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[MAD] Dave Mason
02-05-2009, 01:48 PM
Somebody recently asked me about learning rudiments. They wondered why I had no difficulty playing the paradiddle at speed whilst talking to them freely.

Bare with me on this, it's a long one!

Motor Skills

Motor skills are the specific, controlled, voluntary movements of the muscles in the hands, feet, eyes and other body parts that are learned from infancy onward. Gross motor skills, such as walking and balancing, are more foundational and are learned first. Fine motor skills involve more precise muscle control and are learned later on; they can include anything from writing to playing the drums.

The theory I've been taught is that there are two main parts of your brain in regards to this. the front and the back. The motor skills are called upon by the back of your brain whilst the front is the thinking part. Obviously there's more to it than this but general rule is thinking is done at the front, motor skills called upon from the back.

There are two types of movement, instinctive and learned. Drumming is learned movement. When you first learn movement the movement is first performed by your conscious, thinking centres. If the movement is repeated enough times your brain will identify it as a useful movement and the brain 'rewires' itself and the movement becomes part of the 'muscle memory'. The movement, when at this stage, needs to be repeated SLOWLY.

In other words, when learning a new rudiment, say, a paradiddle, you'll find that you start by thinking about the pattern. Various motor skills can require practice and learning over a prolonged period of time. During that practice, whilst the front of the brain is doing all the thinking, the back starts "scanning" the movements and encodes information about how to perform the task. ie "arm moves up here, other arm coming down there, there's that much force being used, I'm getting this much rebound" etc.

This means that like walking, talking, writing etc you can call upon that skill when you need to. One way of looking at it is that, for instance, you don't have to THINK about how you walk, you just do it. In actual fact, walking is a complex "chain" of actions (ie first leg lifts up, propels forward etc). The same applies to (in this case) practicing rudiments.

Take for instance this scenario. You're walking down the street and trying to figure out a rubix cube. In this case, the back of your brain would be handling the walking (a motor skill you have learned and are completely familiar with) wheras the front of your brain would be thinking about the rubix cube.

So how do we transfer this idea to the drum set?

Ideally you want to get to the point when you can call upon certain rudiments, patterns or techniques when needed and not have to worry about the action involved.

The way to do this is to start by focusing on the pattern itself and familiarising yourself with how it sounds. If you were learning a paradiddle, start by saying words that sound like it, happily, in this case, the word "paradiddle" sounds like the sticking R-L-R-R / Pa-ra-di-dle (because the diddle sounds like a double). Then once you feel comfortable playing the paradiddle and speaking paradiddle at the same time, start moving what you are saying away from what you are playing. This means you are slowly starting to occupy the front of your brain (the thinking part) with other tasks than playing the paradiddle. This, in turn,

Go onto saying "1234" as you play. Start with one number per hit. Then go on to saying one number per pattern. ie:

RLRR
1....

LRLL
2....

RLRR
3....

LRLL
4....

Then, once you are happy that this is easy enough, move your speech further away.
Start counting all the way up. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 etc (not looping)

Then the real test is being able to keep the said rudiment going whilst occupying your mind with something difficult.

You can try all manner of things, what's your worst maths? 13x table? Do it backwards from a random number like 274.

There's also things like taking sentences and working out anagrams, reading an article, simply chatting to a friend etc.

A real difficult one I find is to set myself a tempo, then switch on a music channel and hum the tune to the song whilst playing the paradiddle at the tempo I started at.

This is also useful not just for rudiments but learning ostinatos, sticking patterns and even drum beats.

I take my students through this method when having difficulty with certain rudiments or co-ordination issues within their playing and it always gives results. Usually, if it's a co-ordination issue for example, it's completely fixed by the end of the lesson and that beat that they either couldn't play at all or struggled with becomes much, much easier.

Dave :)

Burn
02-05-2009, 05:16 PM
I'm terrible with rudiments, but thinking about in this manner seriously helped me understand how I can progress. Good stuff!

[MAD] Dave Mason
02-05-2009, 06:21 PM
I'm terrible with rudiments, but thinking about in this manner seriously helped me understand how I can progress. Good stuff!

