Guitarists, bassists, singers, violinists, harmonica players etc. have it covered: They usually have their instrument(s) and gear at home and can practice whenever they want to. This is not the case for many drummers out there as they don’t have the space (or the patience of their family members or neighbours) to have drums at home. So what to do when you can’t get out of your house and go to your rehearsal space where your drums are waiting for you? Here are 5 easy tips what to do with or without the drums.
1. Practice Pads
If you have nothing to do you can just take your practice pad and start nailing those rudiments! You can never practice enough rudiments or stick control and after you have you will immediately notice how much your playing has improved when you sit behind your kit again.
And if you don’t own a practice pad then one good and effective way is to play the rudiments on a pillow or couch/chair cushions. For example pillows are far softer than a practice pad or a drum head so they have much less rebound. This translates to your muscles working harder and you’ll enhance your strength and stamina. Trust me, it’s worth it!
2. Dry practicing
We think it’s safe to say that all drummers have started their career as air drummers before getting a real kit. Air drumming works for everyone from beginner to pro as your arms and brain don’t care if you’re hitting real drums or not.
Muscle memory and coordination:
So for these exercises you don’t need any equipment (even though sticks won’t hurt), because our goal is not to train the control, rebound or finger movement. You want to train the muscle memory and coordination of your arms and legs. Just take a song or a sheet of music, imagine your drums in front of you and start playing.
One of the important things in air drumming is to concentrate exactly where the individual drums are. So keep in mind where your snare, hi-hat, ride and crashes are and try to hit the same place every time. Otherwise your brain won’t memorize the location of the individual pieces of your kit.
Great tip is to visualize the drums in front of you in different ways like painting them in to pieces of paper or even into a wall like this guy did:
Muscle strength and stamina:
Although air drumming develops muscle memory and coordination, it develops your strength and stamina as well. For example drumming the ground is beneficial for your leg muscles and the ground works like a pillow: The ground offers little rebound so you’ll feel your ankle, shin and thigh muscles after just few minutes of playing which is a sign of progress and makes you a lot faster when you move back behind a real kit.
Here’s an example of air drumming like a beast! Andrew W.K. plays air drums along to the entire Napalm Death’s “Harmony Corruption” album and wears 2.5 pound weighted gloves on each hand for added intensity:
3. Hum and clap to enhance your timing
No drums, no practice pad, no sticks, NO PROBLEM! One really important thing for drummers to practice is timing. You can never practice that enough.
This method doesn’t develop your muscle memory but timing. So just take a song and clap along that song while humming (or even singing if you can) over it and pay attention to your timing. Humming and clapping are pretty simple things to do and to combine and they enable you to erase the muscle memory so you can focus on the timing only.
You can also rise the difficulty level by changing the clapping to a paradiddle (RLRR LRLL) on your thighs or a table and hum your favourite song over it. You can even use a metronome and really try to keep everything together. This is a great way to enhance your timing PLUS coordination at the same time!
4. Clean and tune your drums for once
This is one habit many drummers often lack. Or maybe you tune your drums often but clean them once or twice a year… If you have drums in your house it’s advisable to clean them once in a while beacause of hygiene and well… the looks! When you clean and polish your drums once in a while you’ll feel motivated to play when your drums look good.
Ok looks are important, but do you know the feeling of good sounding drums? That’s what you get when you tune your drums and you will feel motivated yet again! There’s no better feeling than those toms singing like a choir of angels, right? And remember to change those heads if they are beaten to death…
Also if you like those cymbals shiny we advise you to use a cymbal cleaner to do it. But what if you don’t have cymbal cleaner? Well you can buy it, but one surprisingly effective household trick is to use ketchup! You have ketchup in your fridge, right? Use it on your cymbals and the stick marks, finger prints and other nasty stuff will come right off. Then celebrate the result with some french fries. Check out this tutorial to see the difference:
5. Samples and backing tracks in order
Are you using drum samples and/or backing tracks at your gigs and performances? If yes then this is a perfect time to get your samples and backing tracks in order and ready to go when you can play on stage again.
If you use a sampling pad like Roland SPD-SX, Alesis Strike MultiPad or similar, assemble your sets, samples, sounds etc. on them and make everything ready for the future. Your bandmates will thank you!
If your band has a complex backing track setup to back up your live set and you run them i.e. from Ableton Live now you have time to set up all your tracks and maybe talk about them with your bandmates via Skype and plan your next big concert. There’s nothing better than just going to the gig, looking professional, pushing the button and everything working like a charm.
What do you do at home with or without drums? Do you have other practicing methods than just practice pads or air drumming? Have you worked on your samples? Let us know in the comments below or in the Facebook post.