As an instructor, I hear a lot of excuses for not practicing, and I can certainly see the “dark cloud of shame” that follows in a student whose “dog ate their exercise sheets”, or “I had homework all week”…or just “I forgot…”
I believe there’s a simple solution to it all.
When one makes the decision to learn drums and invests in the initial outlay of acquiring proper equipment, there’s an expectation placed that “one must practice in a manner congruent to the space that this gear is taking up in the corner,” and so the need to “practice an hour or more a day” looms greatly in the mind of the newly-minted drum enthusiast. This is not fair, nor is it effective.
Practice As Long As It Feels Good.
The simple solution is to lower your expectations. Yes, shorten your practice window to 15 minutes a day. That’s it. However, make that 15 minutes a whirlwind of a practice routine. Start with 5 minutes of warmups, then do 5 of rudiments, and then 5 of reading and oh look, you’ve just practiced 15 minutes and are only getting started! It’s at this point the passion takes over and the focus begins and next thing you know, you’ve gone 90 minutes.
Everyone Learns Differently
I’ve discovered after teaching drums for decades, everyone learns differently. Between audible, visual, and tactile input, we all have our quirks and process the modalities differently. That’s why I recommend videoing everything you practice. As they say in the recording industry “tape don’t lie”, you’ll see all your triumphs and failures displayed in full regalia on the playback.
Work On Your Short Game
Playing music isn’t just learning one technique, it’s all about compounding many techniques and sometimes technologies and learning how they interact together. It’s perfectly fine to get introspective and “drill down” into a specific thing, like how flams interact in a hand-to-hand manner, or practicing the fingering movements between E and A chords. Those interactions need to happen so we can use that technique when it’s time, and even then it’s a matter of learning to fit things together. So if you’re a drummer, break out the practice pad and work on the cold, dry sounds that eventually turn into musical genius on a more sonorous surface. Pianists, run those scales until your hands fall off. Guitarists, practice those tiny runs till you hit blisters, superglue them up, and do some more. But 5 minutes at a time!
You needn’t beat yourself up if you don’t have an hour a day to spend time on your new investment. 15 minutes a day is much more preferable to 1 hr every three days, as you’ll develop good practice habits and your growth as a musician will far surpass those who are on the more intermittent schedule. Recording yourself with your phone video camera is a great habit to get into and you can chart your growth easily, as you’ll have a record of your progress for all time.
Now go practice. 😀 Here’s some inspiration.