The Art of Practise

Billy Cunningham

January 22, 2018

Happy New Year Students, Parents and Friends of SDS and welcome to the SDS monthly blog. I will be using this to keep you posted of all the latest SDS news, info, practise tips for students, photos, videos, social media and more.

So 2018 is now in full swing and I thought the perfect topic to kick-start the new year and my second monthly blog is the subject of ‘practise’.

The Art Of Practise

“It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Now for some of my students the ‘P’ word may be that terrible thing that Mum’s and Dad’s bang on about (no pun intended!) and that if you’re student of mine, I might say at the end of a lesson “Ok great lesson….so your ‘practise’ for the week is…”. Oh no not practise I hear you cry! This ‘Practise’ doesn’t have to be as painful as it may sound. The thought of having to do extra work on top of school work/homework/house work or whatever work fills your week can be daunting or demotivating.

So how do you practise? What do you practise? When do you practise? These are all very common questions I find myself answering with students and parents. The simple answer is practice regularly and with some structure.

How regularly?

This is up to you and when is convenient with your weekly schedule. Ideally practise should be every day but this may not be possible with after school clubs/homework/work commitments/family commitments etc.

My guidelines for practise technique are as follows:

  • Be organised. Draw up a schedule and stick to it (so many drum puns!). I used to practise up to 4 /5 hours a day but I don’t have that time anymore with a full teaching schedule and gigs. I now practice 30 mins per day Monday to Friday before I go to schools and have the weekend off BUT I don’t miss a day mid-week unless something very serious stops me! Structure your practise, have a warm-up routine, main practice theme and then a play-along/something fun to do at the end. A Warm-up could be some rudiments (doubles/paradiddles etc), a drum fill you’re learning, a groove or some improvisation. This is anything that you can play to warm up your muscles so that you ease in to your practise while still being productive and not a waste of your precious practise time. A Main Theme can be anything that is your main practise for the week, something that was set by me whether it is a piece of music, Drum fill, Groove patterns etc.

  • Have a practise set-up as comfortable and as ‘ready-to-go’ as you possibly can. I have a music stand with my practice repertoire already on the stand with a pencil if I want to make any notes. I have a little stand to perch my cup of coffee and a notebook to write down exactly what I’m practising, bpm (Beats per Minute) markings and progress to date. You should be able to sit down at the drums and go straight into practice mode! No interruptions. A Play-along as it sounds is playing along with some music, something which is fun, a favourite song etc. This is still excellent practise and improves rhythm, general musicianship and coordination.

  • Set some goals in the future. For example a grade exam a few terms ahead, learn a set for a gig, learn a song to perform to your family, learn a groove by the weekend. Whatever the target, structure your practise so you can meet these goals.

  • Use a metronome.There are some great FREE metronome apps available on mobile devices. Use them, they are great. Make a note of any BPM (Beats Per Minute) markings you practise at. Try and learn to play whatever you are practising at different tempos. Slower can be just as hard as faster!

Animation on Practise by Ted-Ed

I found this brilliant animation about practise by Ted-Ed that talks about how signals from the brain to our muscles which allow us to perform are improved with practise.

Here are some key quotes from the video:

“Practise is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement”

“…mastery isn’t simply about the amount of hours of practise, but the quality and effectiveness of the practice. “

“Effective practise is consistent, intensely focused, and targets content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one’s abilities.”

So I hope that this has been some help in learning how to practise properly and I hope that it is now clear why we practise.

Have a great time drumming!