In my mind there are a few different kinds of practice. I break it down mentally as technique practice, stamina practice, and performance practice (read: Rehearsal).
I have been writing about rehearsal a lot, and will continue to, but let me explain a little bit about individual practice, and what I do.
I practice my drumming at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes, every day. I try to get in two hours a day, but that isn’t always possible.
When I say practice, I am not including performances, or sitting around jamming and playing. I mean dedicated practice of drills, new techniques, and tone.
Typically I play the doumbek for about two out every three of my practices, and the riqq, or the frame drum, for my other practices.
That said, I do the warm up drills for each instrument at least once a day.
Today I will write about technical practice, and cover stamina practice another time. (Teaser: Stamina practice is every bit as cool as a training montage from a Rocky movie. All slow motion, sweat dripping, eye of the tiger and little kids swarming around you cheering stuff. Honest.)
Here is my routine for technical practice:
Warm up drills.
This is the boring repetitive stuff that certainly drives my roommates and neighbors crazy. Nothing but the basic strikes, at a slow pace to begin with, to make sure my hands are supple, my tone is good, and my mind is focused.
My pattern recently has been:
- Four doums. Four teks. Eight kas.
- Four doums. Four right handed mutes. Eight kas.
- Four doums. Four right handed flanges. Eight double kas.
- Four doums. Four right handed rizz. Eight left handed rizz.
- Four doums. Four half teks. Eight left handed flanges.
I repeat that until I am comfortable and my head is fairly emptied out of the things that get in the way of a good practice. Good practice is simply not possible, for me anyway, if I am thinking about bills, or work, or what I want to eat, or did I do the dishes, and a million other things. Good practice should be nearly a meditation. Usually ten minutes of the drills is good enough to get me there, but sometimes my whole thirty minutes is nothing but that pattern. Those days must be simply awesome for my neighbors.
Current performance pieces.
I spend a few minutes going over any current material that I will be performing within the next couple of months.
At the moment, that is the tribal dancing rhythms, so I spend time on the 4/4 mix, or the 8/4 slow section, or the 2/4 changes and fills. Part of this time has been used lately working out where I think the Nawari sounds best in the 4/4 mix, without being too complicated for everyone else to follow.
I spend about five or ten minutes on this.
New material and un-mastered material.
Any recently learned rhythm gets some metronome time. I start out very slow in terms of tempo, and I speak the beats out loud as I play them. You get faster by practicing slower. I know that seems paradoxical, or mystical, but it is simply true. Drumming, the physical aspect of hitting a drum with your hands is a matter of pure repetition. Your nervous system (read: The thing you are training with this practice) is already blazingly fast. What it is not is sure of what it is doing. Slow practice makes it sure.
Currently I am working on a great kahleegi variant that another drummer I listen to demonstrated. I am trying to combine it with a malfuf variant and the phrasing on it is very challenging. When I get it right, it sounds awesome. When it is wrong, I play as patiently as I can until I get it right. One day, some day, I will be able to break it out as a roll for a performance, and that will be a really fun day.
I spend ten to fifteen minutes on this.
I finish up on whatever instrument I am practicing with speed drills. Basically you start a mastered rhythm at a steady tempo you can keep with for a goodly time. Then you go into short bursts of speed for four measures of that rhythm and then go back to the steady tempo. If and when your tone suffers, in either the bursts or the steady, you rest for a few moments and then start over. I am certain that this is when the neighbors love me most.
I spend five to ten minutes on this.
All the above aside, I am dedicated, but still human. I do sometimes skip a day here and there if other things come up. But I have learned that bad days are fixed with drumming practice. All the stresses from work, or the what-evers, go away as I practice.
Practice practice practice.