Making the most of your practice time
Whilst being aware that there’s no substitute for focused practice, most of us are unable to dedicate as much time as we’d like to it. So with practice time at a premium, just how can we maximise our progress during those valuable minutes and hours?.
The first golden rule of practising is to practise the things we can’t do. Sounds obvious, right? But how many of us sit there playing things we can already play, perhaps jamming along to music or regurgitating our favourite licks? In short, if you’re sounding really good in your practice time you’re probably not really practising. This is the place for mistakes, for the slow challenging chipping away at technical issues and ultimately for your progress towards becoming a better drummer.
So practice time is our chance to address our weak points. But what are they? And what should we be practising? Well, only you can be the judge of that (or your teacher of course) but if practising complex rhythmic or coordination exercises is taking precedence over addressing issues you might have playing to a click, then it might be worth giving some thought to prioritising what you work on, placing essential skills at the top of the list and ideas you’re interested in developing further down. Doing this with our own playing requires objectivity and honesty but will ultimately speed up your transition into being the kind of drummer other musicians want to play with.
Probably the second most important element of practising is knowing what it is you’re there to practise. Again, this might sound obvious in a general way, but what specific things are you working on today? Knowing this before starting to play can help to avoid mindless noodling around the kit and helps maintain focus and ultimately progression. And these areas should be worked on consistently, until you can access the idea immediately, with little or no effort, at which point it can be replaced by a new challenge.
Finally how much practise should we do? Well the easy answer has to be as much as is enjoyable, but ideally it would be a reasonably consistent amount throughout the week. This way our brains assimilate the new information more quickly as opposed to doing one marathon practice session one day a week. And whilst hearing stories of top drummers practising 10 hours a day might make us feel that the 20 minutes we have available isn’t worth it, it’s simply not the case. Consistent focused practice, no matter if relatively short, will always give results.
With this more structured approach to practising underway do still afford yourself some ‘me time’ at the kit. Perhaps at the end of each session, just to let off steam. You may also find that after some focused practise that the freedom to play what you like is more liberating and more creative ideas start to come to the surface than before. And enjoy it! Practising should be a positive process and a self-perpetuating one that feeds itself, leaving you looking forward to the next day’s practice, knowing that you’re gradually inching closer to becoming the best drummer you can be.