Posts tagged Practice
How do I create new drum sounds? | Ask The Drummer Podcast #013


ask the drummer create new sounds

Matt from Austin, TX asks how to discover new drum sounds. What do you do when you start to get bored with your own playing? In this episode, I’ll explain how to use the formula IMAGINATION + RESTRICTION = CREATIVITY to create an infinite number of new sounds on your kit. 

Show notes and links for this episode can be found at


RULES FOR DRUMMERS - Rule 16: Use Your Imagination! 


1) Listen in iTUNES (recommended)

What is active listening and how do I apply it to jazz? | Ask The Drummer Podcast #012


In this episode, I'll show you what Active Listening is by deconstructing the tune "So What" by Miles Davis. Active Listening is a game-changer for how you can listen to music. I'll also be reading listener comments and talk about my upcoming trip to Asia!

Show notes and links for this episode can be found at



Kind Of Blue

Indiana University Jazz

Luke Gillespie


1) Listen in iTUNES (recommended)


2) In Browser

4 Inconsistencies That All Working Drummers Eventually Face | Steve Such Drums


jeff queen drummer

If you are a working drummer, chances are that you are doing many different things to earn a living: fill-in gigs, summer tours, weekend cover band gigs, weeknight jazz gigs, teaching lessons, or all of the above. Because gigs come and go year-round and can be quite unpredictable, it means that your income will likely be fluctuating from month to month.

Therefore, you need to treat yourself as if you were running your own streamlined business, because you are! As a professional drummer, you need to have a better handle on your finances than most other people do because you don't have the comfort of a full-time salary position. But, the good news is that it IS possible to make a living as a working drummer, you just have to make some changes to the way you handle your finances/lifestyle. Here are some tips on how to face an inconsistent income:

SAVE MONEY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, STARTING NOW - Because working drummers have inconsistent sources of income, you'll need to make it a habit of saving a portion of your income for when (not if) work dries up a bit. A good rule of thumb is to always set aside 10%-15% of income from every gig you play moving forward. Send it straight to an account before you have the chance to spend it. You should strive to save up at least 6-9 months of living expenses and place it in a separate account in case you have a few months of unsteady work.

BECOME DEBT FREE ASAP - Having debt as a professional musician is not a good idea, period! If you went to college for a music degree, do whatever is possible in order to pay off your student loan debt NOW, not “some day". Avoid using credit cards unless you have funds to pay it off IN FULL the following month. If you currently are faced with any credit card or student loan debt, my best personal recommendation is to read the book Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, which will pump you up to pay off your debt and also give you the tools needed to become debt free. (This book is the sole reason I was able to pay off over $25K of student loan debt, as a professional drummer!)

LEARN TO LIVE MINIMALLY - If you want to be a professional musician, you have to be able to develop a lifestyle that does not revolve around material things. This means learning to make smart purchases that will last a long time, having discipline to say no to buying your “wants,” and being okay without always having the newest, shiniest toys. It doesn’t mean that you need to live as if you were poor, it just means that you need to keep your expenses low so that you don’t feel stressed when you’re in-between gigs. If you're currently bogged down with a large monthly overhead and lots of material possessions, check out this 15 minute podcast: “How To Practice Poverty And Reduce Fear” 

SET UP A BUDGET - I won’t go into too much detail here (refer to Total Money Makeover for specific budgeting tips), but if you don’t know what your monthly income/expenses are, you can’t have any control over your finances. Use a free tool such as to setup a budget if you don’t have one currently.


Many musicians are guilty of having an inconsistent practice routine. Why? As you become busier, take on more commitments in life, and travel more for gigs, practice time often becomes difficult to make throughout the week. Here are some tips to add consistency to your practice routine:

DON’T DO TOO MUCH, TOO SOON - For example, if you try to practice 8 hours a day every day, you’re likely to fizzle out by the end of the week, which makes you feel as if you failed. Instead, in order to build a consistent practice routine, you need to start super small. For the first week, practice just 15-30 minutes per day. This may not seem like a lot to you at first, but if you are able to do this 5 days per week (with 2 days off scheduled), you’re ready to add another 10-15 minutes per day the next week, and so on. If you start small, you’ll achieve small “wins” which will allow you to keep with your practice goals.

