When taking online drum lessons for the first time, it can be difficult to establish a practice routine. One of the most common questions I am asked is "How much should I practice?". My personal view has always been that there are actually two important points here - how much to practice, but also what to practice.
When I designed Drum Ambition, it was always with the assumption that most people simply do not have huge amounts of time to dedicate to practice - there are simply too many other life priorities. That is why we purposely kept the videos short with no more then five groove/fill variations at a time, and always leave you with a practice tip. We want this process to be manageable, attainable and above all, enjoyable.
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I once listened to a TED Talk which talked about the importance of the first 20 hours of studying any musical instrument, and how critical this can be. It can literally make or break an individual's learning experience. So this leads to my first practice tip.
Tip 1. Keep a practice journal.
No matter how much time you decide is reasonable for practice (and we'll talk about that later), it is a very good idea to keep a practice journal. This doesn't have to be a detailed "Dear Diary" affair, but should include important details such as the date, which lesson you practiced, how much time you practiced, and a note of your metronome tempo if you are using one (and you probably should - check out the closing remarks in Video Lesson 1). Then a brief sentence on what you found challenging, and where your improvements might be is always an interesting read when looking back. Also, make a note of your practice time to date. My guess is that when you have reached your first 20 hours, you are going to be seeing some great progress.
Tip 2. 10 minutes per day can make a huge difference.
We all have big differences in our available time. Some people can allow an hour a day, but for most, that is completely unrealistic. Progression on any musical instrument, or any hobby for that matter, depends on practice time - it's all about practice and repetition. The good news, however, is that 10 minutes of focused practice per day can make a huge difference to your experience. If you can do more, great. If you can only do your 10 minutes every other day, then that's fine too. This is about finding out what works for you.
Tip 3. Smart Practice vs "Letting loose".
One important point to clarify is that when I talk about 10 minutes of practice, I am talking about practicing the lessons that you are learning here, and with your Drum Teacher if you have one. We call this "Smart Practice". It's also very important to just let loose and have fun of course. This can include just letting off some steam and busting out some end-of-the-day, blood pressure reducing grooves, doing your best Neil Peart or Dave Grohl impressions or something I strongly recommend; playing along to music. (Even if you don't feel you are ready for the latter, have a go - it's great fun!). It's just worth noting that anything in the "letting loose" category should probably be in addition to your 10 minutes, but that's your call.
Tip 4. Manage Your Expectations.
This is an important one. Remember that drums, like any musical instrument, take time to learn. If you put in your practice time, keep a journal, and always be mindful of the "smart practice" approach, you will see some good development over time. Setting realistic goals along the way is a good idea. The lessons in Module 1 are designed to give you the tools to develop a good foundation, so that ultimately, you can play along to songs and have fun. Perhaps choose a song and work towards it. Just be mindful not to pick something that is too fast or over technical. A piano student would not expect to play Mozart after six months of study. One thing that I always impart to my students is that "you always get back what you put in". So if you are ever unhappy with your progress, you might want to reflect on that.
Tip 5. Keep it fun.
Never forget why you started learning the drums. The idea of sitting behind the set and playing along to your favorite music, getting in a garage band with friends, dominating the competition at Rock Band parties or just something to do at the end of the day to forget about the pressures of the world. Perhaps this is your first step to a career in music or you have aspirations to attend music college. Whatever your aims and goals - have fun, and enjoy the ride. There are going to be some ups and downs - some great progress followed by a plateau. There will be mini break throughs, minor setbacks, and major achievements. This is all to be expected. Most hobbyists abandon their interests when they lose the fun element. If you combine these tips and remember to have fun, you will be setting yourself up for success.