I think in my journey as a drummer, I have been in many ruts. Up until now, I still cannot stand my own playing. In everyone’s journey as a musician there will be bound to be times when you feel bored of your own playing. Here are some advice to you!
1. Emote your playing
I think that the difference between good and great drummers is the ability to put emotions into your playing. To portray a certain emotion into your playing, to let the listener understand the piece better. This is easier said than done. You will have to experiment with different things. Think for yourself, how would you play to express anger as opposed to how you would play to express panic. Understanding how each emotion makes you feel, try to replicate that same feeling in your playing. It isn’t easy, but it will really make you a musician rather than just a drummer.
2. Pick another instrument up or pick up music production
I give this advice because I think that why we get bored with our own playing is because we no longer find excitement playing what we played. Can you remember the first time you did a fill on time? That excitement when you finally did play a song well? When you get more competent, that excitement dwindles and you find yourself bored. By picking up another instrument or trying to do music production, you learn how other instruments hear your instrument and how they relate to each other. You will gain perspective on how to play certain things and it will help you appreciate your playing more.
3. Change your setup
This is particularly easy for drummers to do. If you are bored of playing a 4 piece drum set. Take out the hi-Tom. If you are used to playing the ride cymbal at the side, put it closer. You will realised how much your playing is dependent on the drumset. If you limit yourself, your brain comes up with ways to improvise to replace what you are used to with something else. That way, you won’t be bored at all! Learning to do more with less is really such a good skill.
4. Learn music that are out of your usual genre
I think that it is pretty self explanatory. If you are used to Christian music, why not find some Christian music that is not Hillsong? Jimmy Needham, Urban Rescue, Rend Collective all have very interesting music. Why not go even further? Learn swing. Learn jazz. Learn metal. You will be surprised with how much you have to learn. Don’t think that learning different genres won’t affect your the genre you play. It really can. I learned swing for a while and nowadays I love adding extra swing notes on my hihats to add that extra feel to the song.
5. Practice time
I think that a regret I have in my early days in drumming is not paying as much attention on time. As a drummer, time is so important. The ability to keep time is so useful. Practice with a click. Then displace the click. Then use a gap click. Really work on staying on tempo and not rushing.
6. Work on technicals
Practice your rudiments. Your moellar. Your push-pull. Get a teacher that specialises in technique. Have him/her correct your stroke, your bounce, your rebound etc. Having Christal teach me and correct my technique has opened a new world for me. My playing felt way more natural. Paying attention to when you lift up your sticks really helped me to play a lot better.
7. Approach practice in a mechanical way
It is more productive when you practice mechanically. Have one idea, learn to develop it one step at a time. For example, single stroke roll, left hand start. Apply it as a fill. For the longest time, I only ever do one left hand start fill. That is the quarter bar fill that I use when I start a count off. SSHF. Even after working on it this year, I found myself running out of ideas. When you find yourself running out of ideas approach the problem with conditions. “Start a drum fill with the hi-Tom” “move only one hand” “right hand only play ghost notes” this way, you will be able to play very interesting ideas.
Count OUT LOUD what you are playing. Counting will help with timing and it will help you be more aware on which count specific musical punches are. Sometimes counting out loud immediately simplifies what complicated stuff that was played on the record.
9. Perceive different subdivisions
How would you play a 32nd note drum fill? How would you count it? How do you play a sextuplet fill? What about a triplet? If you are bored with something you are playing. Learning a new subdivision immediately opens up new fills and you will find new ways to add to your playing.
10. Play with a different group of people
I think when you have been doing one thing for many years, you will feel a bit of a routine going on. With the same people, you generally run out of stuff to be excited about. I think when I started playing with my hall friends, I started playing new songs and people got excited watching me play. Perhaps it may be a little vain, but I think having some attention does motivate me a bit. You will be surprised how different musicians play. You will learn new things and try out new ways to play. Playing with new people in a different location helps you not get too comfortable with the luxury you have too. I had to get used to playing drums in a room that I can barely hear anything, but it was interesting how you try to learn and adapt to it.
I am not by any means professional. However, these has gotten me through a long stagnant state in my drumming. So hopefully it will help you too!
Oh and Merry Christmas! 🙂