CHOOSE SMARTER GOALS - This means that you need to choose goals that are highly specific, achievable, and have a clear deadline. If you need help with creating smarter goals, read my article on effective goal setting: "RULE 9: Small Improvements Daily"

PLAN FOR DAYS OFF - Just as you should plan ahead which days you will practice, you should also plan the days you will NOT practice. If you say “I will practice every day”, you’re likely to fail. Instead, map out your practice schedule a week in advance so you can plan ahead for things that come up.

PRACTICE AWAY FROM THE KIT - You don’t always need to be at the drum set in order to get better. For more on this, read my article: 10 Ways To Practice…WITHOUT Touching Your Instrument


Working drummers face many inconsistencies in their overall lifestyle: Changes in time zones, locations, accommodations, food, amount of sleep, weather fluctuations, and more. 

You will also face many inconsistencies on the gig itself: Different musicians, genres, stages, crowds, venues, sound engineers (Check out “How to Work With A Jaded Sound Engineer), lighting, monitor setups, and more. 

The point is that as a working musician, almost everything you do will be different from night to night, so the most important thing you can do is to try to be as flexible as possible and learn how to MAKE IT HAPPEN


Professional drummers usually do not follow a typical 9-5 work schedule. Most likely, you’ll follow an irregular schedule from week to week (one week you might gig every night and the next week you might have zero gigs). So, how do you add consistency to an irregular schedule?

For any non-gigging days, you need to schedule time for you to work on other aspects of your life, such as your teaching, branding, practicing, learning, and so on. Just because you have a night off from gigging does not mean that you have a night off from getting closer to your musical goals. The most successful musicians are not successful because of their raw talent, they’re successful because they work way harder than most other musicians do.

Every day, you should ask yourself: "Am I Getting Closer To The Mountain?"



CREATE A MORNING ROUTINE - and stick to it!  Create a few "constants" in your life that never change (fitness, reading, practicing, meditation, etc.), and incorporate these things into a morning routine. Following a consistent routine for part of each day will help you to deal with the unpredictable and ever-changing life of a musician. For specific tips on creating an effective morning routine, I highly recommend that you check out these resources: The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life & 5 Morning Rituals That Help Me Win The Day


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


-Steve Such 


Thank you to Jeff Queen for offering his 3 words of advice (PATIENTLY PRACTICE CONSISTENCY) and for inspiring me to write this week's article! 

Jeff Queen has been involved with percussion since the age of 10.  At the age of 15, Jeff began his drum corps career with the Canton Bluecoats and continued on to march with the Velvet Knights, Santa Clara Vanguard, Blue Knights and the University of North Texas. Jeff was the Drum Corps International Individual and Ensemble Snare Drum Champion in 1994 and 1995 as well as the Percussive Arts Society Individual Snare Drum Champion in 1994 and 1995.  Jeff has taught in the drum corps activity for over 18 years, including being the caption head for the Carolina Crown drum and bugle corps from 2003-04, percussion arranger for the Colts Drum and Bugle corps for 2007-08.

Jeff is an original cast member of the Tony and Emmy award winning Broadway Show "BLAST" where he was a solo performer and battery instructor from 1999 - 2003. Jeff has performed across the US, Europe and Asia. In addition Jeff has appeared on numerous Television shows including: The Late Show with David Letterman, The Kennedy Center Honors 2000, NBA All-Star Game 2001, Grey Cup 2007, “BLAST”, and “The Making of Blast” on PBS DVD and Video.

Queen is the author of “The Next Level: Rudimental Drumming Techniques” available through Jeff Queen Productions and “Playing With Sticks”, a more than 3-hour instructional DVD through Hudson Music.  More of Jeff’s compositions are available through Drop6 Media, Tapspace Publications, and  Jeff is a signature artist for Vic Firth Drumsticks, and proudly endorses Evans Drumheads, Zildjian cymbals and Yamaha Drums.

Jeff holds his BM in Music Theory and Composition and MM in Percussion Performance from Butler University.  Currently, Jeff is the Percussion Director for Carmel High School in Carmel, IN, and is on the faculty with Butler University and Marian University.  When not teaching at home, Jeff travels the world as an active composer, arranger, judge, clinician, and performer.

The Details Matter: A 10 Minute Exercise To Refine Any Rudiment | Steve Such Drums


Like many drummers, I spent much of my high school / college career playing in the school drumline.

However, many drumset players/teachers make the claim that playing in a drumline is not really transferrable to making a living as an actual working drummer. For example, in the real world, how likely are you to get hired to march around on a football field playing a snare drum? Not very likely.

So, the question is: Is it all wasted time here?

