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The term "Practicing" can mean many different things to many different people.  There is a difference between "practicing" and "playing", both of which are equally necessary and important. 

Practicing should be considered as the time we spend honing our skills and craft, focusing on our weaknesses and pushing ourselves to new levels of skill and ability. "Playing" is the time we spend enjoying the fruits of our practice time and hard work, applying what we have learned and developed when practicing, expressing ourselves musically, interacting and creating with other musicians and simply having fun and enjoying this great instrument that we love so much. 

A drummer that gigs regularly "plays" often but still needs time to practice, to challenge themselves, to improve, learn and try new things.  If you aren't playing with other musicians, playing along to songs from your favorite bands and artists (or even artists that you are completely unfamiliar with to push your drumming into new territory) is an important part of your growth and development as a drummer.  Staying well rounded by "practicing" and "playing" is a great advantage and a complete necessity for all drummers. 

Here are some general and essential tips to help you get the most out of your practice time and maximum results in improving your skills and abilities behind the kit: 


The key to success in anything that we do is to be committed to it.  One of my favorite drum educators says "You have to be a 'DO-ER' " and that is the most important thing in order to see your progress and advancement. You can talk about wanting to improve, be inspired by other drummers to achieve certain skills and abilities, etc., but it will only happen with putting in the work.  The first step is deciding that you want to be your best and make a personal commitment to making it happen. 


Now that you are committed to being your best, setting long and short term goals is the next step.  Let's say your long term goal is to play a particular song, a particular style/genre of drumming or to play like one of your favorite drummers _______ (insert your inspiration).   

Obviously there will be varying timetables based on your experience level, the time you can dedicate to practicing and the goals you set.  Learning to play a particular groove, a samba pattern or making your single stroke rolls faster for example may be short term goals, playing like Jojo Mayer may be a long term goal. 

I constantly set long and short term goals for myself.  Set short term goals that are realistic and attainable and shoot for the stars with your long term goals.  Remember, the only thing that will prevent you from achieving your goals is YOU. 


Practice with a purpose, what you work on should directly correlate to giving you the ability to express a musical or rhythmic statement. If you are working on technique, ask yourself how that work and effort is going to help you to make a musical statement that you currently cannot execute.   

A great approach to achieving your goals is to make a list of the things that you know you want to do/need to improve on right now. Be honest with yourself and embrace your weaknesses, this is how we get better.  If you aren't struggling and getting a bit frustrated when you practice, you aren't challenging yourself as much as you need to in order to achieve maximum results. 

If you don't keep a practice journal, now would be a good time to start.  A practice journal will not only help you to keep track of your goals, progress, successes and commitment to practice time, it is also a great opportunity to have an archived history of your drumming work and progress. Once you have a list of the things that you want to work on/improve on, you will now create a plan to get it done. 

Be accountable to yourself. If you do the work, you will reap the reward. If you don't study with a drum instructor, you have to be extra diligent in your practice and commitment. Having a great drum instructor/mentor will help you in assessing your strengths and weaknesses and assist you in focusing on areas of improvement specifically for you and your drumming progress. Having the camaraderie with an instructor is a huge benefit in countless ways in your growth as a drummer and it forces you, in a positive way, to be accountable in getting your practicing done.   

Assess your goal list, prioritize and divide it into short term and long term goals. Obviously we don't know how long it may take to achieve a particular goal, sometimes we will only know once we get there after putting in the work. Again, be honest with yourself, if you decide to make it happen for yourself, it will come with your effort. 

For the first week, choose 1 or 2 of your goals. Next we will put them into our practice schedule. 


This is where the rubber hits the road... Doing the work. 

Putting all of the above together; commitment, goals and planning into action is where most drummers struggle. The key to scheduling your practice time is to be honest with yourself and the time you can dedicate to practicing while pushing yourself to commit to giving your best at the same time. 

