It is also the most important part of being a drummer.
Playing in time, with a consistent, even, steady tempo is going to allow you to play with other musicians. In fact, it’s a pre-requisite to playing with good musicians. This inner clock—that all drummers must develop— will allow you to work and earn money.
If you can’t play in time, all is lost. You can not function as a drummer without this skill. A drummer with a weak sense of time is like a cook with no taste buds; it just won’t work.
If you are an experienced drummer, this may seem obvious to you.
But for beginners, the amount of knowledge and skills to learn can be overwhelming. There is so much physical skill to acquire in the early stages that the notion of time needs to be specifically pointed out as a fundamental.
It sometimes shocks beginners who, having developed some level of independence, reading and technical skill, find they have trouble putting it all together and playing in time.
Your time sense is a skill, like any other. You don’t need to be born with some magical inner clock that guides your drumming prowess. That’s not how it works. The way you develop that inner metronomic clock is to work on it.
Here’s how to get it together.
It’s quite simple, actually. Practice with a metronome.
Every fundamental skill that beginners work on–technique, reading or independence—can be practiced using a metronome.
Initially, Each of these skills will have to be worked on independently of the metronome. Understanding the rhythms you are learning to read, the motions or grips of a specific hand technique, or the coordination of a drum beat will take some time to work through.
You’ll need to work on these things independently of some consistent time pulse to work out the mechanics, grasp the meaning of the notation, or develop some muscle memory with a groove or fill.
But once you understand these things and can play them, you should use a metronome to practice with.
First pick a comfortable tempo to practice at. It doesn’t matter the tempo that you pick at first. All that matters is that you can execute the exercise you are working on at that selected tempo.
Once you can, slow it down. A good slow tempo that I frequently ask my students to play at is 60 beats per minute (bpm).
It may drive you crazy at first, but it will work to solidify your time. playing slowly is often more difficult than playing quickly because there is more space between each note.
Over time, consistent practice with a metronome at various tempos will help create an inner clock.
So, please add time to your list of fundamentals. As the old joke goes, “it’s not just a magazine.”