I’d argue very strongly that there are countless benefits of belonging to a drumline in your early years as a drummer. The hours spent on the following fundamentals are priceless: metronome work, technique, chop development, teamwork, accountability, memorization skills, consistency, performing under pressure... the list goes on and on.

However; above all, if I had to choose the single greatest reason that drumline improved my playing was that it helped me to understand the critical importance of one thing:



In other words, all of my drumline instructors throughout the years helped me to realize that it’s not HOW FAST we play, it’s HOW WELL we play.

How did we accomplish that? By spending days, weeks, and months breaking our playing down to the finest detail possible. It was tedious and often frustrating at times, but slowly we began to raise our own standards and create a sort of “quality control” for our drumming. This skill has served me well over the years.

An analogy here would be to think of what goes into giving a great speech. Of course the words you choose are important. But what about the pacing, the body movements, the facial expressions, the eye contact, the storytelling, or your vocal tonality? All of these DETAILS are what go into a great speech, far beyond the actual words themselves. Focus the details of your presentation technique and you’re on your way to becoming a solid speaker.

Applied to drumming: focus on the details of your drumming technique and you’re on your way to becoming a great musician.



But, you might ask, "If we break down our playing to the finest detail and always try to be “perfect", won’t we start to become robotic and mechanical?"

Absolutely not. The point is that the rules are meant to be mastered first, THEN broken later.

In other words, once you’ve identified the details that allow you to play each rudiment “perfectly”, you can then CHOOSE how you want to play them in the future. Once you have total command of each variable that goes into your playing, you’ll then be able to control the variables (rather than allowing the variables to control you).

Enough of the abstract here. Let me give you a concrete exercise that you can use in the practice room.


Your ability to focus on the details, like anything, is a specific skill that can be developed over time.

If you currently have trouble focusing on the details of your playing, it’s because you haven’t identified specific areas to focus on. I’ve created a simple PDF that will help you to refine almost ANY aspect of your playing (rudiment, groove, chop, etc.)

1) Select a rudiment you’d like to improve on.
2) List the top 8 “focal points” for playing that rudiment most effectively.
3) Play the exercise for 10 minutes straight while only shifting where your specific “focal point” lies.

The first page of the PDF below shows an example of how you might apply this exercise to Double Paradiddles. The second page is a blank template for you to practice whatever you’d like.

Again, remember: The point of this exercise is not to focus on WHAT you play, but to instead focus on HOW you play it.

Good luck and happy drumming!




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


-Steve Such


Thank you to Joel Brainard for offering his three words of advice to drummers (THE DETAILS MATTER) and for inspiring me to write this week's article!

joel brainard

Joel Brainard has been the director and arranger of the IU Marching Hundred Drumline since 2003. In such time his drumline has performed for enormous game-day crowds at Indiana University and for thousands more at national events such as The Superbowl, The Insight Bowl, The Pinstripe Bowl, BOA Grand Championships, and PASIC.

Graduating with a music education undergrad and jazz studies masters degree from IU, Joel was also a proud member of the IU Drumline when he was a student. As a multi-tenors player, Joel spent three seasons in DCI performing with the 1998 World Champion Spartans, The Bluestars, and the Blue Knights. He was also a competitive tenor soloist at PASIC & DCI “I&E” events. In 2003 he "teched" tenors at Capital Regiment and was then hired as percussion caption head for Magic of Orlando in 2004.

Joel is also known for his time teaching at Bloomington HS North and the former WGI world class ensemble, Indianapolis Independent (I-2). Currently Joel teaches Band & Chorus at Batchelor Middle School (Bloomington), works as a drumset artist, and also works as a marching percussion clinician. Using Remo heads, Zildjian cymbals, and Yamaha drums, Joel is also a part of the Vic Firth Education Team.


How I Solved The "No Practice Time" Problem | Steve Such Drums

I often look back to my music school days with a bit of nostalgia… Most music students usually have anywhere between 4-8 hours PER DAY to practice their instrument, spend the rest of the day in music classes, usually followed by some sort of rehearsal or gig later that night. Music students have the advantage of TIME… those critical 4 or 5 years of life when it's actually your JOB to practice!


rules for drummers

The music school practice regiment is as follows: spend as many hours as possible practicing everything you possibly can! Ask any percussion/jazz studies major to show you their practice schedule for the day and they might show you something like this:

August 9, 2016 Practice Schedule
1 HOUR: Warmup / Stick Control exercises
1 HOUR: Left foot hi-hat jazz comping exercises
1 HOUR: Chart reading
1 HOUR: Uptempo swing
1 HOUR: Classical snare drum excerpts
1 HOUR: Double Bass Drum chop building session
1 HOUR: Open Drum Solo practice
1 HOUR: Samba

Ah… the glory days. How I long for thee.



