Thursday, November 3, 2016

Want to get better in your group? Practice alone!

Simply doing a thing usually makes you better at a thing.


Sometimes you're doing a thing way more complicated or laboriously than you need to, preventing improvement, or sometimes you hit a cap where you're just not getting better.  And sometimes, when you're involved in an art like ensemble drumming, all the other people around you make it hard to tell what you need improvement on!

Playing a song by yourself sounds weird, especially if it's other parts are missing.  But you get to hear yourself.  Are your strikes even?  Are they really?  You can slow down and speed up on your own, but if you have to play as if you were playing with other people - even though you're not - does it sound good?

It's easy to think "I sound fine" in an ensemble, because it's one big lump sum.  Sounds get rounded up in the group striking and edges are harder to hear.  Maybe it's not you hitting a slight bit behind everyone else, but how do you know it's not you?  Have you played to a metronome and know your tendencies?  Maybe it's not you playing weaker left hand strikes, but how do you know it's not you?  Have you played by yourself and listened to both hands, or better yet, have someone listening when it's just you to tell you?

In the ensemble, it's so easy to get caught up in the energy and movement and sounds and volume, but when it masks, or worse, enables poor technique, the only solution is to isolate yourself for some solo practice.  The last thing any of us wants is to be the person that makes the ensemble sound worse, while we think we're doing just fine...

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