I was at a rehearsal this past week working on a paradiddle passage that was sounding very … average. Not great, not bad.
All the notes and rhythms were there, but it lacked real clarity and sound quality. That’s when I turned the metronome down several clicks, and the truth was out – we couldn’t play the music slow! Drumming slowly is absolutely essential to drumming well at faster tempos. And it’s much easier to start slow and build up, then the reverse.
Today’s drummers are exposed to so many amazing drum lines. Drum corps, winter percussion, colleges and high school drum lines are playing at extremely high levels. It is so easy to get your hands on exercises, cadences and music—and also so easy to get into the habit of drumming everything fast, fast and faster.
That’s a lot of fun and shouldn’t be dismissed. But it is very important to take a different approach when working on rudiments, exercises and music with your own drum line.
The techniques that you need to play with quality and high tempos can only be developed at slower tempos. If you cannot play paradiddle-diddles at 140, then I guarantee you cannot play them with quality at 170. Playing slowly lets you master how much arm, wrists and fingers you need to use. It helps develop your rhythmic accuracy. You can ensure you are playing the drum strongly and producing a great sound. And you can build the muscles and chops you’ll need to really reef the tempo.
Liven It Up
Now of course it can also be quite boring! So do it with a friend and do it with a metronome to keep yourself honest.
Make it a game…20 good reps at 130 before you turn the met up to 135. Chart your progress and reward yourself. But mainly remember that hard work at lower tempos will pay off.
About the Author
Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. During the past 10 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.