by Taylor Douglas
In my masterclass at Rock Academy last year, I touched on a few little tips on some common issues I see my students and young rock drummers experiencing when jamming with their bands
A few drummers had a common issue; every time they went to play a fill, the song ends up speeding up due to their excitement and energy pushing the tempo forward in the fills. This is something that I think most drummers are guilty of (myself included), so here are a few suggestions on how to keep the energy in your fills and avoid the dirty looks of your bandmates spinning around and telling you to slow down (sometimes they won’t be that polite)
- BREATHE! Most drummers hold their breath through their fills. Now, your body and brain kinda like breathing so when breathing stops, your brain gets a bit stressed and tense, which causes anxiousness, which results in a panicked response from the body. Your fills are not immune to this so make sure you’re relaxed going into the fills. Practice taking a conscious breath in and out a bar before the fill begins to build the habit in. Many other musicians (singers, brass and Woodwind players) all have to factor in breathing to their playing so it might be worth having a chat to them about it too.
- My best friend: the metronome. When you’re jamming away at home, the metronome is the best tool for improving your time awareness and accuracy out there. I like to treat it as a guitarist who can only play one note but goddamn are they accurate! When you feel yourself coming away from the metronome, make sure you know if you’ve sped up or slowed down. And time awareness is like an alarm system, it has to be ALWAYS on. Don’t check every 2 bars whether you’re in time, check every single beat. Otherwise the bassist might just steal your precious semi-quavers whilst your guard is down.
- Record your practice. This is truth serum for the “yeah but it felt good” voice in your head. Recordings are the truth: you might not like it but you can’t dispute it. Film your personal practice, band practice and performances and watch it back. It’s awful at first but it will get slightly less awful over time AND you’ll become more aware of what you actually sound like rather than relying on other peoples recollections and your feelings, which should be trusted less than directions from a bass player.
Til next time, keep grooving and jamming and go for those fills!
All the best,