19 Mar

How to make the most of practice time 

People have often asked how they should practice and what you should practice in order to make the most of your time, and also to get as good as possible as quick as possible.

For me practicing was never a real chore, I always enjoy playing drums no matter what I'm doing, and I've never come across anything that i couldn't work out after some effort was put in. Even though I'm not a very organised person by nature, meaning that I used to just practice whatever I needed to, or wanted to practice whenever I had time.

I've since come to realise how inefficient this is. The way I look at playing is in three main aspects; Groove and feel, focus, and listening.

Groove and Feel 

  • Groove is the difference between playing a drum beat, and performing a drum beat, something which should make people want to move. As I'm playing, I'm constantly aware of the spacing between my notes, checking I'm not speeding up or slowing down, and the consistency of my dynamics, referring to how loud I'm playing and the relative volume of the different parts of the pattern I'm playing.
  • The feel side, is making sure that if I start a song with a definite groove, that that groove remains the same the whole way through the song and through any fills or stoops or variations i might have.

Focus and Listening

  • Making sure I'm fully concentrating on what I'm playing the entire time I'm playing, so my mind is split between listening to everyone else, holding down my groove, and concentrating on the structure.
  • Listening is the difference between an good drummer and an amazing drummer, the ability to split your focus up. I was once told that you should have 20% on what you're playing 80% on what everyone else is playing.

People tend to respond better to drummers who can make them feel relaxed and can contribute something worthwhile to the song. The most important part of practice for me is that anything you can do in practice you should be able to do while playing with other musicians. 

This is something I often fell flat on my face with, working out an amazing fill or solo idea and then not being able to play it when others were about. 

The answer came to me when I read a great article from session player Benny Greb in Modern Drummer magazine. He basically said he splits his practice sessions up into two halfs, practicing and playing.

Practicing is when you're starting to learn something you've never learned before. So a complicated drum groove, or fill or solo idea, or whatever. Starting off as slow as you physically can go and gradually building it up in tempo, to a place where you can play it at the turn of a thought. 

Playing is the part of the session where you groove over something you play often or play with a band or just jam along to Cd or music. While doing this you attempt to assimilate these new techniques and patterns you have learned into your natural playing, so it takes on your own personality as you play it.

It is important to me that i make sure that time behind the kit is as efficient as possible, while still keeping motivated and most of all enjoying yourself. I tend to split sessions up 50/50, half the time I have practicing half the time playing, and making sure I get the practicing side out of the way first so I don't procrastinate. 

Some people may have more fun on the playing part than the practicing part, some people might be the other way around. I like both sides of it equally, I know that anytime I spend behind the kit or the pad will be fun because I like forcing myself to focus on just one thing, and for me it almost becomes like meditation.

This has helped my playing immensely because I now find it easy to immense myself in whatever I'm playing.

Also finally I have recently started to keep a practice diary, I've got a paper hard copy i keep with me and an online blog where I'll try to post as often as I can about exactly what I've done, how long I did it for, and the mileage I could get out of a pattern like this

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