Monthly Archives: December 2011

Tuesday: Never Practice Struggle

The idea to “never practice struggle” was first presented to me by Total Immersion swimming coach Terry Laughlin. I would like to take this idea out of the water and onto the drum (or pad) with today’s lesson.

Challenge: Revisit Murray Gusseck’s “MasterClick” article from the Vic Firth Exchange. The goal today will be to begin playing either:

  • 1/16th-note book reports,

  • or 1/8th-note triplet flam drags.

Once the tempo increases to the point where you cannot maintain the quality and consistency of the rudiment, remove one diddle. In the book report you will play a diddle on ‘1’ to make it a diddle choo-choo,

and in the flam drag you will switch to flam accents.

Moving along in tempo, once you can no longer maintain this rudiment, remove the remaining diddle or flam to make either a choo-choo,

or straight triplets.

Lastly, at a certain point you will remove the flam in the choo-choo and begin playing paradiddles.

Still with me? The idea is to never practice struggle. Begin with a challenging rudiment at a slow tempo, then as the tempo increases switch to a more manageable rudiment at the appropriate time. When? That depends on your experience level and chops.

Post experiences to comments!

Thursday: Change Your Perception

Today, yet another innovative approach to teaching yourself how to play music with sticks: change your perception. Here’s what I mean.

Step 1: Pick a pattern, grid, exercise, or musical excerpt to play. Something you are somewhat familiar with and can play fairly well already.

Step 2: Play the part with your eyes closed. Listen to the sound you are producing. Is it in time? Are the rhythms consistent? Is your sound quality appropriate? Also take a moment to notice how you feel. Where are your hands, forearms, shoulders, etc.? How relaxed is your face? All while eyes are closed.

Step 3: With eyes open, set up a camera to record yourself playing the part. Once you get a good recording, go back and watch it on mute. How do you look? Confident, aggressive, joyous? Surviving or thriving? Notice any and all movements you do. Is it necessary to move your left elbow when your left hand plays accents? Is your right shoulder higher than your left? Are you standing upright?

Step 4: Now go back and listen to the recording of yourself playing the part but without looking at the screen. How do you sound? Is every single note in time? Without knowing the sticking, could you tell a difference in sound hand-to-hand? Is your range of dynamic expression appropriate? Be your own worst critic.

Step 5: Put it all back together. Record yourself playing the part once more, but this time take into account all that you have noted throughout this process. Once you get a good take, go back and watch the finished product, both with audio and video together. How does it look and sound?

Thanks for reading today. If you’ve gotten this far, post a link to your video in the comments.

Friday: New Grid

Warm-up: Spend some time reminding yourself how to play The Triplet Grid. “My Moon My Man” by Feist can supply a good tempo if desired.

Skill work: Today we are going to try a new kind of grid, specifically where you keep the accent constant and shift the rudiment. Here it is, in classic 4-2-1 format, keeping a single accent on the first partial while moving the diddle from the first to second to third partial:

Spend 15 minutes working on this isolated diddle grid with a metronome, from 80 bpm up to 180 bpm.

Challenge: This one grid should open up a whole new plethora of possibilities: simply substitute a different rudiment, change the accent to a different partial, go backwards, etc. Here are some more options to stimulate your experimentation:

Happy gridding! Please share with friends and family as well. Anyone on Rudimental Hands auditioning for a drum corps or indoor drumline this season? Post to comments!