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Showmanship and Tricks

When performing live or shooting videos being able to add visuals to your drumming can have a significant impact on your overall performance. These can include pyrotechnics, stick twirling, lighting effects, etc.

A few suggestions…

  1. Focus on becoming a solid drummer before adding tricks to your arsenal.
  2. Don’t over do it. A few well placed and well executed visuals have a much stronger impact than too many.
  3. Make sure you’re not distracting from your drumming performance.
  4. Great visuals aren’t necessarily the most difficult.
  5. Keep the audience in mind when designing your performance as opposed to a workout for your own ego.
  6. Practice as much as you can to be able to execute the tricks flawlessly.
  7. Research as much as you can to uncover as many tricks as possible.
  8. One of the hallmarks of a great drummer is to come up with original ideas. This also applies to showmanship and tricks. (Eg. an idea I had many years ago was to individually light each drum with a trigger. Playing in the dark each drum would light up as it was hit. You can imagine the visual impact this would create, especially when playing fast.
  9. Showmanship and tricks are great but if you don’t have the chops to go along with them, they are pointless. I’ve seen some great drummers who didn’t do any tricks but delivered a superb performance.

My suggestion is to become a great drummer, then consider adding showmanship and tricks.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.

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Rookie Mistakes – For Drummers

There are several mistakes which many beginners make that can easily be avoided.

1) Try to teach yourself. This is a huge mistake as you don’t have the knowledge, experience or objective feedback necessary to progress.

2) Try to learn online. Although this has become popular for some students, this method doesn’t give you the immediate feedback and corrections. Also it doesn’t allow for immediate interaction, immediate answers and it tends to be a one size fits all approach. This is problematic because everyone has different skills, learning ability, questions, etc.

3) Try to progress without mastering the fundamentals. Learning drums is like building a house-you need a solid foundation before you can start adding levels.

4) Focusing on reading and writing music before you can play. Learn the fundamentals and then learn to read and write music. It will be much easier to learn and make more sense.

5) Don’t take lessons from a qualified instructor. The easiest way to move forward and become an elite drummer is to find someone who knows what they’re talking about and you can relate to him or her.

6) Don’t practice consistently. It’s better to practice 15 minutes every day than 2 hours once a week. We learn through repetition and regular practice helps build the neuro pathways necessary for high level drumming. 

7) Forget to have fun. Form a band, play along with your favourite bands, interact with other drummers.

These things will help to accelerate your learning and make your drumming experiences more enjoyable.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advance drummers to be the best they can be. 

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Overcoming Plateaus – For Drummers

At some point you will hit plateaus with your drumming. There are two areas to consider in order to overcome plateaus.

The first one is skills. Hitting a plateau from a skills perspective is relatively easy to overcome. Here are some suggestions: set new goals, vary your practices both in terms of length and frequency, study some world class drummers for new ideas ( I highly recommend Thomas Lang-he is simply the best drummer I’ve ever studied), try learning new styles of music-rock, blues, reggae, jazz, etc, learn about areas which may need some attention (time signatures, composing, reading and writing music).

The second area to consider is motivation. Here are some suggestions to increase your motivation: the most effective approach is to take a break. Whether you need a few days or a few weeks, take a complete break-no practice, no playing, no thinking about drumming. Wait until you’re excited to start playing again and then hit it with both guns blazing. Another motivation idea is to try something completely out of your comfort zone-start a new band, start writing a new drum solo, start writing songs, attend a drum clinic or music camp.

If you plan out a strategy using some or all these ideas you should get back on track and come out the other side a better drummer.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.

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Practice Tips – For Drummers

The golden rule for practicing is consistency. It’s better to practice 10 minutes every day than 3 hours once a week. We learn through repetition so as you would expect, the more often you practice the better you will become.

Here are some other ideas which you can incorporate into your practice schedule:

1) Each practice should have a goal to accomplish. Start a list of these goals and start your next practices reviewing your previous goals before tackling a new goal.

2) Start each new skill slowly and only add speed when you have it down cold.

3) Consider drum lessons – this alone will accelerate your skills more than you can imagine.

4) Record yourself to identify areas which need extra attention.

5) Use a metronome to check your meter is dead on.

6) Use energy, concentration and have fun.

7) Be patient – the more difficult the skill the longer it will take to perfect it.

8) Occasionally play along with your favourite songs and try to master the skills displayed. You will benefit from songs of various speed, complexity and styles.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.

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Constructing a Solo – For Drummers

The most important advice for drum solos is keep them short and have a plan.

The following example is a blueprint (plan) to help you create a winning solo. If you lack experience and/or skills, I would recommend waiting until you have something exciting to offer.

Firstly choose your favourite beat and between 5-10 of your best skills ( ex. triplets, quads, stick twirling, etc.). Think of the solo as playing the beat steadily for a couple of minutes with the skills being dropped in every 10 seconds, saving your best skill for the end of the solo. In between skills create interesting variations of the beat using all the pieces of your kit.

So here’s how it would look with each section being approximately 10 seconds: Beat, skill, beat, skill and so on, until all of your skills have been played. You want a strong finish so play your best skill last. Solo’s are the time to show off your abilities including stick twirling, double kick drums, playing with your hands and creative ideas such as hi hat and cymbal skills, rims, etc.

Remember to keep it short, keep it high energy, and have fun.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.

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Equipment Tips – For Drummers

Some drummers find it useful to keep a checklist for supplies and maintenance of their drum kit(s).

Sticks-keep a good supply of your favourite sticks handy for recording or playing live. If you notice cracks or severe wear grab a new pair.

Cymbals-use a good quality cleaner-especially when playing live or if you are being photographed or filmed.