Now... ask any professional, gigging drummer how much time THEY have to practice each week. They might look at the schedule above and laugh!

They’ll often explain to you that they may not have even an hour per day to practice their instrument, let alone an hour per week!

The problem is that once drummers enter the "real world" (w/ family, bills, commitments, etc), they often try to honor the same kind of practice regiment they once had in music school. Unfortunately, this system isn’t sustainable because there are far too many variables to cram into a shorter amount of practice time. With this many variables, the practice routine becomes way too complicated for the amount of time allotted. When this happens, you may start to feel like you’re A) not improving or B) no longer seeing the point in WHY you're practicing these things in the first place. When that happens, the motivation to practice starts to melt away.

If the majority of drummers will eventually face this “lack of time" problem, what do we do about it? In this article, I’ll tell you how I solved the problem for myself, but first we’ll need to turn to the world of fitness.


Let me ask you this: If you only had 5 minutes to work out each day and wanted to stay as fit as possible, which 1-2 exercises would you choose to do?

Calf raises? Wrist curls? Of course not. Instead, you’d be smarter to spend those 5 minutes performing total-body, “bang-for-your-buck” moves called COMPOUND EXERCISES. A compound exercise is an exercise that works many different muscle groups simultaneously. An example of this would be something like a pushup-burpee, a deadlift, or a pull-up.

For busy people looking to get fit, they don't have time to do a series of “isolation exercises” (such as bicep curls), which only work one muscle at a time. Instead, they'll choose a compound exercise such as a chin-up, which hits both the bicep AND the back. The result: similar (and often better) results, in significantly less time.

Yet, if we move back to drumming, many drummers with limited practice time still choose to spend their precious time on a routine filled with "isolation exercises.” This might be things such as pad work or chop building exercises.

When faced with limited time, this type of practice is ineffective. Instead, we need to take the principles we’ve learned from fitness: our practice routine must shift to compound exercises in order to be most effective.

How do we come up with compound exercises for drum set practice? By asking yourself the following question:

“What is the ONE thing will get me the most bang for my buck in the practice room today?"

Which brings us to how I was able to simplify my practice routine.

Enter the “60 Minute Showdown"


GOAL: In 60 minutes, you will complete the following: Learn and perform one song of your choice from start to finish. This performance will be recorded on video.


Here’s what a sample 60 Minute Showdown practice session might look like:

10 Minutes - Listen to the song while writing out a form chart
30 Minutes - Groove construction / work on sections of song
5 Minutes - RECORD SONG, TAKE 1
5 Minutes - Listen Back, taking notes on what to improve on
5 Minutes - RECORD SONG, TAKE 2 (implementing notes)
5 Minutes - Listen back. Are you satisfied with the job you did?

- If you don’t have a video camera (such as a GoPro), your phone will work just fine.
- Try to find a “minus-drums” version of the song. There are many places online as well as drumming books that offer play-along tracks with “minus-drums” versions.


The 60 Minute Showdown is the ultimate compound exercise for drummers. In order to understand WHY, let’s take a look at the areas of drumming you’ll address over the span of just 60 minutes:

1) TIME EFFICIENCY  - You only have 60 minutes to complete this exercise… there’s no time to slack and you have a deadline to meet. You have to find a way to make it happen. Welcome to the real world!

2) GROOVE CONSTRUCTION - You’ll need to come up with different grooves for each section of the song (or learn pre-determined drum grooves note for note). Perhaps you never would have practiced / thought of these grooves independently, but the music now calls for it.

3) STYLISTIC AUTHENTICITY - You may need to change your playing, tuning, or even the gear you’re using to match the style of the song you are playing. This may require you to learn new techniques/skills you currently don’t possess.

4) MUSICAL CONTEXT - By playing along to a song, you’re no longer just practicing mindless patterns/rudiments, you’re practicing MUSIC. Everything you practice now has a context.

5) TIMING - Maybe your play-along has a click track, which you’ll need to be locked into. Playing along to a song without a click track will force you to focus on locking in with other instruments (which you should be doing anyway), and is much more fun than working with a metronome.

