Saturday, November 11, 2017

The 6 to 1 ratio

No, this isn't some sticking formula or weight training for your ankles to make your feet faster. This is a concept i came up with while discussing practice pads on social media. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog in any depth knows I'm not a fan of playing anything you wouldn't actually play on a gig or a recording. That would be the dreaded practice pad. Yes, I'm aware that many of us ( myself included ) are in living situations where we cannot practice on drums at home. I totally understand that and at one point would have said that if playing drums isn't possible, by all means use the pad.  However, I think in my ( ahem ) advancing years I would amend that to say, " If you are a drummer with a reasonable amount of experience on the drums, if you can't physically play the drums because of the situation you're in, your time might be better spent working on other issues related to music rather than whacking your sticks on a piece of rubber or plastic!"

Okay, since we can't play the drums, what can we do with our practice time? Here are a few suggestions....

1. Learn tunes by ear. 
All you need is some source of a recording, your ears and memory, and your voice. You don't need the drums to learn repertoire, but this is a vitally important thing to practice.

2. Practice brushes.
Now I can hear you all saying, " That's pretty hypocritical! What's the difference between practicing sticks and working on brushes, sans drum?" Well, when we're playing brushes on an album cover, pizza box, telephone book, etc. we are still dealing with the SOUNDS we are making. My big beef with pads is they don't sound even remotely anything like a drum, and as far as I'm concerned, separating sound and technique isn't very useful!

Need more proof you don't need drums to effectively performing on brushes? Here's Kenny Clarke playing on a phone book accompanying Lennie Tristano and Charlie Parker. He plays a little tentatively at first, but by the end, he's killing it!

3. Practice another instrument.
Sad but true, you will get fewer noise complaints from practicing almost any other instrument other than drums. Why not practice keyboard? I would say at this point in my life, that's about 80% of my practice time, and I feel I've never played the drums better!

4. Mentally practice.
Work over what you were going to do, imagining how it would look, sound, and feel as vividly as you can. You will see a huge difference from doing this regularly!

Okay, I think I've made my point, except for the title of this post, so here it is.

"The difference in playing on a drum, ANY DRUM, as opposed to a pad is a 6:1 ratio. If we practice 10 minutes on a drum, that's as beneficial as playing for an hour on a pad. 1/2 an hour on a drum = 3 hours on a pad, etc."

-Ted Warren 2017

No, I have no science to back this up, just my own feeling, experience, and common sense. It's just my opinion, and you're all entitled to yours! Happy trails......

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