is a saying regarding practicing that has been attributed
to the concert pianist Vladimir Horowitz and paraphrased
by many. One version of this saying is: "If I miss
one day I know it. If I miss two days my wife knows it.
If I miss three days my audience knows it." That is
arguably the consummate statement on the importance of regular
The hours we
all put into practicing technique are very important to
us. We all do it to maintain or improve our playing. However,
often much of the time spent behind the drums is not put
to the best use.
Time spent practicing
brings up the old debate of quality versus quantity. If
the musician's focus is right, more can be accomplished
in thirty minutes time than two hours of time with the instrument.
do not really practice but "play" their instruments.
That is to say that they sit down (or stand) with the instrument
and play what they know. This can be great for the maintenance
or polishing of certain techniques but, with those exceptions,
no progress is being made.
The essence of
the practice session should be musicality while striving
for perfection and improvement. Even while practicing, the
musicians should concentrate on playing music!
and musicality are the guidelines for a productive practice
Every technique should be done as perfectly as possible.
This includes hand positions, stickings, stick height, wrist
movements, touch, etc. Practicing wrong will develop improper
technique - and all execution is affected by technique.
To strive for perfection is the first step in practicing.
Each practice session should create a challenge for the
musician to accomplish something never previously done.
This could be a new rudiment, piece of music, or exercise.
It could also be a new tempo for an old exercise, etc. And
the tempo does not necessarily have to be faster - just
different. Old exercise books are excellent ways to improve.
(Every book should be played at least twice, because it
is never mastered the first time through.) But, whatever
it is, some new accomplishment should be attempted at every
The purpose of playing any instrument is to play music.
And music should
be kept foremost in mind whenever practicing. Even when
playing a rudiment or
technical exercise it should be thought of musically and
how it can be applied to music. As stated earlier, musicality
is the essence of playing an instrument.
The amount of
practice time will vary from individual to individual and
also from beginner to professional. A beginning drummer
might practice thirty minutes to one hour a day and increase
that to two hours per day as he progresses after the first
year or so of study. If the student continues to be serious
and is looking toward or is in a college program as a music
major, the practice time should increase to approximately
two to four hours per day. As a struggling career minded
professional it can increase to four to eight hours per
day. As steady engagements, playing situations and other
responsibilities increase with a developing career (and
with life in general) practice time then starts to decrease
again. It might be one to two hours per day again or maybe
two to four hours three times a week - whatever the individual
needs are and professional and personal schedule allow.
But, whatever the situation allows, practice should be continued
throughout one's professional life under any conditions.
Lessons | Drum
now has practitioners who specialize in problems peculiar
to musicians of all instruments. They are finding that players
of the same instrument experience the same or similar problems.
(Two of the problems for drummers are carpal tunnel syndrome
and lower back pains.) To alleviate and/or prevent some
of these problems experts recommend resting for five minutes
each half hour instead of continuous practice. The recommendation
is twenty-five minutes - practice, five minutes - rest.
Drums Stuff! ***
I have made a
list of some important points that if adhered to should
not only make your practice session more productive but
also more enjoyable. (We all enjoy what we're doing much
more when we can see advancement and improvement.)
Your Hand Position: this is the No. 1 problem I have found
with drummers and students - from beginner to advanced.
Whichever grip you use, when practicing always be sure your
hands are in the correct position. It just doesn't make
sense to put time in practicing technique and not have your
hand positions correct. These positions are used for a reason
and your development will be limited if you do not use them
correctly. Once your hand position improves you will find
your playing will become much cleaner and faster.
this is the second biggest problem I've come across in teaching.
Keep in mind the phrase "one stick up, one stick down"
and practice that way. You will always have a stick in position
to make a stroke either from the high ("up") position
or from the low ("down") position. With concentration
on "sticking" your hand techniques will start
to flow much more smoothly.
Height: this is different from sticking in that it refers
to how high you bring the sticks. Whether you work from
a full 90 degree position, a 45 degree angle or anything
in between the important point is that both sticks return
to the same height. Because most of us are not ambidextrous
we have a tendency to favor our strong hand and bring that
stick to a higher position than the weak hand. This means
one stick is traveling a shorter distance to reach the drum
whenever a stroke is made. Think about it. It stands to
reason that if one stick is traveling eight inches and the
other only five inches, the stick farther away has to move
faster to reach the drum in the same time interval as the
closer stick. This also means the rebounds will be weaker
with the closer stick. Are your Single Stroke and Long Rolls
uneven? Stick height is probably at least part of the reason
- along with the Hand Position and Sticking. Concentrate
on these three common problems and you will see a vast improvement
in your technique.
