How to Practice Drum Set EfficientlyArticle by Miguel Monroy // April 29 2012
Learning how to practice efficiently can make such an incredible difference in how we grow as musicians. For the longest time I would find myself sitting behind the drum set with sixty minutes to practice and I would have absolutely no idea where to begin or what to do. The next thing I knew, I would leave sixty minutes later, no better than when I had arrived.
Years later I find that time is too precious of a commodity to waste, and I have no choice but to become brutally organized with my practice time. In my very first post ever, I refer to life as a big buffet. It’s great to add as much to the buffet as possible because in the end you can take what you want and leave the rest. I hope that some of these suggestions on how to practice can be a great addition to your buffet. Take what works for you and feel free to leave the rest.
One of the most important aspects of efficient practice time is knowing exactly what your goals are as a musician. It helps many people to simply write out a list with specific goals. For the purpose of practicing, most of these will have to do with growing technically, chops, learning new styles, learning new songs, etc.
Here is an example of a list you might see for Little Drummer Boy A:
- Single Stroke rolls: I want them to be as fast as Billy Cobham!
- Afro-Cuban grooves: I want to learn every Afro-Cuban groove that has ever existed since before time began!
- Rudiments: I want to know every Para-Cheese-Burger-FlaFla-Diddle-Ma-Thang that exists!
- Brushes: It’s not rock ‘n’ roll, but I think Buddy Rich had a pair…so maybe I should learn how to play them.
- DOUBLE BASS!: I want my feet to be faster than light, louder than a baby cutting teeth and more even than shoes in a dryer.
- Speed & Volume: I want to have absolute control over everything I do, from loud to soft and fast to slow. I must have the chops and ability!
- Learn the crazy drum beat from that Mars Volta album with the weird head on the cover.
- Learn those awesome grooves from “Drumming 101 with Miguel” and download some of those play-along tracks to practice with. Super cool!
I am going to use a sixty minute practice session as our example. As you might have guessed, there is no way that Little Drummer A can fit all of that into sixy minutes. So here is what he is going to do. First, Little Drummer Boy A is going to pick four things from his list and focus on those until he is ready to move on. He also might try and find a way to combine some items into one practice exercise. Second, Little Drummer Boy A is going to divide up his sixty minute practice time into multiple segments. And, third, His practice time might look like this:
- 10 Minutes: Warm-up muscles and build chops by practicing single stroke exercises and rudiments. Practice everything fast and slow, loud and soft.
- 15 Minutes: Learn a new Afro-Cuban beat from my book called Afro-Cuban Grooves to Make You Way Cooler Than That Other Drummer.
- 15 Minutes: Run through the first three pages of sticking exercises from the book Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone…but all on my feet at slow, medium, and fast tempos to build double bass chops.
- 15 Minutes: Go to LouisvilleDrummer.com and watch the latest episode of “Drumming 101 with Miguel” to learn the latest grooves and exercises.
- 5 Minutes: Cool down by playing a solid 2/4 rock beat using the rudiments and single stroke rolls as drum fills.
- Buy a milkshake to celebrate another practice session in the books!
Obviously it’s not rocket science. However, it does take intention, organization and time management. My challenge to you is to try and figure out exactly what you would like to learn. Write everything down. Divide your time appropriately and practice away. I hope this gives you a couple of ideas on how to use any amount of time wisely as you try making the best out of your practice sessions. Have fun practicing and I wish you all the best on your musical endeavours!
About the Author
Miguel is the founder and creator of LouisvilleDrummer.com, which provides free drumming education and resources for every musician. Additionally, Miguel serves as a freelance writer for Modern Drummer Magazine, and a drum set and percussion instruction for the Community Music Program for the University of Louisville. Visit Miguel online at LouisvilleDrummer.com.
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