6) CHOPS - Instead of mindlessly playing chop-building exercises, now you can develop your chops with an actual musical goal in mind. For example, there may be a tricky double bass drum pattern in the song that you’re uncomfortable with. Now you have a real, tangible musical goal to achieve rather than just playing repetitive exercises at a random BPM marking.

7) CHART READING / CHART WRITING / MEMORIZATION - Perhaps the play-along comes with a chart. In this case, you’ll be refining your chart-reading abilities. If the song doesn’t come with a chart, you may need to quickly write one out of your own. Or you simply may choose to memorize the tune by ear. Regardless of which method you choose, all 3 are critical skills required for any working drummer.

8) PERFORMANCE MODE - Turning on the video camera will immediately force you to practice "playing under pressure". It also forces you to stay focused so that you don’t waste time in the practice room. You’ll be surprised at how turning on the camera will inspire you to bring your “A-game."

9) CONSISTENCY - Are you able to play the song all the way through without any mistakes? If you do make a mistake, are you able to quickly recover and keep going?

10) CRITIQUE AND REFINE - Perhaps the most valuable part of this practice. After you’ve finished performing the song, watch the video back. What did you do well? Where did you fall short? Being able to analyze your drumming is the fastest way to improve; by watching the video you’ll immediately know right away what to improve on and where to focus your efforts in the practice room.


Look at how much you’ve just accomplished in the span of one hour… if you’ve successfully completed this exercise, you should feel extremely proud of yourself!

But why did it work? Because in 60 minutes you hit many different musical “muscles” all at once: groove construction, timing, chops, soloing, chart reading, time efficiency, performance pressure, consistency, reviewing and more! If you had tried to isolate each of these areas individually, think of how much time you would have spent!


Does this mean that we should stop isolating specific areas of our drumming? Absolutely not. Isolation exercises (such as practice pad work, rudiments, or specific coordination exercises) are still critical to refining your drumming, but they should be supplemental rather than used as the bulk of your practice. For example, rather than spending an hour per day building double bass drum chops, maybe you spend 15 minutes of your practice session working out a tricky double bass drum fill because you NEED IT TO PLAY THE SONG. You’re using an isolation exercise to carry out the compound goal… far more effective. A fitness analogy: adding 5 minutes of ab work at the end of a total body workout. Important? Yes... but supplementary to the larger goal of total-body fitness. If you instead ONLY worked on abs, your body would be out of balance.

Further, if we primarily focus on isolation exercises, we end up “learning” hundreds of patterns/chops in various drumming books but never applying them to our actual drumming vocabulary. However, by starting with a compound exercise (in this case, learning a song), then that pattern or chop you end up using is far more likely to remain in your drumming vocabulary long-term because you are already practicing it in a musical context.


You can also practice this compound exercise over the span of a slightly larger timeframe. For example, let’s say you want to practice the 60 Minute Showdown over the span of one week. Perhaps your goal is also to create a nice drumming video out of this experience that you can put on your YouTube channel and share with the world, so you’d like a little more time with it before you hit record.

Here’s what a “1 Week Showdown" might look like:

DAY 1 - Write out chart, learn / construct grooves (60 min)
DAY 2 - Isolate each section of the song / chop building for drum solo section (60 min)
DAY 3 - Practice problem areas (60 min)
DAY 4 - Practice problem areas (60 min)
DAY 5 - Practice running through the song (60 min)
DAY 6 - RECORD SONG (30-60 min)
DAY 7 - Edit and upload to YouTube (60 min)

Along the way, you may be practicing several isolation exercises (focusing on a chop, fill, or technique), but everything you practice now has a PURPOSE: to record the song by the end of the week.

Some food for thought: Imagine if you followed this schedule every week for a year… you’d have 52 unique drumming videos on YouTube! Think of how much you would have improved in one year by doing this!


Try this exercise and let me know how it goes. I can guarantee that the amount of growth you’ll experience will be far greater than if you had spent the same amount of time playing mindless paradiddles and double bass drum exercises with a metronome. The difference? COMPOUND EXERCISES give you a purpose to your practice and put everything in context.

Hopefully, you see that the point here is not how much time you have to practice, but how you spend the time you DO have so that it’s as effective and uncomplicated as possible! Now stop reading and start drumming!


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!

Subscribe to my weekly blog by clicking HERE.

