5 Things to Help Improve Your Playing

Forgive me everyone, (Austin) for not posting yesterday. Got caught up in all of life’s things. However, today I am going to list some things that have helped me improve my playing tremendously. These can be applied to almost any skillset/instrument you may be trying to learn. Here they are, and list some things that helped you underneath to help broaden the spectrum.

1. It sounds painful, but practice every single day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, say 30 to 60 minutes. Work it into your schedule and make it a routine. It helps if you set a designated time to practice for everyday (i.e. Mon: 3 – 4, Tues: 4-5, Wed: 3-4 etc) I remember setting a new years resolution a few years ago to practice an hour each day, every day and I have stuck with it ever since. Think about that, an hour a day is 365 hours a year. This doesn’t even include time you sit down to jam with friends or rehearsing with a band.

1.5 I just want to explain exactly what number one is doing here. Essentially, you are building muscle memory. Stuff you don’t have to think about later when you actually want to use it in your playing. Examples of this are seen in every day life and can be applied to almost anything that you are doing. For example, someone running a marathon is not going to begin training by running a marathon. They are going to gradually work themselves up to that point by conditioning their body for the final race. A smaller example would be  working at a burger joint. Someone who has just started is not going to be able to make a double cheeseburger or chicken sandwich as fast or up to standard as the person that has been there, repeating the process, for a longer period of time. At Starbucks, the process they use to make drinks is called the beverage repeatable routine. Hopefully this helps explain why number one is so important.

2. Focus your practice time and make it useful. What does this mean? Don’t just sit down and play an hour long drum solo or sax/guitar/bass/trumpet solo, pick a technique/style/idea you want to learn and hit it hard. Currently my shuffles are terrible and I have been playing along with shuffles and grabbing ideas from Stanton Moore’s Groove Alchemy book to help with this. Another example would be if you were trying to learn the moeller technique. Take 10 or 15 minutes each day and just focus solely on that. 10 or 15 minutes a day adds up to 70 – 105 minutes on just that technique alone each week. I guarantee you this is the “secret” the pros are applying. They may be upping the times a bit. haha

3. Listen to and even emulate the people you look up to. Here lately I have been listening to tons of Stanton Moore, David Garibaldi, Jojo Mayer, and a slew of punk drummers from going to live shows. I have noticed from listening and grabbing ideas from each individual, I have morphed all of these styles of playing into an odd (in order of drummers previous mentioned) laid back, linear, funky/technical, upbeat type feel of playing. Keep in mind, I am not “trying” to do this, it is just what is happening because of who I am listening to and studying at the current moment.

4. This one is huge, and I have seen tons of awesome players overlook this. You NEED to play with other people. Jam, create music, play covers, anything just as long as you are jamming with another living being! I have seen so many phenomenal players keep themselves behind bars for way too long and when they sit down to play with other people, they have no idea what to do. Trust me, it is a big difference to jam at home by yourself and to actually jam along with people and make sure everything is staying together. You will find out that all those chops and fancy fills/guitar solos you worked on aren’t so important anymore.

5. This one is simple, warm up before you start working on stuff. This is huge for drummers because they work so many muscle groups. Take the time to stretch and get your muscles warm before you start playing 300 bpm blast beats and terrorizing all them toms with fills. Pick a rudiment and work on it for about 5 minutes. Guitarists do spider exercises for a couple minutes etc…..

This is a video on what Tony Royster Jr. does to warm up before practicing.



One thought on “5 Things to Help Improve Your Playing

  1. Great list man, all of these things get taken for granted so much. Consistency is such a huge deal, practicing every single day might seem excessive but you will seriously notice all the progress you will be making.

    Staying focused is hard sometimes but completely worth it. Don’t get caught up in fads and shit like gravity rolls or whatever. Those things are cool and fun but focus on the things that you can put to use while playing with other people.

    Be creative. I like finding a groove, beat, or fill and learning it at different tempos. After you get comfortable playing something get creative and add your own flavor or style to it. Experimentation is good but only when its applicable to something.

    Listening is so important for a drummer or any musician for that matter. When playing with other people, it is really important to listen and stay focused on what they are doing. I always try to pick up on little things and it can really help develop a good sound or feel between musicians.

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