Shoes? No Shoes? If you look at footage of John Bonham on the Led Zeppelin DVD he's wearing cowboy boots while playing Communication Breakdown. But he was exceptional. Most of us need no barriers in the way of comfortable footwork. The best shoes for me are fashionable bowling shoes or light low cut sneakers or martial arts shoes. Some drummers claim they only play barefoot but with all the broken glass about in a nightclub I would not advise this at gigs and so neither at practices. Besides I find my feet slip around the plates too much when they are bare or in socks.


To get good speed try what I call doubling and halving. Start with single strokes (RLRL) at a comfortable speed (say 100b/min) counting it as:

1...2...3...4... (play it for 20 seconds) then double the speed without stopping:

1.&.2.&.3.&.4.&. (for 20 seconds) then double the speed without stopping again:

1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a (20 seconds) then half it and half it again.

Then push up the metronome speed 5 b/min and repeat the sequence; and keep pushing it until you cannot play the 16ths NEAT any more. Then back down 5 b/min and practice at that speed for a few minutes.


'Space’ is the word.

Often as drummers we cram a fill into the end of nearly every measure ... why?

I think we might do it for two reasons:

We have a hang up. We believe we are good but we are good at so much that we also believe that we need to demonstrate as much of the material we have learned as possible so that others may know we are good too.

When we practice by ourselves on a drum kit we practice our fills in the context of a beat and of course, to fit in as many fills in our practice time as possible (which is a good thing for practice purposes) we play a fill at the end of nearly every measure. This becomes a habit we carry into band rehearsals (to the annoyance of our bassist) and into gigs/recordings to the detriment of the song.

but remember ...

A well placed gap creates tension; a long chain of solid uninterrupted grooving creates the pulse for dancing; one or two beautifully timed well constructed fills really stand out in a song ... and say much about your own skill and confidence as a drummer.

Fills are like swearing. Swear all the time and people either ignore the swearing or look down on you. People will pay attention when a priest swears.


If you cannot get hold of a metronome try playing along to whatever comes on the radio. There is a wealth of genres and tempos to challenge you while you play your rudiments and grooves. Try halving and doubling the tempo and playing odd time signatures against whatever is playing on air.


First move the audience, then move the drummers in the audience.

Play excellent grooves and times and the audience will clap and dance. Later as your toolbox of proven fills and difficult manoeuvres fills up you will also be able to wow the drummers in the audience who will be watching.

Remember, the average Joe Shmo out there thinks a single stroke roll is as impressive as triplets with a bass drum. They really cannot tell the difference. Only drummers know; and if they judge you for playing simple fills and techniques then it is their problem or hang up not yours.


There should be no competition in the drumming world. Do not rank yourself against others. Drumming is cool and so are drummers… that should be enough. How can most of us compete with the super drummers who grew up with drums and the best tutors and seeming endless hours of rehearsal time, people who have been pro for decades. You will only make yourself nervous and too flashy on the stage if your attitude is wrong. There is only one drummer you have to compete with … yourself at your last gig.


Mistakes can be heaven sent. I wonder how many great grooves, fills and intros arose from a drummer trying to do one thing and ending up doing something else, something new and extraordinary. One of the primary skills of the drummer is to make their mistakes musical. While practicing the patterns in books I have often accidentally added a beat here or missed a tom there and then the whole pattern or time signature swings a different way. When that happens I instantly try to replicate the mistake and polish it up. If you can do this live then you are well on your way.


‘No drummer is better than a bad drummer,’ a great musician once told me. Very often no one notices a good drummer but people almost always notice a bad one. Always remember at your purest you are a time-keeper. Nothing is more important than groove.


I love drummers with great and clever grooves who are not bashful about playing straight four-on-the-floor or even not playing at all when the song requires it, and just before you can say 'yes, this is a simple but effective drummer,' they play a great fill that shows that they are far more capable. The best drummers reveal just enough for us to know they have a store-house of stuff but they are mature/artistic enough to just play time. It cannot be said too often: play for the good of the song.


Inspirational speaker Anthony Robbins said: ‘most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year - and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!’ Be realistic and consistent in your progress. Try to imagine what kind of drummer you will be next year and in ten years time. Corny as this may sound: interview yourself in the shower; introduce your own drum instruction DVD; talk to your imaginary drum clinic. The best way to travel is to live as if you have already arrived.

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