Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Do our drum heroes still practice?

A very common question asked in interviews, and especially during the Q&A portion of a drum clinic is, "Do you still practice?" Usually the target of the question is a well-established and very competent player, and the answer is almost always the same: "Not really".

When just starting out, your body is not accustomed to all the co-ordination required to play drums, nor have you built up a library of drum knowledge. There's no other way to acquire these than to literally pound things into your muscles and your brain. It's called practice, and it takes a lot of time and effort. But after years of working at it, the list of things you can't do gradually gets shorter. In the beginning, it may be a struggle to play a basic beat, but in time it happens pretty much automatically.

As your reservoir of skills and knowledge gets bigger, you have less need to practice the basics, and it's perhaps rare that you're called on to do something that requires real 'wood shedding'. And as time goes by -- as skills and knowledge accumulate -- the nature of practice necessarily changes. So I would suggest that a more appropriate answer to the "Do you still practice" question would be, "Well, it's different now."

I'm sure there are players who are so awesome that they never need to touch the drums between gigs. And there are those who are so busy that there's simply no time for formal practice. But I think the majority of good players want to grow musically, and to do that they must -- and will -- spend some time 'sharpening the saw'.

Some people want to improve their golf swing. Some want to trim a few minutes off their 5K run. I practice quite a bit because I get the same sort of kick from having my hi-hat foot do what I want it to do regardless of what my bass foot is doing.

So the next time you're tempted to ask the question, consider asking instead, "What do you do now to stay sharp and keep growing musically?"

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