It’s all a bit much!!
Does it sometimes seem like learning to play the drums can be overwhelming? Or maybe one day everything seems to be going great when you’re practising and the next it feels like you’ve moved back instead of forward?
I know I definitely have those days. The sticks feel super heavy, the pedals feel like they have a brake attached to them that wasn’t there yesterday and every tempo you reached in the last session all of a sudden seems like it’s off in the distance and out of reach again.
These feelings are totally normal and a part of becoming a drummer. No matter where you are on your journey this will happen at some point and may leave you feeling pretty deflated and knock you’re confidence but don’t worry! There are some things you can do to help make these ‘off days’ a little easier both mentally and physically.
I’m going to start with the mental side of dealing with this type of situation. I can only speak for myself, but, I believe this can be where a lot of the issues may lie. Let’s go right to beginning, even before you enter the practise room, studio or garden shed!!
Have you thought about some of these before practising?
How are you expecting this practise session to go?
What are you trying to achieve?
How do you want you and your drums to sound?
How did you sleep last night?
Did you have a good breakfast?
Did you exercise this morning?
These are just a few things that can have an effect on how a practise session might begin and end. Now, I’m not going to give any specific tips on how to go about your day as I think thats an individual choice and you know what works best for you. I will say however, a late night and skipping breakfast probably isn’t the best way to get the most from your day let alone your practise session.
Another part of dealing with difficult areas of your playing can be to break things into smaller, more manageable goals. For instance if you’re trying to reach a certain tempo or learn a crazy linear groove, break it into smaller pieces that you can handle one at a time. I have recently been working on the Tommy Igoe Advanced Warm Up. This is something thats been bugging me for a long time and thanks to a friend’s Instagram challenge I have finally nailed it! Thanks Ben!!
The Tommy Igoe warm up is 10 minutes long so in order for me to reach the goal of completing it I had to break it down into chunks. When I wanted to finish the Flam section of the warm up, my practise was based around that. Below is an example of what I mean.
This is an entry from my practise diary;
Tommy Igoe Advanced | Target tempo - 180bpm
Flam Combo @ 154bpm
Alternating flams @ 175bpm
Flam Drag @ 130bpm
Swiss Triplet @ 154bpm
The warm up has varying tempos but they all end up roughly between 160 - 180 so this was my target tempo for each of the sections. Now, when I first started this warm up it felt nearly impossible to reach those kind of speeds and I was so put off I didn’t work on it for nearly 2 YEARS!!! Once I had broken it down into more manageable pieces I got through it in a month!!! Less overwhelm = a ton more productivity!
Lastly, if something is seemingly out of reach and almost an impossibility, go back to the beginning and take it super slow. By doing this you are not only allowing your brain the chance to actually take the information in but you are also building your confidence. By successfully completing the exercise at a slower tempo you will get a sense of achievement and will continue to every time you hit a new level.
I like to use a rule in my drumming that goes like this; “The slower you do it, the quicker you learn it”
Remember this rule next time your blazing around the drums getting frustrated that it doesn’t sound the way you want it to. Take it easy!
Lets get physical!
We’ve had a look at the mental side of dealing with overwhelm, lets have a look at how we can prepare the body for those long, difficult sessions at the drums.
Before we start this I must say that technique obviously plays a huge roll in this department. Poor technique is something that you will need to address much sooner rather than later. If you’re unsure what proper technique is, drop me a message and we can have a look at where you are now and address any issues that may need looking at.
Once you have your technique in order, try some of the following to see if they can help.
Yoga, or any form of stretching your whole body before you play
Having your drum set up correctly and comfortably
Correct drum stick choice
These are a few of the tools I use to make sure I can keep focused on the practise instead of any other physical issue that may distract me from what I’m working on. I’m a big yoga fan and would encourage anyone to practise as much as possible.Yoga has worked wonders for me, it has allowed me to feel light and free to move with comfort. A no brainer when it comes to moving around a drum kit.
Alongside preparing your body, why not try mixing things up with your set up. Move the Hi-Hat slightly, or adjust the height of your cymbals or stool. My suggestion with this is to only move one or two things at a time and only move them a little. A big huge movement from what your used to may cause more harm than good. Nevertheless, experiment and see what works for you, you may stumble across something you’ve never tried before!
Here’s a quick recap of some the tips I have offered in this post.
Don’t expect too much of yourself when going into a practise session
Break things into manageable chunks
Keep your body fit and free to move
Choose the right gear and set it up correctly
Overall, try to do whats best and feels comfortable for you. I try to stay away from the idea of the practise room being a place where we sweat it out and feel the burn.
I don’t want to look at my drum space as a ‘gym’ as this doesn’t feel right to me. Now that isn’t to say I don’t work hard when I’m in here but more that I always try to keep the creative mindset when playing. There is a time for building speed and repetition after repetition but I’ll always try to mix this with bursts of creativity by adding in creative exercises.
After all, isn’t that what we are making music for?