To improve your drumming takes hard work. The best drummers don’t get there by accident. We’ve all watched awestruck, as top drummers play their heart out and make the rest of us want to quit. Yet although they make it look effortless!
Sure, you expect to practice a lot and find your own style, but there are some less obvious things to consider too. So, whether you’re a weekend warrior or an aspiring session star, these 10 motivational tips will set you on your way to becoming a better drummer.
Contributed by Roland UK
#1: Go back to basics
Drummers often try to run before they can walk, which can lead to bad habits and gaps appearing in their ability. Mastering the drumming basics is the best way to build a solid foundation upon which to develop your playing.
We recommend focussing at least some of your practice time on improving single and double strokes, and polishing key rudiments like the paradiddle and five-stroke roll. Once you can execute these drumming fundamentals with consistency, dynamics and solid time, you will be fully prepared to take your playing to the next level.
#2: Supercharge your fitness
A 2008 study proved that a 90-minute set behind the kit requires the same stamina as a professional footballer playing a full game. So, if you want to perform at your peak, it’s important to consider your fitness.
Cardiovascular activities like running or cycling can vastly improve drumming endurance, while weight training can enhance power, improve reflexes and protect you from injury. At the very least, implementing a stretching and warm-up routine before you play will get your blood flowing and protect joints and muscles from strain.
#3: Boost your diet
Believe it or not, what you eat has a direct impact on your performance behind the kit. Foods containing excessive fat, salt or processed sugar will severely hamper your mood, energy levels and speed of recovery after playing. A healthy, balanced diet has the opposite effect.
For the best drumming fuel you’ll want to focus on protein-rich foods including chicken, fish and eggs, healthy fats such as avocado and nuts, carbohydrates including brown rice and sweet potatoes and plenty of fruit and vegetables. And while a coffee or beer might sound more appealing, nothing beats a glass of water to promote joint health, information retention, and alertness – all essential requirements for the developing drummer.
As enjoyable as solo practice can be, nothing will lift your drumming more than playing with other musicians.
#4. Get some sleep
Sleep is just as important as exercise for drummers. A consistent 7-9 hours per night is essential for your body to restore itself and for your brain to process the information it’s absorbed during the day. That includes those new fills you learned!
Recharging your mental and physical batteries is particularly important if you have a big gig or recording session on the horizon. To guarantee the best night’s sleep, your bedroom should be cool, quiet and comfortable, and you’ll need to avoid any blue light – the sleep-suppressing glow coming from your phone, tablet and TV – for at least 30 minutes before heading to bed.
#5: Get out and play
As enjoyable as solo practice can be, nothing will lift your drumming more than playing with other musicians. At the very least it will boost confidence behind the kit and your ability to create music with other people, but it could also lead to experience in a live and studio setting.
Facebook groups and forums are an easy route to finding band members and jam buddies, and open mic nights are a great way to play with other musicians in a supportive, laidback environment, without the commitment of a band. If you really don’t want to leave the house, try jamming online with musicians anywhere in the world using a service like JamKazam.
#6: Practice to a click
One of the most underated ways to improve your drumming is practising to a click!
You might have perfected your inverted paradiddles, but unless you can play in time you’re unlikely to be the first choice for any band. Few drummers are blessed with a precise internal clock, so the answer is lots of practice to a click.
Playing to music is a good way to fine tune your timing. Or you could download one of the many available metronome apps and start working on different tempos. If you own an electronic kit, you should find click and tempo training functions on your module. Even if you only manage five or ten minutes of practice a day, you’ll quickly notice drastic improvements in your time-playing.
#7: Take it slow
Playing fast is a lot of fun, but unless you can do it with precision your beats will probably sound like a drum kit falling down the stairs. The solution? Practice tricky parts at much slower tempos first.
Once you’re comfortable with the sticking and can play each note cleanly at a slow speed, you can gradually build towards your target tempo. Slower tempos can be tricky at first, but persevere and your playing will be much tighter and the parts will feel more comfortable once you reach top speed.
Adding just a little structure to your practice routine can mean the difference between coasting and consistently hitting your drumming goals
#8: Watch other drummers
Just as jamming with other musicians can dramatically improve your drumming, watching fellow drummers is a surefire way to progress. Study YouTube clips featuring your drumming heroes, or head to local drum clinics and watch the pros up-close.
Some drumming stars will even offer one-to-one lessons – these are rare but valuable opportunities to invest in your own playing. If you’re on the same bill as a local drummer who rocks, watch what they do and take the time to pick their brains after soundcheck. Finally, why not film and critique yourself at home? It’s the easiest way to identify and correct any weaknesses in your playing.
#9: Make a development plan
Adding just a little structure to your practice routine can mean the difference between coasting and consistently hitting your drumming goals. To start with, identify elements of your drumming that need work, such as left-hand strength or odd-time playing, and design a plan to tackle those areas.
It’s important to set a time period for your plan – say eight to 12 weeks – and include gradual increases in difficulty as you progress. Remember to start simple and set realistic expectations, and make sure you factor in work and family commitments as well as days off. Stick with it and you should emerge a better drummer by the end of your plan.
#10: Play for fun
As much as structured practice is vital to becoming a better drummer, it’s just as crucial to make time each week to play without any pressures.
This freestyle approach could mean drumming along to your favourite tunes, working on a cool fill idea, getting in a practice room with a bass player or just drumming for the sake of it. Not only is this a great way to apply what you’ve been learning and get the creative juices flowing, it’s also an important reminder that drumming is supposed to be fun. Now, go and play!