In this article, I’m going to share about how drum practice and playing will help you get more professional drumming opportunities. I’m also going to dive deep into key aspects of drum practice and ideas for getting more playing experience.
This article is a continuation of the 5 things that can make you a professional drummer. If you didn’t already read about the first two things, be sure to check out Part #1 and Part #2.
3 – Enjoy practicing drums
The third thing you’ll need to become a professional drummer is lots and lots of drum practice. I’m gonna tell you straight up. I enjoy practicing. It feels good mentally and physically.
Drum practice, connects the dots for our hand and foot coordination, timing, feel, speed, dynamics, drum notation reading and so much more.
Practicing drums gives us that time and space we need to work out things are difficult for us. The more we practice, the more natural our drumming becomes. It also prepares us to play with other musicians.
I’ve always thought of drum practice as a mix of hand and foot drumming patterns, coordination exercises and rehearsing with real musicians. In fact, I also have some great backing tracks for drums that allow you to practice your Jazz drumming with skilled professional musicians.
I think as long as we have a mix of these three things, we can excel in our drumming. To learn more about the drum setup I’m using in the photo above, check out my video below.
I also wrote another article about the practice cymbals I use. These are very helpful for getting real cymbal feeling at a fraction of the volume.
Perfection is not the goal
Please keep in mind that playing perfectly is not the goal of drum practice. The real aim of practicing is to get better at drumming so you can do more things on the drums.
The more you can do, the more drumming opportunities you’re gonna have and the more fun you’re going to have playing. After all, that’s why we started playing drums in the first place.
Have this mindset every time you practice and think that every bit you’re doing in your drum practice routine, will increase the fun in your drumming. If we’re focused too much on perfection, it can quickly take the enjoyment out of our drum practice.
Your goal then is not to be perfect but to have more fun. Think this way and you’ll relax and learn so much more in your drum practice. You’ll also move more quickly toward getting professional drumming opportunities.
No pressure to practice
You might find it interesting that I’ve never pressured any of my hundreds of students to practice. There’s no pressure at all.
I just let them experience the rewarding feeling they get from nailing something new. It’s a real feeling of accomplishment and makes them want to practice more.
My students also learn that drum practice will lead to professional drumming opportunities. All of that together becomes the motivation and they’re motivated from inside to get better. I don’t have to lord over them every week asking, “Did you practice?”
I share drumming information with students and teach them what’s going be valuable in the real world of music.
In this way, I hold the door open for my them. It’s their job to walk through it. My students have to do the work to improve their drumming and they do.
How much drum practice is enough?
A question I get from my students a lot is how much they should practice. My response is always the same. “How much fun do you wanna have? The more you practice, the more you can do. The more you can do, the more fun you’re gonna have.” That’s just the way it works.
So, when I was young I practiced easily, three hours or more a day. Now I have a family with much less time for drum practice. Maybe you’re like me with a family. Maybe you’ve got a high-pressure job or some kind of work that requires a lot of your time.
If your time is limited, you can set a goal to practice at least 45 minutes a day on a very specific topic. Something like swing triplet fills on brushes for example (see the video below).
The main thing is to really focus during those 45 minutes. That’s key, because your brain is going to retain a lot more.
Going in there and trying to cover too many things in a short period of time is not helpful for your learning. I have another article about goal setting for drummers to help you structure and get the most out of your drum practice.
The amount of time is important but the quality of the learning each time you practice is more important. Every focused minute of drum practice is a step closer to becoming a professional drummer.
Concentration is key
Another thing that’s key is concentration. You want to really set aside time where there’s very little or no distraction.
Another aspect of concentration is not letting your mind wander. Keep your thoughts focused only on what you are playing and practicing. If your concentration is strong you can get so much learned in 45 minutes.
4 – Get experience in your playing
The fourth essential ingredient to become a professional drummer is to get experience playing with other musicians.
I had a lesson in the early nineties with great Jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton. I talked about him a little bit in the first blog post of this series. He told me that I was playing good but that I needed more “mileage on my playing.”
What he meant was that I wasn’t playing enough with other musicians. I wasn’t performing enough and I didn’t really have a consistency in my playing that you hear in drummers who gig a lot.
Jeff had a really good point. Consistency is king. Things like the spacing between your notes, dynamics and the timing of your feet and hands paint an aural picture of your playing to the listener. If your timing is off between your ride cymbal and your high hat, for example, it’s going to sound kind of amateurish.
The more you play out with other musicians, the more these small but significant details will iron themselves out. Playing with other human beings will really develop your consistency on the drums.
Just play anywhere with anyone
Get out there and play as much as you can. I encourage you to play music with friends, family, at jam sessions, your respected houses of worship, school music programs or anywhere else that you can gain experience in performing with people.
Every town usually has at least one Jazz jam session. Many times there are also jam sessions for other things styles of music like Funk and Rock.
Look around and see what you can find. If you can’t find a jam session, make one and invite your friends to play. You can always create playing opportunities for yourself.
Playing with other musicians provides so many benefits for your drumming development. In every live situation, there are subtle timing, dynamic, rhythmic, harmonic, melodic and sound mix details your brain is integrating.
For example, if you’re on the stage and can’t hear the piano player so well, you’ll need to adjust your volume lower to hear the piano. Sometimes the electric bass player is too loud. In that case you’ll have to tell the bass player, “Could you turn your amp down a little bit?”
For advice on giving feedback to other musicians about their playing, check out the third article of this series, How A Pro Drummer Attitude Will Make You Successful.
Your brain is very cool
In a live music situation, there are many things that you have to navigate on the bandstand. For example, if the bass player doesn’t turn his or her amp down, you will have to adjust your listening to focus more on the other instruments that you can’t hear so well.
Sometimes when I’m playing in a hall, I may have to play louder. If the sound tech is great though, I can play naturally. I don’t have to play bigger because I’m playing in a bigger space.
If I’m playing in a small club, obviously, I’m going to play with more dynamics. I don’t want to overpower all of the other musicians. You learn how to adjust your drumming to the room the more you play out.
Your brain is going to take in all of the details of that live situation and process them to help you connect your drums to the music. It’s pretty cool that the brain can do all that.
So all that is how you get the “mileage” in your playing. Your drumming is going to become more consistent regardless of where you’re playing or who you’re playing with. The most important thing is just to get out there and play.
Your time and feel will get better too
The two most important things that lead to more professional drumming opportunities are good time and feel. “Time” is being able to stay in tempo. “Feel” is making the groove and the music feel good.
Both of these are going to really develop as you play with others. Always be on the lookout, for opportunities to play the music you enjoy and also any other kind of music that comes your way.
Playing with tracks can help too
As I mentioned above great backing tracks for drums (also called drumless tracks) can help you get playing experience too.
They can help you develop your time, feel and Jazz comping too. Jazz comping is short for “accompanying.” It means, playing rhythmic figures on the drums that align or complement what the other musicians in the band are playing.
The most important quality you need in your drumless tracks is that human touch. They have to have real musicians playing on them. Below is an example of playing along with real drumless tracks.
That’s a wrap for Part 2 of this three-part series. Practice your drums as much as you can and get out there and play with other musicians. These two things will give you professional drumming opportunities.
If you do these two things consistently, your playing will start to even out. The professional drumming opportunities will also start rolling in.
Be sure to check out the 5th thing you need to become a professional working drummer. It might even be the most important of the 5.
Thanks for reading and KEEP ON DRUMMIN’!
What is your favorite practice routine?
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