Playing the drums is great fun and a cool way of exercising at the same time. Drummers each have their own natural talent and will learn new things at different rates, but one very important aspect to get right as soon as possible is ergonomics.
Ergonomics is defined as: the science of adapting the job and/or the equipment and the human to each other for optimal safety and productivity. This concept is important because it helps keep us from strain injury. The worst thing to do when playing drums is to slouch, which a lot of drummers do without even noticing. We should sit with a straight back and have the drum kit set up so we don’t need to stretch for anything – with the snare drum and floor tom(s) at waist height. While holding the drum sticks correctly to allow rebound to happen, with our elbows relaxed, the sticks should strike each drum in the middle.
Once we are comfortable and know our ergonomics are correct we need to have a schedule of practice. Too many drummers simply play to a CD or two without tackling problematic areas. Whatever we need to work on – phrasing, rudiments, sub-divisions, grooves, and so on – we should always practice slowly with a click to begin. Make a note of the BPM, then every couple of practice sessions increase that by a couple of beats. This way our bodies won’t notice any large increase in tempo and over time we will be able to play each exercise with more pace and control. If we make continued mistakes then we should lower the BPM as we need to keep control.
Control is obviously gained by repetitive practice. Think of a sponge absorbing water. This is what drummers do with what we practice. An important thing to do while practicing is to use plenty of dynamics which will help gain the muscle memory for each exercise. Correct breathing is also an important consideration.
Practice can be hard work but is really pays off when performing shows and enjoying everything we play.
Dan Jacobs (Ipswich, United Kingdom)
Vic Firth PDT
Author of educational drum kit book ‘What Do You Practice?’
Founder of www.dansdrumlessons.com – The Online Drum School.