Make Time For Drumming Practice! Prepare for Gigs On Your Knees.
There just aren’t enough hours in the day for drumming practice. Even with my Roland V-Club Set which I could play any time, silently, (see "How to Be A Successful, Silent Drummer Changing to Electronic Drums") I used to constantly find myself unprepared for band rehearsals and gigs because I just hadn’t done enough drumming practice.
Im no pro-drummer by any stretch of the imagination. I have a day job, which takes up most of my time and a family, which takes up the rest but I love playing the drums. I play with a local band just rock covers and its great fun. Sight-reading sheet music has always been a real problem for me ESPECIALLY when playing the drums; Im just not fast enough.
So in order to compensate for the small amount of drumming practice time I get I’ve had to develop a simple notation system of my own devising which I can refer to at gigs. Every time I get a lunch break at work, or five minutes in the afternoon, I listen to the tracks I have to learn to play, and drum along on my knees. As I listen, learn and play, I write notes for the song, using one sheet of paper per track. The notes have to be large, clear and brief so they’re easy to follow on stage. Of course, the notes are intended only to guide me through the song, not to account for every single beat. This is why it’s so important to learn the song as thoroughly as possible!
I tend to write a line for the intro, a line for the first verse, one for the first chorus, one for verse two and so on to the end. It might end up looking like this:
Intro: R/S - 4/4 - 8 bars
It should be pretty self-explanatory. R stands for ride symbol, 4/4 represents a basic rock beat. HH(c) is closed Hihat, HH(o) is open Hihat and S represents snare. This is as simple as it gets I dont include the bass drum unless its particularly complex, as I find it tends to play along unconsciously! Of course if it were typed like this, I wouldnt be able to follow it. It needs to be big, clear and in my own handwriting.
I might miss out the odd bit here and there on the sheet. If this is the case, its because I already know these bits and I dont need to include them. But because its just me thatll be using it, no problem! If you try this out, youll probably develop an entirely different form of notation to suit you. But heres the real benefit of using this system: Ive found that by forcing myself to write out a sheet of notes for an entire song, I can learn it much more effectively and much faster. Before I used this system, I used to vaguely learn songs and fight my way through them more by luck than judgement.
Now, by listening carefully to the track, playing on my knees and making a note of the more complex nuances of the track, I usually have the song down within ten to fifteen minutes. I can then turn up to the practice room with the band and have the whole thing down pat in two or three plays (assuming theyve done their homework)! I keep my notes with me when I play, but theyre more of a security blanket than anything. I just wish the bass player would stop knocking them onto the floor mid-track
Of course, you could use a drum practice pad or a full practice drum set if you prefer. The drumming practice pad will obviously be more mobile, but the practice drum set will give you a better feel for the way the track will be played. I use a Roland V Club set for practice at home. I still use my knees when I'm at work, but you could be brave and take a look at the Roland RP2 V Drumming Practice Pad which will probably be a mite more fun!
© Max B