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Dare Drums: On a Roll

Practice (part 3 of 3): How to Practice - January 29, 2010

  1. Invest Yourself - Nobody else can do this for you. Adopt the motto; "If it's to be - it's up to me".
  2. Warm-up Before Diving In  - Spend a few minutes gently preparing your joints & muscles.
  3. Relax - Remember to breathe calmly and be patient with yourself. You can't rush this.
  4. Stick to the Script - Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish before each session (see part 2 below) and don't allow yourself to be distracted. FOCUS.
  5. Practice with a Mirror - Continually check your grips, strokes, positioning, movements, etc.. Is your body holding tension anywhere?
  6. Don't Be a Clock-Watcher - If you've planned a practice session, but your "head's not into it" - don't think it's something you have to do ... it isn't. Don't get caught up in how much time you spend practicing, as if the quantity of time matters ... it doesn't. Only quality nets results.
  7. Aim for Perfection - But Accept Your Mistakes - Whoever said, "Practice makes perfect" was wrong! ...Only perfect practice makes perfect ... But give yourself permission to make as many mistakes as neccesary til you get there. Grow to love your mistakes - they're how we learn.
  8. Practice Slowly - If you're experiencing difficulty in learning a particular passage of music, don't be too proud to slow down the tempo to the extreme. Then, if you think you're going too slow ... slow down some more!
  9. Paint with a Broad Brush - Don't confine your practice solely to the attainment of technique. Try to incorporate and vary other elements of musical performance (such as sight reading, dynamics, song forms, meter, tempo, etc.) on a regular basis as well. Play everything with maximum expression - as if you're singing.
  10. Look for Results Before Moving On - Try to work on the same (or similar) concepts long enough to see/hear measureable progress - and that it becomes a natural part of your playing.
  11. Know When to Stop  - Don't force yourself past the point of where your mind is alert or muscles are fatiqued. Practice until you feel you're "done".
  12. Avoid Long Lay-offs - Everyday practice is the ideal - but if it's not practical for you, simply try to practice as often as possible. This helps achieve forward motion in your development, so you don't have to spend as much time doing "maintenence practice" - just to get back to where you left off last session.
  13. Keep a Practice Log - Maintain a record of what you're doing, and what you've done. Include comments about each session. This will be a tremendous aid in your ongoing process of self-evaluation ... which puts us right back at the beginning again.

Practice (part 2 of 3): What to Practice - December 14, 2009

Deciding what to work on during practice is totally up to you (and sometimes your teacher) and should be done only after assessing your current state of development in relation to your areas of desired improvement and performance goals. Goal-setting is like mapping a trip. You need three pieces of information; Your current location, Your desired destination, and the best path to get from here to there. 

 Honest evaluation is vitally important. (A good teacher can be most helpful). You must be aware of your areas of strength, as well as of weakness. Being exposed to a wide variety of high quality music is essential in broadening the context of what you judge yourself against. 

Now that you know where you are, you can begin planning where you want to go - your long term musical goals. Define what success will look/sound like to you. Write it down.

Next, list all the mid-range goals that would need to be achieved as requisite to your primary ones

Lastly, and most importantly, list all the stepping stones that you think of as neccesary to attain those mid-range goals. Write everything down. These are your working goals - what you need to work on now.

These goals will naturally be in a constant state of flux, as you achieve some and eliminate others through the process of continual self evaluation.



Practice (part 1 of 3): What it Is ... and Isn't - December 13, 2009

Music teachers and parents are always telling young musicians to "Go Practice." Yet there seem to be many misconceptions as to what it actually means to practice. I'd like to clarify this issue as best I can by, first, stating that ... practice is NOT:

  • Playtime
  • A Drum Solo
  • An Assortment of Favorite Licks
  • Playing Along with your Newest Favorite Tune
  • Working on What You Already Do Well
  • Working on Arbitrary Weaknesses
  • Just about Chops & Technique
  • How Much Time You Spend Playing

Practice IS a never ending journey toward the fullfilment of your musical goals. The map you follow is that of your own intention. It requires you to set and maintain a series of goals and to exercise the powers of concentration and patience in achieving them. It is nothing less than the merging of all your talent, desire and discipline, in equal measure.


Drummer as Point Guard - December 19, 2007

A number of great musicians over the years have made the analogy of a musical group to a basketball team. There are parallels on many levels. Both are groups comprised of individuals, each with distinct roles, but who work together toward a shared goal. The team's success depends less on the individuals' one-on-one/ solo skills, than on their ability to communicate effectively and work as a cohesive unit.
The point guard's responsibility is to distribute the ball and unselfishly help his/her teammates succeed. Even though they handle the ball the most, point guards aren't generally big individual scorers. In other words - they're ACCOMPANISTS.
Every drummer (including myself) has, at some point, wrestled with the the tendancy to "overplay". Drums are natually loud instruments and can easily overwhelm a band... but we must remember, they are also primarily an accompanying instrument. So be the catalyst - set the groove - distribute the ball ... and play for the band - not the ego.

Purple Lancers return in '08 - October 3, 2007

I'm very pleased to be involved in the reorganization of the Purple Lancers drum and bugle corps. The Lancers were a great source of pride for all Auburnians from 1949-1974. Our goals are to march in the 2009 Memorial Day parade, then to return to competition within two years, and to capture the DCA crown within five. This will not be easy... and we need your help. For more info go to, or contact me.

Singles & Doubles - September 23, 2007

- This is a great exercise to further develope speed and control of your singles & doubles while also broadening your sense of "time" by incorporating "odd" groupings. It can also serve as an excellent hand warm-up.(Above the line = R, below = L) Practice by starting @ top left - either work down left column (singles), then top-down on the right (doubles), OR ... work left-right, top-down. ALWAYS return back to top the way you came. Repeat entire exercise, this time starting w/left hand. USE A METRONOME! Start very slowly (mm=60), gradually increasing the tempo - but only so fast that you can still execute w/RELAXED MUSCLES. Strive to attain as EVEN a PULSE as possible (no accents). Try varying DYNAMIC LEVELS. Let me know what you think!

Singles & Doubles

"The Path to Success" - August 2, 2007

Contrary to the oft repeated plea of disillusioned musicians, the great players out there were not just born that way. Without exception, its the result of alot of hard work - on the right things. They share common pedagogical regimens that they practiced for countless hours - and still do. These are proven methods passed down over generations by great teachers. Unfortunately, many teachers today haven't been exposed to these methods themselves, or once were merely on a superficial level. They can't pass on that which they don't possess. This is unfair to the student, as no amount of talent or hard work can offset a lack of direction.

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