Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Weight Room: Practicing for consistency

The philosophy behind this one is simple: If you want to do it well in performance, you've got to do it really, really, really well in practice.

Before you start, you need to determine a couple of things. First, choose a small chunk of music - a measure, phrase or fill, etc. Clearly define how/where it starts and ends. Then set up your parameters. What are you practicing for? Rhythms or pitches? Dynamics, articulation or phrasing? All of the above?

In short, you need to know how to determine if you got it "right" after each repetition or attempt. It's an oversimplification, but I use basketball as an example. If it went through the hoop, it's a make. If it didn't, it's not. So you've got to know what the "hoop" is before you start. Once you've decided what that is, don't back down. Hold yourself to that standard each time, with no slacking off. Remember, the harder you push yourself in practice, the easier the performance will be.

Okay, done with the preliminaries. Here are two ways I help myself develop consistency.

Get it right a total number of times.
With this technique, you don't worry about how many attempts you make, or how many mistakes for that matter, but the total number of times you can play it right. Using the free throw example, don't worry if it takes you 283 attempts. As long as the ball goes through the hoop a total of 10 times (or whatever you've determined the magic number to be) you're done!

Get right a number of times consecutively, or "in a row." This one's a little more demanding, because every time you make a mistake, you start back over at zero. Again, with free throws, it doesn't matter how many total makes you have, you have to make 10 (or whatever number) consecutively, with no misses in between.

Honestly, when I'm learning a new concept I usually start out with the total number of times idea, and progress to the consecutive times technique as I get better. Pretty soon, you're developing the sense of what it takes to get it right each time. And, as you do it over a period of several days (or weeks, months, whatever) you will train your brain and body to do the motion(s) correctly by default. You will, in essence, "program" yourself to perform whatever it is correctly, almost without thinking about it.

This is one of the reasons teachers ask you to perform basic exercises (think 8 On A Hand) every day. Not because you need work on your eighth notes, but because you'll reinforce correct grip, path, travel, etc. about a thousand times in the first five minutes of your practice session.

And finally, remember that developing skills and technique that will last is sort of like watching your hair grow. You won't notice the progress day by day, but if you keep at it, after a few weeks, months and years, you've gone from a buzz cut to Rapunzel.

Happy drumming!

1 comment:

  1. This is a very good article it talks about being consistant and helping yourself be better. You can can do it. Good luck band members!


Drummer's Weight Room: Tap Timing Exercise

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