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A Note on Practice

‘How often should I practice?’ or ‘how often should my son/daughter practice’ is probably

the question that I get asked the most as a drum teacher. Interestingly, the question is

almost never asked by the same person just once. A parent will usually enquire early on into

their child’s lessons to try and establish a routine only to ask again a few months later once

they’ve progressed significantly with their learning. Not only does this mean that practice

should intensify when a student begins learning harder material, but also that learning an

instrument is an active, ongoing process whereby the skills that one acquires must be

revisited somewhat frequently.

Let’s have a quick look at what I believe to be the two most important aspects of practice.

The first (and most obvious point) to be made is that practice should be implemented as

routine. Making practice a routine doesn’t just solidify it as a habit, but also increases knowledge of the instrument more effectively, as the repetition of a technique day after day will get the student more intimately acquainted with the instrument, no matter how good they are at it. Even if a student has mastered certain techniques, a routine practice will enable them to spot any areas they can improve upon that may otherwise have been overlooked. Secondly, practice is contingent upon the level of drumming a student has reached and dependent upon the student themselves. Not only do harder techniques often take longer to master, but the technical skill it takes to play them must be compounded more thoroughly with ongoing practice. Use it or lose it, basically. On top of this, only the student themselves will know whether they have practiced something enough. Too often, I have seen students reach a point where they get stuck on a particular groove or technique- even after practicing. This is always a sign that they need to practice more. Your own interaction with the instrument will therefore give you as much information as you need to work out how much you need to practice. If you are the parent of a child who is facing such hurdles, your best bet is to encourage them to cultivate an awareness of their own practice and how it benefits their playing.

Overall, here are the main things you will need to remember:

  1. Get a routine. A few days a week should do it.

  2. Start small. If you’re a beginner, you can make your practices as short as ten minutes as long as you’re implementing them as routine.

  3. Be aware when the level you’re at necessitates longer practices. Practicing a 4 minute song? Ten minutes practice won’t cut it.

  4. Don’t go backwards! If you’ve been practicing three times a week for half an hour each time, don’t suddenly drop down to 15 minutes each practice.

  5. Watch other drummers. Here you’ll get inspiration and a few pointers. You may even notice something that you think you can improve on.

  6. Know when to stop. There will come a point when your practice is yielding diminishing returns, be honest with yourself and take a break


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