The Thinking Drummer: Everything You Think Is Hard Will Eventually Be Easy

I’ve been practicing a lot lately. Today, I sat down behind the kit after a day off. Sometimes you need a day off just to keep things fresh. I realized how well this works when I sat down today. I was so happy and excited to play after not having played for just one day. I’ve been working on one idea almost exclusively for the past couple of weeks. The idea is difficult to execute.

But today, after taking a day off, I started working on it again, and it felt easier. I was starting to get it. Finally! And then I thought about how two weeks ago, I came up with the idea for what I’m working on. I thought, “this is going to sound really cool, but this is going to be hard.”

Realizing that, I had to take a step back and think, “will it be worth the work?” I didn’t question whether or not I would ultimately be able to play it; I only asked if it would be worth the time. That’s because experience has taught me that the only thing standing between me and any drumming skill is time. I’m willing to work. And when I do, stuff happens. But time is a precious resource, so one has to consider how to spend it. But I believe in my ideas, so I decided to go for it.

In a minute I’ll explain the details of this drumming idea that I’m working on (I’m not trying to be mysterious or wind you up). In a later post I’ll publish some materials on how you can do it too. I haven’t explained it yet because my point in this article is about the work and how everything is doable. For real. It’s just doing the work. If you do the practice with the right guidance, any technique or coordination or independence or groove can be yours.

Does this sound like some Tony Robbins motivational mumbo-jumbo? It’s not. It’s actually true. I know because I’m experiencing it now and I’ve experienced it before too.

OK, so here’s what I’m working on. I’m playing eighth notes on my ride cymbal with my right hand, while my feet, playing double bass drums, play the “trip” and “let” of every sixteenth note triplet. That part is the ostinato that is the basis of the idea. Here, have a look at the notation:

You might look at the notation above and think, “What’s the big deal? That doesn’t look so hard!” The ostinato itself may not be that tricky, but my goal is to have the freedom to improvise with my left hand on top of it. I want to have complete freedom within the grid of 16th note triplets (and later, I want to try 16th notes and see if that sounds good or not). For example, the kind of stuff I am working towards being able to do is as follows:

Now, that, I thought, would be pretty cool. So, I developed a bunch of exercises to work on it. That was about two weeks ago. And today, sitting behind my kit, I started to feel some of that independence freedom! Finally. A few days ago, I was considering whether to give up on the idea. It was taking too long and I wondered if maybe I’d gone down some rabbit hole of uselessness. But, today, I realized that I was actually making real progress and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. “Remember. It just takes time,” I reminded myself. I also remember that I’ve beaten similar (mostly self-imposed) challenges just by digging in and practicing a lot.

Whatever it is that you’re working on right now, just know that if you have the right guidance and are focused on doing the correct practice, you will get there if you simply do the work and spend the time. I promise.

Now go practice! That’s what I’m going to do.