Practicing and Boredom by Roy Burns
One problem that all drummers face sooner or later is being bored while practicing. In the early years there are several reasons for being bored. First of all, the exercises for beginning drummers require dedication because they are so elementary. Keeping up one’s interest can be difficult. However, a student who completes the first year of study is over the toughest part. Toughest, that is, in the sense of remaining enthusiastic. Fortunately, for most of us, youthful zeal and desire carry us past the first year.
The next problem usually occurs when the student has developed enough to play the rudiments and basic drumset patterns with a certain degree of skill. At this point, these same exercises and patterns can become very, very monotonous. Even though repetition is essential to develop skill, strength, and control, it can also be negative. Repetition can become so boring that it discourages the student and interest may be lost.
To overcome this, the student should be presented with new, challenging material all the time. Even though certain things will have to be practiced many times, it is possible to keep the spirit intact by always having something new to practice. In this way the repetition skill are developed and the mind is continually being stimulated with new ideas and materials. This is a good balance.
After playing for some years another problem can develop: You can become so used to playing the licks you have practiced that it becomes impossible to think of new ones. Again, repetition can become a problem. You hay have practiced the same things so many times that you have created a “rut” for yourself.
This study of other musical instruments can break up boredom and stimulate you musically. For example, study vibes, xylophones, or marimba. The keyboard experience will help your understanding of music theory. Music is so vast that it is difficult not to remain interested if you are a serious musician. Studying music will also help you to understand your role as a drummer more thoroughly.
Study piano if you have one available. There is no need to be a super technical piano player. However, most drummers are weak in harmony and theory. Many studio players, such as Harvey Mason and Ed Shaughnessy, have very strong backgrounds on mallets, timpani and other instruments. They both feel that this musical training has been invaluable in helping them to keep up with new musical styles.
If you have been playing a long time, I suggest practicing with music. Headphones and modern recording techniques have made this a very important form of practicing. Even if you are warming up on a practice pad before work, Put on some music. Do your warm up to some good records and practice in tempo with the music. This is much more stimulating than just warming up on the pad.
Transcribe rhythms and fills from records. Write out short sections or basic rhythms. Writing them out and looking at the transcribed beats will increase your understanding of them. Also, you will develop better listening skills by writing out what you hear because you have to listen so carefully to transcribe beats accurately. Transcribing will also improve your reading because you are working with our eyes and ears.
Go to see other people play. You will see and hear ideas that might not have occurred to you. Although listening to records is fun and rewarding, seeing and hearing a great drummer live is special. Even though you don’t understand everything you see and hear the first time, it will stimulate your imagination and make you feel like running home and practicing.
Imagination and boredom are opposites. Instead of trying to “overcome” boredom, try using your imagination. Try new combinations of old ideas. Turn rudiments around. Play patterns backwards. Use one had on one drum and the other hand on a different drum. Play a pattern that you usually play on one drum on two drums. You will create some new sounds. The results will not always be great. However, the results will be interesting. And, every now and then, you will discover something hot. Also, if you keep exercising your imagination you will also begin to develop your own style. You will develop your own point of view.
In a nutshell, if you are bored while practicing, practice something new. Study something new. Listen to something new. Reach out and be imaginative. Listen to new styles.
Remember, repetition can become very boring unless something new is added every now and then. Also, remember that although the study of drumming is very worthwhile, it is only a small part of music. It is very important but still a small part of music in general. So, study music and drumming.
When drumming, musical sensitivity and imagination are combined, the result is a creative, innovative, and musical drummer. The result is also a drummer with a personal sound and style.