OK, let’s say you’ve really got your act together and you don’t need to work on the music your band is doing. If that’s TRULY the case, then what do you practice?
My 5-part practice routine looks like this: ** Divide into even time slots**
- A Rudimental Workout – On a pad and around the kit.
- Reading Exercises – Usually a snare drum book and a set technique book.
- Learning New Songs – In various styles. Never get stuck in one musical world.
- Groove Exercises – 8 bar exercises with a click; playing variations on a concept.
- Soloing – Playing a “free time” solo; and then going into one that grooves.
I’m flexible with this routine. There are days I just work on rudiments, or maybe I’ll just work on songs. But over time I’m always touching on each area of that list. It just helps with general musicianship, and mostly it keeps me from getting bored. I often practice with headphones on, using a click or drum loops to create a feel of some kind to my routine. I will also record what I’m working on to go back and listen to what it really sounds like. “The tape does NOT lie.”
Time is so valuable! (No pun intended, drummers) So the focus in your practice time is to challenge yourself with things you don’t know how to play. Again, this is in respect to my opening statement… Be sure you’re “nailing” the music for your gig/ tour/ worship-set first. If there’s anything in those settings that need work, then get it done. But when that’s not the case… Practice what you DON’T know. I remember reading this in an article years ago about Dave Weckl. The writer noted that Dave was always using his time to work on things he could not do yet.
So, what does this look like?
- When I work on rudiments I look for ones that I don’t use so much. Always using a metronome, I’ll start slowly and then gradually increase tempo. Usually I’ll use a practice pad OR maybe two stacked together. *A little one on top of a larger one, and then I’ll mix up which pad I play on. I recently saw someone else do this and borrowed the idea. I will also look for YouTube lessons about different approaches to technique building and try it out. This is an awesome thing to do if you feel stuck in a rut with ideas. So much great material is online. Use it!!
- Reading exercises can be from any of the classic drum books, or Modern Drummer Magazine lesson articles. They are a great resource. If you don’t subscribe to MD… get it! The twist for me is to try moving parts around. For instance, if it’s just sticking patterns I will try to move the notes around the kit rather than just playing the written part. Or, if it’s a written drum part I’ll put the sounds on different drums. We call this “orchestrating a part.”
- Learning New Songs – Well, as the title says… work on something new! Mix it up everyday. Yes, modern worship may be your world, but find different styles to work on. Country, rock, jazz, Latin, etc. They’re all available in Christian music… or beyond, if you’re OK with that.
- Working on grooves should also be challenging. Start with what you know, but then quickly work on variations of grooves to the point of pushing the boundaries of your coordination. For example: Invert patterns where the snare leads the bar and the kick is on odd counts. Or try playing everything leading with your weaker hand. These are just a couple of basic ideas. But be sure you go slow enough to play them well… no stopping and starting. Mix up your groove playing between the four primary groove families: 8th notes, 16th notes, triplets, and shuffles.
- Soloing is a challenge for everyone. Work on your “groove thing” first. But, if you’ve been playing for a while, dive into this world. Play “freely” first… just creating color and tone with the drums, cymbals, and anything you can hit. Hardware; rims; shells (if you don’t mind doing that) and percussion instruments… etc. Be as creative as you can be. Then work your way into a groove of some kind and build solo ideas over that. Again… go to YouTube and watch drummers solo to get ideas.
Have fun! Practice hard. Contact me if you have questions www.CarlAlbrecht.com