Question regarding metronome practice with sheet music

Jasperdrummer

Junior Member
I've been taking my playing seriously for a number of years now, but only this year have I actually started to read drum notation. I've never really taken any formal lessons before either.

A few months back, I found a book that I didn't know I had, and started going through it. So far, it's been great. But, there's something I want to run by you.

When I play exercises from the book, let's say for example when I'm playing eighth note triplet shuffle grooves. I start the metronome off at a slow but comfortable BPM, around 60. Sometimes, I'll even challenge myself and play the page a couple of times through at 30. Once I've played the page enough times to where I've gotten it down, I increase the speed by 5 each time. This example is random, but I may play the page 2-5 times all the way through without stopping, or until it hurts.

Now, for the problem. When I play at slower BPM's, I tend to get impatient and have trouble actually "feeling" the groove. Even though I'm in time, it always feels very stale at slower tempos. If I were to play it at 100, that's when things start taking more shape. So, by increasing the metronome a little bit each time, is that the way I should be doing things until I feel as if the groove is really happening at a particular BPM? Just spending as much time as you need to on a particular page? It can take me more than a week to get through one page. Not because I'm not comfortable with playing the sheet music, but because I want to get to the point where again, the groove is happening.

Another thing is, and this may come off as being inexperienced , but when I slug away at exercises I've played over and over I feel as if I'm just wasting time and it's not actually developing my craft as a player, because, I know how to play the page perfectly at a few different tempos.

What I mean is, the end goal in my mind is at the BPM where the groove starts really taking it's shape. Not to play "fast" necessarily. But, at the point of where it's actually sounding musical. It has a pulse. Is that wasting time when I may only be able to raise the metronome up to 10-15bpm each session, when I already know how to play the page as it is? As I said in the original post, It may take me an entire week or longer to get to a BPM where I feel as if it's sits right. Personal preference in another words. I'm not performing this stuff, so it's purely for practice. Keep in mind, I'm only on page 26 and have been reading the book for a little over 4 months.

Thanks. :)
 
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beatdat

Senior Member
You should work on making any beat work at any tempo, while keeping in mind that the same beat will feel different at different speeds.

Impatience with slower tempos is usually a sign of musical immaturity, and is sometimes the result of one's arrogance in believing that slower tempos are easy or beneath them. Don't fool yourself, though, cause you'll impress more people who know how to play with your ability to groove at a slower tempo than you will by playing fast.

Granted, slow tempos do have a tendency to lose their musicality, but that's as much a result of the player's ability than it is the tempo itself. It's hard to play slowly and play well at the same time.

Regardless, even if your goal is to play any beat, groove or pattern as fast as you can, you'll only get there by being able to play it slowly first. So, learning how to play and make things groove at a slower tempo is inherently beneficial to your progress. Remember, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
a) some things are groovier at certain tempo ranges - that is why your band gets so upset if you start a song at the wrong tempo. tempo is certainly a part of feel.
b) some tempos are too slow for you to generate the inertia that must be mastered and so slow practice while beneficial for other reasons is limited. by which i mean you can be playing something so slowly that your arm, hand or sticks are not gaining any momentum that only becomes apparent as you speed up.
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
You should work on making any beat work at any tempo, while keeping in mind that the same beat will feel different at different speeds.

Impatience with slower tempos is usually a sign of musical immaturity, and is sometimes the result of one's arrogance in believing that slower tempos are easy or beneath them. Don't fool yourself, though, cause you'll impress more people who know how to play with your ability to groove at a slower tempo than you will by playing fast.

Granted, slow tempos do have a tendency to lose their musicality, but that's as much a result of the player's ability than it is the tempo itself. It's hard to play slowly and play well at the same time.

Regardless, even if your goal is to play any beat, groove or pattern as fast as you can, you'll only get there by being able to play it slowly first. So, learning how to play and make things groove at a slower tempo is inherently beneficial to your progress. Remember, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.


