If you want to get better as a player, establishing a drumming practice routine is absolutely essential. I know it’s huge fun to simply sit at the kit and bash away without any sort of plan, but you’ll soon hit a frustrating brick wall when it comes to technique, speed, expression, dynamics, you name it.
What is a drumming practice routine?
A practice routine is when you set aside a period of time to work on the things that need improvement with your playing. In the beginning, this might be just about everything and it can naturally be overwhelming.
This is why it’s necessary to have a plan in place to develop these skills methodically (sounds boring, but it doesn’t have to be!).
Setting aside a fixed amount of time on a regular basis is the key. An hour a day would be a good place to start if you can afford the time. If you’ve got only half an hour then that’s cool, you’ll just have to be more focused.
It’s important that you don’t practice like mad for 6 hours on one day and neglect the rest of the week, claiming that you’ve already done it.
Regular and structured practice leads to the improvements you need. There’s no easier way. This advice doesn’t just apply to beginners – every player should stay on top of their game with a drumming practice routine.
What you’ll need
Your own private space
If possible, shut yourself away from the outside world for the duration of your routine. Any little distractions will take away from the time you’ve thoughtfully put aside. Turn your phone off, close the door, and put headphones on if there’s too much noise.
Whether you love it or hate it, a metronome is your best friend when it comes to practice. It won’t try to flatter you and will tell only the truth! Learn to embrace the metronome.
A practice pad is great for practicing rudiments and building up speed while being kind to your ears. You can apply what you learn here around the kit with confidence.
There are an incredible number of drumming technique resources out there for all levels and styles. Start with something basic and work your way up. If you’re unsure where to start – here are some books which I have found very helpful and I would recommend them to any drummer:
Gary Chester The New Breed, Drums: Systems for the Development of Your Own Creativity
My absolute favourite – the exercises in here start out easy and then gradually build up to challenge your four-way independence to the max.
Stick Control: For the Snare Drummer
Countless exercises for developing speed, control, dynamics, and rudiments. The name may suggest that the content is only suitable for snare drummers, but the exercises are easily adapted to different drums, even between hands and feet.
Tommy Igoe’s Groove Essentials
A solid introduction to a huge range of styles from around the world, this book will broaden your knowledge and technical ability while being huge fun. This comes with a play-along CD and you also get Tommy’s DVD to complement the book.
Building a routine
Drumming is a very physical pursuit. If you want to avoid long term injury, always incorporate a warm up into your playing. Start off by playing some rudiments on the snare, while keeping time with your feet between the bass drum and hi hats, for example.
One good thing about starting out slowly is being able to practice timekeeping and subdivisions at the same time. Spend at least 5 minutes warming up.
Following on from the warm-up, spend 10 minutes working on timekeeping. Slow that metronome right down. How much? Wind it right back to 30bpm and try nailing quarter notes, it’s hard!
Play these for a minute or two and then gradually work through all the subdivisions you can think of, right up to 32nd
notes, and all the way back down. When you get called to play a ballad in front of an audience, you’ll be pleased that you made the effort!
This is the point where you’ll think to yourself, “What do I really struggle with?” Something that makes you squirm when you think of it. The squirmier the better.
If it’s a tricky groove, slow it right down. Practice only the bass drum part, only the fill in the middle, only the ride pattern, whatever makes it a monster for you.
Work to slay the monster by stabbing at its weak points. Come back to this at each practice session until you can slay the beast and eat it for dinner. Then track down its extended family and do the same.
If it’s speed you need, start at a tempo you’re comfortable with and push for short periods to the higher tempo, (remember your metronome) and then fall back to the slower tempo. Gradually add longer periods at the faster tempo.
Be careful here not to practice anything that you’re already good at. If it would mortify you for your friends to hear you attempting these parts, then you’re on the right page.
When you’d be happy for your friends to hear, congratulations. Stop and move on to the next monster, they’re in abundant supply for all of us. Spend a good 20 minutes on this technical routine, longer if you can afford it.
Depending on your success in the technical session, you’ll probably be frustrated, sweaty, and wondering why you took up drumming in the first place.
Now is the time to remember. Whack on your favourite tune and go to town, fall into comfortable grooves and maybe throw in some of your new monster chops. You want to finish up feeling good about yourself and hyped to go through your routine again next time.
No matter what your skill level, there’s always more to learn. Following a drumming practice routine gives you structure. Over time this will offer huge improvements in your abilities, less frustration and a better experience overall.
Write down a plan, working it into the above routine, adjusting the timings of each section to suit your needs, but don’t skip the warm-up. Go for it!
Do you have any practice tips or tricks? Please do leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.