Virtually all serious drummers go through periods when they just don’t feel like practicing. They usually feel guilty about this and occasionally try to force themselves to practice. But this may only serve to make them want to practice even less.
If you really don’t feel like practicing (but believe you should), analyze your schedule. If you have been playing and/or rehearsing quite a lot without much of a break, you might simply need a rest. Give yourself the weekend off and do something different. Go to the beach or a move, have a barbecue, or just relax.
The routine of work and rehearsals needs to be balanced. When you are busy with work and rehearsals, practice less and save your energy for performing. However, when your work and rehearsal load lightens up, schedule more practice time. This way, you’re not burning the candle at both ends, which can lead to a general burnout.
Get to know yourself. Some drummers warm up for quite a while before an important concert; others may just hit the practice pad for a few minutes. I guess we’ve all substituted our knee for a practice pad at one time or another. Find out which type of warm-up, long or short, works best for you.
Take into consideration the type of music you are playing. All drumming is physical to a degree but some styles are more physical than others. If your style is a very physical one, such as heavy metal, you will probably need a good warm-up to feel loose and ready.
If you find yourself getting bored when you practice, try to have more fun. Some teachers give us the impression that practicing is extremely serious and it is serious – in terms of the purpose for doing it. But actual practicing, just like playing music, should be fun.
“Variety,” according to the old saying, “is the spice of life.”
Variety can really help you create and sustain interest in your practicing. For example, get together with another drummer for a joint practice session. Set up two drumsets and have a musical dialogue. Have fun just playing the drums together. A great deal can be learned this way, especially when the two drummers involved are good friends.
Play some duets. There are duet books for snare drums, multiple percussion and drumset that are great fun. You can even play duets on two practice pads.
If you have home recording equipment (even a simple tape recorder), you can record a basic track and then play duets with yourself. If you have drum machine, you can program unusual “grooves” and then improvise along with the machine. This can really lead to some interesting possibilities.
Many drummers who give clinics also stay an extra day to give private lessons. Check with our local drum shop or music store for the date of their next clinic, the artist and whether of not the clinician will be giving any lessons. A one-time lesson with an established professional should be, at the very lest, an interesting hour. And you stand a good chance of leaving the lesson with some very solid ideas to practice and work on.
Don’t overlook new practice materials. Video cassettes, books and audio cassettes are available in great number today. Some may be better than others, depending upon your pint of view. However, you won’t know if you don’t check them out.
Video cassettes are really great learning tools but they are also fun. Most of the artists do some serious playing on them. Some videos are “instructional” in nature, with a specific educational intent. Others are simply concert performances and can be equally educational in their own way. Either way, you can both see and hear the artist in a musical setting. I’ve always felt that you can learn more by watching people play than you can by just listening to them on records. You can see how they do certain things and you can retain a mental picture.
A friend of mine, who plays and teaches in California, has a marvelous collection of video cassettes of famous drummers. In some instances, he has recorded performances right from his TV set. In other instances, he has found and purchased historical performances of the great drummers of the past. He recently showed me performances by Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich from the early ‘40s. These were early band movie shorts – perhaps the forerunners of today’s music videos. To see these famous drummers in their prime was really exciting. I understand that a number of such video cassettes are around but you’ll have to dome some searching to find them.
A VCR allows you to tape live performances and study them over and over again. This is a great learning tool. Practice along with these performances when you get bored, even if you just have a practice pad handy.
Today, we have more learning tools available than ever before. Drum machines, books audio cassettes, video cassettes, VCRs, music video, television specials, clinics and magazines are all available to help us learn, progress and , yes…..to have fun!
Get together with a bass player and practice paying time. Set up different grooves and tempos. Play each grove long enough that both of you can really feel it. Practicing with the bass player can really help both players; you can hear each other much more clearly this way. Also, if the drummer and bass player can feel the same groove together, the band is going to feel it that much better.
Rhythm section rehearsals can be valuable, too. If the entire rhythm section concentrates on grooving and paying together, it will benefit whatever band or group they play with. After all, everything starts in the rhythm section.
When a band develops confidence in the drummer’s ability to play good time, the entire band plays at a higher level. The reason for this is that the band no longer has to worry about the time. They can just concentrate on the music. When this happens, people say things like, “This group grooves hard,” or “These guys are exciting.”
All this starts with the drummer. You have to know the grooves and you have to play them with authority and a good feeling. That is what “playing time” is all about. It makes everyone feel good!