9 Ways To Practice The Impractical
Have you tried to play something a bit offbeat and wondered, “Am I ever going to use this?”, only to quit and move on to something more practical? If you’re like most drummers, this probably sounds familiar. But what if those odd little patterns were actually essential to developing other skills and creating your own unique style? I think we often give up on unusual patterns, not simply because they aren’t obviously practical, but also because their execution is so challenging that we find it hard to improve at them. However, these sorts of concepts might be exactly what our drumming needs.
Working on an awkward and seemingly pointless coordination pattern, rudiment, or polyrhythm can help you in ways you might not expect. Such patterns often require motions, timing skills, and coordination abilities you may not have developed yet. I don’t mean to suggest that they should replace developing solid fundamentals, but by spending a little spare time working on them you may get past limitations you weren’t even aware you had.1. Strengthen Your Weak Hand
As a teacher, I get a lot of students who complain that their left hand is lame. Unless you’re ambidextrous, you probably struggle with your weaker hand, too.
One relatively easy way to improve your left hand is to learn to play basic eighth-note rock beats with your left hand on the hi-hat. It takes a bit of practice to become comfortable enough to reverse hands on a gig. After a bit of practice, once it starts to gel, you’ll notice that your left hand feels stronger, and is more comfortable playing crashes and doing hi-hat barks.Even if you’re just bashing out punk beats, this exercise will help your left hand and right foot get in sync. You don’t always need to play open-handedly, but at least try it in the practice room. You might be surprised at the results.
To take it to another level, try adding more dynamics to the hi-hat pattern, play more difficult beats, and even work up some simple fills with left-handed leads.
2. Turning Rudiments Into Grooves
One of the best ways to apply rudiments to the drum set is to use them as the basis for grooves. Many rudiments can be used for grooves, but for this exercise we’re going to use the paradiddle (Rlrr Lrll) to
create a series of funky beats. First get used to playing the paradiddle between your hi-hat (or ride cymbal) and the snare (Ex. 1). Play accents strongly and unaccented notes much softer, to add a subtle motion between the snare and hi-hat.
Once you’re able to do that easily, try adding the patterns with the bass drum seen in Exs. 2–6. Play the bass drum loudly while maintaining the dynamics with your hands. You may find it pretty challenging to line up bass drum notes under quiet left-hand notes at first, so take these slowly and try not to flam the bass drum and snare. More advanced players can try using other paradiddle inversions (such as Rllr Lrrl, Rrlr Llrl, or Rlrl Lrlr) for the hand ostinatos. Another challenging option is to play the patterns left- handed. Both will develop your dynamic control and coordination.