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!

Recharging the Drumming Batteries

I spent probably five hours practicing today, more than I have put into it in I can’t remember how long. It was broken up over the full day, a rare one where I took off from work, but it was a very positive day.

Rudiments with brushes loosened things up, for about thirty minutes. Then some basic jazz time keeping for about thirty minutes, then more hand conditioning with different weight sticks. I alternate between 7A’s with nylon tips, Vic Firth Slammers (maple) and then some larger Vic Firth marching sticks.

In the past couple of days, my left hand has FINALLY gotten the hang of the Moeller fulcrum, which does feel weird… but it feels good, too, and it works.

I also spent some time playing off meter grooves and filming myself. WOW… what a valuable tool, even more so than just taping yourself (I use the H2 digital recorder, which I can’t say enough good thing about for the money). Anyway, the video was a GREAT tool to really let me SEE myself playing too much. It was a simple 5/4 jazz samba, and it really worked so much better with less.

I took breaks when my hands got tight, as I am working to keep things as relaxed as I can. A big part of that is relaxing your mind and MAKING YOURSELF SLOW DOWN if you fall into a practice routine of just blazing…

It all felt great, and I am looking forward to more of the same tomorrow.