums, you should have a goal in mind. Ask yourself why you are practicing each day and what you are working on. In this way, each practice session will be purposeful, and you will reap more benefits from the time you spend.