This week, we’ll explore the concept of “Minimum Effective Dose,” and how we can apply it to our drumming.
First, the DEFINITION of Minimum Effective Dose:
In the book, The Four-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss uses the example of laying out in the sun. Your skin only needs about 15 minutes to receive the benefits from the sun, so the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) would be 15 minutes. However, many people choose to lay out in the sun far beyond 15 minutes. According to the principle of MED, this extra time would be considered wasteful in terms of benefits to your skin.
Or, let’s use the example of fitness. When you’re in the gym, there’s a certain point where more exercise does NOT equal more results. That sweet spot is the Minimum Effective Dose.
The goal of MED is to determine the maximum results you can gain from using the least amount of energy.
Ok, this is great and all, but what in the world does this have to do with drumming?
With a little creativity and brainstorming, you can apply MED to almost every area of your life, including drumming.
In this article, I’ve outlined 6 practical ways to improve your drumming using the principles of MED. Let’s get started:
#1 - STYLES
How can we apply MED to our ability to learn all styles of music?
Thought Experiment: For each major style of music, can you identify the 1-3 grooves that you’re MOST likely to encounter in that style?
Once you’ve identified these 1-3 grooves, MASTER THEM. These grooves are now your MED grooves, and as a working drummer, you’ll be playing them for the rest of your life.
How do you know if a groove is an MED groove? If someone were to suddenly call a tune in that style, an MED groove would be considered musically appropriate 90%-95% of the time.
By constantly refining your MED grooves in all styles, you’ll be able to get through almost any gig (especially when playing a style you aren’t comfortable with). All other grooves are icing on the cake and vehicles for your own personal musical expression, but again… as a working drummer, the MED grooves are what will keep you HIRED.
Think about it: If you make a living as a pop drummer, your 4/4 backbeat groove should ALWAYS take priority in the practice room over a left-foot clave groove in 15/16 time.
This is the philosophy of MED in action.
#2 - DRUM SETUP
Next, how could we apply MED to our drum setup?
For each part of your drum kit, what is most effective position you can place it in so that you use as little energy as possible while moving around the kit? Maybe you move your cymbals an inch down, maybe you flatten out your toms, or maybe you raise your snare drum height. These minimal, effective changes can make a HUGE difference in how you play.
#3 - DRUMMING TECHNIQUE
How can we apply MED to our drumming technique?
When you strike a drum or cymbal, how can you play in a way that allows you to get the FULLEST sound while using the LEAST amount of energy? This is the MED of drumming technique. Anything MORE than this could be considered an unnecessary waste of energy.
Jojo Mayer is a great example of someone who has total command of his technique. Why? Because he applies MED to his drumming technique, allowing him to play effortlessly.
#4 - GEAR
How can we apply MED to the gear we use?
Ask yourself: Do you REALLY need all of those cymbals, snare drums, toms, and percussion toys on your gig, or are you using more gear as a crutch in your playing?
Instead, ask yourself: For this gig, what is the minimum number of drums and cymbals that are required to be musical?
If you’ve ever intentionally chosen to play gigs with less gear than you are used to, you’ll often find that you become much more musical with the gear that you have. For example, if you only have one cymbal, you’ll explore all possible sounds. You'll find out how to use it as both a ride cymbal AND a crash cymbal.
#5 - SITTING IN
Sitting in at a jam session and don’t know the tune? This is another great opportunity to apply the MED philosophy:
"What is minimum effective INFORMATION that I need in order to get through the song?"
1) Form Of The Song
2) How the song STARTS/ENDS
3) Style Of The Song
You don’t need to know EVERY detail about a song before playing it. Using this minimal information and FOLLOWING YOUR EARS, you can get through virtually any unknown song that might be called on a gig.
#6 - GROOVE
If you are known as a “busy player,” How can you apply MED to your groove?
Think: What is the minimal amount of notes that I need to play in order to make the song feel great? Do I really need all of those ghost notes? Do I always need to crash on the 1? Do I need to use ANY fills at all?
When you play less, the other musicians in the band have more space to play on top of your groove.
YOUR ACTION STEPS THIS WEEK
We’ve just scratched the surface here on how you can apply MED to your drumming.
1) In what other ways can you apply MED to your own drumming?
2) Besides music, how you can apply MED to the other key areas in your life?
If you have become fascinated at all by this subject, I highly recommend picking up these two books (which dive DEEP into the concept):
100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS
Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from the video "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered.
My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!
If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!
If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT JOHNNY MANTRA
Thank you to Johnny Mantra for offering his three words of advice to drummers (WHAT IS NEEDED?) and for inspiring me to write this week's article!
Johnny Mantra is a guitarist from NYC.