The Great Question:
How Many Hours Should I Practice Each Day?
The Short Answer: As much or as little as you’d like. 😉
The Long Answer: It’s relative to your goals. Do you wish to be one of the best? Then, you should make sure you’re practicing quite a bit. And that means a whole helluva lot! “But what if I don’t wish to be among the greats?” you ask. Well, from there you need to determine the level of player you are.
I believe there are basically 4 levels of players. The first is the beginner level where that player is more or less just getting started. The second is an intermediate level where maybe you’ve been playing long enough just to be dangerous (as the saying goes, lol). After that, you’ve got the pro player, or level three, that has quite a bit of experience and knowledge under their belt but wants to be better. Finally, you’ve got the very serious-minded musician at level four. They desire to swim among the best out there.
Level 1 – Practice a lot in the beginning. Get those fundamentals down (basic drum rudiments, beats, styles, etc.) These are at the core of drumming. Consider them the roots of the tree or the foundation of the house. It’s got to be solid.
Level 2 – There’s more to drumming than cool gadgets and gear. Put some extra practice in so you can hold your own. You don’t want to be falling apart on stage or playing the wrong beats to the songs. Make sure you know what you’re doing. Do it for the band. Do it for yourself. Don’t be stuck at level two. You’re capable of so much more. 🙂
Level 3 – You’re reasonably good (maybe even great) and people enjoy your playing. You know you can do better and want to do better but you tend to make excuses for why you’re not practicing more. Stop making excuses. Excuses are the nails that build a house of failure. Get in the practice room and put the time in. You’ll thank me later.
Level 4 – Listen friend, you don’t have time to be messing around. If you want to be among the best, you’ve got to eat, drink, and live this stuff like there’s no tomorrow! You should be putting in long hours of practicing and be laser-focused on your goal. Make sacrifices. Don’t stop until you get there. David Garibaldi once told me, “Most musicians stop right before they make it”. He also said, “There’s a lot of room at the top”. Food for thought.
Now to the good stuff. You don’t really ever have to practice. I repeat; you don’t really have to practice much at all. The last two sentences are a lie. You get out of life what you put into it. You reap what you sew. If you don’t practice, you’re gonna suck. Want it stated more eloquently? If you practice and put the time in, you’re going to get good. It will increase confidence in your playing as you progress. Others will be complimenting you all the time. Your peers will want to play like you. Bands will want to hire you. You will enjoy playing even more. You will have the ability to make lots more money. You will get to play with other great players on a higher level. And so on.
“But Mike, you’ve yet to tell me how hours I should be practicing each day.” Oh that’s right, the very theme of this article. Well, we recently posted the following in an online drummer’s group: “Is practicing 6 to 8 hours a day a good thing or a bad thing? What about life balance?” – With over 200 answers, my favorites were those about quality being more important than quantity, about what else in life one is currently juggling, and about not hurting yourself with repetitive stress injuries. There were the expected handful of negative Nancy’s (that’s Karen’s sister) that had something to prove but for the most part, everyone had constructive feedback relative to their life experience thus-far. But what really caught me by surprise was, the most insightful post happened to come from a drumming legend! It was from none other than country drumming icon himself, Larrie Londin. This is what he wrote:
… I can boil this huge subject down to a few points of experience. More practice equals more ability. The idea of diminishing returns over time is negated by the fact that if you start out 100% productive and later you’re only 50% productive, then you are still productive, especially over others who stop early. Love the quote, “Laziness is nothing more than resting before you get tired.” Also, that you learn differently in multiple short sessions and in singular long ones, so do both. Last thought on a huge subject: If you want to be extraordinary, you simply have to do the extra.”
But Mike, you’re still not telling us how many hours each day! Alright, alright! Here it is:
Practice 1 hour a day. Practice 4 hours a day. Practice 8 hours a day. Practice every day. Practice every other day. Practice once a week. Practice once a month. Practice the exact amount of time that will get you to your goals. BUT… (notice how big that BUT was? lol)… I recommend doing more than less. That’s because as human nature has it, we generally fall short of the goals we set for ourselves. Pick the level of musician you want to be and practice the amount of time that it takes to get there. I wanted to be among the greats so I generally practiced 4 to 8 hours a day in my heyday. It allowed me to reach a very high level of playing and even live out many of my dreams. The number of hours you should be practicing is up to you. Quality practicing is more important than quantity practicing but remember; repetition is also how you get really good. Repetition requires lots of time (repeating over and over again until you get it down pat). Put the time in. Put it in until you get there. Pick a rudiment, groove, or lick and make that the thing you learn for the day. Practice however many hours in that day that you need to to complete that goal. Do it again the next day. Set goals for yourself. Make sure you’re disciplined. Write it all down if you have to and hold yourself accountable. You get out of it what you put into it.
How many hours should you be practicing each day? As much or as little as you’d like. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But… “If you want to be extraordinary, you simply have to do the extra.”
I hope you enjoyed the read. I like keeping it loose and fun. I’m a frustrated writer so thanks for indulging me. I hoped it’s been inspiring for at least some of you.
– Mike Donovan
P.S. I don’t promote myself too much but I do practice what I preach. At 59, I still practice daily (about an hour or so). If you’re interested, I occasionally post something here.
DrumChat.com – One of the largest drum forums online, packed with valuable drum information.
DrumTips.com – Over 2000 tips and tricks for drumming!
Daniel Glass – Top drummer, author, and educator in the drumming industry.