How to Practice Drums Properly - Zen Tips

Steve Smith, a popular American rock and fusion drummer, talks about his practice and gives advice to practicing drummers.

Our musical development depends on what and how we practice. Because all musicians are at different levels of development, everyone practices different things. But I'm not going to talk about what exactly needs to be done, but about how to do it right in order to keep moving forward.

First, I believe that you need to practice daily. I've found that if I work out every day I really move forward, and if I take a break from my workouts I have to spend time getting back in shape afterwards.

The second important point: organize your lesson properly. Before you sit down to the drums, you need to know what exactly you will be doing today. If you practiced one thing yesterday, another today, and a third tomorrow, then there will be no progress. Work on the same day after day and be patient. Patience is another very important point. We do not have a competition, knowledge and skills take time to master. There is no way to cut here.

To learn new material, I break it down into its component parts and play it very quietly and very slowly. This is necessary in order to clearly understand what exactly I am doing and how it sounds. Then I practice the exercise until I can play it at a variety of tempos and dynamics. In more detail, first I need to understand what is the sequence of blows in each case, how the legs and arms interact. Then I practice this exercise at a very low pace until I can distract myself and stop thinking about which hand is playing and what the foot is doing, and I can hear this exercise.

While I work at a slow pace, my body learns the sequence of movements, muscle memory develops. Eventually my body starts playing this exercise on its own. It is very important to ensure that your body is as relaxed as possible during the exercise. Breathing should be slow and calm. Relaxation is very difficult to control, but the matter can be facilitated by placing a mirror in front of you and looking into it: do you have one shoulder twisted, are you slouching, and the like. Watch your breathing: it should be even and calm - no breath holding.

I will illustrate these ideas with an example of a tom pattern that I saw in Buddy Ricci's video. At first I didn't even understand what was going on: I had to slow down the playback to figure out the sequence of movements. I start with low tempo and low dynamics.

I also really like to practice within different musical forms: play four-bar phrases, eight-bar phrases, I often play while singing the blues in my mind. So I work on phrasing, swing and concentration on form. Also, like when I was a child, I play to music.

I think it's important to play with and without the click. Today, all the work in the studio is done under the click, so the ability to play under the click is one of the vital skills of a drummer. But performances are usually played without a metronome, so it's also very important to be able to play without it and keep the rhythm for all band members.

And finally, I will say that you definitely need to warm up before classes. To warm up, I sit down at the pad or take the brushes and play the snare drum. I never sit down and start peeing. I like to gradually get involved in the process. When I feel tired, I make sure to take a break. Drumming is a very physically tiring activity, take care, do not overplay, otherwise you can get injured.

Thank you for being with me, try to follow my advice.