Five Top Practice Areas For Increasing Your Drumming Speed

Welcome to the AfterTimes. We live in strange days and a new world as of only a few months ago. It’s filled with a great deal of uncertainty that until now we’ve only seen in movies. Kids born today will be referred as Generation WTF, I’m sure of it.

As we wait for better days, some things never change. The need to practice and improve our drumming craft doesn’t have to succumb to Covid-19 or anything else if we can stay healthy and stay focused. Since a great many drummers of all ages want to increase their speed, here are five top areas for you to work on.

  1. Use Proper Technique: Sloppy practice equals sloppy neural programming. Garbage in, garbage out. Take care of technique, and speed comes much easier. This means LEARN YOUR RUDIMENTS and PRACTICE MOVING VERY SLOWLY AND PRECISELY. Exaggerate your movements to discover the full range of motion of each rudiment you’re learning.
  2. Think Fast: You have to be able to hear the speed you aspire to. Sing patterns out loud. Doing this energizes your entire mind/body connection. Hear them in your head and re-create them, over and over and over and over. You’re priming your neural pathways by doing so. Use a metronome while you do this. You’ll be quite surprised at how effective this technique is.
  3. Relax: Part of proper technique is relaxing. This is different from executing the movements precisely, because if you stiffen up as you speed up, you’ll choke yourself out. Breathe, keep you shoulders relaxed, and the SECOND you feel your muscles tighten up, STOP. Shake your hands off, stretch your legs and calves, then get back to it.
  4. Visualize Your Performance: Close your eyes and see yourself practicing, gradually increasing your speed. This also helps develop the mind/body connection, and if you don’t believe me, ask professional athletes and coaches who’ve been using this technique for decades. See your hands starting slow with say, paradiddles, and then moving faster and faster. The same applies to your feet.
  5. Vary Your Stick Weights and Pedal Tension: Use three different weight sticks (light, medium heavy), and alternate between them as you practice. Try playing marching sticks as quietly as possible to discover the degree to which you can refine your control, then switch immediately to light sticks (7A), then medium (5A), or some similar combination. Likewise with bass drum pedals, although this does take little more work. If you can find small weight to attach to the beater stem, give that a try, or adjust the pedal distance quite a ways back form the head. This will definitely make you work harder.

Most of us have nowhere else to be right now, so give these ideas a shot and see what happens. Ultimately, we want to be able to play whatever we do musically, and there is a time and a place to unleash and make a blistering musical statement. If you put time into developing these five top areas of improving your speed, you may soon discover that your inner drummer has a Ferrari waiting to be revved and cut loose. All you have to do is turn the practice key, and you’ll be leaving these strange days in the dust before you know it.  Good luck!

Meet Gary Leach and Beats Exotiques – Drum Grooves For Independence

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Three years ago or so, I was experimenting with posting video clips on Periscope. In a short period of time, a following developed, including positive comments and encouragement from an English gentleman named Gary Leach. He posted his own videos, shot in a small room, using his iPhone. What struck me about Gary the most was his sincere enthusiasm and desire to impart his vast knowledge of beats to whomever might spend a few minutes watching and listening.

Fast forward …

After working with exhausting detail to produce and explore his grooves, Gary took the self-publishing plunge and created Beats Exotiques – Drum Grooves For Independence. And take the plunge he did. His organization of materials is impeccable. The level of detail is extraordinary. The cultural range of grooves is indeed exotic, drawing from Africa, Brazil, Cuba and many more countries.

The grooves he presents incorporate both ride cymbal and cowbell, with enough of the latter to satisfy even Christopher Walken. They are beats that Gary enjoys playing, so in a sense, the book was really a labor of love. They are organized into Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced examples, with 850-plus bars of rhythms and ostinatos collected over the last ten years.

Like I said, he plunged.

You can see examples inside the book at the website, www.beats-exotiques.com, where you can also download MP3 examples of every groove in the book. This aspect in itself is invaluable, as the MP3 files may be used by the non-reading drumming to learn the patterns. Gary developed a visual aid system that employs empty and darkened boxes, aligned horizontally, to depict the silence and sound of each pattern. It’s novel, useful, and easy to grasp.

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Okay, that’s the technical end of Gary’s book. Anyone can write a review. I want to tell you about the person. As regular readers of this blog know, I rarely ever mention a product. That’s not what this is about. What it is about is discovering interesting PEOPLE and their path. Without fail, every comment Gary posted about my short little Periscope videos was positive and encouraging. He’s the real deal. He honestly cares about teaching, sharing, improving a student’s playing and breadth of knowledge.

I used to watch his clips sometimes when I was the only person on Periscope seeing his videos. He played and talked like the whole world was watching, and that was intriguing. He really loved figuring out how to make the groove GROOVE, make it sound right and honest. You’d see him tuning it up on the spot, and I really enjoyed this. Point being, you could see where the exhaustive list of patterns found their study origins, and it really gave me some interesting context within which to appreciate his book.

Speaking from personal experience, I KNOW this project took a tremendous amount of effort, and it shows. If you want to broadly expand your groove knowledge with rhythms from around he world, and if you fancy a bit of cowbell to break up the monotony, Beats Exotiques will show you the way. It’ll take a bit of time to get through over 200 pages of examples, but you won’t be bored.

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And when you do take a break, check out the man himself on drummercouk (YouTube). You can hear examples the beats, played by Gary. There’s heart and soul in his sticks and lessons, and that’s something we drummers can never get enough of.

 

 

 

 

3rd YouTube video, The Elements of Rhythm. Vol. II, Relative Notation and Counting Syllables

If the previous two videos got your attention about binary rhythm patterns, wait’ll you see all those patterns lined up vertically on music staves so you can read them in (for example) 4/2, 4/4, 4/8, 4/16, and 4/32 all at once…

The Elements of Rhythm, Vol, II, also dives very deeply into the idea of relative notation, where an absolute sound shape can be not only written in many different ways, but be counted in many different ways as well.

We become conditioned to seeing 16th rests and notes in 4/4 and count them 1 e + uh, but then when we see them in 4/16, our minds have to “temporally translate” (my term) the mathematics very quickly to make sense of the notation before us.

Ideally, we should be able to read any absolutely sound shape, written in any beat note value, using any counting syllables and not be married to the idea that, for example, sixteenth rests and notes will always be counted 1 e + uh…

Yeah, this is advanced, heady stuff. It’ll get your mind going from page one, I guarantee you. But, when you consider that in both volumes, you are looking at ALL of the fundamental building block rhythm patterns that all the larger ones come… believe me, that’s worth about six minutes of your time!

Enjoy.