These are some of the common questions that arise when reading or speaking to anyone about a practice routine.
- What to practice (Material)
- How long to practice for
- When to practice
- Where to practice
I am lucky enough here to have my own practice room with my drum kit in it, which I can use 24/7 with no dampener pads or silencing equipment. This was and still is a huge deal for me as I used to practice in my house garage never being able to play without the silencing pads on, so although you can get to grips with positioning of drums, playing is a lot different without pads on. I realise a lot of people work too and fitting in time to practice can be hard, and in university I am lucky I have low lecture hours to put in as many hours as I want.
So, on to some tips.
At Berklee College of Music 5 Week our technique class was taught by the awesome Henrique De Almeida. The first thing he asked on the first class we had with him was, "Who can show me their practice schedule?" After no one replied he explained the importance of planning practice, and the next day we were set the task of creating one. The one below is my Newcastle University practice schedule.
I've found that creating a schedule to consult daily helps a lot better than unstructured and unplanned 'as and when' practice. Specifically making a routine means you are creating the time to dedicate to practice. If you are truly dedicated you will sacrifice time to go and play.
This has always been a topic for discussion amongst a lot of players I have spoken to. I would say that from what I have learned the general rule is that, practicing for 15 minutes a day is better than practicing for 3 hours on the weekend. I practice around 4 hours a day, and even when I finish practice I usually leave with books to look at in the night before going back to practice the next day. Set aside enough time to get what you want done and really focus on achieving daily goals.
Taking regular breaks from your practice routine also stops you getting fatigued and frustrated with whatever you are working through. Every 40/50 minutes is usually a time I feel is long enough to take a 5/10 minute break. Drink loads of water too!
I have found that practicing in the morning after breakfast is a great time to get practice done. I have also found that breaking up the practice into two two hour practice sessions in a day breaks it up nicely. If you don't have that time free then there is nothing wrong with practicing in the night, however the later you leave it the more naturally tired you will feel, so if you can do daylight practice I always feel it helps concentration levels. I also take one day a week off to just do nothing and just relax.
What to practice
Practice material can be a factor that stops musicians from doing regular practice sessions. Knowing what to practice can be hard if you don't have tuition either. I would say that working through books can be beneficial if used correctly. Gary Chaffe (Patterns) recommends playing through an exercise enough times so that it feels comfortable, then improvise with what you have learnt immediately after. Improvise as much as you go through exercises.
Learning songs can also be great practice material. For every new song you learn, if learned efficiently you can pick up on something different from every drummer and incorporate into your own playing. After recently learning Anika Nilles' song "Queenz" I have found that playing linear fills and playing 5/4 time signatures becomes incorporated more naturally than before. Learn all types of songs, those that are easier than your ability and those a lot higher.
The amount of online material at the moment is incredible for anyone wanting to find new practice ideas. Youtube has a wealth of channels doing lessons "Drumeo" being one of the leaders, especially as they get some of the best drummers in the world to go and talk through different aspects of drumming such as "Incorporating Rudiments into Your Playing". Also watching videos of your favourite drummers and learning from those clips can be hugely useful too!
Shake up your routine every few weeks to stop yourself getting tired with the normal practice routine. If you feel a routine is getting stale then keep searching for new ways to keep things fresh. Try improvising with the exercise you have just learned. Flip the exercise, turn it on its head, do something completely new with it. Reaching a point of fatigue with the kit is a hard thing to come to, and if you do not vary your routine and keep things fun and fresh you will soon fizzle out.
Making the schedule and allocating the time on paper is all well and good but actually putting in the hours and going is no easy feat. Once decided on times try to make sure you attend every session, this will stand you in good stead for continuing a solid routine and will become easier the longer you do it.
Where (Finding a space)
Finding a space to practice can be difficult for anyone, even more so for drummers. Noise and space being two of the biggest reasons for not being able to find a space. A lot of drummers have their kits set up in their house however, which is great. It means you can access and play your kit at (almost) any time. Also it has the 'ease of use' factor and you don't have to go anywhere to practice, if like me, you can get easily distracted by house features this is not a beneficial option.
I would say from previous experience going from practicing at home to having a dedicated practice space at uni makes a huge difference. I found that the physical and mental act of going to a practice space puts you in a different mindset than just going to your garage or living room. However, a lot of drummers do very well in their own house practice space. I personally feel that going to find a space will make you a lot more willing to get what you need done.
The old cliche is true. To become the best you have to continuously practice daily. So hopefully these tips have helped please feel free to add any comments you feel at the bottom! Very open to new and old ideas alike !
"If you want it, take it. Put aside emotions and judgment and enter your task one moment at a time. Do so with no anxiety about the result. Have faith that even if you can’t detect improvement by the end of a single practice session, cumulatively investment of this nature will pay off"
Song of the Week
'Amber Run - Heaven'