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)!