I agree with most of this - only I feel the opposite of slow tempos losing musicality. I find that up-tempo tends to turn into a physical exercise more than music because you just aren't hearing and feeling the space in between the notes.

Practicing slow and not feeling a groove at a slow tempo can be tough with solo drums - I try to imagine a cool slow bass line underneath me and that helped a lot when I was struggling to do the 60 bpm stuff or jazz ballads, etc. Slow tempos can be absolutely magical if everyone in the band is feeling the same groove (they can also be absolutely awful if you have one person that is trying to rush or play SO slow that they fall out of time...I know this guitarist that is awesome at everything except ballands - so the second we have one on the set list I dreadddddd it haha).


It's just one of those things that takes time, practice and patience that you will be glad you focused on later when the need arises for a 60bpm tune for some killer singer song-writer that wants to take you on tour!
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
I agree with most of this - only I feel the opposite of slow tempos losing musicality. I find that up-tempo tends to turn into a physical exercise more than music because you just aren't hearing and feeling the space in between the notes.

My thoughts exactly. Empty space is just as musical as note-filled space. Making use of the void takes great skill. Executing slow tempos is essential training for all drummers.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I understand the fast feels better thing. Most of my drumming has been of the faster variety. I still had to learn slow first to get the pattern, but then as speed increases the pattern develops it's own identity. It goes from sounding (this is key in this) like individually spaced hits to a cohesive unit. You can feel and hear the pattern take on another form.

Think of it like this. A slow moving train goes click, wait for it, clack, wait another 10 seconds click, some more time clack! A fast moving train plays the shuffle. The two trains are doing the same pattern, but feel and sound completely different.

I find the cohesiveness of the pattern at speed easier to learn than trying to space out all the notes and subdivisions. At some point my brain stops thinking and just does. That doesnt happen at slow paces because one requires thinking and the other requires listening and feeling.

Just want to reiterate that this is just me, not everyone learns the same. Some of y'all learn the patterns easier slower, some not so much. And some of y'all arent trying to play things as fast as others of us. It's all good as long as you are still learning.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
What I tend to do.

1: Look at the sheet, play it in my head, begin playing the tempo (sans metro) that I hear in my head.
2: Slow it down and accentuate the feel. As speed decreases, increase the dynamic range in proportion. Accents become louder, light taps become quieter. Clean it up, figure out what my hands should be doing grip position wise.
3: Start the metro at the slow tempo
4: Gradually build speed in steps while attempting to maintain the exaggerated dynamics.
5: To finish, I do some threshold testing. This is to know at which tempo my dynamics begin to suffer and at which tempo things fall apart. These are debatably useful benchmarks for progress.
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
And some of y'all arent trying to play things as fast as others of us.

An important point to highlight, especially in the kick domain. Some styles of music don't lend themselves to blazing pedal work, yet many drummers who play those styles still feel obligated to practice at lightening-quick BPMs. Speed work does, of course, have value in and of itself, but it generally isn't half as useful to a country drummer as it is to a metal drummer. Customizing your practice routine to suit your applications is the most pragmatic approach.
 

MntnMan62

Junior Member
I agree with the others here. Tempo should not determine whether a groove grooves or not. It might feel a little different at different speeds but if you truly have mastered a particular groove, it should groove no matter what tempo you do it at. If it isn't grooving at slower temps then you haven't quite mastered it yet. Another thing to keep in mind is that while you often have to slow things down first to learn the groove, I have found that it is harder to actually make it sound good at slower tempos. So, I'll slow it down to just break it down and figure it out. Then I'll slowly increase tempo until I can play it at speed. But then I'll slow it down again to work on making it sound good at the slower tempos. Bottom line is all beats should have a solid feel and groove at all tempos.
 

crash

Member
Slow tempos are tougher to play. You need to fell the tempo first, before you can groove to it. I start my practice by playing to a slow tempo for 10 minutes. You just have to relax. I practice this until I can bury the click in the groove, then move on.
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
Greg Hutchinson calls it the "big boy tempo". Here's a good video to check out:
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
Don't need sheet music and don't use a metronome, but will say one of the best exercises is playing slow tempos. A lot harder than playing fast. Faster you play, the faster you can "cover" mistakes. Play slow and you're off beat and/or your fills don't fill properly, everyone knows it. That ain't good. I'm old school, so sheet music as far as I'm concerned is for "drummers" who can't think for themselves and metronomes are....well....you are the metronome. That's just fundamental to drumming. Rather than than a long dissertation, just take my word for it. Or not. Do, however work on playing slow tempos.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
What book???

