3 Reasons Why Your Drumming Sucks

Over the years, I’ve met countless drummers from around the world. Some of them were amazing and some of them… well… not so much. But my encounters with them taught me a few lessons about the differences between the world’s greatest drummers and everyone else. In this short blog, I’ll share a few pointers that will help you understand why your drumming skills are lacking and hopefully help you get back on track to becoming one of the greats.

As with any rehabilitative effort, the first step to taking corrective action is understanding the problem. In our case, you must first admit to yourself what may be obvious to others: your drumming sucks. If you can’t execute the music that you hear in your head, you’re drumming sucks. If you break drumsticks and bust drumheads every time you play, your drumming sucks. If your drumming is not an expression of who you are as a person, your drumming sucks.

Notice that the reasoning above does not depend upon the opinions of others. That’s because the great drummers express outwardly what they feel internally. Greatness comes from within. So spend some time in the shed correcting the following issues and although I can’t guarantee that you’ll be a great drummer, I promise that you’ll suck less.

Reason #1: You Don’t Practice Drums Enough

None of the great drummers I know became great by practicing 30 minutes per day. In fact, unless you’re a freak of nature or abnormally gifted, it should take you at least 30 minutes just to get warmed up. Drumming involves both mental and physical processes so you should begin your practice sessions by preparing each of these.

Some drummers find yoga helpful because it stretches the limbs while centering the mental focus. I’ve even heard of practice routines that begin with physical exercise to “get loose.” Whatever your preference may be, make time for it and be consistent. Routine begets mastery.

Start your playing with rhythmic exercises. Basic rudiments and patterns should not be left out or overlooked. These foundational elements are the building blocks to advanced drumming and should remain an important part of your routine even after you master them. Challenge yourself to make this simple step interesting so that you aren’t tempted to dismiss it. If you feel like you can play the basics with your eyes closed, don’t just say, do it. Close your eyes and go for it. Challenge yourself to keep the basics interesting and spend at least an additional 30 minutes on it.

At this point, you’re already 1 hour into your practice session! You’re properly warmed up, you’re mentally focused, and you’re ready to dig in.

I recommend 3-4 hours of practice per day for steady improvement. That doesn’t mean that you must do it all at once. Take breaks. Live your life. But make time throughout each day to put the work in. Greatness requires commitment and a few minutes of practice when you “feel like it” just won’t cut it. 

Reason #2: You Don’t Practice Properly

When I advise drummers, I often say, “keep pushing.” But I don’t mean to keep pushing in the wrong direction. If you’re practicing improperly, the first thing you should do is STOP PUSHING. Take an assessment of the things that you practice and make sure that they are beneficial to your musical growth. Practice with purpose. Practice to improve.

A good portion of your time should be spent reinforcing what you already know, but at least half of your practice time should challenge you and push you forward. For example, playing songs that you previously learned can reinforce your musical interpretation, but you should spend some time to reinterpret old material and push the envelope. The goal of your practice should be to stretch your ability and discover new things. Get out of your comfort zone if you want to grow.

Practice should include mistakes. If your practice session is perfect, you’re doing it wrong. Remember, this is the time to work out the kinks and perfect your presentation. If it sounds too good in the practice shed, perhaps it’s too easy.

Reason #3: You Don’t Listen Effectively

Listening to music is an important part of practicing. Unfortunately, many drummers simply listen for enjoyment, not to interpret or comprehend. If you’re not listening to your favorite drummers to gain a deeper understanding of their musical expression, you’re missing out on an important learning opportunity. 

I’ll admit that it’s fun to admire the latest and greatest chops and licks, but take a moment to analyze those licks in context and ask yourself, “Why did he play it like that?” Put yourself in that drummer’s place. Would you play it differently? Do you hear any other possibilities? Break it down. THINK. Be analytical while you listen and try to internalize the drummer’s thought process.

Once you determine why the drummer chose his approach to the music, try to recreate it. Yes, I said it! COPY IT. Learn it note-for-note. By doing this, you likely just placed a few new chops into your repertoire. You’ve learned by listening and interpreting. Now comes the real challenge… Spend some time during your practice routine to express that same music in your own way. That’s when the real growth happens.

While we’re on the topic of listening, start recording yourself for the purpose of listening back with the same intent of critiquing yourself. You’ll discover that it’s a very different experience than listening while you’re playing. Don’t just listen for mistakes. Listen to find opportunities for improvement. Remember, your ears are a critical part of your musical ability.

If your drumming sucks, focus your attention on these 3 reasons and you’ll see your drumming ability grow in no time. Good luck!

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