Drumming with no drums

Today’s post may be a bit unusual but I’ve been thinking about this subject quite a bit lately. If you’re like me, you have more important things to do than play the drums. I’m talking about family and work commitments that should dominate the majority of your time. Family and work comes first. That said, as a drummer, or as a musician of any kind, spending time practicing your instrument is also important. With life’s daily requirements sometimes it can be days or even weeks in between practice sessions. How can you deal with this dilemma while still maintaining a proper sense of priorities? Here are five easy ideas for ‘practicing’ drums without drums:

(1) If you can say it, you can play it: It may feel strange at first but ‘singing’ drums parts whether out loud or in your head is a good way to maintain a good sense of time and rhythm. Think of a beat-boxer who actually knows how to play the drums. This can be done anywhere you can find a quiet moment, especially in the car. Try ‘singing’ along to the radio’s beat.

(2) Left foot flooring: A good way to maintain foot dexterity is to play along to the car radio while using your left foot as the bass drum. With your right foot busy driving, your left foot is the obvious alternative. This benefits left foot strength and actually makes you a better hi-hat or double bass pedal player. If you have the right floor mats, the sound can be quite satisfying.

(3) Speaking of the car: The steering wheel can also be used for drumming but I’m sure you are already familiar and quite proficient with that one. I will add that safety comes first. No need to get in a fender bender while tapping along to Tom Sawyer (although none of us can resist that monster tom fill).

(4) Read between the lines: A great way to maintain your reading chops is to read music in place of your iPhone or newspaper. Even if you only dedicate 10% of your reading time to music, that will still enable you to maintain your competency in sight reading. Try using your favorite drum books or music exercises published in drum magazines. You can even try scribbling out your own notation when time permits. Then go back and try to play it the next time you are at the drums.

(5) Anything can be a drumstick: This one is self-explanatory. Pencils, pens, straws, chopsticks, dial rods, tree branches, screw drivers, paper towel rolls, rolled up newspaper, old antennas, plastic forks, knives, and spoons, rulers, and your own fingers can be used to tap out a beat on almost any surface. Remember that coffee can drum you made as a kid? It can also be used as an adult. You don’t need drums to drum. Just something to hit and something to hit it with.

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