It’s entirely possible that your spending too much time on stuff you already have sufficiently learned. You want to be in that sweet spot where you’re making some mistakes, but not so many that you get discouraged.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
for me, no matter what tempo it is, subdivision is what makes the groove happen....in a slow tempo, it helps fill the space, and can be played with dynamically to create groove....at fast tempos, it keeps me from going "over the top" and getting ahead of the beat...

personally, I think for duple subdivisions, 112-116 is the sweet spot
triple subdivisions feel good at 144ish

I am all for practicing, and especially learning at slower tempos....but I think there is a point at which the space gets too big to have any kind of musical continuity, so I don't really ever practice slower than 60bpm. The only songs I ever played with slower tempos were bizarre, edge of the spectrum percussion ensemble stuff in college...and I often wondered if they were supposed to be musical...
 

Jasperdrummer

Junior Member
What book???

It’s entirely possible that your spending too much time on stuff you already have sufficiently learned. You want to be in that sweet spot where you’re making some mistakes, but not so many that you get discouraged.
Thanks for your advice guys.

Don't think you'd be familiar with it but, it's called The Complete Drummers Guide - Tom Jackson. I'm in Australia and I think I got it for free when I purchased a cymbal a few years back.

What you said about spending too much time on stuff you already have sufficiently learnt is something I think I can relate with.
Keep in mind, I'm only on page 26 and I believe it's still going through beginner exercises. As I think I mentioned in my original post, I started learning drum notation this year purely to know it and be able to play what is written on the page perfectly. Also, to transcribe.

So, the book itself has been great in terms of teaching me how to read and count drum notation. But, the exercises it has thrown at me so far in my opinion I don't think has made me a better "player." In other words, it hasn't taught me anything new or different...yet. I definitely don't want to sound like I have an ego, because that's not the case. I just know that the pages haven't been challenging enough for me. I've been playing for around about 12 years. If I was asked what style my playing most resembles, it'd be a mixture of funk, r&b/soul and pop with influences of gospel chops/shedding thrown in. Church cats are some of my heroes even though some people dislike that particular style of playing.

Thanks guys.
 
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brentcn

Platinum Member
Thanks for your advice guys.

Don't think you'd be familiar with it but, it's called The Complete Drummers Guide - Tom Jackson. I'm in Australia and I think I got it for free when I purchased a cymbal a few years back.

What you said about spending too much time on stuff you already have sufficiently learnt is something I think I can relate with.
Keep in mind, I'm only on page 26 and I believe it's still going through beginner exercises. As I think I mentioned in my original post, I started learning drum notation this year purely to know it and be able to play what is written on the page perfectly. Also, to transcribe.

So, the book itself has been great in terms of teaching me how to read and count drum notation. But, the exercises it has thrown at me so far in my opinion I don't think has made me a better "player." In other words, it hasn't taught me anything new or different...yet. I definitely don't want to sound like I have an ego, because that's not the case. I just know that the pages haven't been challenging enough for me. I've been playing for around about 12 years. If I was asked what style my playing most resembles, it'd be a mixture of funk, r&b/soul and pop with influences of gospel chops/shedding thrown in. Church cats are some of my heroes even though some people dislike that particular style of playing.

Thanks guys.
Hey, I found this video of Tom Jackson demonstrating some of the content from the book.


