A practice pad may not be as exciting to you as a drum kit, but using one will greatly benefit your practicing on the drums. Many drummers do all of their practicing on the kit. While there is nothing wrong with that at all, there’s a good chance that if this is you, you might not be working on technique as much as you should be. I mean let’s face it, why spend time working on double stroke rolls and hand speed when you can be practicing sick grooves, awesome fills and fun songs to jam to?
I encourage all of my students to warm-up with a little work on technique first. If they have less practice time or the motivation to play other things, guess what gets left in the dust? That’s right…those precious minutes we would have spent training our hands. This means that the average drummer practices a lot of musical things but doesn’t spend nearly as much time as they should on technique. The recipe to grow as a drummer is a healthy balance of technique and musicality, just like food groups in a meal.
Don’t own a practice pad? Here’s a list of my favourites and the best quality pads on the market.
- Vic Firth 12″ Double sided Practice Pad
- Evans 12″ Realfeel 2-Sided Practice Pad
- Vic Firth 6″ Double Sided Practice Pad
- Evans 2-Sided Practice Pad, 6 Inch
How A Practice Pad Will Benefit You
A practice pad is designed with one thing in mind, to help you work on your stick technique. What I found only a few years ago was that by going to the practice pad regularly for a few minutes when I couldn’t play the drums, I could bypass that element of my practicing later on. The result was that my practicing on the drums became a heck of a lot more fun. I would sometimes skip the drills and technical exercises (which used to be a point of shame), but I felt fine about it. In fact, I noticed my technique getting better and my hands faster, just from transferring that part of my practice to the pad.
But there’s more…Add the practice time on the drums and the enjoyable pad mini-bursts and I was suddenly spending more time practicing in total. Simply because I moved that portion of my practice from the drums over to the practice pad. Plus, working on technique which used to feel like a chore, was now suddenly fun and more engaging. This is because it was on a pad and there was no drum kit in front of me screaming to be played.
What To Practice On The Pad
There is no shortage of books and websites that publish exercises and drills with a focus on stick technique. But of course, that can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for or where to start. If you don’t have a plan, then just practice single strokes and/or double strokes and work on steadying your rhythm to a metronome. After a while however, this can start to feel tedious so it’s important to break things up and try something different. Here a few ideas of what you can practice on a pad to take your technique to a higher level.
It takes time to develop a relaxed feel and faster hand speed. Practicing something as simple as single strokes and double strokes gets a new purpose when you’re focused on increasing your hand speed.
There are 40 standardized rudiments for the drums. Each one a a specific technique for your sticks. Rudiments help you to express yourself on the drums. It’s important for every drummer to learn at least some of the easier ones. Use a practice pad to learn a new rudiment before you take it to the drum kit later.
Accents & Dynamics
This is working on your dynamic abilities. That means working on the control you need to play some notes soft and others louder. With greater dynamic range, your playing will be more musically sensitive.
This is your ability to evenly divide a beat into equal parts. For example, 1/8th notes are two notes per beat and triplets are three. When you practice to switch between 1/8th notes and triplets with a metronome, you are practicing your subdivision skills.
Most of us don’t want to sit and practice reading solos or etudes when we are at our drums. Working on reading rhythms and musical pieces on your pad will strengthen your reading skills.
Should You Use A Metronome?
If you are learning a new technique or rudiment for the first time, then a metronome might distract you from the learning process. But for anything you can play without much thinking, the answer is absolutely yes. Everything we practice has to do with steadying our hands and rhythm. The most effective way to do that is to synchronize with a metronome.
Aside from steadying your hands and rhythm, practicing to a metronome will also challenge you to play at different tempos. This is important because most people have a “comfort zone”, which is their own perception of slow, medium and fast. Without a metronome we tend to gravitate towards our comfort zone tempos. There is a big difference in pace between 80 or 84 BPM for example. Practicing with a metronome will make you more sensitive to any tempo and more able to keep your playing steady. For more tips on using a metronome in your practicing click here.
5 FREE Practice Pad Exercises
All of the lessons and songs at Simpledrummer are categorized into 5 skill levels. Level 1 is generally easier and suitable for a beginner in that category or someone with less experience on the drums. Level 5 lessons and songs are the most challenging and require a higher level of experience and technique. The following PDF contains one exercise from every skill level for the practice pad. Download it and see how many of these exercises you can understand and play. Practice each one at various slow, medium and fast tempos along with a metronome. This will help you determine what skill level your technique is at.
The skill level for each exercise on this PDF is indicated with one of the following icons. Every lesson and song at Simpledrummer is also marked wth one of these icons to help you find lessons that are appropriate for you. For more detailed information about each skill level click here.
The next thing you need is some direction so you know what to practice when you get your drums…