Undoubtedly, many drummers (and other musicians) struggle to find time to practice in their busy schedule. Between rehearsals, meetings, performances, exercise, eating right, families and travel, it can be a daunting task. Furthermore, this isnʼt something that only beginners struggle with. Some of our greatest players indeed feel the same way. What are we to do?
The answer doesn’t lie in quitting our jobs or giving up badminton. Nor is it found in the purchasing of different drum sticks or the latest technique DVD. The answer is found in the way we practice. And the way we think about practicing.
Here are three ideas to maximize your precious time:
PRACTICE ONLY ONE THING
Though this sounds boring and repetitive, this philosophy can produce far greater results in a much, much shorter time. Take, for example, the first exercise in the book of Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone. Thats right—RLRLRLRL. If you have only 15 minutes to practice during the day, trying spending a whole week on this one exercise (15 min x 7 days = 105 min). Then on the second week, go to exercise two, and so on. Practicing in this mindset helps you in two different ways. It allows you to completely master a task and improves your ability to stay focused. Imagine how good you will be at single stroke rolls! Most importantly, stay on track. Donʼt let yourself slip into a fit of Bonham triplets. You will be amazed at the benefits of this level of concentration.
DONE STICK CONTROL? NOW DO IT ALL WITH YOUR FEET
This is an example of working with what you have. After I finished my Bachelor of Music, I was thoroughly convinced that I will never have to buy another music book again. And I still believe in this concept. Try coming up with different ways to practice what you have already gone through before. Once youʼve read through Ted Reedʼs Syncopation, read the snare drum line with your high-hat foot. At one point during my time at school, I went up to one of my professors and told her I was done with the syncopation book. She then said to me, “Good. Now set up your drum kit for a left-handed player and read the book as a left-handed player.” I was forever changed.
TRY LEARNING WHAT YOU DON’T DO
But shouldn’t I be practicing what I usually perform? Yes, definitely. But in taking the time and energy to learn something different, or something new, you grow as a musician. You become a better player, better listener, and better writer. If playing metal is your favorite thing, try sitting down and learning a traditional samba. And if straight ahead jazz is what you do, try learning orchestral percussion. The more rounded you are, the better.
Rob Phillips is a writer, drummer and counsellor from Vancouver, BC.