Off The Drum: unless they have learned this somewhere along
the way, most drummers, especially heavy hitters, play down
into the drum instead of off it. When making your stroke
think up and bring the stick away from the head immediately
after striking it. Some teachers describe this as "drawing'
or "pulling" the sound out of the drum. The shorter
the time the stick is on the drumhead the more resonant
and responsive the drum will be. Thus, a cleaner and fuller
tone and increased stick speed.
And Practice The Rudiments: even if you only spend a minimal
amount of time on them do at least something. If you only
study one rudiment a week - just one - you will have learned
all 26 in exactly six months. You do not have to be a rudimental
champ but the knowledge will be a definite plus - and you'll
feel good about your accomplishment besides.
With A Metronome: use it at different speeds including the
slowest ones. It won't make your playing stiff but will
improve your time and meter. And, if you ever encounter
a click track in the recording studio you will be thankful
for any time spent with a metronome.
The Practicing Habit: We all know that occasionally time
is at a premium and a full practice session is impossible.
On those days at least do something - even if it's just
a 10 or 20 minute keep-in-shape or warm-up routine.
For Perfection: be as perfect as possible when practicing.
There is no sense in putting in the time and hard work if
you don't go for perfection. Be your own worst and toughest
critic and don't sell yourself short.
Your Practice Routine: this is especially helpful when practice
time is limited. Sometimes it is better to look at your
practice sessions on a weekly instead of a daily basis.
One day spend the majority of the time on hands, another
on independence, another on reading, another on rudiments,
etc. and be sure to rest for a few minutes between segments
or five minutes per half hour. This will help avoid overuse
or strain of your muscles. Be sure and spend some time creating
and just playing. Some teachers suggest you do it at the
end of your practice session. However, I have found it often
works better to do it at the very beginning to get it out
of your system. Then you can just focus on what you planned
to work on that day.
Regard To Sticks: you should generally use the same size
stick to practice with that you play with. But it can be
beneficial to spend a few minutes a week with heavier or
lighter sticks to give your hand and wrist muscles a change.
This can improve strength and reflexes.
The Traditional Grip: and if you generally play traditional
spend some time playing matched. The traditional grip has
some definite advantages which include finger dexterity
and flexibility of the weak hand. If you generally play
matched grip, spend at least some time every day on the
traditional grip. The increase in finger dexterity will
even help your matched grip playing.
Challenging Yourself: never be satisfied. Try to be working
on something new at all times - a rudiment, book, rhythm
- and once that is accomplished, whether it takes a day,
a week or a month, move on to something else new. Strive
to constantly improve during each practice session.
tips should be concentrated on only while practicing. Once
you are at rehearsals or the gig don't think about them.
Concentrate on the music and feeling relaxed and comfortable.
If you use these tips diligently every time you practice
you will find they will creep into your playing without
your realizing it and you will see a vast improvement in
your technique and playing in a few short months.
1999 Mat Marucci
Marucci is an active performer, author, educator,
and clinician listed in Whos Who In America and
International Whos Who In Music. His performing
credits include jazz greats Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell,
James Moody, Eddie Harris, Buddy De Franco, Les McCann,
Bobby Shew, Don Menza, Pharaoh Sanders, and John Tchicai,
to name just a few. He also has seven critically acclaimed
recordings to his credit as a leader and others as a sideman,
including those with John Tchicai and Jimmy Smith, with
many of them garnering four stars (****) in various trade
magazines including Jazz Times, Jazziz, and Down Beat.
Mat is the author of several books on drumming for both
Lewis Music and Mel Bay Publications, is an Adjunct Professor
for American River College (Sacramento, CA) and an endorser
for Mapex drums, Zildjian cymbals, Pro-Mark drumsticks
and Remo drumheads. He has written numerous articles on
drumming for Modern Drummer magazine, the Percussive Arts
Societys Percussive Notes and Percussion News, Pro-Marks
Upstrokes, and the online drum Magazine Cyber-Drum [www.cyberdrum.com].
Wave files of Mats playing can be heard at: http://www.jazzinspiration.com/artist15.html