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THE TENOR DRUMMER Intro to Tenor Drumming 7 Ways to Drum Better Now

7 Ways to Drum Better Now

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We are all very busy. Whether you have to focus on school, your job, family, or social life, there just never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything you want done. Finding time to practice drumming is just another thing to add to the list, so how can you make the most of this time and immediately improve your tenor drumming?

In this post, I will explain my techniques to make your practice time as efficient and beneficial as possible, so you can see instant results!

Ditch the Metronome and Play on One Drum

Let’s say that you just got the new audition packet for next year’s drumline or maybe the show notes that you’ll be playing. When you are seeing notes for the first time, it is important that you start on one drum. There is no need to play the around patterns until you have everything figured out on a single drum. I usually start on drum two. Keep the metronome off and slowly, keyword SLOWLY, play through the music. Note any difficult passages that you have trouble with, so you can address these problem areas.

Isolate Trouble Spots

Some drummers that I marched with would always play things from top to bottom without ever isolating the trouble spots. Guess what, they would make the same mistakes over and over. This is not efficient! When a section is tripping you up, break it down and figure out what the issue is. If you have to play one measure over and over, do it. Don’t be afraid to play just one beat or even a half of a beat over and over, do it! Play it extremely slowly until you can figure it out, then gradually add more counts before and after and increase the tempo.

Now Turn that Metronome On

Once you can comfortably play through the music (still on one drum), turn on your metronome. You can play along to metronome tracks, an app, or if you want to get the real deal, check out this Dr. Beat Bundle Pack. This is what most drumlines use, so you might as well get used to it.

The specific tempo depends on what you are playing, but again, start slow and focus on playing perfectly in time with your metronome. Isolate any issues where things get a little “fuzzy”. Take it slow and figure out exactly how the notes line up with the metronome. Don’t be afraid to add eighth notes or triplets to the met to help you subdivide.

As you get comfortable, slowly increase the tempo until you are close to the “show” tempo. Don’t worry if you can’t play it “at tempo” yet. Building muscle memory is the important part here.

Move it Around

Now that you’ve worked it out on one drum, it’s time to work on the around pattern. Turn the metronome off and just as before, slowly work through the “arounds”, isolating anything that gives you trouble. Don’t be afraid to play certain passages many, many times if that’s what it takes. It is well worth your time to teach your hands how to play correctly (of course, you are focusing on your playing positions as well).

Now that you can get through the music around the drums, turn the metronome back on, starting slow and working your way up. I like to increase the metronome 4-8 bpm after I get comfortable with a few reps. As soon as you are feeling like you are topping off tempo-wise, slow it back down. Don’t rush into a tempo that you are not ready to handle yet. Your brain is working on sending the signals to your hands and it can’t quite keep up yet. With more practice, these signals will be sent quicker and quicker and you’ll get up to speed in no time.

Use a Mirror

This next part is absolutely crucial if you want to immediately improve your tenor drumming, PLAY IN FRONT OF A MIRROR! I don’t hear too many people talk about it, but it is one of the best ways to drastically improve your playing. It gives you the perspective of the audience, your tech, or percussion judge; basically, all of the people who will actually be watching and critiquing your playing.

Mirrors can be a little expensive, so let’s go through your options. Some homes have big sliding closet doors made out of mirrors, this would be your best option. If that doesn’t pertain to you, then I would look on Craigslist or keep an eye out for garage sales and get the largest mirror you can find. I recently got a 4’x3′ mirror for $10. That is definitely big enough. Even a window can be quite reflective when it is dark outside. If all else fails, you can always grab a mirror like this one Rectangular Wall Mirror. As a side note, I have heard good things about trying to “learn” something in the hour or two before you go to bed, so maybe waiting until that window turns into a mirror can be a double benefit.

Make References for Your Heights

Once you have your mirror mounted, you’ll want to pick a specific spot to set up your drums or pad. This way, you can take a dry erase marker and put little lines on the mirror for each height that you have to play: 3″, 6″, 9″, etc… Maybe your instructor refers to the heights with dynamics (piano, mezzo piano…). You might have to adjust them up or down to get them right. Once you have it, though, you can forever see exactly how high or low each stroke is. Strive for absolute consistency, and as always, be your own worst critic!

Compare Your Left Hand to Your Right

Other than heights, you can easily compare your left hand to your right, seeing if one has a smoother rotation than the other, and also what you look like playing around the drums. Do you get a slice (stick coming down at an angle) when playing sweeps? Does your left hand look stiff at higher tempos? Are you pulling your elbows back and playing in the center of the outside drums? Being able to see everything from this point of view will make all of your inconsistencies and inefficiencies extremely apparent.

Well, there you have it. Go slowly through the material, always starting on one drum, breaking down and isolating any trouble spots, and getting very comfortable with your metronome and mirror. These habits will make sure that you are getting the most out of your precious practice time. Now get drumming!

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