Staying focused when practicing the drums it not easy, but it is essential if you want to get better. Like working out, a great drumming practice session requires routine and discipline, but it can also be a blast!
From my experience as a professional drummer and drum educator, I have found that you can stay motivated, have fun, and improve every time you practice by focusing on 5 things.
Here is a YouTube video on How To Practice Drum Set, which demonstrates each concept in this article.
At the beginning of every practice session, I recommend starting with your hands. I like to focus on three core strokes: Singles (RLRL), Doubles (RRLL), and Triples (RRRLLL).
So, why these three strokes? The ability to master these three strokes with speed, power, and accuracy will give you the chops to play just about every rudiment, play a variety of fills, and the endurance needed for a myriad of grooves.
Here are some videos on single strokes, double strokes, and triple stroke grooves.
Triple Stroke Groove
Like your hands, your feet need to be strong, fast, and have control. I recommend working on two things with your feet. First, I suggest working in your chops, which includes mostly single and double strokes on the bass drum. These can be played in linear patterns with the hands, such as RLB (Right, Left, Bass) or RLBB (Right, Left, Bass, Bass)
Second, developing independence with your feet is essential to playing a number of grooves. This is especially true for jazz and Latin grooves, but it is also needed to play more complex rock, pop, and hip-hop grooves. This takes time and patience, but overtime you will build consistency and independence, which is vital to play grooves and fills.
This is the essence of drumming and easily 90% of what we do. During each practice session, you should take the time to review a handful of grooves that you already know (play them for a few minutes each). Then, spend the majority of your time working up something you are trying to master. This may mean breaking each rhythm down step-by-step, which is critical to properly learn the groove, but it can take a lot of time and patience.
For a one step at a time breakdown of every groove you will need to know, check out Tactical Drumming: Groove Survival Guide at https://amzn.to/3Fb5l1n.
FILLS & VOCABULARY
Drum fills are another essential part of good drumming, but they take practice to master and lots of variety to keep fills interesting. This variation is called vocabulary, which is a combination of sticking patterns, rhythms, accents, and interplay between the feet and hands.
To master fill patterns and incorporate them into grooves, I recommend breaking fills down to three primary combinations.
1. Play a one bar drum fill (4 counts).
2. Play a two count version of the fill
3. Play a one count version of the drum fill (we actually use these the most)
Once you have mastered these variations, add them to different grooves and make sure your time is steady. Also, be sure to keep the fill ideas simple at first, then gradually make them more complex.
Like having a good diet to have proper nutrition, listening to other drummers daily is essential. Honestly, I cannot stress this enough. Basically, if you want to be an amazing drummer; then, you need to take the time to hear what good sounds and looks like. This does not mean watching videos of drummer with lots of speed and chops all the time (though occasionally this is okay). Instead, I recommend listening to drummers of your favorite tunes; plus, drummers that play classic grooves in each style. This will let you know what to emulate to keep getting better and better.
Now, go practice and keep drumming.
For more drum grooves, check out Tactical Drumming: Groove Survival Guide, which will show you a number of shuffle variations and other grooves. This can be found at https://tacticaldrumming.com or on Amazon at https://amzn.to/3Qr56pN
By John Owens, Ph.D (Author, Drummer Educator). For John's bio go to https://tacticaldrumming.com.