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Here's my situation. Some suggestions on improving my technique and feel?

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  • Here's my situation. Some suggestions on improving my technique and feel?

    I'll try to make this background short: I've played drums, bass, and guitar (alternately and concurrently) in various bands for around 15 years. In the beginning, I "practiced" drums in the pure sense (rudiments, building power and speed, yadda yadda) a little, but my life got busier and I also started spending a lot more time doing bass and guitar and writing songs.

    Which has led me to where I am now. I have a strong grasp of how to play drums in a band context and have a pretty large amount of time both on the stage and in the studio. (a lot of it with a click) "Knowing how to be the drummer in a band" is my strong suit. The problem is I also have some serious weaknesses, and I'm at a point where I want to put some effort into addressing them in the interest of actually becoming a "good" drummer. My biggest issues, in order of how much they trouble me...

    -I tend to drag, to play a bit behind the beat. This is at its worst when doing fills. I think it's a combination of a)worring that I am going to screw up or sound sloppy, so I slow a bit because I'm being careful and b)worring that I'm going to rush so I inadvertently do the opposite
    -On a similar note, I tend to overthink fills as they approach and then play them poorly, rather than just playing the damn things (I often end up just not playing one at all!)
    -I get tired quicky playing faster beats
    -I'm pretty firmly in RLRLRL territory when it comes to the patterns I play. I can play paradiddles and some patterns involving double stiicking (I own Stick Conrol and every now and then practice from it) but I am terrible at applying this to actually playing music.


    What I want to ask is if you wanted to work towards resolving the following issues with your drumming, and had a fairly busy schedule, what would you practice? How would you prioritize it? Tips or tricks? I'm aware this is a mix of physical and mental issues, so be free to talk generally about aproach as well as the nitty-gritty practice stuff.

    Thanks in advance for any help and my readin my long-ass post.

  • #2
    you need lessons. this will help you break bad habits and help you set up a practice routine. plus, a good teacher will hold you accountable with these issues, so you're money won't be ill spent.

    as far as getting tired, that's just plain ol' stamina. practice.

    a good teacher will get you into good books to get you out of the typical stick control routine. although stick control is good, i can see how you might have trouble applying it around the kit. there are good drum set books out there.
    i miss you, mark
    r.i.p. rudy

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    • #3
      The kind of chops that facilitate "pro grade" drumming and musicianship are developed ground up. I can tell you to firm up on the grip and articulate the arms more. But if you aren't familiar with this manner of playing, you'd have to flop around for 6 months anyway. So no quickies here. Sorri.

      next...
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      • #4
        Practice every hand exercise you can get your hands on, WITH A METRONOME, and that will go far in helping your timing issues during fills.

        Best advice I can give is to find a great teacher that can show you both the Moeller and Gladstone methods, both the "key" to tension free, relaxed playing.
        "If you can't SAY something with your instrument, try sellin' cars."-
        The late, great Tony Williams

        www.russleonardi.com
        www.zephyrsound.com
        — Sonor Designer Maple shell (heavy) 8 pc. for studio
        — Premier Genista 7 pc. for live gigs
        — Tama Silverstar "Metro" 4pc. for certain live gigs.
        — Paiste, Bosphorus and Sabian cymbals, depending on what I'm doin'.
        — Small collection of assorted snare drums to suit my mood.

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        • #5
          It's actually good that you have a sense to not play the fill if you think it's going to go bad. Good drummers must know their limits, try pushing them in practice but being reserved as a drummer often means your serving the song before showcasing your talents as an individual. Definitely practice as much as you can with a metronome or prerecorded music. It also helps starting slow and trying to feel every subdivision, even if you're not playing them.

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          • #6
            Thanks for the input so far. I will probably start taking lessons (again) in the future, but in the meantime am really looking for what to incorporate into a solo practice routine that might help with the issues I mentioned.

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            • #7
              My opinion?
              Quit playing 'fills'.
              Quit even thinking about playing fills.

              IME, the more one thinks about a formal 'fill' the less likely it is to serve the song and the more intrusive/obvious it is, generally speaking.
              Think more about making sure the feel of your time is stellar; groove so thick you can drive nails through it, so tasty you won't want to eat for weeks...

              When you've got that on lock, add in the most simple 1-2 note accents at section ends you can think of rather than longer fills. These 'mini-fills' should be more than enough to spice up your playing for a long time, until you can master some other aspects of playing.
              For cripe's sake, somebody buy that kid a freaking DICTIONARY already!

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              • #8
                My opinion?
                Quit playing 'fills'.
                Quit even thinking about playing fills.

                IME, the more one thinks about a formal 'fill' the less likely it is to serve the song and the more intrusive/obvious it is, generally speaking.
                Think more about making sure the feel of your time is stellar; groove so thick you can drive nails through it, so tasty you won't want to eat for weeks...

                When you've got that on lock, add in the most simple 1-2 note accents at section ends you can think of rather than longer fills. These 'mini-fills' should be more than enough to spice up your playing for a long time, until you can master some other aspects of playing.


                I agree with this totally as an approach, and I'll keep it in mind. A problem, though, is sometime I feel a bit lacking with "fills" as short as even just a half measure. I tend to focus so much on the basic groove than varying it at all can be jarring to my tempo.