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


-Steve Such 



Thank you to Walfredo Reyes Jr. for offering his 3 words of advice to drummers (DON'T GET COMPLICATED) and for inspiring me to write this week's article!

walfredo reyes jr

Walfredo has played with: Carlos Santana, Traffic, Steve Winwood, Jackson Browne, Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan, David Lindley, Ricki Lee Jones, Richard Marx, Sergio Mendes, Smokey Robinson, Robbie Robertson, Joe Sample, Boz Scaggs, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Johnny Hallyday, Khaled, Lindsey Buckingham, Chicago and many others.

Because of his versatility, Walfredo is one of the most in demand musicians in the world today. He currently lives in the Los Angeles area where he continues to expand his talents to recording, producing, composing, education, live performance, and touring. Walfredo is currently touring with the world renown Classic Rock band, Chicago, playing percussion. 

How To Sight-Read Drum Charts Like A Pro | Steve Such Drums

Sight-reading drum charts can be a VERY scary thing, especially if you don’t have a lot of previous experience doing so. 

In this article, I’ll offer some of the tricks and techniques that I personally use when sight-reading drum charts.

I’ll break it down into two sections: First, I’ll provide some tips on what to do BEFORE performing the chart, and then I’ll discuss things to think about WHILE you’re playing the the chart.



rules for drummers

ROADMAP - What is the form of the tune? Are there solo sections, and if so, who's soloing? Are there any drum solos? Vamps? Get an idea of the form of the tune ahead of time. This will help you to understand the big picture.

REPEATS - Are there any repeat signs in the music? What about D.C., D.S., or Coda markings? Forgetting to follow these types of markings is one of the most commonly-made mistakes when sight-reading, so be sure to note where these form signs are so you don’t miss them. If you need to, highlight them with a pencil so they stand out more.

ENDING - How does the tune end? Is there a fermata? Does it end with a specific rhythm? Ending the tune wrong can be quite embarrassing, especially if you’ve done a great job up until this point!  Be sure to be completely comfortable with how the tune ends before you start it.


TEMPO - What’s the tempo of the tune? Are there any tempo changes in the music?

CUES - Are there any stops or cues in the music? If so, discuss these things ahead of time with your band mates/leader.

FEEL - Most charts will have some sort of musical information on the feel of the tune (shuffle, funk, swing, etc.). Does this change at all throughout the chart? Be sure to know all styles that you’ll be playing before you begin. 

OTHER INFO - These include musical terms written such as ritardandos, accellerandos, dynamics, crescendos, etc.


Are there any tricky spots in the chart that require a second glance before playing? This might include a tricky rhythmic section, a fast tempo change, a difficult page turn, or a musical cue from another performer (“Piano gives cue for downbeat, etc.”) Make sure you set yourself up for success by isolating these tricky sections before you begin!


MUSIC STAND - Make sure your music stand is set up at a comfortable angle so that you can comfortably look at the page while moving around the kit. The last thing you want is to NOT be able to play your kit because your neck is uncomfortably turned to the side!

PAGE TURNS - Are there any difficult page turns? If so, try to position the chart in a way that allows you to easily make these page turns. One way to do this is to make a small triangle fold at the corner of the page so you can grab it easier.


Okay, you’re ready to begin playing the chart. Take a deep breath, relax, and play with confidence!


Always know where you are in the chart. The best way to do this is to keep your eyes glued to the page as you play the chart. As you get more comfortable reading, you’ll be able to look around more, but when you're first starting out, the page is all you should be looking at. 

Lack of focus is the number one reason why drummers get lost in the chart. When you’re sight-reading, don’t get distracted by what you hear... just follow and trust the chart!


Interpretation is how you take what you SEE on the page and turn it into MUSIC. The best sight-readers are the ones who know how to musically interpret what they see. Developing your interpretation of charts is one of the most effective ways to improve not just your chart-reading abilities, but your overall musicianship as well!

I could go into great detail on interpretation, but it’s a bit beyond the scope of this article.

Instead, I’d HIGHLY recommend picking up these 2 books:
Studio & Big Band Drumming by Steve Houghton
Inside The Big Band Drum Chart by Steve Fidyk

These books are incredible; they have detailed instructions on how to musically interpret drum charts, as well as excellent play-along tracks.

I’ll just give you one important “nugget” here: Anytime you see “longer ensemble notes” written, tend to choose drum sounds that are “longer" (cymbals, etc.). For “shorter ensemble hits” written out, choose shorter drum sounds, such as your snare drum. Rhythmic accuracy is only part of the equation, the bigger goal is to compliment what the other members of your band are doing in a musical manner in your kit. 

Again, I strongly recommend that you refer to the books mentioned above for much more detail.


