BY STEWART JEAN
Warming up is where it all starts. When we are warmed up and ready to play we are giving ourselves the best chance for success. Imagine a baseball pitcher not warming up before a game. Inconceivable if you have any basic knowledge of how hard a pitcher throws a baseball. You can already foresee what the outcome would be, disaster. Physically the pitcher will go from cold to throwing 70-90 mph pitches. Regardless of the pitcher’s experience or abilities if the blood is not flowing, if the strike zone is not dialed in, if there is no pre-game warm up, this pitcher is destined for failure. This failure then leads to regret, guilt, embarrassment, and a whole litany of disappointment. Again, this is inconceivable because you know all successful pitchers warm up as do all successful athletes. In addition to the destined horrible outing this pitcher will have, there is also the potential of a career-ending injury sustained from the lack of preparation. Athletes use their bodies (including sharp minds) for a living and so do musicians.
I laugh at myself every time I sit at the kit for the first time any particular day because I tend to start playing crazy, chopsy ideas that have been floating around in my head and it all just sounds awful, disjointed and confused. After a few frustrating moments I come to my senses and remind myself that I may have a better chance of playing my fantasy fills if I spend a few minutes (or hours) warming up. What will warming up do for me? For starters it will help get me focused. We live busy lives filled with distraction, so it is even more important for us to take a breath and simplify. Take care in what you are doing at that moment (so turn off the multitasking version of yourself) and be in that moment. Warming up allows us to do just this: focus.
If you do not have a daily warm up regimen established I urge you to do so. A daily routine allows you to set small goals (and reach them!) and will also allow you to play your best. If I have warmed up before a gig, but I end up not playing my best I know that it was just an off night and I’ll do better the next time. If I have a bad gig and I did not warm up, I will then have that inner voice scolding me and attributing the bad gig on lack of warming up. I promise you that if you create a warm up routine and stick to it you will never go back to your old habits and you will gain confidence when you are behind the kit.
The following exercises are to be played ala Moeller* style (down, tap, up) with a whipping motion. The accented note (the downbeat) should be played as a down stroke. The 2nd partial of the triplet should be played as a tap stroke and the 3rd partial of the triplet should be played as an upstroke to prepare for the next accented note.
Make sure your elbows are not fixed to you side but rather flowing smoothly away from the body as you produce the accented note.
Note the sticking progression through the four exercises. And watch the legendary Jim Chapin explain Moeller Method here:
Consecutive groupings of 8th-note triplets per hand:
Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA