When we are learning a new skill or hobby, we don't intentionally set out to take short cuts, or develop bad habits. They are simply, and quite innocently, a byproduct of not knowing any better. The slippery slope begins when those habits become ingrained into your day to day drumming, thus becoming difficult and time consuming to correct. There's certainly nothing wrong with learning by making mistakes, and you'll experience that regularly in drumming, as in life. To help you set out in the right direction, I have compiled a list of 10 bad drumming habits, and some tips on how to address them early on.
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How we hold the sticks is essential to drum set control. While it is certainly true that how you hold your sticks is a fairly subjective matter, there are some basic guiding principles that you can follow to make sure that you are on the right track. 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.
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Having good posture behind the drum set will not only help build better control, but it will also 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. Check out this blog for more information, and this video for good advice on developing good posture.
3) Time keeping.
Time keeping 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 lots of ways to improve your time keeping, from practicing with a metronome, to counting out loud when learning drum beats and fills. Just being aware of the importance of time keeping can help you focus on it. This article will help you with ideas and tips.
4) Striving for speed.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to develop speed and play fast grooves - it's a lot of fun! It is very important, however, to understand that speed is nothing but a byproduct of control, and depends on working 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. The article "Should Drum Sticks Break" will give you some insight on this area.
After you have spent a lot of time learning drum beats and fills, it is natural that you want to practice them in a musical situation. This can include playing along to music at home, or playing in a band with friends or at school. 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) Attention to dynamics.
When we refer to dynamics, we are effectively talking about how hard or soft we play our notes. This is a key area of musicality on the drum set. There are various strokes that we can play to help us achieve this, but just being aware of the overall dynamics of a song 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 this video on applying what we call "the dynamic strokes" to your drumming.
If you have watched the first few free videos on Drum Ambition, you will notice a recurring message. Counting is essential to developing rhythm, time keeping, and making beats easier to understand and play in the early days. Counting out loud is highly recommended, and the students that do this are always the ones that develop faster, and have a better grasp on the fundamentals of drumming.
And talking of which, 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 time keeping, 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) Hitting drums and cymbals musically and safely.
Remember to hold the drum sticks in a relaxed (but under control) 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 Drum Ambition Lesson 4 (2:25). Allow the drum sticks to rebound off the drum heads, and don't bury the tips of the sticks in to the drum heads.
If you have any questions relating to any of these points, please feel free to email [email protected].