Once you become more comfortable chart-reading, you should start focusing on looking further ahead in the music as you play. Many beginning sight-readers will focus their eye on each beat or each measure, but you should instead be looking at longer phrases. This way, you can become PROACTIVE rather than REACTIVE.

When you look ahead, it gives you more time to prepare for what’s coming next, so you can make it easier on yourself to choose more musical decisions!
It’s sort of like driving. If you only look 2 feet in front of you, driving would be very stressful. Driving becomes much easier if you look further ahead… it allows you to plan for what’s coming next.


If you make a mistake, whatever you do: DON’T STOP!!
As long as you’re playing solid time and following the form, you’ll be able to recover from any reading mistakes that are made, and your band mates will thank you. If the drummer stops playing, the whole song will crash and burn!

Being able to recover quickly is one of the most important aspects of being a great sight-reader.


Do you remember the first time you ever rode a bike without the training wheels? If you were like me, you most likely crashed a few times before you got comfortable enough to zip around the block confidently. The same is true with sight-reading. You will crash a few times, but don’t get discouraged... the only way you’ll get better is by DOING IT! 


1) There are a TON of practice play-along books with drum charts. Purchase one of the books mentioned above, or something similar. 

2) Go through the SECTION 1 checklist above before you begin playing the chart: understand the form, understand all musical information, look for tricky spots, and set up your chart efficiently.

3) Once you’re ready to play, video record yourself as you sight read the chart for the first time. This will mimic the “performance pressure” that you’d face if you were doing it with an actual band. No matter what… don’t stop.

4) As you’re playing try to follow the SECTION 2 checklist: know your place, interpret the chart, look ahead, and don’t stop.

5) When you’ve finished, listen back to the video. Did you make it all the way through? What did you do well? What could you improve on?

6) Repeat, and repeat again. :)


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


-Steve Such


Thanks to Dave Kropf for offering his three words of advice for drummers (KNOW YOUR PLACE) and for inspiring me to write this week’s article!

Dave Kroph is the host of "Drummer Talk", the internet's longest-running drumming podcast. As a versatile and well-rounded composer and percussionist for more than 30 years, Dave continually strives to focus on musicianship, expression, and emotion in both compositions and performances. His core belief is that music should always serve the greater needs of the client over the ego of the musician.

With over 100 works to his credit, Dave’s compositional emphasis is on film and commercial music. His expertise ranges from orchestral to electronic music production with his most recent work being featured on CBS Sports’ coverage of the Masters Tournament and the NFL.

You can hear many of Dave’s compositions on his Soundcloud page.

As a percussionist, his skills range from drumset to drumline, and concert to world percussion. His musicianship on drums and vibraphone can be heard on recorded projects from Lillenas Publishing, Inside Sounds, Madison Line Records, and Ardent Studios; and heard in live performances with Donnie Smith, Vicky Beeching, Aaron Strumpel, and Marty Parks.

Dave also has over 21 years of professional musical theater experience covering a broad range of production levels from community theater to professional Summer Stock. Performances range from Footloose to Fiddler on the Roof, and from Into the Woods to I Remember Mama. He maintains rock solid reading competency, and is always sure to play with sensitivity and appropriate dynamics.

Bruce Becker's 3 Principles For Becoming A World-Class Drummer | Steve Such Drums

When asked to give his single best piece of advice to drummers, the great Bruce Becker responded with the following 3 words:


When we take a look at the true GREATS… the Vinnies, the Gadds, the Weckls, the [insert your favorite drummer here]… what is it exactly that they all seem to share in common with each other?

Besides being incredibly talented, the answer is that they are the ones who have been able to successfully embody each of these three principles at a world-class level.

This week, we'll take a close look at each of these principles; first by defining them and then by explaining how they directly apply to your drumming. However, please keep in mind that these principles don’t just apply to drumming (or even music for that matter)… they can be applied to virtually ANY field of study.

Along the way, we'll complete 3 simple exercises together where you’ll learn to be like the greats while simultaneously developing your own unique "you-ness."

Ready? Let’s get started.



assimilate |əˈsiməˌlāt|
verb [ with obj. ]
-take in (information, ideas, or culture) and understand fully: "Marie tried to assimilate the week's events."


Many of us listen to our favorite drummers and think, “Wow, that’s amazing/incredible/insane! If only I could play like that!” The truth is that you really can learn to play ANYTHING… but you have to first have to understand exactly what it is that you’re hearing.

