The Secret to Good Practice

The Secret to Good Practice.

We all enjoy doings things we're good at. Once you develop a skill to the point where you no longer have to think about every detail of what you are doing, it becomes second nature. At that point you just "do it." It's very fulfilling when you reach that level. I've met people who seem to be able to learn something and in a very short amount of time have mastered the thing they just learned. Most of us don't have that ability. We need to spend the time required on a new skill to be able to get comfortable with it. That's the reason for practicing.

Carpenters have hammers and saws in their toolbox. Mechanics have wrenches and screwdrivers. As drummers, we need to practice to add to our "toolbox." The ability to play fast without becoming tense; the ability to play soft or loud; knowledge of rudiments, Latin rhythms, swing patterns and "feels" are all valuable tools for drummers.

To be able to develop our drummers' "toolbox", we need to have the discipline to work on things we can't play. It's okay to spend some part of your practice playing familiar things, but the majority of your practice time must be spent on learning and improving on things you have difficulty playing. It's important to break things into smaller pieces and start at a slow tempo. Repeat playing a section at a time until you are comfortable with it. Then you can add another section until you are playing the two sections together. After you can play all the sections together, you can gradually increase the tempo. Your teacher can help you to see how to break the figure you are practicing into smaller parts and also give you feedback as you are playing. It's important to remain relaxed as you practice. If you feel your hands get tense, slow the tempo down until you can play the figure with a relaxed feel. If you are practicing on the drum set, you can further break things down by just practicing the hands without the feet. Also, you could practice just feet without the hands or just the right hand and right foot. Even if you are able to play the figure or beat you are practicing, it’s good to drop out different parts to make sure you’re playing the figure correctly. Use a metronome and keep track of the tempos from each practice session. This will help you track your progress and by the end of the week you should feel good about your accomplishments!

With the above practice method, it’s important to establish a daily practice routine. In that way you can build on the previous day’s progress to keep moving forward. If you do not practice daily, much of the previous work you did will be lost and your progress will be much slower.

Things to remember when practicing:

  • Practice slow. If you have trouble playing something, slow it down more

  • If you have trouble playing something, break it into smaller parts

  • With the drum set, you can practice combinations of hands only, feet only, one hand & one foot

  • Use a metronome. Write down tempos during your practice sessions.

  • As you become comfortable with the above, gradually:

    • Piece the smaller sections together

    • Increase the tempo

    • With drum set, add hands and feet together

Remember: Practicing the correct way will help you add to your “toolbox.”

Brad Hill is a drum/percussion instructor in Berks County, PA ( Shillington, PA ). Go to (Drums 1 on 1) and submit the Contact form for your free consultation to determine the best lesson plan for you. I offer drum lessons and percussion lessons. In person and online lessons available.