Remember, you get out of practicing what you put into it. Practicing doesn't necessarily need to translate to hours at a time at your drum kit or your practice pad. Assess how much time each day/week that you will be able to commit to practicing. Be realistic but push yourself. 

Can you give 20 to 30 minutes a day to practice time? If yes, start there. If you can give more each day, great! If you can give 30 minutes every other day, make it happen. 

It is actually more productive and beneficial for a drummer to practice more regularly in shorter increments than to practice one day a week for 3 hours.  Repetition is going to increase muscle memory and will yield awesome benefits in your drumming progress. 

Depending on your schedule, your available time may vary from week to week. Create your weekly practice schedule  realistically, document it in your drumming journal and make it a personal plan to stick to your practice schedule. Within about 3 weeks you will be creating a natural habit of consistent, regular practicing.  If your available time is tight, try taking a pad and sticks with you wherever you go, if you have a spare 15 minutes, it's practice time! 

Practice smart! When practicing, try to work on things that will benefit multiple aspects of your drumming at the same time. For example, if you are practicing rudiments, keep time with your hi hat foot or bass drum or use other components of your kit besides your snare drum, i.e., toms, cymbals, rims, cowbell. If you are practicing on a pad, you can still keep time with your feet for added limb independence benefits. I write the majority of my drum lessons for my students with this concept in mind, we might as well get the most out of our practice time, right? 

Set up an agenda for each practice session. I find it beneficial to have 2 separate concepts to practice during the same session. For example, I may be working on hand speed as one concept and 32nd Note Grooves as another during the same session. I may start with the 32nd Note Grooves work first and when I start to feel a burn or a frustration, I will cleanse the palette and clear the brain with some hand speed exercises for a few minutes, then return to the 32nd Note Grooves work. 

If you have 30 minutes, spend the first 5 - 10 minutes warming up with a more familiar exercise, groove, rudiment, etc., then dig into what you have chosen to conquer for the day. Many drummers start out working on a new concept and within 10 minutes their drummer A.D.D. kicks in and they are off playing all of the awesome licks that they are already good at, instead of the task at hand. Practicing for improvement requires focus. 

It is also healthy to incorporate "jam" time into your practice schedule, especially if you are not currently playing with other musicians frequently. Incorporate "play alongs" into your routine. Staying in tune with the purpose of drumming; to create a foundation, a feel, a groove and movement is extremely vital to our drumming progress and growth. Make practice FUN! 

Here is an example of one of my student's weekly practice schedules: 

Monday - 6:30pm - 7:15pm 

- Warm-up: Stick Control 

- Syncopated 16th Note Double Bass Grooves 

Tuesday - 7:30pm - 8:30pm 

- Warm-up: Steve Gadd Groove 

- 32nd Note Hi Hat/Snare Grooves 

Thursday - 6:30pm - 7:30pm 

- Warm-up: Singles and Doubles with Hands and Feet 

- Play Along/Jam with Tool and Bruno Mars Tunes 

Friday - 6:30am - 7:00am 

- Warm-up: Left hand focus exercises 

- Pad work - "Diddle" Rudiments 

Saturday - 12:00pm - 1:00pm 

- Warm-up: Double Bass Paradiddles 

- Syncopated 16th Note Double Bass Grooves 

- 32nd Note Hi Hat/Snare Grooves 

Sunday - 6:00pm - 7:00pm 

- Warm-up: Double Bass Triplet Patterns 

- Syncopated 16th Note Double Bass Grooves 

- 32nd Note Hi Hat/Snare Grooves 

As you follow and document your drumming plan for growth and development, you will be able to review your previous days/weeks/months/years of hard work and celebrate your successes and be rewarded with a huge sense of accomplishment in your drumming journey! 

This is only the tip of the iceberg, if you would like any assistance in developing a custom practice plan for yourself, please feel free to contact me, I am happy to provide you with additional information, tools, and resources to help you to achieve your goals and drumming success! 


The DrumSpot /