I have known this for years, but it was reinforced recently when I attended one of Benny Greb’s Master Sessions. I think Benny is an amazing drummer, but that didn’t just come to him without hard practice. I actually think he’s just damn good at practicing and being super efficient with his time, which turned him into an incredible drummer. So before you sit down at your drums, plan out exactly what you are going to do. If you want to just play around for a bit, then at least plan that (not what you’re going to do, but the fact that you’re just going to experiment for a while). The point of this isn’t to make your practice routine ultra rigid – and you can still be spontaneous if you’re feeling inspired – but you need to be more intentional with what you want to accomplish with your time behind the kit.
This isn’t some hidden pitch for Drumeo. Obviously I think Drumeo is amazing; that’s why I work my ass off every day to make the best drum lessons in the world. You can get your lesson plan from anyone who is qualified. Go get a private lesson with a local instructor, take a Skype lesson with a drummer online, or maybe you could even get some Drumeo lessons. (Click here to find the right lessons for you!)
I go through phases where I become obsessed with certain things. Like when I practiced finger technique non-stop for years, or sat in a room slowly practicing the Moeller motions for days and days. I would literally not hang out with my friends so I could stay at home and practice my rudiments. I know, I know, a bit boring but I am happy I did it – well, most of it. One big mistake I made, and still sometimes make to this day, is that I don’t balance my practice enough between technique and musicality. What point is having good technique if you have nowhere to apply it? So for me, I need to be very intentional about playing music and becoming a better musician. Practicing technique won’t make you a better musician. Playing music will make you a better musician. Technique is easy and fun to practice because it’s quantifiable, but it’s not the be-all-end-all with drumming. No musical director cares how fast you can play, or how good your medium full stroke roll is. So try to balance your practice between technique and musicality (if you need more help with this just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tell your friends, wife, brother, sister, bandmates, dry cleaner, pastor, whoever, that you’re going to do something. Ask them to hold you accountable if you want. I did this once, and I had to learn the hardest thing I’ve ever learned. It was a Virgil Donati exercise where he plays a single paradiddle between his right hand and right foot, then a double paradiddle between his left hand and left foot). It was crazy hard, but I’m glad I did it. You don’t have to choose something as hard as I did, but it’s really motivating to pick something and go for it. Not only is it motivating for you, but you’ll be surprised that it might give someone else a kick in the butt to be more productive!
Of all the tips, this is the most important. Maybe that means it should be number one, but oh well – let’s leave it at number five so only the hardcore drummers who read the whole article get the best tip! Whether you’re actively listening to music, tapping on your legs, or just playing on the practice pad, do something every day. Even if it’s just 10 minutes each time, it’s better than nothing. There are no excuses for not practicing. Don’t get into the mindset that the ‘stars have to be aligned’ for you to practice on the kit. Just do something. And remember, if you need anything just email me: email@example.com
This may seem like a logical tip but you’d be surprised at how many people forget it when recording drums or anything else for that matter! If the drum kit doesn’t sound good at the source, there’s no tip or trick out there that can improve the sound of what’s been recorded. Similarly, if you’re trying to get a “big drum sound” but working with a small sounding kit (or vice versa) you’ll have a hard time doing so.
Testing new #yamahadrums drums amazing sound!!!🎶 #yamahatourcustom love it!! #❤️ (external recording)!@YamahaDrumsEU @YamahaMusicEU pic.twitter.com/Mw3Yowde0M — Efthimis Tsakonitis (@efth_tsakonitis) June 24, 2019
As a general rule, listen to how the kit sounds in the room it’s being recorded in. If you don’t like how it sounds, change something about the drums first. Once you’re happy with the sound, record little bit and play things back. If they sound the same as they do on the floor, you’ve done your job right. If not, you need to change something about your recording approach.
More important than the drums being used is the musician you’re recording. You’d be amazed at how professional drummers are able to make even the lowest quality kits sparkle. Matching the right drummer to the right song is key to a good recording. Everybody plays with their own style and what works for one song doesn’t always work for another. Unfortunately, when starting out your resources and drumming talent to choose from may be limited. If you’ve tried everything you can and things still aren’t working, consider reaching out to a professional for help.
Don’t make the mistake that many beginners do and wait till you’re in a tracking session to figure out the arrangement. It’s too late at this point to make changes and you won’t get nearly as good of a recording than if you had worked with the drummer beforehand. Instead, meet with the talent early on and figure all the details out ahead of time. This includes things like mapping out exactly how long each section will be and deciding on a proper tempo. Also, solidifying how the drum beat is going to develop and change throughout the song is very important. Keeping this tip in mind ensures that your drum recording session goes as smooth as possible with no wasted time.
Even after you’ve gone through the whole song’s pre-production, there’s still more that the drummer needs to do. They have to practice the song, either with a band or scratch track, until they’re confident in it. Above all else they should practice playing to a metronome at the decided tempo as much as possible. This is something that a lot of amateur drummers don’t have experience in and it makes a big difference.
Getting ready to #record! #recording #recordingartist #recordingstudio #drums #drummer #drumkit #rock pic.twitter.com/ZdEKwasKZs — Project213 (@Project_213) June 26, 2019
When recording drums a click track (aka metronome) is used to ensure that the drummer is consistent throughout the song. This tip makes a noticeable improvement unless the drummer isn’t able to lock into the tempo of the click. If that’s the case your track will end up sounding messy. So make the time to practice with the click before getting into the studio.
This is a tip that can really separate amateur and professional drum recordings. However, it’s often because amateur budgets are low and drum heads are expensive. You don’t necessarily need to change heads every recording, just make sure they aren’t too old. It’s typical to change drum heads at least every 6 – 12 months. So, if it’s been longer than this for your drums or they are looking pretty beat, swapping out the heads is a good choice. Drum heads typically need to be broken in so change them a week before the recording. Then have your drummer play them a fair bit ahead of time. You shouldn’t expect your drummer to do this at no charge however, as drum heads are not cheap! See if you can find room in your budget to cover even a portion of the cost of doing so.