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It's Not What You're Doing; It's What You're Not Doing.

Article by Sean Mitchell // May 21 2015
It's Not What You're Doing; It's What You're Not Doing.

Often it's the case that you analyze your playing and find there are things you wish you could do better—I wish my left hand was stronger; I wish I were better at brush technique; I wish my feet were fasterWell, my drum-loving friends, your wish is my command. I have the secret to unlock the skills you desire. (Am I sounding like a 3 a.m. infomercial yet?) The answer is incredibly simple and will only take two things—commitment and time. 

I can hear your collective groans. Who has time anymore, right? 

Keep in mind, social media is a huge time-waster when it comes to the art of the woodshed. But if you are among the enlightened that are not on social media every waking hour, perhaps there are other commitments that you must work with. Rehearsals, recording sessions, family to attend to or even a full-time job can get in the way of your quality time in the woodshed. Fear not, my weary groovemeister, this stuff will not impede on an otherwise over committed lifestyle. 

Show Up 

Now here is where most of us fail. The "secret" to improvement is showing up every day (yes, 365 days in a row) consistently shedding the material. There is no challenge you will face as a drummer, from a technique or playing aspect, that cannot be improved with consistent practice and time. 

Weak left hand? Are you challenging your left hand more than your right? 

Slow feet? Are you working with a metronome to increase your speed and accuracy everyday? 

You "suck" at brushes? Do you leave time to practice your brush technique? 

If the answer is no, stop reading, get into the woodshed and do all that. If however, you do apply some time to these pursuits and need some inspiration, read on. 

A Lot of a Little 

Realistically, if you want to improve your abilities and you have family, rehearsal, playing and recording commitments that eat up your entire day, you will need to commit small amounts of time over many months to achieve the desired results. Stealing time is effective. Here are some numbers that will show you how small increments everyday over a period of year can add up to serious numbers. 

20 min. daily = 121 hours per year

30 min. daily = 182 hours per year 

Alternately, if you are a social media junkie, only on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for 15 minutes daily, because you gotta stay connected, right? 

15 min. x 365 days in a year = 91 hours per year 

That's four days, folks! With your busy schedule, commitments and the desire to improve your skills, do you have a half-week to donate to the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world? We all have 24 hours in a day. Einstein had 24 hours, Buddy Rich had 24 hours and so did Helen Keller. What are you doing with yours? 

Work Smarter Not Harder 

There really is nothing quite like hitting the woodshed and working up a sweat whilst hammering out your favorite drum cover or two. "Tom Sawyer," "Enter Sandman," "Cowboys From Hell," "Fool In The Rain"— you've played the songs thousands of times and you nail it every single time, right? Great, but ... all you've done is maintenance. For all intents and purposes, you've rehashed skills that have already been committed to memory (both muscle and otherwise). 

While jamming may feel good, there is a time and place for that. If you want improvement, you have to leave the ego at the door and work on stuff you "suck" at. Fifteen minutes spent doing something you find incredibly difficult is far more effective that two hours shedding something you could do with your eyes closed. 

Why? From a neurological standpoint, your brain develops new neural pathways every time you learn a new skill. This includes new drumming skills. When you consistently challenge your brain to develop, your ability to learn new concepts and execute them gets better and better. So in the beginning you may only shed one incredibly challenging exercise in 20 minutes, but over time you are doing so much more for your abilities. 

As you practice, your brain gets better at recognizing new concepts, adapting to the change and executing the exercise. With consistent practicing of challenging concepts, you may be able to then tackle two or three complex exercises in a day simply because your brain is getting a workout. Think of it like a muscle. The first day you may be able to lift 20 pounds, but after 100 days of lifting, your muscle will become stronger and you will be able to lift more weight.  

I Got the Whole World In My Hands 

Another huge time-waster can be the perusal of online gear or spending too much quality time at your local music shop for that next new thing that is going to make you the uber drummer! Don't get me wrong; we do need to fill the well by geeking out looking for new gear—and even making an investment into our tools—but there is nothing on the market beyond a pair of sticks, a practice pad/your current kit and a decent technique book or video that can make you achieve the results you desire. 

It's in your hands (and feet) now, my friend. Good luck!






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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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