Wednesday
Nov182009

Warming Up

As promised, I hopped on to the wagon this week and got back into the daily practice routine.

Following the instructions in one of my drum books (and the advice of many), I've been beginning each practice session with some standard hand warm-ups.  These primarily consist of repeating eighth notes on a drum or practice pad many, many times, in a variety of sticking patterns.

The first exercise, for example, instructs to do a single-stroke roll (R-L-R-L-R-L-R-L), beginning at 70 bpm, with full strokes, for three minutes straight.  Then you increase the tempo a little, etc., until you finally reach a tempo at which you can't keep the notes consistent sounding.

Observation:  70 bpm feels very, very, VERY slow when you're playing eighth notes with no accents.  And three minutes of hitting this humdrum pattern feels like forever.  At first, I found myself wondering, "Is it really necessary to begin at this tediously slow tempo?", however after forging through the exercises and cycling through tempo from slow to fast, I began to appreciate its value.  When playing through the range of tempos from min to max, the middle tempos are very easy to keep consistent.  However both the slow end and the fast end present challenges.  So, although it is boring at the time, it's good to force oneself to go through the full three minutes at 70 bpm to kick things off.

Added bonus: After about 30 seconds, my mind effortlessly wandered into a "zone", wherein I stopped thinking about the notes, but still noticed and adjusted things if any of them stood out.  It was almost a meditative state- Perhaps not ideal for my improvement as a drummer, but kind of nice for my general well-being.  :)

While playing at the slow, slow tempo I also paid very careful attention to my full strokes (particularly during the first go-through of this exercise).  The book I'm working from emphasizes to "play off the drum, not into the drum", encouraging the drummer to "drop" the stick and let it naturally rebound- not to use any effort to raise the stick back up.  During the dozens of iterations of tediously repeating full stroke after full stroke, I noticed that this technique comes quite natural with my right hand, but is not natural at all with my left hand.  In fact, I find it quite difficult, even when I'm really focusing on it.  I don't know if this is because right is my dominant hand, or if it's the result of years of throwing my left stick at the snare and purposely keeping it from rebounding so it doesn't interfere with my hi-hat or right hand/stick.  It's definitely something for me to work on.

The subsequent warm-ups were variations on a theme of single-stroke and double-stroke rolls, again at increasing tempo.  Unfortunately, I only got through three of them in the course of an hour, probably because of my severe/neurotic attention to acute detail for everything that was going on during the warm-ups.  I might be reading too much into what I'm doing, but I think it's okay until I get really comfortable with these exercises.  In the future I'd like to spend about 10-15 minutes warming up and then proceed to work on other things, hehe.  All in good time (pun intended)!

Saturday
Nov142009

I'm a big slacker... and it's YOUR fault!

Just kidding. I would never be so bold as to imply something I did wrong was not my own responsibility!

Things have been really busy lately with the band and at work, and I seem to have let the DIP just kind of hang out in cyberspace, all alone.  That is not cool, was not my intention, and quite frankly I am ashamed that it's gotten to this point.

But, no sense in dwelling on the past.  Let's get back to the present.  How can I make sure I stay on track?

That's where you get to participate!  If you don't see any updates or progress, I want you to keep me in check.  Send a message, leave a comment, just (kindly) let me know I'm a slacker!  You've been very nice about encouraging me to do this and sending me tips, links, etc., and I appreciate it... But I also need to be held accountable when I don't do what I say I'm going to do.

I'll be getting back on the wagon this afternoon, doing some of the exercises I discussed before, and updating my practice log.  There, I said it!  And if I don't report back with results, you have the right to be upset.

On that note, I'll leave you with a little peek at what Sunspot's been up to.  Here's a song from our Halloween show at the Annex:

Tuesday
Oct272009

Catching Up... Working on Discipline

It may appear, from my lack of recent updates, as though I've fallen off the wagon.  There's a reason for that:  It's because, well, I have!

