When we learn a new skill, we don't intentionally set out to take shortcuts or develop bad habits. They are quite innocently a result of not knowing any better.
The slippery slope begins when those habits become ingrained into your day-to-day drumming, thus becoming difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming to correct. There's certainly nothing wrong with learning by making mistakes, and you'll experience this regularly in drumming. To set you on the right track, we have compiled a list of 10 bad drumming habits and some tips on addressing them early on.
At Drum Ambition, we are all about positive learning experiences. While some of the titles below look a little negative, understanding these possible shortcomings and addressing them early is the key to having more fun on the drums!
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1. Bad grip.
How we hold the sticks is essential to building drum set control. This is a fairly subjective matter, but there are some basic guiding principles that you can follow. Many beginner drummers hold their sticks too tight, too loose, or develop other bad habits that can ultimately lead to frustration and even discomfort. Check out this video on good grip fundamentals.
2. Bad posture.
Having good posture behind the drum set will help build better control and help keep your lower back and neck in good shape. Our hands and feet are more responsive when we sit up straight on our lumbar spine. Slouching can make your drumming sloppy and can also cause discomfort. Drumming should not be painful, as this article discusses. This video offers guidance on developing good posture.
3. Speeding up or slowing down.
Timekeeping is our Number 1 priority! Be careful not to commit the cardinal sin of drumming: speeding up (rushing) or slowing down (dragging) while playing a groove. There are many ways to improve your timekeeping, from practicing with a metronome to counting out loud when learning drum beats and fills. Just being aware of timekeeping's importance can help you focus on it.
4. Striving for speed too soon.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to develop speed and play fast grooves - it's a lot of fun! However, it is essential to understand that speed is a byproduct of control and depends on several key fundamentals. If you don't follow these fundamentals, you can end up with untidy grooves, rushed fills, tired arms, and a lot of frustration. This article gives you essential information on developing speed.
5. Breaking drum sticks.
With good drum sticks costing around $15 a pair, there are some good economic reasons for not breaking them regularly! The majority of breakages occur from holding the stick too tight, hitting too hard, or not striking drums and cymbals at the correct angle. If you are regularly breaking sticks, you should definitely examine your technique. Check out these tips on prolonging the life of your sticks.
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When playing along to songs, beware of overplaying. Ask yourself if the groove you are playing is appropriate to the music. Give the music space to breathe by not cramming it with notes. Be tasteful with drum fills, and don't fall into the trap of playing for yourself and not the song. You'll hear this a lot in music: less is more. Listening to music can help you understand this.
7. Not paying attention to dynamics.
When we refer to dynamics, we are talking about how hard or soft we play our notes. This is a key area of musicality on the drum set. We can play various strokes to help us achieve this, but just being aware of a song's overall dynamics is a prerequisite. If the song is a subtle and relaxed ballad, we don't need to be hitting like we are playing for row Z at the Olympic Stadium. Drum Ambition members can check out Lesson 20 in Module 1 on applying dynamic strokes to your drumming.
8. Not counting.
Counting is essential to developing rhythm, timekeeping, and making beats easier to understand and play. Counting out loud is highly recommended, and the students who do this are always the ones that develop faster and have a better grasp of the fundamentals of drumming.
9. Ignoring the fundamentals.
Paying attention to the fundamentals of drumming will set you up for success. Understanding basic grip and bass drum technique, developing good posture, learning to read music, understanding sticking, developing good timekeeping, learning to count music, practicing with a metronome, learning the rudiments and dynamic strokes - these are all basic foundational aspects of drumming that are learned and applied over time.
10. Not striking drums and cymbals musically and safely.
Remember to hold the drum sticks in a relaxed but controlled grip. This takes the pressure off the drum heads and cymbals when you hit them, allowing them to sing, and prolonging their life. If you are pitting (denting) your drum heads or cracking cymbals, this is a sign that you should be examining your technique. Remember to hit your crash cymbals with a glancing motion, as demonstrated in Module 1, Lesson 4 (2:25). Allow the drum sticks to rebound off the drum heads, and don't bury the tips of the sticks into the drum heads.
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