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Developing Creativity

Everyone is born with different levels of creativity. Some people have never tapped into their creativity and don’t know how to.

For drummers, creativity is something which can not only improve the quality of your playing but it can also make playing more interesting and challenging.

Here are some tips on how to add creativity into your playing:

  1. Listen to different styles of music (eg. blues, jazz, progressive, etc.) 
  2. Listen to different drummers. 
  3. Watch documentaries and instructional programs from top drummers. 
  4. Meet with other drummers and compare ideas. 
  5. Take drum lessons focusing on creativity. 
  6. Learn about different percussion instruments. 
  7. Learn about drumming in different cultures. 
  8. Practice your skills in different orders each practice. 
  9. Devote certain practice times to just trying out different ideas.
  10. Devote time to focusing on certain parts of the drum kit (eg. snare only, hi-hat only, etc.) 
  11. Construct a drum solo or several solos (see previous blog).

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

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Benefits of a Drum Coach

In a previous blog I discussed the mistake rookies make by trying to teach themselves. This mistake is also made by intermediate and advanced drummers.

First let’s look at beginners. Having an experienced coach right from the beginning will help you avoid wasting time, developing bad habits and playing without a plan or direction. Building a strong foundation is critical if you want to become an elite drummer. Trying to learn from books, videos, online, etc is not the best way to learn as you miss the immediate feedback and corrections. For intermediate drummers it is common to hit a wall where advancing to the next level seems impossible. Knowing how to overcome these plateaus and how to re-energize your playing are critical to moving to the next level.

For advanced drummers there can be numerous reasons for working with a drum coach including advancing individual skills, overcoming plateaus, techniques to motivate, correcting bad habits, refining technique, etc. Consider that Neil Peart (Rush) hired a drumming coach after already establishing himself as one of rock’s great drummers. Consider that Tiger Woods hired golf coaches after establishing himself as the #1 golfer in the world. One of the major advantages of hiring a drum coach is objectivity. Is is very difficult to evaluate your playing objectively while you are playing. Even if you record yourself you may not know how to correct your playing and technique. 

For drummers who want to become highly skilled and maybe even earn a living drumming, hiring a drum coach may be the smartest investment you’ll ever make in yourself.

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

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Building Muscle Memory and Neuro Pathways-For Drummers

When a drummer first starts playing the notes are very uneven, beats and fills are nearly impossible and the brain and limbs aren’t working together. This is because there is no existing muscle memory or neuro pathways in place. There is only one way to build these vital links and that is through repetition and practice. Any new endeavour can only be mastered through repetition. This explains why the more we practice, the better we become.

Think of neuro pathways as the link between brain and limbs and muscle memory as the hands and feet knowing what to do with the message from the brain. As a drummer becomes more accomplished he or she will think of a beat or fill and the body will automatically perform it. This is because the links have been established through repetition and practice. Even an advanced drummer will have to go through this process when learning a new skill.

Here are some tips to building muscle memory and neuro pathways:

  1. Set a goal of what you want to accomplish.
  2. Practice the skill every day for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  3. Record yourself so you can determine what requires more work and also to track your progress.
  4. Be patient- the more complex the skill, the more practice will be required to master it.
  5. Once you’ve mastered it, refine it by adding speed, making it more precise, etc.
  6. As you become better at building these links you will discover techniques which you can apply to all areas of your drumming.
  7. Once you have built these links, they will be easier to recall even if you take a break from drumming, similar to riding a bike.

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

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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.