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I am a self-learning drummer for playing drum for around 1 year.

Recently I am facing a problem which is I have lost my direction of practicing.

I feel like I am at a bottleneck and need some guidance to break through it.

Let me explain briefly:

I feel like I can play some simple to normal songs nicely, but still lack of some skills / basic stats like speed or stable-ness to play some advanced songs.

I am eager to practice to improve myself, but I don't know what to do. There are too many fields and directions, for example, should I drill my

  • Two hand speed (16-th note)
  • Weak hand speed and stable-ness
  • Right foot speed for bass drum
  • Left foot speed and stable-ness for hi-hat / double-bass drum
  • Hand-foot co-ordination
  • Rudiment like paradiddle and such
  • Just keep play along with different songs to gain real life experience
  • ....

Each field and aspect can be drilled separately and need one to spend a lot of time to see observable improvement. But there are so many of them that I cannot list them all! I wonder how should I start the practice or should I say, how to set up a training plan (and goals for self-accessing) to help myself to break through my bottle-neck?

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    Join a band. Make sure the other players are better than you. [This is far too short & opinionated to be an answer, but that's really the way to improve & stay interested.] – Tetsujin Nov 3 '17 at 21:29
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First, consider finding a teacher or mentor. This is exactly the sort of question where someone experienced can greatly help. Of course finding such a person with whom you "connect" may be difficult. Even if you can't take regular lessons, it is very valuable to have someone to reach out to occasionally who can see your playing and knows a bit about you specifically.

There are a lot of of online courses and even entire books with videos, etc. that layout specific lesson plans and such. I'm not a big fan of that sort of thing, but I've never been one to study things in a strict order.

One thing that is difficult, but important, is to get out of the "speed" mindset. It is tempting to think of speed like strength, a thing one can build muscles for or train for as a single metric. In practice, the tempo one can really play well at is the combination of a lot of different skills and any one of them can end up being the limiter. Progress will be best when practicing at a tempo where you have complete control and are playing without tension. This can be frustrating as often one can crank the metronome up and still be able to play reasonably, but it is less effective to practice at the hairy edge of what you can play correctly.

Single exercises to develop speed are useful when you know there is a specific localized weakness, or when beginning and all exercises lead to improvement, but as you get better, you'll need more complex exercises to move forward. In as much as you are feeling plateaued, it might be good to work on some things you have not yet worked on and possibly combining multiple skills into a single exercise

A number of these items fall under the general heading of "independence" -- being able to do arbitrary things with all limbs simultaneously comfortably and without tension or undue mental effort. Try playing combinations between the feet and hands to develop both strength in each limb and the ability to use all of them together. Rudiments such as paradiddles can also be applied across any two limbs, and are often the underpinning of another exercise.

(There are many reasons to practice rudiments, but my experience is they're a long term investment not a thing that leads to overnight improvements. I'd consider setting aside a fixed time per day, perhaps as little as 10 or 15 minutes to practice rudiments on a practice pad. You can just work through a list of rudiments or use a book like Stick Control or Funky Primer for the Rock Drummer. It is actually kind of hard to get everything you should out of this kind of practice without making very sure you're doing the exercises correctly. A teacher really helps.)

I use Polynome, an iOS app which lets one program up a variety of patterns and then keeps track of how long one practices. One can also look at tempo progress and such. I find this gamification of practice quite useful. Though in and unto itself this will not tell you what to practice.

Playing with others can also be a great motivator. There's a huge difference between playing in a band and playing along to a song or a metronome.

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    "Progress will be best when practicing at a tempo where you have complete control and are playing without tension." That should be put in huge letters across the walls of every musician's practice space. +1 Our answers have a lot in common. I'm glad it seems I've got the right mindset in my own learning. Finding a band of other musicians who are also learning their instruments and won't mind that you all "suck" helps make it fun and really motivates the learning process. – Todd Wilcox Nov 3 '17 at 7:31
  • @ToddWilcox - hear, hear. I take it a little further, to that tempo minus a few b.p.m. Mainly as we all tend to speed up a little - excitement or whatever - so it gives higher ceiling. – Tim Nov 3 '17 at 7:48
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Don't learn speed. Learn control and learn techniques.

One very important and popular technique is Moeller technique. There are YouTube videos describing how to do it, but look for ones that are older videos that feature Jim Chapin. Moeller will change the way you look at rudiments and will also be a tool you can use a lot. Moeller is very popular on hi-hats (although it's a lot harder on hats than on snare) and you hear it a lot from drummers who came up as marching band drummers like Dave Grohl.

A whole category of techniques are kick drum techniques. There are several. I was able to learn basic heel-toe kick drum technique in about an hour, so that's one place to start. Again, look for YouTube videos on kick drum techniques in general and pick the ones that seem the most interesting or that fit your style the most.

Basically, look at the songs you want to play and try to figure out what parts you can't do, and then search for techniques on that kit piece. Remember, do not try to learn speed, learn control. When you learn control, speed will come automatically. Also certain techniques will let you sound fast but not because you practiced faster and faster, but because you take advantage of the physics of drumming and the physiology of your hands and feet.

I still think warming up with rudiments and working through them is going to reap rewards in the future. One interesting thing to do with rudiments is to mix it up a bit. Once you've got a rudiment down very well and you can go open-close-open, play it on a different kit piece. Play it on two different kit pieces, one with each hand. If you want to get really crazy, play it with one hand and one foot. If you have two kick pedals, you could actually learn rudiments with both feet. As you go through the rudiments and learn techniques, you'll start to hear that the literature of drumming is built out of those pieces.

Finally, pick at least one song that seems out of your reach - perhaps one that just has a few parts you're not quite ready for. Start to work on it very slowly. Look for techniques that the original drummer may have used. Look for videos of the original drummer playing it and examine their motion and technique. Practice slowly to maintain control. Take the song apart and simplify parts to get through it, then start adding back in hits that you left out at first.

Keep up with metronome practice, play along with songs you love, learn techniques, play rudiments, and look for the things that make it fun and chase those down.

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Find a teacher.

I've been self-taught piano for 10ish years, I developed a lot of bad habits and my playing worked, but was simplistic. I couldn't progress my playing to the next level.

I came to conclusion that what was missing, was a knowledgeable mentor and having the answer to someone.

Some things she's bought to me that I would not have otherwise:

  • Technique - self taught instrumentalists often forego technique to get somewhere, not realising that technique is there to aid you when things get difficult. She has shown me how correct technique solves some of my issues.
  • Persistence - having to attend a lesson every week and show some form of improvement, has created huge motivation to achieve the things I once branded 'too hard'.
  • Warming up - If i rock up to a lesson cold without playing, I inevitably spend 10 minutes of my lesson mentally coming to terms with the fact I'm hear to play.
  • Playing correctly at half-speed, my teacher argues it's better that I play it correct and learn to speed up than play it at full speed for 3 weeks, badly and never quite get it correct.
  • Breaking the hard parts down into simpler repetitive loops, play the bar that leads into the hard part, play the hard part and the bar out of it, keep playing them together until the hard part is right.
  • Scales - most self-taught players hate this stuff, but whatever the drum equivalent is of learning scales, start running drills on those.

Unfortunately, some people aren't self-motivated and need that teacher, that's me. I would start doing all of the above and a few months in, give it the flick. Having to answer to the invoices I keep paying and meet the teacher every week has been instrumental in moving my playing from "fingering around the keyboard" to being able to wander up to pianos in the city and "just play".

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