Everyone always said that time goes by a lot quicker as you get older…they weren’t wrong. Even on days when there’s nothing in the diary and all you do is chill out and relax it seems the day has gone by before you realise it. Finding the time required to practice drums or any instrument can be especially daunting when you leave the bubble of college or University and set out into the big bad professional world.
For those of us who teach I’m sure we’ve probably lost count of the amount of times we tell pupils that consistent, daily practice is key to improving as a musician. Speaking from personal experience I can say that I’ve been guilty of not following my own mantra a little too often. Recently I’ve been trying to get back into a daily practice routine to ingrain the habit. A lot of people are under the opinion that it takes around a month to develop an instinctive habit and this is what I’m striving for. Below are a few tricks that I’m using to help me on the way.
ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING
Even on the busiest of days I know that if I can get 20 minutes of practice pad work done I’ll have ‘maintained’ my technique. By this I mean that it helps keep me at my current level, whereas if I don’t practice for a week I’ll be playing catch up when I sit back at the kit. The first practice session back is often just re-capping and de-doing everything you had been working on before rather than expanding on the previous practice session. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that problem of feeling rusty, both mentally and physically – it’s horrible!
‘THE POWER HOUR’
What’s better than 20 minutes practice? An hour! An hours focussed practice will do so much more for your playing than playing along to music for 5 hours straight. Of course there’s a time and place for that, especially if you’re not in the right frame of mind to practice (it happens to us all), but to ensure you develop as a musician you need to work on weaknesses in your playing.
My aim for the next month is to try and get at least one solid hour of practice in – 6 out of 7 days of the week. Somedays this will be less (see above) and some days it will be more. However I know that with my current schedule an hour is a realistic and achievable goal. I’ve personally found the mornings to be the best time for me to practice as the afternoon is normally when other priorities start calling such as teaching, learning songs, gigging etc. By getting it out of the way I also don’t have to worry about finding the time to hit the practice room later on and inevitably feeling guilty if I miss a day.
From past experience I know that missing 2 days tends to be the killer blow in terms of developing a habit; the amount of times I’ve tried to exercise/learn a language/other fulfilling activities only to quickly fall back into old routines after skipping a couple of days is ridiculous! I’ll have to be especially disciplined over weekends as normally I tend not to bother doing any practice on gig days; the 20 minute routine might have to suffice (to begin with) for these.
So there we go. I’ll try to update in a month or so with my progress; hopefully it won’t start with “well, I tried…” I’ve become more and more fascinated by the science behind practice and definitely feel that the practice I now do, though more limited is actually more effective than the 4-5 hours I’d put in during my late-teens. I’d love to hear anyone else’s opinions on practice and your routines; I’ll be writing about methods I’ve found effective in upcoming articles…so at my current rate of writing that’ll probably be 2013!