Practicing Without a Kit Part #1 (For: All Skill Levels)
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
There will always be certain concepts that really require the feel of a full kit to perfect, still, there's a lot you can get out of a practice pad (or any surface you can effectively hit with a stick!). If you can make a piece of rubber sound musical, it goes without saying that your kit playing is going to follow suit.
When practicing on a pad you should aim for consistency > speed, focusing on maintaining a strong and clean technique as well as nailing in your timing - ideally any practice on the kit will be done alongside a metronome and/or while counting out loud.
First port of call, for me at least, when building up ideas to practice on the pad is to work on your understanding of the relationship between different note values. I'd introduce this concept with some ideas that swap between 1/8 notes and 1/16 notes.
Start with this simple phrase that uses a consistent single stroke roll, 1 bar in 1/8 notes followed by 1 bar in 1/16 notes. It's important to understand that the second bar isn't faster, it's busier - you're fitting more notes into the same amount of space. Count a 1/4 note pulse out loud and preferrably back that up with a metronome at a steady tempo (starting somewhere around 60-80 BPM you can then move forward, 5 or so BPM at a time, to build speed).
In this second example we're approaching the same basic idea but switching up our sticking pattern. This time using a double stroke roll, slightly trickier than the first phrase so take it slow and remember our 'consistency > speed' mantra here. Doubles are extremely useful for building up stick control and a quality technique, as you push the tempo forward be aware of how you're using the weight of the stick to get that double locked in.
It's always a solid idea to check and be critical of your technique while playing on the pad, watch your wrists and try to loosen up until they're super relaxed and you're able to play consistently wthout locking up.
Finishing here with the paradiddle, everyone's favourite... not to be neglected, even if you don't find a use for them around the kit (OF WHICH THERE IS MANY!) the technique and control you can build up by dialling in your paradiddles is useful and will propel your feel on the kit to the next level, don't slack.
So, there's 3 basic ideas to rekindle your relationship with your pad. Are they as fun as blazing round the kit? Probably not.... but with enough work and dedication you can find the music in these ideas, especially as you move into the doubles and paradiddles.
Extra curricular activities:
Consider playing along to your favourite music - find the pulse and use the track like a metronome.
Think about using a 'gap click' to test your timing (a meteronome where there's a bar or more of silence, try youtube for this if you don't have an app - I use Metronomics HD on my laptop, Tempo on phone.)
There's a comprehensive selection of similar exercises in George Lawrence Stone's 'Stick Control' book - very much worth seeking that bad boy out!
Enjoy! This is part 1, the next posts will be pushing your pad skills further and exploring more ideas on how to get music out of a single surface.
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