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Time In - Time Out
I wrote an article a while back called Eight Essentials of the Artist Drummer, where I define an artist as the ultimate drummer a Buddy Rich, so to speak. A true artist drummer has eight essential qualities, including Solid Time, Authenticity, and Good Dynamics. (See Eight Essentials of the Artist Drummer for more.) Eventually, I will devote a separate article to each of the eight essentials. This week, we'll cover the first one: Solid Time. You'll learn what Solid Time is, how to get it, and how to keep it through proper practice with a metronome. As a bonus, you'll find that this type of practice will greatly increase your studio drumming skills.
You're In For Defeat, If You Ain't Got That Beat
An exception is when you play in free tempo. While free playing does have its place, here we'll concentrate on what it takes to develop a steady tempo especially important if you want to develop steady work.
There are many different models of metronomes available today. When shopping for one, I strongly suggest that you choose one rated high in accuracy. Stay away from the old style pendulum types. Battery and plug-in electronic types are much more accurate.
Most recording session work today requires you to play along with a "click" track, which is simply a metronome beat pumped into the headphones of all musicians on the session. While this may sound simple enough, it takes plenty of practice to play with a click track and still maintain the groove. First timers usually end up sounding like a bad electronic drum machine. The best way to develop Solid Time and prepare for studio recording work is to practice with a metronome.
How To Practice With A Metronome
Next, move the metronome tempo up to 120 bpm and repeat the same simple exercise, playing two taps to each metronome click. Continue playing for another minute or two.
Once you've completed that, set the metronome down to 40 bpm and play the same exercise again. What happens? Do you find it harder to play evenly spaced beats? Welcome to the wonderful world of drumming and time keeping.
Contrary to popular belief, it's much harder to play at slow tempos than fast ones. Why? Because slow tempos leave you so much more room to make mistakes!
You can use exercises from practically any drum book to play along with your metronome, and it doesn't matter if you play on a practice pad or drum set. But if you do plan to practice on an acoustic drum set, you'll need to get a metronome that includes a headphone jack if you actually expect to hear the click sound over your drum sound!
Solid Time Skill Test
This is a fun exercise and one that usually takes time to get good at. But once you can consistently maintain any tempo (slow, fast, or half fast), try extending the time that you're playing without the audible click. Try to get up to about 30 seconds, but don't cheat. If your metronome has a light, make sure you can't see it.
Three Types of Time
Not For Beginners Only
Do you know how fast you are? How fast can you play right-handed Triplets? How about left-handed ones? What about Paradiddles and Single Strokes? How about your double bass drum Single Strokes? Practicing with a metronome can tell you. I suggest that you get a notebook and label it for your drum practice only. Use it to keep a dated record of your maximum tempos on a variety of basic rudiments and update it from time to time. Weeks, months, and years down the road, you'll be able to look back and see a written record of your progress. And if you notice that you're not making any, then you'll know it's time to find a new drum instructor!
Until next time: Stay loose and stay on that click track!
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