That's good to hear. :) Let me know how that goes!

Another thing that comes to my mind is this.
The main mistake that a lot of drummers tend to make is to think of rudiments and technique as a measure of skill. Rudiments and even technique itself are merely tools that you use to achieve an aesthetic result. The Paradiddle, for instance changes the lead from one hand to another.

"I can play paradiddles at 250bpm whilst stroking a small domestic pet with my left foot and solving world peace with the right. At different tempos!"

When it comes down to it, who really cares? It's like saying "I can turn the tap on at 100mph!"

You'll also notice I said that "the brain 'rewires' itself and the movement becomes part of the 'muscle memory'. The movement, when at this stage, needs to be repeated SLOWLY." When people think of the paradiddle as a measure of ability, they tend to practice at speed. This causes no end of issues, including tensing up, bad posture, bad timing and more.

I have quite a few students, who, when given an exercise to practice at a slow tempo, tell me "it sounds rubbish when it's that slow". The key here is to remember that the idea of practicing that particular exercise isn't necessarily to get it fast, nor for the exercise itself to sound good - it's not a beat/fill. The idea is to be able to play it well.

To increase speed you must first learn the movement. Speed comes from refining and compressing the overall movement of your limbs. If you practice fast, you're not letting your brain really examine the movement you're making.
Think "walking before running".

In a nutshell, make sure you're aiming for the right thing with your practice. Don't just practice rudiments because everybody says you have to. Make sure you understand them and their uses.

Rio_mang
02-05-2009, 07:20 PM
I liked this.
You should contribute more to the PDF University section

xhope
02-05-2009, 08:37 PM
definitely good advice. i'm probably going to go try it next time i sit down! rep.

Above The Ashes
02-05-2009, 09:19 PM
Man Thank you so much for posting this. It really made sense about drumming and just moving. i will give this a try

Thanks again.

....Rep

[MAD] Dave Mason
02-06-2009, 09:27 AM
Man Thank you so much for posting this. It really made sense about drumming and just moving. i will give this a try

Thanks again.

....Rep

Thanks for the responses, it makes writing it worth it :)

I'll hopefully be posting a few more over the next few weeks when I can get to the computer to put my thoughts down.

Harleydan
02-06-2009, 11:09 AM
Dave, I've been playing for more than 20 years, and this is one of the best written and explained articles I've read. And this is the first time in those 20 years that someone made sense to me about rudiments and their learning. Thank you!

'][' [[]] [[]] ][,
02-11-2009, 08:23 PM
Listen to my muscle memory. Contemplate what I've been clinging to. Forty-six and two ahead of me.

All sound advice. Good post.

MortalDrumbat
04-06-2009, 12:16 AM
this has gotta be one of the best threads ive ever read. thank you insanely for sharing!

redneckdrummer24
05-28-2009, 06:46 PM
yay rudiments. ive spent hours working on these in marching band.

timdrums08
05-30-2009, 10:45 PM
[' [[]] [[]] ][,;1853094169"]Listen to my muscle memory. Contemplate what I've been clinging to. Forty-six and two ahead of me.

All sound advice. Good post.

win.
And im seeing tool in july!
to the op, very very good stuff man, im going to try this next time i pad it up!

readytofall
06-06-2009, 01:16 AM
Yeah, great post :)
Really good ideas for doing things while doing the rudiments. (talking, counting, 13x table, humming a tune while playing at a different tempo)
Like most people have said: rep :p

Edward Klinger
11-18-2009, 05:14 PM
This is such a great post, helped me get out of a bit of a playing rut. thanks!

twister12
11-18-2009, 05:31 PM
a+ thread! ive recently discovered how useful and interesting rudiments can be used on drum set.

dead(@)drums
11-20-2009, 08:48 AM
Dave, great advice. thanks a lot. what are some other rudiments that you would recommend practicing?

andy.dennis
12-02-2009, 12:24 AM
In Gary Chester's introduction to concepts (New Breed), he writes an entire page about singing

SKC
12-03-2009, 12:32 PM
Awesome! Thank you for sharing this, I'm going to put this to good use.

jonny87
12-30-2009, 07:03 PM
Thanks for this, very educational and really useful. I love reading threads about good ways to pratice/learn drums.

