Calgary Drummer, Percussionist, Composer, Educator...

Home Lessons
Student's Corner - Practicing
Welcome to Celene's Student's Corner! Below is an article on Practicing.
Links to other articles:
Drum Set Books list
The most important part of your development as a percussionist and/or drummer is your practice time. It is more important to practice consistently and efficiently than to put in a lot of shed time crammed before a lesson.
The Brain and Body
The brain is an incredible filing system. If used properly, you can achieve better results with your practice regimen in less time. How? Input the information that you want to learn correctly the first time.
Think of your brain like a brand new computer.  As you develop a skill, you are teaching your brain and body what sequence of events it will be recalling later. If you practice very slowly and perfectly over and over, your brain will recall those specific motions most accurately.  If you practice incorrectly, your brain will also store that information. When it is time to recall the information, your brain now has option A (good habits slowly practiced) or option B (incorrect, inprecise techniques) to choose from.
Want to become more accurate? Slow down, get it right, and practice it consistently that way.  ONLY when you are feeling you have perfected something at a slow pace and have SLEPT on it, should you move your tempo higher.
Practice Piggy Bank
Practicing is a lot like putting money into a piggy bank.  You can only take out of your piggy bank what you have put into it.  The skills you hone during practice sessions keep adding up!
If you only save one penny a day for five days, at the end of that week you have five cents.  At the end of the month, you have twenty cents.  That is not a lot of buying power.  But if you put in one dollar a day for five days, at the end of one week you have five dollars, and at the end of the month you have twenty dollars. That is a LOT more buying power! Practicing works the same way! It is cumulative.  Each session adds up to more skills in your practice piggy bank.
Getting Into the Habit
One of the most difficult things to do is to be disciplined enough to be consistent.  Get into the habit of practicing by selecting a time each day, or several times a week, that you set aside specifically for skill building.  Once you're at your instrument, ready to play, it's easy and fun!  Mastery of an instrument is satisfying!
Keeping track of your practicing will help you see your accumulated skills and help to motivate you.  Having a practice journal will help you see what you've put into your practice piggy bank, and help you decide what you need to work on in your next practice session to meet your goals.
Setting goals is important to motivation.  If you have a song you want to play along to, or a date that you wish to present your music, or if you just want to master the double paradiddle, or simply to focus inward or relieve stress, setting some short term and long term goals will help to get you to the practice room adding to your skills.
Practice Guidelines
1) Warm up.  This can be simple single stroke exercizes (first page of Stone Stick Control), double stroke roll development, or running through some rudiments.  Slowly warming up the body for a few minutes before strenuous playing is essential to injury prevention.  You'd never expect a runner to sprint without warming up their muscles, a musician is an athlete.
2) Practice Something New. Whether it is a new rudiment, new scale, new section of a song, if you begin your session (after warming up) with something challenging while your mind is fresh, you will have more patience for the task.
3) Use a Metronome. A percussionist needs to have steady meter.  A metronome is challenging to use at first, but once you begin playing along with a metronome, your sense of time will become much steadier.  It can help you to play fills in time, help you determine your habits to drag (get slower) or rush (get faster), and will definitely keep your time honest.
4) If you get frustrated, move to a different task. Once you've taken a stress break, come back to the challenging task.  You cannot expect to get everything right off the bat!  Be forgiving! You are studying an artform and it will take time to master.  You are a master in training. Be patient, grasshopper!
5) Practice Smaller Chunks. If you take on a huge task, it can be overwhelming.  Small steps all add up to the bigger picture. Practice short passages.  Add a new passage, review the previous passage, and connect the two passages.
6) Practice what you don't know. If you start at the beginning every time, your will have an awesome beginning, but those rough spots will not get worked out!  Pinpoint the small sections that need the most work, and slowly work through them.  Once you've worked it out, then put the pieces back together.
7) Take Breaks. If you are practicing for a longer session, remember to treat your body with respect and take breaks.  If you are getting frustrated, take a break. If you are tired, take a break. Pausing for a few minutes to take a drink of water is often enough to get your brain and body back on track.  If there is any pain or discomfort, stop what you are doing and call your teacher! There is something in your technique that will need tweaking.
8) Review What you Know and Enjoy. If you finish your session with something rewarding, you will leave the session feeling good about what you have learned so far.
9) Keep a Practice Journal. The best way to track progress is to write down what you've been working on.  Just like a balanced work out, you need to keep your practice sessions well rounded with a selection of materials targeting different skills.  This will also keep you honest about the time put in, and help you set goals.  It's also a place to write down questions, frustrations, issues that you can take to your instructor for more guidence with.
10) Be Patient, and Have Fun!! What is the point on doing anything if it isn't going to be enjoyable?  Certainly the better you are at something, the more fun it becomes!!  Be patient with yourself, and celebrate small advances in your skills!  Skills are cumulative!  Whatever you put in you will be able to take out of it, but it is a process of learning.  Enjoy the challenges. Enjoy what you observe about yourself through the process.  Don't forget to have FUN!! If it's fun you will stick with it!