                I don't really have a problem with playing a groove with good time; I could do that all day, but I'm trying to grow out of that being my only strength. The other thing is that sometimes with bands I play with want me to play slightly longer, more complex fills. (I'm not talking prog, but you know... one or two measures and possibly with some syncopation) It's not like I can't do that, it's just that I know this is where I'm at my weakest time-wise.

                But I understand what you're sying and appreciate the input.

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                • #9
                  There have been a lot of threads lately referring to this.

                  If you are dragging, it's time to take out the metronome once again.

                  Find a comfy tempo...I dunno 85 bpm, something like that. Set it up so you can hear the eight notes. Put an accent on the one. Play a simple beat, no fills. Bass drum on one and three, snare on 2 and 4. Make sure your snare and bass drum nail the click dead on. Dead on, no variants. Do it for 10 minutes. Pay attention to your eighth notes on the hi hats, make sure they are lining up as well. Pay attention to how the kick and snare feel when you hit it dead nuts. Remember, no flamming the hits whatsoever. Speed up the tempo to 95 and do it again for 10 minutes. Keep paying attention and make sure you are dead on. Remember this is an exercise, nothing else.

                  This may not be the natural way you play a particular groove, but it makes you aware of your time. I always say, you can practice to a click dead on for a long time, but when you play music, the "natural-ness" of our playing personality will always come out. You are not going to sound like a robot. You are going to play how you play, but you will be in time and in the pocket. It makes you aware of time-feel. When you develop this to a higher degree, you can actually start hearing other musicians when they are pushing or pulling the time. You find out you can actually "control" where you put the beat. You have more a variety of different feels for the music you are playing. It won't be "roll the dice and see what feel it's going to be this time" or "I will get it 4 out of 10 or 7 out of 10". No, you can get it 10 out of 10. You can have full control of your time feel. Put the bass drum behind the beat with your snare dead on...or make your hihats have a really laid back feel while you put the snare on top of the beat....or the hihat can have a staccato feel with your bass drum ahead of the beat etc etc etc. Full control. It can also give you the ability to adapt to different musicians and their interputation of the time feel. "If the bass player is doing this, then I can do that...."

                  My advice for fills initially is keep them simple to start and learn to play them in time. Then you can get more adventurous as time goes on. Again, you have to develop your time feel because everything you do drum-wise relates to that...beats, fills etc. Your primary job as a drummer is to keep time. Develop it. The fancy playing can come later...but even then, you need to have good time. Good luck!
                  ___________________________________________
                  Don't believe anything you hear and half of what you read.

                  "My approach to odd times is no different from anyone else who can play it. I just sub-divide it in to groups of two and three based on what I heard other people do in the past"....... someone from the crowd yells: Do it !!! .........."Ok, I'll do it!"

                  Yeah, I let, I let them go out front and pranch around a bit, while I provide the forward thrust .... " - Stewart Copeland

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                  • #10

                    My advice for fills initially is keep them simple to start and learn to play them in time. Then you can get more adventurous as time goes on. Again, you have to develop your time feel because everything you do drum-wise relates to that...beats, fills etc. Your primary job as a drummer is to keep time. Develop it. The fancy playing can come later...but even then, you need to have good time. Good luck!


                    I'm definitely going to be busting the metronome out again, and I like the practice suggestion you gave above. Part of what's frustrating is that I can (and have) play a basic beat to a click for ages (sometimes as practice, sometimes when recording) comfortably, and my time even without a metronome (when playing a basic groove) is pretty good. I do have a slight tendency to drag but I'm pretty aware of it and metronome practice helps a lot, so I know what to work on.

                    I guess what I'm trying to say is I've been done the "basic beat plus metronome" thing a lot, really, and gotten pretty good at holding down a groove in a band (I'm one of those drummers the band has to sometimes convince to add a fill where I don't play one), but it doesn't seem to help my issues with hesitating into fills and dragging them once they start.

                    I feel like most of them time my feel and tempo are really pretty good but then suddenly somewhat less consistent when I do add a fill. It actually makes me wonder if I should be playing more fills when I practice with a click.

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                    • #11
                      It's totally a guess, but I suspect a common reason for that: as comfortable as you are with playing straight time, you're still not at a point where the count is innate/second nature.

                      In simplest terms, the point is to be able to get back to '1' on time/tempo when coming out of a fill; unless/until you instinctively know when and where '1' occurs in any situation, you're likely to have challenges with your fills fitting in well/correctly (Obviously a fill can go 'over' the bar line, but let's stick to the most basics here).

                      Solution?
                      More time with straight time.

                      Again, my opinion only.
                      For cripe's sake, somebody buy that kid a freaking DICTIONARY already!

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                      • #12
                        In simplest terms, the point is to be able to get back to '1' on time/tempo when coming out of a fill; unless/until you instinctively know when and where '1' occurs in any situation, you're likely to have challenges with your fills fitting in well/correctly.


                        That's, uh, a really good point.

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                        • #13
                          Could be logistics too. Going from static arms to very often several feet of object to object and back is quite a bit different than say playing that same composite rhythm as a snare drum cadence.

                          A good experiment would be to practice basic drum to drum patterns and rhythms watching for latency and physical weakness.
                          The key is go slowly enough that you have slow motion on what you're doing. You can then apply whatever rocket science you need. This by the way is the best way to practice the amazing stuff as well.
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