Just kidding.  :)  I don't give up quite that easily!

Although the past few weeks have been extremely busy (see one of the things I've been busy with here), fear not, for I haven't forgotten my mission of improvement!

I've decided to undertake the "30 Day Drum Workout", a drum exercise book I purchased a while ago but until now have only paged through.

The book is very well organized and structured in a manner that I think will fit nicely my style of learning.  It begins with a series of warm-up exercises to perform each day, at a progressively faster tempo, followed by a unique exercise for that day both on a single drum and on a drum set.

To help track my progress, I made a special Practice Log, inspired by these Weight Training Workout Trackers (props to Corrie Haffly for the awesome designs!).  Voila:

 

I think it will be fun to see how much I can improve and progress in the next 30-60 days.

On a different topic, I'd like to quickly thank everyone who has commented and emailed me through this web site!  Initially I wasn't getting alerted of the replies to my posts, so I didn't get some of the feedback until a while after it had been left.  But I do greatly appreciate each and every comment and email and hope to see more of them!

Monday
Oct122009

Show Recap: Sunspot at Howie's with Caroline's Spine

Saturday night's show turned out to be a very memorable and fun one.  We opened for Caroline's Spine at Howie's in La Crosse.  This was an identical lineup to a show we did there Memorial Weekend of this year, so it felt a bit like a reunion; good to see friends again after 5 months.

Me and drummer Greg HipskindThe lineup for Caroline's Spine was slightly different this time around. It was a total surprise too see a drummer who looked very familiar and turned out to be Greg Hipskind, who also plays with Wicked Liz and the Bellyswirls, a band with whom we played at Chicks Rockfest in Cincinnati a few years ago.  Greg put on a strong performance with Caroline's Spine, and he also kindly shared his drum kit with me.  His setup is slightly different from what I'm used to, with the higher toms further off to the left and the ride cymbal in between the rack toms and the floor tom, so that posed a little challenge, but overall it was fun to play and sounded great.

Pearl WinglocGreg clued me in to an extremely cool piece of hardware which I hadn't tried before: the Pearl WL200 Wingloc.  I've seen a lot of "quick release" wingnuts over the years, but these were by far the handiest.  They enable you to securely lock your cymbal on the stand very quickly, without having to thread the wingnut all the way to the cymbal.  This is extremely efficient and particularly useful in situations such as Saturday night, when we traded out cymbals during a quick set changeover.  They cost significantly more than traditional wingnuts, but I think it is worth it for the savings of time and the annoyance of flying wingnuts (if you've ever put a cymbal on a stand, you know exactly what I'm talking about!).  I love seeing traditional drum set and hardware evolve with these cleverly engineered solutions.

We performed a 90-minute multimedia set, which included videos and backing tracks on some songs, so I was playing with a metronome for a portion of the show. It worked really well this time around, but I still need to find some headphones that are comfortable and don't fall off while I'm performing.

Saturday
Oct102009

Balance

With my new workout program now in place, and being one week into it, I am feeling accutely aware of the muscles in my body.

This proved to be useful in observing some things while playing at rehearsal this week.  For one, my balance shifts fairly significantly when I sing. It's clear that I'm leaning more than I should be into the microphone.  So for tonight's show I'm going to try setting up the mic stand in a way that is more conducive to good posture.

Additionally, although this is an obvious aspect of drumming, I became even more aware of the core muscles used in staying balanced on the throne while all four limbs are a-flailing. I'm glad my new workout regimen has a lot of challenging core/balance exercises; it will be interesting to see how this affects my drumming.

I'm currently in the van on my way to La Crosse, where Sunspot will be opening for Caroline's Spine, a band I really enjoy listening to and seeing live. So going into the show with the anticipation of seeing them makes me even more excited to play.  I'm not sure if I'll be using my drum kit or not (last time their drummer - who by the way did an exceptional job of playing - shared his), so that could be a challenge. I'm sure it will be a blast either way, though!