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How Much Practice is Required to Play The Drums Well?

By Yann, published on 01/09/2018 We Love Prof > Music > Drums > Must One Play the Acoustic Drums Every Day to Become a Talented Drummer?

“I’m not a singer who plays a bit of drums. I’m a drummer that sings a lot.” -Phil Collins

In a 2016 survey conducted in England, around 29% of 11 to 15-year-olds have practised or rehearsed a musical instrument and 18.3% have played in front of an audience in the last 12 months.

Without becoming too obsessed and developing an addiction, learning must occupy an important place in your life in order to succeed. This is the same with all musical instruments.

As a beginner, I’m sure you’ve spent time daydreaming about how many hours and practice it would take to become one of the great drummers.

Superprof, once again, is here to save the day and enlighten readers on the frequency of practice needed to improve your rhythm and become a successful percussion instrumentalist.

How Many Hours are Required to Learn the Drums?

According to a 2008 study conducted by Malcolm Gladwell, it would take 10,000 hours of deliberate practice of a musical instrument to achieve an international level.

This study can be found in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success. He studied famous musicians such as the Beatles and also successful businesspeople like Bill Gates to come to this conclusion and large figure.

10,000 hours is equivalent to 2h30 hours of practice per day, all the days of the year for 10 years! 

This figure is completely outrageous and surreal! No normal human being can be that constant and for that long amount of time.

Moreover, it is not enough to comfortably sit on your stool, behind your snare drum, bass drum, Hi-Hat and cymbals and wait for the magic to happen. 

It is not by striking the drum shells and performing simple pieces of music that you become an internationally renowned drummer.

Learn to play the drums Many think that playing the drums requires very little technique and that it is easier to learn than the flute, clarinet or trumpet. That sort of thinking is very incorrect! (Source: Visual Hunt)

These 10,000 hours (crazy, right?) are hours of thorough and thoughtful practice. It’s about acquiring new, valuable skills every time you practice the drums.

While playing the drums, it would be necessary to practice the following things:

  • The correct holding and handling of drumsticks,
  • Accurately adopting the movement of the wrist,
  • The binary and ternary rhythm,
  • The exactness of the tempo, the triplet and the triple-eighth note,
  • The basic drum rudiments: rolls, strokes and taps,
  • Nuances, the sounds and the control of its power.

On the other hand, the figure of 10,000 hours should be balanced out. If you do not expect to become the next John Bonham or Keith Moon, divide these massive number in two and you will still be considered a very good drummer.

The important thing is set short and medium term goals before reaching the long term goal that could be to become a heavy metal drummer!

However, this study conducted by Mr Gladwell does remind us that like all other musical instruments, the drums require practice, rigour and motivation.

We often underestimate the drum, thinking that all it entails is flailing sticks in the air. Some believe that it is easy to learn and have a control over but this is highly untrue.

Try 20 to 30 minutes of diligent practice 2 to 3 times a week. You will start to see the results and become a better drummer!

To Progress at Playing the Drums, What Weekly Rhythm Must One Adopt?

Learning to play an instrument whether it’s an electric guitar, saxophone, cello or clarinet takes time and practice.

Every week practice is required, you have to repeat the same gestures on your drum kit until you have completely acquired the correct movements.

The Importance of Regular Practice

Practice, practice, practice…There is no other secret to progress and eventual success. It is necessary to reproduce, try then re-try, repeat again and again the same rhythm or the same tempo. This can be done using a metronome or not, the choice is yours!

Drummers everywhere With enough practice and determination just about anyone can help the drums! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Regular practice is mandatory because it is in this way that our brain will retain the correct techniques that are required to succeed. 

When we learn something new, our brain has to create new connections. It’s a slow process and you have to give your brain time to make connections in a progressive way.

It’s important to remember that as human beings we retain:

  • 10% of what we read,
  • 20% of what we hear,
  • 30% of what we see,
  • 50% of what we hear and see,
  • 70% of what we say,
  • and 90% of what we say and do.

That’s why if we sing a piece of music at the same time as we play it on the drums or any other instrument, we will retain it in an easier way.

Try this next time you practice: sing “boom” for the bass drum, “tchak” for the snare drum and “gong” for one of the cymbals.

How many times a week and how much time during each practice session?

The information you have read so far is all very useful but now the real question, at what rhythm should I practice the drums?

Here at Superprof, we will never tell you this enough: it’s better to do 10-minute practice sessions a day than a 2-hour lesson per week. 

A practice session of 10 minutes is very short and most likely won’t allow you to warm up correctly and perform a full session. However, this doesn’t matter.

If you only have 10 minutes a day before your next 1 or 2-hour session that may be a couple of days away, it is better to practice a bit and play on drum sets than to not practice at all.

If you only have time for short practice sessions there are two options are available to you:

  • Roughly play the piece you are currently working on. This makes it possible to see the result of the piece you are playing in conditions that are less than optimal,
  • Work on a very specific part of the piece that you are trying to improve on or a very specific technical element. This is a very effective method to progress rapidly.

Try your best and work as hard as you can each and every day!

Even without your acoustic drum set, using your electronic drum kit that plays more quietly, hitting the surface of a table top or a drum practice pad, during your 5-minute cigarette break at work or on your way home in the tube, you can practice the tapping of the drumsticks. With this, you will acquire further skills that will help you during your scheduled practice sessions.

