Thursday, August 18, 2011


Hey Stephen,

"My name's Matt, I live in the uk and have been drumming for like 10 years, I only used to play drums in band practice until about 2 years ago when I finally realised how important drums were to me, and how much I wanted to better myself as much as possible. I'm having a bit of trouble though, I'm not sure if its something I just need to fix myself, but you seem like a real down to earth and approachable guy so I thought I'd just throw it out there and see if you had any advice!

Basically, lately i've been having a lot of bad practice sessions, like really sucking, nothing sits right or feels good, and I begin to wander what, if any progress i've actually made over the last 2 years!Don't get me wrong my theory and and my hand technique have come on leaps and bounds, especially on my pad, but I find it difficult to apply alot of what I can do to the kit! It s frustrating, alot of it sounds ugly haha. I haven't lost any of my previous ability of course, I'm just starting to wander when the things I want out of my playing are finally going to start sitting in place!

I guess I just wanted to ask what sort of approach you have to practicing?There is such an overwhelming wealth of drum education readily available, and I don't have more than about an hour or 2 a day to play tops. Do you thing I should strip it back down to basics? I had and idea that I could play through some stick control exercises until they feel good, then spend a little time applying them to my kit, see what sounds good, then for the last 20 minutes or so pick either one of your lessons to work, or something from a book or magazine.

It just feels like my practice is in itty bitty pieces rather than solid, and the knock on effect is that my playing is starting to feel like that too. I'm not trying to be the greatest drummer ever, i'm not too interested in flying round my kit at 2000mph either i just want to be able to groove solidly and thrown in some little spicy embellishements every now and then. I look up to the like of stanton moore, benny greb and steve jordan, you know, drummers who get you whole head and shoudlers rocking just with a kick, snare and hi hat!

Anyways, sorry to go on so much, this is just really important to me as I don't feel like I'm getting the most out of myself or my kit at the moment. I look forward to hearing from you soon, keep up the good work man, you videos are excellent and I glad I stumbled across them!"


What's up Matt,

Wow, GREAT questions and concerns man. These are the things that still bug me to this day. Am I progressing at the correct speed? Am I going backwards? Do I need to work on groove more versus technical ability? What about my hand technique? Do I need to revisit it? Why am I even playing drums? AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Seriously, for anyone that truly loves this instrument (and I absolutely do) practice is a personal thing. When I was in college, a bad practice session could ruin my day. I once had trouble getting my snare tuned to the correct pitch I literally made me nauseated for a week. Kept me up at night. Turns out it was a warped head that the music store had sold me. It had nothing to do with my ability to tune a drum. That taught me something. You need to be emotionally attached to this instrument, but at some point, you have to step back and realize it doesn't set the stage for the rest of your life. I say all of this to make the're in the same boat as alot of other players. Congratulations, lol!

Try reading these few posts on my blog that I've written about practice first...

Keeping A Practice Log

Planned Practice

Technical Practice vs Musical Practice

Recording Yourself While Practicing

Being Motivated To Practice

I know that's alot of them, but I've written on the topic of practice a ton because I get so many questions about the topic and because I struggle with it myself like everyone else.

Things you absolutely have to do:

-Keep a practice log. This is probably one of the single most important things a musician can do (and most don't do it). It keeps you knowledgeable of where you and your playing are.

-Set aside specific times during the week that you practice. Nothing else happens during that time. You don't check emails on your phone, you don't talk to friends, you don't answer text messages...NOTHING! It's practice time...the rest can wait.

-Plan your practice. Sit down at the beginning of the week (this literally takes 5 minutes) and plan out what you want to focus on that week. Then, everyday when you start your practicing, review where you left off the day before and set a daily goal for that day. If you're working on singles between the kick and hands and you were at 150 bpm with 16th notes the day before, lets shoot for 155 that day. If you don't hit that goal it's ok. I gurantee you'll hit them more often than not though.

-Focus, focus, focus. When you're practicing, don't get distracted by whatever goes through your head. Don't get in the middle of practicing something challenging and then revert to your old licks just because they're easier for you to play. Push through those tough times. When I practice, I sound HORRIBLE!!! I mean, I sound like a handful of screws being dropped into a metal bucket repeatedly. It's bad. And that's the way it's supposed to be. If you sound good while you're practicing, you're not practicing anymore. You've accomplished the task and now you're just reviewing for your own pleasure. Once you sound good for a few minutes, it's time to change one of the variables. Change the sticking, change drums, change tempos...change something until you can't do it and you sound bad again. This is a very depressing thing to do, lol, but it's absolutely necessary. You have to constantly push yourself, mentally and physically.

-Allow time for the following things in your practice: Groove studies, Hand technique, Rudiments, hand and foot studies, and new material.

One of the problems is that you hear your playing everyday. You're bored with it at times. It's the same thing with someone that's losing weight. They never see the way they look now, they just see all of the weight they still have to lose. Whereas someone that hasn't seen them since they lost that last 20 pounds literally has to pick their jaw up off of the ground.

I struggle with the same thing you're talking about. There's so much to learn in drumming, so much I want to do, so much I CAN'T do...that sometimes I find myself flip flopping from topic to topic and never really learning a thing. Planning your practice at the beginning of the week, setting weekly goals, keeping a practice log to keep yourself on track, and reviewing where you are at the beginning of your practice time...these are the things that are going to slowly improve you beyond your wildest imagination. When I went into college, I felt like I played decently. I practiced a ton while I was there. Sometimes 8-10 hours a day. It was ridiculous. And I wasn't really seeing the growth that was happening. But when I got out of school and looked back, I was a completely different player...LIGHT YEARS ahead of where I had been.

We're the hardest on ourselves because we know what we're capable of. That's a good thing. Keep plugging away at it with intense focus and determination. Decide on something challenging that you want to learn and don't stop practicing that skill until you have it down. The tortoise wins every time I read the book ;^)

You're simply going through what we call a playing slump. Listen to some new music, go have some new life experiences, find different techniques and patterns to learn. Every player worth their snuff goes through this...and it either makes them better or pushes them backwards. Pushing through this is what sets apart the real players from the kids. And I think you're a real go get to work!

-Stephen T.


Emmett said...

Great answer!

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