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What was the single most thing that improved your drumming?

GiveMeYourSmallestSticks!

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Recording myself at home.

Got heavily into it early/mid 2020. My band at the did a lot of writing, sending each other tracks. I got a 2 mic setup, LDC overhead and a kick mic, and started recording stuff to send back.

My time is considerably better and I’m much better with a click. Time as in vertical and horizontal… ie holding the bpm but also the subdivisions between the notes.

My playing is much more consistent. Dynamics, tone, volume, and internal balance. I play the cymbals and particularly hats much softer now and my backbeat consistency is dramatically better. Not saying I’m a gun like @Whitten but it’s night and day compared to 2019. The minimal mic thing helps here too, a single overhead means there’s no adjusting levels, what the mic hears is pretty much it.

I’d also say my tuning is better, be it lower/thuddy/mufffled or higher/open/tonal/big (how I’ve got the radio kings now, kind of playing with the Eric Valentine style minimal micing approach).

Playing with other musicians is also an obvious one, but for different reasons.
This was going to be my reply as well. Recording and reviewing my practice time can feel a bit like navel gazing, but it really helps to scrutinize what I'm doing outside of the moment I'm doing it. A bit more detachment and objectivity.

I'd also add that my band records all of our rehearsals and performances, and listening back to those has really helped with both improving my technique and internalizing and understanding the material. I tend to be my own worst critic and scrutinize the imperfections, but it's helped me improve faster than at any other point in my drumming development.
 

slow larry

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I'd always played classical guitar for as long as I've played drums. About a decade ago I started studying flamenco guitar, which has a concept called Compás in Spanish. Flamenco is divided into sub-styles called palos. Each palo has a specific compás that incorporates the rhythm, accents, time signature (which is sometimes asymmetrical and abstract), and tempo. It is the most important part of flamenco. A dazzling technical guitarist with no compás is considered worthless to flamenco. Flamenco is a dance tradition as well as music. The dancers also have compás, it hold the entire song together. Instructors are extremely strict, the other players do not tolerate losing the compás. The audience will boo, as they also have compás through el jaleo: clapping, slapping the table, stomping their feet. In traditional performance called juergas, there is no stage or audience area, no separation between the "performers" and the "audience". Anyone may step forward to have a turn singing or dancing, if they know the palo and its compás.

Its something you can feel, like a mental, psychic click-track that the players share; it goes on if you lose it. When first learning you are taught ways to count it mentally, but this is just a teaching tool. It must be felt, similar to the way when you master a polyrhythm you not longer have to mentally count it out, you just feel it.
 
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ButchA

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What has helped me? Even as... well... a NON-drummer? (never had a lesson in my life)...

My E-drums module has a "built in teacher" mode, I guess you could call it that! Alesis Nitro Mesh module has a really cool feature in the "Practice" mode. From there you have dozens of sections. Rudiments, where you have to play along to the module only on snare. It flashes "SLOW!" or "FAST!" if you're not keeping the proper time. It flashes a symbol of a Crown dead center, when you are perfectly matched right on beat with the module. Another section, is where it opens up the full kit, and again, you have dozens of beats from basic 4/4 rock beat, blues shuffle beat, etc... and you match the beat with kick bass, snare, high hat, with the same "SLOW!" or "FAST!" and King's Crown symbol in the center.

But, I can play drums and keep a beat. I'm mainly first and foremost a guitarist, keyboardist, mandolin/fiddle, etc... and use the Alesis Nitro Mesh kit to play drums to tracks that I am working on in Audacity.

Getting straight to the point -- I think the best thing is to actually meet a real (live in person) drum teacher, and have him watch me play (backwards - Lefty), but at least observe, make corrections, offer advice, etc... and really help me learn how to properly play for real, and not be playing wrong for years and years, but make it work.
 

Seb77

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Here is something that improved my playing recently: had my first jazz gig in a long while, a pick-up band/ telephone gig. What I realized, and it was a make-or-break moment, was that I cannot rely on the other musicians to set the scene, inspire me etc. As a drummer, it is my responsibility to etablish the groove, supply the grid, background, scene, mood whatever for the others to play on. After that, I might adjust to their playing, but I need to get into the zone first. In a way, the drums, the groove is the main event.
 