Be Watchful of Irregularity

When you are a beginner and start learning a new instrument, you want to grasp everything very quickly. One might spend hours behind his new instrument, sitting on his drum throne, repeating the basics and playing the musical pieces of his choice.

Maybe you might even find another beginner as passionate as you and start a group together. The enthusiasm is there and the will to keep learning new things is strong.

This can be a very good thing: the more you practice, the more you progress. 

On the other hand, we all live very busy lives and are sometimes too occupied to continue practising a musical instrument. It may happen that the enthusiastic beginner stops playing the drums for weeks and sometimes even months.

This is really a drawback! 

All the progress assimilated is reduced to nothing. We take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back.

Even if you have the best equipment such as drum sticks from Vic Firth, a sturdy cymbal stand from Zildjian, a hi-hat stand from yamaha or a set of snare drums from Pearl, motivation is still needed. Expensive equipment does not mean one will feel more obliged to practice!

Remember that regular practice will allow you to progress smoothly, without even realizing it! Slowly but surely you will become a better drummer.

To get to that point, be realistic and don’t hesitate in calling a professional drum teacher who can motivate you and make sure you continue to practice with regularity. The drum lessons from a qualified instructor allow you to acquire a safe technique and with time you will develop your own musical style on your own.

Secrets to a Successful Drumming Session

As you have clearly seen, the importance of regularity is clearly established.

The typical week of an apprentice drummer

In a typical week of practice, it is possible to alternate short and long sessions.

For example:

  • Monday: 15 minutes of the drum rudiments during your lunch break without using your acoustic drum set,
  • Tuesday: 30 minutes of special rhythms after returning from work (deliberate practice),
  • Wednesday: 15 minutes of basic drumming at work using your lunch table (hopefully your colleagues won’t mind!) and 1 hour of drumming at night,
  • Thursday: 30 minutes of practice trying to successful play a sequence from a certain piece of music (deliberate practice),
  • Friday: 15 minutes of rudiments during your smoke break,
  • Saturday: you have more time on the weekends so 1 to 2 hours of playing the drums including the warm-up, the basics, the sequence of several musical exercises and/or the playing of an entire piece of music in full,
  • Sunday: do the same thing as Saturday!

Doesn’t sound that bad now does it?

Of course, this is not an absolute schedule, you can eventually adapt to your own schedule but this shows you the importance of regularity and daily practice.

Feel free to challenge yourself from time to time. If you feel the motivation is slipping away try some of these suggestions:

  • Increase the speed and time of an exercise routine,
  • Learn a new technique,
  • Learn a piece of music that might be more challenging. This will help you get better at playing and the challenge will motivate you to push yourself.

Warming up your Body

Start your practice session with 10 minutes of a piece of music that you master perfectly. The goal of these 10 minutes is to focus on different physical aspects that will perfect your drumming game:

  • The clear sound of the drums,
  • Your body posture,
  • The holding of the drumsticks,
  • The regularity of the strikes on drum heads.

Be careful not to speed up the tempo or do it consciously after observing a silence and taking a deep breath. This might mess up the piece of music.

Preparing your Mind

After a physical warm-up comes a mental one. A 10-minute creative start-up has the goal of letting your imagination run wild and go off the beaten track to create something acoustically beautiful.

Hit that snare drum with power (left hand for the right-handers and right hand for those who are left-handed). Remember during this warm-up you are free to do what you want:

  • Strike anywhere with one of your hands (crash cymbal, hi-hat stand or a floor tom),
  • Two strokes between the strikes on the snare drums (triplet),
  • Three hands between each stroke on the snare drum,
  • The use of pedals as you see fit. (Knowing when to use the bass drum pedal is a great asset because it sounds so good when you kick the pedal at the right time)

Really the choice is yours to strike those drums as you please. This warm-up is a time to discover what sounds you enjoy most and what you would like to create musically.

When you play your own groove the room fills up with your own originality!

Trying New Things

For 20 to 30 minutes, try working on something new that you do not know:

  • A piece from a style of music that you are unfamiliar with,
  • A new rhythm,
  • A new rudiment,
  • A hand or foot technique that you have never attempted before.

Remember to stay focused during this 30-minute session. Do not hesitate to slow down in order to completely understand what you are trying out. Also, do not bang too fast on the drumset thinking that it’s integrated. This is a beginners mistakes because speed doesn’t equate quality.

Cheering for you Maybe one day they will be cheering for your name… (Source: Visual Hunt)

Apply yourself to new Music

During the last 10 to 15 minutes, play a song that you do not know and accompany it. Versatility is important as a musician. Do not stay stuck in only one genre.

Act as if you were auditioning to be part of a great band, let your creativity run wild and take the song where it needs to go! 

Remember you are still a beginner, so simple music pieces are recommended. Don’t embark on great unachievable challenges!

Superprof just showed you how a 1-hour practice session can go. Take these suggestions to heart and try them out in order to become the next member of Rudimental or Thomas Lang!

A Drumming Definition

What is “deliberate practice”?

Deliberate practice is a practice that is done in order to progress. It’s the opposite of repetitive practice just to acquire drumming knowledge.

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