As a “drum coach” I have the unique opportunity to work with many drummers one-on-one. I’m a firm believer that every drummer, no matter their level of skill or experience, can use some outside perspective on his or her drumming. While we may not all have access to another drummer with the ability to coach us in our drumming- we all have access to a smart phone with a camera!
So, each of us has the chance to record ourselves drumming, and then “watch the tape!”
But what should you look for when you watch a video of yourself drumming?
It can be very tempting, when watching video of our own drumming, to immediately jump to the smallest details and “flaws” in our drumming. But I want to encourage you to take a step back to something much simpler at first (and to make sure we aren’t too hard on ourselves!).
I suggest beginning by watching yourself play a simple pattern. While examining your own drumming, you’ll discover all kinds of aspects of your drumming that you may not have known existed… “I make that face every time I hit the snare drum?”
The very first thing I look for in my own drumming is whether or not I am hitting the center of the snare drum consistently. In fact, this is the very first thing I look at in every drummer I work with. If he isn’t hitting the center of the drum consistently, I look to see if he is hitting any one spot on the drum consistently. It may not be the exact center, but maybe he’s hitting it somewhere else consistently. In about 80% of the drummers I’ve worked with, they aren’t hitting anywhere on the drum consistently.
This can be a big problem for 2 reasons.
- Inconsistently placing each hit on the drum changes the sound of the drum from hit to hit (unless you’ve added a lot of muffling to the drum). This may not seem like such a big deal if you’re just practicing alone, but the more “polished” the musical situation, the more important absolute consistency is in your drumming. Those little differences in sound that come from hitting different parts of the drum head are MUCH more pronounced in any situation where the drums are mic’d. So those differences in snare sound will come out in a church gathering space if the drums have microphones on them. But if you wait until you find yourself in one of these situations, it’s too late. You can’t fix the problem with two minutes of “trying to fix it”… You have to work for it… Which brings me to my second reason…
- If we’re unable to consistently place our drumstick strikes on the drum head, it might be pointing to a bigger problem: A lack of control in our drumming. You see, as drummers, we should all strive to be in complete control of our playing. That means every single breath of a note, 100% of the time. When I first starting work with my own “drum coach”, he helped me discover that I actually couldn’t play a simple drum pattern without playing a bunch of ghost notes. That’s a lack of control, and needed to be addressed.
Beyond watching yourself drum, while you are behind the drum kit, ask yourself “Am I able to hit the center of the drum every single time, if I really focus and try?” If so, that’s a good first step… Start focusing on that aspect of your playing in your upcoming practice sessions- and work to get to the point where you are hitting the center of the drum 100% of the time, even when you don’t focus on hitting the center.
If not, start at the drumstick and work your way “up your arm”- starting with your finger tips and moving to your fingers, palms, wrists, forearms, elbows, etc… Every step in that “flow” is a chance for a variable to be introduced- and should be examined. The best way to do examine your own playing objectively is to shoot video of yourself playing the drums.
So that’s what you can do today: record a short video of yourself drumming. Follow that “flow” up your arm to see where the inconsistency in movement is, and start to address those issues that you discover.
Remember- this isn’t about becoming machines or robots in our drumming… It’s about keeping control of every note, all of the time! Control allows us to be intentional in our drumming, and ultimately in leading others in worship!