Percussion Practice Tips and Mistakes
We have compiled a list of what we think are the most common mistakes people make when they first pick up the drumsticks, whether a kid, teenager or an adult.
- Playing too fast – when learning rudiments, a roll or even playing along to a song if you play too fast to begin with, and then keep playing fast but wrong, you will end up committing it to memory incorrectly. Start slow and work your way up! The slower you go, the more deliberate and better your technique will be on each hit.
- Holding the sticks too tight – half of the playing comes from the drumsticks, so if you hold them too tightly you are going to crush the sound before it’s made. Hold them loosely, let them bounce. Don’t go through all that effort getting a drum that resonates perfectly and the ideal sticks and then stop them from doing what they do best.
- Holding the sticks too loose – But didn’t we just say that…? Unfortunately, when a student is told that they are holding the sticks too tight they usually then overcompensate and hold them too loosely and lose control, which that doesn’t just mean dropping the sticks, you lose control of the sound. You will need to find the right balance. This is not information to do so, so be sure to check out Drum! Magazine’s write up which has incredibly detailed instructions.
- Roll before you run – Take small steps, don’t play a few paradiddles and then think the next step is Keith Moon. It is not a race and whilst it can be very frustrating, the most frustrating thing will be if you jump too far too quickly and then stop improving altogether. You may even get by, having skipped a few key lessons, but eventually, when going to record or play at school or in a band, it will expose the holes in your playing. At this point holes and poor form are well embedded in your style and technique. This will ultimately take much more work to sort out so it is best to not develop them in the first place. It is really a case of the tortoise rather than the hare.
- Record yourself playing – This tip is invaluable. Every session, record yourself playing for a couple of minutes and then play it back. We do appreciate people don’t like hearing the sound of their own voice or probably their drumming, but it is an important method. It will allow you to hear yourself with an objectivity which is quite hard whilst your playing.
- Practice deliberately – Don’t just sit behind a kit and aimlessly do a bit of this and a bit of that. This will normally result in you leaning towards the bits you like and neglecting the more difficult or boring tasks. Like with anything, allocate an amount of time for each skill or segment. So say 20 minutes on rudiments, 20 minutes on speed, 10 minutes accuracy and 10 minutes just having fun. Repetitive practice makes perfect. Set goals and track your progress – say you did a successful double roll at 90bpm. Write it down and then tomorrow try 95 bpm. This not only makes sure you can see your progress but it always reinforces that you are progressing.
- Practice your rudiments on a practice pad – This is the best way to drill in the techniques and get your rudiments up to scratch. It is the single most important piece of equipment you could own. Try with just the pad and a metronome. It is a beginner drummer’s best friend.
- Use a metronome – This cannot be stressed enough. Download a metronome app, there are hundreds and always have it set to the speed you are playing. Always!
- Hitting the drums too hard (or too soft) – Power does not equal volume. When you see the best drummers drum, it is not a case of smashing the head as hard as possible. If you do that, in all likelihood your techniques will go out the window. That being said you need to be able to project – not every note should be a ghost note!
- Footwork – Your foot pedal techniques are as important as your hand. If you are off with the pedals then it will show. This is where you will really brush up on your multi-tasking. At first it can be a chore and be tempting to ignore it and just play the beat on the heads and cymbals, but do not do this! It is a bad habit and will hurt you in the long run.
- Posture – Another one that is overlooked as it may not appear to affect your playing immediately. It may not now, but over your drumming lifetime, poor posture will ruin your back not just when drumming but in everyday life. You only get one back people, treat it well. An important part of this is making sure you get a decent drum throne to sit on. If it is too hard it will affect your posture and you will get lower back pain in the long run.
- Finally – Have Fun! Ok, so lots of things to take in here, but most importantly, have fun! If you only ever practice with technique with no end in sight, you may well lose the will to go on and ultimately you may just pack it in. There will be points that you feel like screaming and throwing the sticks out of the window (most likely the 100th time you miss a 150 bpm paradiddle). Drumming is about fun, letting loose and expressing of yourself. So during your practice, make sure you allocate time just to mess around, be creative, play along with songs you have always wanted. Just go crazy. This way you will want to carry on playing for years to come.
So by now you probably feel like this:
And rightly so. Hopefully though, these tips will help to set you on your drumming journey or at least give you some food for thought. If you have anything you want to add to the list or just need some help, please be sure to comment in the comment section below.