Five Minutes to Mastery

A photo of Jeff Queen.

In order to master a given skill, you will need to be able to play it with excellent quality at any tempo.

Practicing Process

I will use Flam Accents as a model, but you can follow this general practicing process with any skill (scales, permutations, drumset grooves, hand drum tones and patterns, etc.):

On day one:

  • Set a stopwatch/timer for 5 minutes.
  • Set the metronome to 36 beats per minute (bpm), subdivided in 3/4 quarter notes with the accent on beat 1.
  • Start the metronome; start the stopwatch.
  • Practice the exercise for five minutes at the set tempo, playing with perfect heights, rhythm, and interpretation the whole time.
  • Repeat at 38 bpm.
  • Stretch and repeat at 40 bpm.
  • Say “Whoo hoo!” and repeat at 42 bpm.
  • Get up and move around the house, knowing that you have just gotten a ton better at whatever you were working on.

On day two, start the process wherever you left off and continue increasing the tempo in two-beat increments. If you follow the model and work 20 minutes a day, you will advance through 6 to 8 bpm a day.

Skills Gained

By going through the described process, you will also gain these key skills in your progression as a musician.

  • Patience and Focus. To play super slow for this length of time will take all of your focus, and to progress as slow as I recommend will take a lot of patience.
  • Tempo Control. You will be learning what it feels like to play exact rhythms, in time, at any tempo.
  • Consistency and Muscle Memory. When you play as many perfect repetitions of the skill as you can, you will build muscle memory, quality, and consistency to last a lifetime.

Rome New Year's Day Parade 2017

University of South Florida in Rome

When Dr. Matthew McCutchen, director of the University of South Florida Herd of Thunder Marching Band, was approached about taking his program to Italy to ...