Squirrel Man

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Did anyone say their divorce yet?

:p

Right now it's relaxing, feeling the groove and not tensioning up over the need to learn the groove rather than the feel for learning it.
 

A.TomicMorganic

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Went to a music school for rhythm sections. Learned what my role was in that context. Went home after a month and got a gig the first week and the rest is history. Real history, now that I have retired from music as a living. 50+ years.
 

drums1225

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Playing along with recordings of my favorite bands and drummers from my very earliest stages of drumming. Not only playing along, but actually learning the parts note for note (this was instilled by my teacher from day one). And doing this A LOT. Every day. Almost obsessively.

Some of the main benefits
  • FUN. It became my favorite hobby, and I never had to be reminded or pushed to spend time behind the kit.
  • Developed my ears and my ability to learn songs efficiently and accurately.
  • Built a solid sense of time.
  • Develop drum set vocabulary.
  • Develop memorization skills.
  • Learn song forms.
  • Hone my listening skills and instill a constant awareness of what others are playing and/or singing.
  • Inspired me to work on my technique, when I heard things I wasn't yet capable of.
  • Learned countless songs for my own enjoyment, and later ended up playing many of them in professional situations.
 

sternerp

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Aside from the obvious of practicing, what was the greatest thing that improved your drumming. Was it a book? A video? A youtuber? A teacher?
My wife. She’s got decades of pro experience singing and playing bass in cover bands, hit R&B acts, progressive rock, and blues.

I’ve been playing drums for 15 years (I’m 68) and she’s been very helpful in pushing me to work on timing, dynamics, and listening carefully to recordings of songs I’m learning.

I’m now playing in a popular cover band with her and a group of pro-level musicians. That experience, and lots of practice, has turned me into a pretty good drummer.
 

pwc1141

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Listening. To me learning to listen to what is happening on stage - not just hearing - and not just playing what is in your head because you know the tune.
 

xopherhills

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I feel like since I started recording myself and my bands, noticing what sounded good and what didn't translate well to the recording, I have made great gains. I also have been playing out a ton since covid lessened it's grip, and playing out, recording yourself, and looking back at the video helps a lot too.
 

stuart s

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Listening to wide variety of old songs from different eras except in the one we are in right now.
 

dcrigger

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After having been taught some basic reading, rhythm and hand skills (the oft mentioned Haskell Harr 1 & 2, Chapin, Stone) then.... playing along with records.
 

Matched Gripper

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He is a very polarizing guy, but Tommy Igoe’s ‘Great Hands for a Lifetime’ was probably the most impactful lesson I ever absorbed. I’ve been a better player since using those lessons and practice techniques.
A second would be YouTube in general.
There is almost nothing that isn’t broken down and demonstrated out there on YT.
I’m from the days of lift-and-lower the record needle to learn parts, so YouTube is still almost magical to me.
Gotta ask, what’s polarizing about Tommy Igoe? Loved his interview with @John DeChristopher.
 

John DeChristopher

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Gotta ask, what’s polarizing about Tommy Igoe? Loved his interview with @John DeChristopher.
Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the episode with Tommy. Definitely one of my favorites.

Tommy is a straight shooting no Bee Ess kind of guy and will call things what they are. I wouldn't call that polarizing, but for some people his candor and directness might seem like ego. But it's not. He's just very direct. And he can back it up with his playing. And he's a loyal friend. It's the best way I can characterize him.
 
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dale w miller

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I lead in with that because many times when there is a mention of Tommy Igoe, there are usually a couple comments about his ego.

As someone who’s a former student of his, I think it comes off in the wrong way. He’s very confident and straightforward. As someone who’s similar in that way I can relate I ruffled a few feathers. Ex: After a casual college friend asked me and my friend what we thought of her new haircut, I told her I didn’t really like it. She hated me forever after that, but to me I was just being honest after being asked.

Regarding Tommy, add the fact he’s an amazing player, unlike with me, his approach appears to come off egotistical. In my case, I just come off like an @$):/!(.
 

RIDDIM

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Realizing that playing the instrument at a high level is not necessarily the same as playing the music at a high level, giving it no more and no less than what it and the situation I was in at the time needed. Once I committed to playing the music at a high level, the instrument always sounded good, and better calls started coming in.
 


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