Video Blog: What is the Point of Practicing?


Knowing the point of practicing is the most important piece of information you will ever learn if your goal is to improve your playing. It is incredible to me that ABSOLUTELY NO ONE KNOWS this crucial piece of information!! When I ask new students what the point of practicing is, every one of them gives the same answer: "to get better". "Getting better" is definitely NOT the point of practicing. Instead, it is merely a BY-PRODUCT or BENEFIT you'll receive if you understand the actual point of practice. It's time to let the cat out of the bag and spread the word:

The point of practicing is to PLAY CORRECTLY!!

Once I tell my students this crucial bit of information they inevitably look at me and say "well that's obvious!" to which I reply "if it's that obvious why couldn't you tell me?"

The act of playing a drum, or any musical instrument for that matter, is a series of specific body movements performed accurately in sequence. Logic dictates that if you are going to learn a series of movements on any instrument, it would be of great benefit to learn those movements correctly from the beginning.

So many students, however, make the mistake of playing too quickly, too loudly or inaccurately when they first learn certain drumming movements. And, because these movements are learned incorrectly, they must then UNLEARN and then RELEARN these movements. My question to students is "why not learn the movements correctly the first time?"

For today's video I've invited a special guest to join me--one of my "students" who certainly does NOT understand the point of practicing. If his "practice session" looks like yours it's time to take a new approach. Accurate practice (usually done slowly) leads to accurate muscle "memory". Once your hands are familiar with the movements they need to execute, increased speed and facility will occur organically over time. Many times, on both drum kit and pipe band snare, I have demonstrated to my students the power of slowing things down and getting the movements correct. They are always amazed. Some have even said it's like a "magic trick"! But trust me, it's no trick. It's simply self-discipline, common sense and work-ethic.

If you're having a problem with a particularly difficult rudiment or phrase in a drum score, try the following:

  1. Slow it way down so you can play it perfectly. Use a metronome to help make sure your rhythm is accurate
  2. Once the passage is learned, play it very slowly 10 times in a row. If you get to 9 and make a mistake, go back to zero and start again
  3. When the passage can be played 10 times in a row, try playing it faster. I think you'll be very happy with the results!

Next week I'll be discussing more helpful tips and tricks for practice. Until then... Happy Drumming!

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