My father has been a huge influence on me in a number of different areas. He graduated from the Percussion Institute of Technology and studied with some of the great players and educators of our time. One of my favorite characteristics of my father is his unquenchable thirst to grow as a drummer and percussionist. Even after studying and playing for over 30 years he is constantly looking for the next instructional book, drum clinic or DVD that can take him to the next level. I have found that he never limits himself to the words or notes written on the page, but rather tries to find ways to expand on them and challenge himself even more. In this article I am going to share with you a few simple ways to do the same thing. Perhaps some of those old snare drum books or rudiments you once practiced can become the next challenge to overcome behind the drum set.
Before approaching any practice session it is extremely important to set clear goals of what you are trying to accomplish. Here are a few things that I recommend you focus on during your practice time.
- Note Consistency: No matter what rhythm you are playing, you should have to ability to play in such a way that every note is projecting the same volume, height and tempo. Practice with a metronome!!! Record your self and listen back to it. Practice at all dynamic levels and tempos.
- Technique: This is the perfect time to review your technique. Set up mirrors, a video camera, or simply watch your self as you play. I especially recommend looking at your posture. A drummers body can suffer greatly in the long run because of playing with a hunched back, raised shoulder, or bad stick grip.
- Independence: It is important to practice rhythms with all four limbs. A good goal would be to practice a rudiment or rhythm until you are comfortable playing it with every combination of your limbs. Yes, I said every combination of your limbs.
Alright, now we have some clear goals of what we want to look at while we are practicing.
Let’s take a simple rhythm of straight eighth notes.
Here are four sets of sticking options to practice:
1.) R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R L
2.) L R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R
3.) R R L L R R L L R R L L R R L L
4.) L L R R L L R R L L R R L L R R
5.) R L L R R L L R R L L R R L L R
6.) L R R L L R R L R L L R L R R L
I recommend repeating each line twice then immediately proceeding to the the line below. Be sure to practice each line independently before combining them together.
The first thing you will look at is your Note Consistency and Technique, as described above. This will be practiced on one drum at first to allow you to meticulously critique the way you are playing. After you are satisfied with the this (or frustrated), then we can move on.
Next, you will focus on independence.
The sky is the limit with this one, but here are a few ideas to get you going.
First start out by simply moving your right hand to a different drum or cymbal. Then proceed to play through the sticking options on two sound sources.
Next, we are going to add a very simple ostinato with your feet. An ostinato is a motif or phrase which is continuously repeated.
You are going to alternate between one beat on the bass drum and one on the hi-hat with your feet. You will play four eighth notes on your hands for every one beat on your feet. You will notice that this begins to get increasingly difficult as you play a downbeat with your right foot while starting the eighth notes with your left. Additionally, there are a couple times when two or three notes could be played on one hand before transitioning to the next line, all while maintaining the ostinato on your feet.
So now you have been playing an ostinato with your feet while playing the sticking options on two sounds. Now it’s time to change it even more.
On the second and fourth set of eighth notes for each line I want you to move your right hand to a new sound source. Practice this at all dynamic levels and tempos. You should be the master of every one of these sticking options in note consistency, technique, dynamics and tempo before you start bragging about how easy this is.
As you can see, from this point it’s up to you to challenge your self. Find more and more ways to move your hands around the drum set while playing the ostinato on your feet.
The next thing you can do is start to incorporate the rhythms between your feet and hands.
Assign the “R” to one of your legs and the “L” to one of your hands and vise versa.
Another great exercise is to play a simple 2/4 rock beat and then pick four of the sticking options for a four bar drum fill. Mix it up between limbs. Come up with fun sticking options of your own and have a blast taking a simple snare drum rudiment to the next level.
I highly recommend that every drummer purchase and practice “Stick Control” by George Stone
You can find these sticking options and a bunch more that could take you an entire lifetime to practice.
Stick Control is available for purchase at LouisvilleDrummer.com/Shop
As always, feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
I thank you for your time and wish you all the best on your musical endeavors.