Iv got 4 question (I was gonna write a new post for this but then saw yours lol):

How slow do you have to go to practice something new? Is it just slow enough that you have complete control, and can perform the groove/fill/whatever with ease and without any tension? Or is there a good reason to go slower than this?

2) Also, how do you know when it's time to increase the speed? Is it when you can to the exercise still easily while doing complex algebra in your head or whatever?

3)Also, does this idea or making your mind wander while practice make you learn things faster by forcing your brain to wire this exercise to the back of the brain rather than the front?

4) I have been told that when learning someething new you should focus on everything you are doing: posture, if your using the right technique, and most importantly if you beat are perfectly in time with the metronome. Doesn't making your mind wander mean that you could start using bad technique or, most likely, slip out of time with the metronome because your not concentrating?

Again, awesome post
Thanks man
Jonny

izaak
06-14-2013, 09:37 PM
Hey guys this is something for when you are on YouTube and you watch someone do something really cool and you can't find any tutorials or lessons on it


https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speedtube/id408858470?mt=8

Taking everything in slow motion and was a very helpful and I hope it helps someone else :D

lovetheblues
06-14-2013, 10:54 PM
Dave Mason;1853093907'].... There are two types of movement, instinctive and learned. Drumming is learned movement. .....

Great post, Dave. Some very useful suggestions on how to improve in there. But I will disagree on one tiny technicality: I don't think of it as "instinctive" vs "learned" movements. Because some instinctive movements are natural reflex (i.e. you were born with them) such as when you touch a hot oven top. And some instinctive movements can be learned. Similarly many movements are not learned - the first time you do it is the first time you do it and you were able to do it without learning it first.

Why am I making such a post about such a trivial technicality? Well because understanding this difference can be quite important in deciding how to learn a new movement. For example in self defence there are 2 schools of thought: Traditional Karate is made of movements which are the opposite of natural/instinct, but after thousands of repetition they become instinctive - i.e. the muscle memory is drilled in. Compared to Krav Maga which is made up of movements which are completely natural/instinctive. The result is advantages and disadvantages in either: Krav Maga gets practitioners effective very quickly - say in 3 months, much more effective than someone who studies Karate for 3 months. But someone who studies Karate for 3 years is much more effective in self defence compared to someone who studies Krav Maga for 3 years.

So it is an important difference to understand, because there is a lesson that applies to drumming and learning new rudiments: If you want to get up to speed on any new movement quickly, make it as close as possible to a movement that is already part of your muscle memory, but to truly develop speed/agility in the movement will take lots of repetition; up to 3 years before you really internalise it.

drumdudeguyfello
06-18-2013, 12:12 PM
Great post, Dave. Some very useful suggestions on how to improve in there. But I will disagree on one tiny technicality: I don't think of it as "instinctive" vs "learned" movements. Because some instinctive movements are natural reflex (i.e. you were born with them) such as when you touch a hot oven top. And some instinctive movements can be learned. Similarly many movements are not learned - the first time you do it is the first time you do it and you were able to do it without learning it first.

Why am I making such a post about such a trivial technicality? Well because understanding this difference can be quite important in deciding how to learn a new movement. For example in self defence there are 2 schools of thought: Traditional Karate is made of movements which are the opposite of natural/instinct, but after thousands of repetition they become instinctive - i.e. the muscle memory is drilled in. Compared to Krav Maga which is made up of movements which are completely natural/instinctive. The result is advantages and disadvantages in either: Krav Maga gets practitioners effective very quickly - say in 3 months, much more effective than someone who studies Karate for 3 months. But someone who studies Karate for 3 years is much more effective in self defence compared to someone who studies Krav Maga for 3 years.

So it is an important difference to understand, because there is a lesson that applies to drumming and learning new rudiments: If you want to get up to speed on any new movement quickly, make it as close as possible to a movement that is already part of your muscle memory, but to truly develop speed/agility in the movement will take lots of repetition; up to 3 years before you really internalise it.


Would somebody please sticky this? THIS is what practicing is all about!