Based on this video, the book seems to start with more basic styles (rock, funk, blues) and then gets into more difficult styles (jazz waltz, samba, songo). So, the more challenging material is probably later in the book. The previous title of the book was "Drumming From Top to Bottom Intermediate". So your hope that this book will make you a "better player" is probably not very realistic. Most likely, this book will get you started in some styles that you don't have as much experience with (i.e. jazz and latin), and give you a chance to sharpen up your funk and blues. Nothing wrong with any of this, of course. But there is no "one book" to make you a better player. Over time, you'll acquire a library of them.

If your real goal is to be a "better player", then there's a few things to consider:

1. Get lessons from the best you can find, and stick with them for 5 years at least. In person lessons are best, but virtual may be your only option, and that's way better than nothing.
2. Get some "system-based" coordination studies going, ASAP. Check out Time Functioning Patterns and The Art Of Bop Drumming. Learn to practice jazz independence with a copy of Syncopation. Get with a teacher to discover how to get the most out of these materials, since they were not designed for self-study.
3. If you haven't already done so, get your rudiments and hand technique together. Check out the Great Hands For a Lifetime DVD by Tommy Igoe, and The All American Drummer by Wilcoxon. You need hand speed and control if you're going to play the things you think are cool.
4. If you're in a band, get into a second band, and a third band, no matter what the genre. Diversify your musical experience as much as possible. (I understand that playing opportunities are very scarce at present; I hope that this changes soon.)
5. Transcribe and learn the things you like, no matter what the genre. Your taste is important!
 

Jasperdrummer

Junior Member
Hey, I found this video of Tom Jackson demonstrating some of the content from the book.


Based on this video, the book seems to start with more basic styles (rock, funk, blues) and then gets into more difficult styles (jazz waltz, samba, songo). So, the more challenging material is probably later in the book. The previous title of the book was "Drumming From Top to Bottom Intermediate". So your hope that this book will make you a "better player" is probably not very realistic. Most likely, this book will get you started in some styles that you don't have as much experience with (i.e. jazz and latin), and give you a chance to sharpen up your funk and blues. Nothing wrong with any of this, of course. But there is no "one book" to make you a better player. Over time, you'll acquire a library of them.

If your real goal is to be a "better player", then there's a few things to consider:

1. Get lessons from the best you can find, and stick with them for 5 years at least. In person lessons are best, but virtual may be your only option, and that's way better than nothing.
2. Get some "system-based" coordination studies going, ASAP. Check out Time Functioning Patterns and The Art Of Bop Drumming. Learn to practice jazz independence with a copy of Syncopation. Get with a teacher to discover how to get the most out of these materials, since they were not designed for self-study.
3. If you haven't already done so, get your rudiments and hand technique together. Check out the Great Hands For a Lifetime DVD by Tommy Igoe, and The All American Drummer by Wilcoxon. You need hand speed and control if you're going to play the things you think are cool.
4. If you're in a band, get into a second band, and a third band, no matter what the genre. Diversify your musical experience as much as possible. (I understand that playing opportunities are very scarce at present; I hope that this changes soon.)
5. Transcribe and learn the things you like, no matter what the genre. Your taste is important!
Thanks so much for the info. Will definitely keep it in mind.

I'll stick with the book for the moment and see how things go. At the end of the day, I would like to eventually complete it just because once I start something, I don't like to put it down. I've written out a more structured practice plan, so hopefully that'll help. Thanks again everyone and take care.
 
versatility as a drummer is pretty important. whether you look at it like you should be able to "work" in whatever situation becomes opportune or, perhaps your own tastes may change & you want to be able to entertain your own preferences even if it's a different skill set than you originally pursued.

practice with a metronome is a tremendous advantage compared to without. however, even better yet is recording yourself with a PC DAW where you can view your hits against the grid & see visually what's wrong when something doesn't sound right.

maybe when your practicing slow, set your metronome for double & count 8ths (like you were playing 1/2 time so to speak) or count 16ths if you need more "filler"

playing fast has an effect on precision too. say your playing 16ths at 120bpm; something un-noticable playing 1/4s at 80 could be a count or 2 or more off. if your 16ths at 120 are lining up, your 8ths at 80bpm are going to be sharp
 
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