Keep your drums dust free so they look their best. Tuning may go out due to changes in temperature or humidity. Let the drums sit in the new environment for as long as possible and only tune them at the last minute before recording or playing live. Periodically tighten all components in the kit including cymbal stand settings. Buy high quality drum heads which will sound better and last longer. Many Pro’s keep a second snare on standby in case of a broken drum head during a performance or recording session. Neil Peart (Rush) has his snare head replaced for every performance.

Occasionally check you drum cases if you tour/travel a lot. Also check other items such as electronics, headphones/ear pieces, fan, clean towels, clean water bottle, drum stick wax, etc.

Maintain your kit and it will perform trouble free for you for many years.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.

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Practicing Without Making Noise – For Drummers

The excitement and power of playing drums at full volume is hard to replicate in any other activity. There are times however when playing loud is not possible.

Here are some options which will allow you to play with full power but at near zero volume. The first option is to soundproof a room. This can be done with little expense or work. I’ve seen people do this with egg cartons, foam, sound baffling, etc. The beauty of this is that you can also rehearse a band and even record in your soundproof space without disturbing others. A second method is to play a practice pad or a set of practice pads. This is especially useful when working on hand techniques. A third option is to play an electronic kit with headphones. This is very helpful when working on 4 limb exercises and also when in creative mode as the electronic kit is ideal for experimentation. The fourth option is a method created at Power Drumming Canada called “ Off Kit Training”.  This is a fantastic way to practice all 4 limbs anywhere, anytime.

If you are dedicated to practicing and improving, you can literally do it anywhere without disturbing others. If you’re a beginner drummer and your parents don’t want the noise of having a drummer in the house, let them read this blog-I hope it helps you overcome their concerns.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.

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Getting Started – For Drummers

There are 3 main things you need to get started as a drummer: a drum kit, drum sticks and lessons.

Let’s look at these one at a time. The first decision you want to make regarding a drum kit is, do you want to rent or own. The second decision is do you want to start out with an acoustic or electronic kit. Both of these questions can be answered by dropping by your local music/drum store and asking questions and trying out different kits. Whatever you decide, start small. Get really good on a small kit before considering moving up to a bigger kit. The main advantage of an electronic kit is you won’t disturb anyone when you’re playing because you’ll be wearing headphones. The main advantage of an acoustic kit is they can be less expensive than an electronic kits. The question of drumsticks can also be answered at the music/drum store as they should have a large selection of sticks. Try different thicknesses, weights, wood or nylon tips, etc (nylon tips give you a brighter sound on the cymbals. When you find the right pair of sticks buy an extra pair as drum sticks break and get worn down from rim shots.

Now that you have your kit and sticks the best advice I can give you is take some lessons. It will accelerate your learning and you won’t pick up bad habits by trying to teach yourself. Find a versatile teacher who will work with you to achieve YOUR goals. Does he/she insist on learning to read? Will they travel to you? Do they teach the style of music that interests you? What is their drumming experience? Consider a more mature teacher who posses more skills, experience, knowledge and insights than a young teacher will have. Finally, find a teacher who will allow you to progress at your speed, whether that may be fast or more slow and steady.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.

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Building Your Dream Kit – For Drummers

The number of options when building your dream kit are endless. Factors that should be considered include the type of music you play, your skill level, your budget and your creativity. Music genres such as blues, jazz, bluegrass, etc don’t require a large kit as the primary role of the drummer is to keep time. Genres such as rock and metal allow for much more creativity and therefore a large kit is exciting. Other factors come into the equation as well. The logistics of touring with a large kit, does your kit include electronics, etc. If you choose to build a large kit you can do it slowly over time adding pieces as your budget allows.

I currently play a standard electronic kit and a 55 piece acoustic kit. Here’s how I built it. The basic kit I started with included double kick drums, 4 rack toms and 2 floor toms, hi hat, snare and a few cymbals. Over the next few months I added 8 octobons, 5 rototoms, a gong drum, an additional snare and hi hat, timbales, conga drums, and a vast array of cymbals. Next I added cowbells, wood block, and an array of pedals with various percussive instruments attached. The most recent (and exciting ) addition has been 2 sets of double kick pedals (2 beaters on each kick drum). Some people might think this kit is over the top or just an ego trip. The truth is not only is it more fun and challenging to play a large kit but it allows for unmatched creativity.

As you become more advanced creativity becomes one of the most exciting elements of drumming. The entire left side of the kit is arranged for more Latin style drumming. The centre and right side for rock and metal. The kit wraps around the drummer more than 180 degrees so cymbals are within reach from anywhere. The double/double kick pedals allow for double kick playing regardless if I’m playing the left, centre or right side of the kit.

Build a kit you are comfortable with and one which excites your creativity.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.

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Keeping Practice Fun – For Drummers

One of the most important aspects of improving is keeping your practices fun.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Create a playlist of your favourite songs and play along – this is very effective as a warm up to your practice session.
  2. Create a second playlist of songs you would like to learn and/or you find challenging.
  3. Record yourself and identify areas you would like to improve. Record yourself again after a few practices to see the improvement.
  4. Join or form a band.
  5. Have drum battles with other drummers (choose people who are better than you currently are) to share ideas and learn new skills.
  6. Work on creating new patterns and fills.
  7. Construct a drum solo (this is the subject of an upcoming blog).
  8. Set new goals – this is the gold standard for improving your enjoyment, skill set and motivation.

Try incorporating some or all of these ideas into your practicing. True enjoyment comes from the satisfaction of improving so keep at it.

Power Drumming Canada coaches beginner, intermediate and advanced drummers to be the best they can be.