Looking at the definition of “assimilate” (shown above), sure... we can easily become inspired by what we hear (“take in”) from our favorites, but where many of us fall short is in not taking that crucial next step: learning what’s REALLY going on (“understand fully”).

It IS possible to demystify what seems impossible; we just need to take what we’ve heard and place it under a microscope. We need to ASSIMILATE the idea.


- The next time you listen to your favorite drummer, pick something SPECIFIC that you enjoy hearing (or don’t quite understand yet).
- Start small. Choose one bar of a groove you like, or one cool chop/lick that resonates with you.
- Listen to the phrase over and over… and over… and over… and over.
- Be able to sing the idea out loud. Internalize it.
- Once you’ve internalized the idea you’ve chosen, don’t play it on the drums just yet.
- Instead, write it out on staff paper, note for note.
- Make sure to clearly define/notate all details of the idea (accents, stickings, orchestration, etc.). There’s something special about seeing the idea visually that allows you to TRULY assimilate it.


To help put things in context, I’ll complete these action steps with you along the way. Here’s a transcription of a lick I really enjoy by one of my favorite drummers, Adam Deitch. You can hear it on the song “The Last Suppit" by Lettuce when Adam takes a drum solo at the very end.



Okay. We’ve taken an idea that inspires us and have absorbed it fully. We've ASSIMILATED it. We’re ready for the next step: IMITATE.



imitate |ˈiməˌtāt|
-take or follow as a model: "his style was imitated by many other writers."
-copy (a person's speech or mannerisms): "she imitated my Scottish accent."


Musicians are CONSTANTLY imitating one another, that’s the beauty of the art form! Music isn’t created in a vacuum, it’s created by musicians who are influenced by other musicians!

The difference is that now, you’re well ahead of the game compared to most…. because you’re not just blindly attempting to imitate what you’ve heard… you’ve placed the idea under a microscope first so that you understand its elements. This will make it much easier to play, and play well.


-Begin playing the idea on the drums. Start very slowly and just focus on accuracy at first. Speed will come with time.
-Are you using the correct dynamics/phrasing/orchestration/accents of the idea?
-Are you playing the exact sticking used?
-If you recorded yourself and played it back, would it sound exactly the same as the original drummer? If not, how can you better-match the vibe? You’re not trying to be YOU just yet, you’re trying to IMITATE. Be critical and focus on the details.


Here’s a video where I’m playing the Adam Deitch lick in context. (skip to :55)




innovate |ˈinəˌvāt|
verb [ no obj. ]
make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products: "the company's failure to diversify and innovate competitively."


Let’s recap briefly. First, you started by identifying an idea you enjoyed hearing, and now can understand it (ASSIMILATE). Next, you spent time learning how to play it note-for-note (IMITATE). You’re finally ready for the last step... How can you take what you’ve learned and apply it to YOUR world? What are the core takeaways from the original idea and how can you make slight changes to turn it into something completely different and unique?


Change just ONE aspect of the idea you’ve learned. Here’s a few ideas of ways to change it up:

-Different tempo
-Different feel (swung, straight)
-Different time signature
-Different/opposite sticking
-Different rhythmic values (if it was triplets, change it to 16th notes, etc.)
-Different dynamic level
-Different accents
-Different orchestration (what drums/cymbals you play the idea on)


Here’s one variation on the Adam Deitch lick that you can use. Which variable did I adjust? I simply changed the orchestration to now include the hi-hats and toms:


See how many variations you can come up with on your own. Don’t try to create a million variations at once… otherwise you will forget them all. Just focus on one variation at a time and allow some time for it to become part of your vocabulary. Remember to be patient… it’s about quality, not quantity.


Seriously… it’s not enough to just read this article… you have to take action in order to grow.


I can assure you that if you’ve followed the action steps above, you’re most likely feeling awesome right now! Think about everything you’ve accomplished in a very short amount of time: You’ve come to appreciate/understand what the greats have done, you’re now able to channel the vibe of that drummer when needed, and you’ve also come up with brand new grooves/licks of your own!

Imagine if you were to repeat these 3 principles over and over with all of your favorite drummers… you’d soon find yourself becoming better on your instrument than you ever could have imagined. You just have to do it!

Lastly, I want to leave you with this: How can you apply these 3 principles to other areas in your life? (ex: fitness, sports, finance, business, cooking, the list goes on…). For nearly anything you’d like to become great at:  1) study someone who is already great 2) learn how to do what they do, and then 3) innovate by changing the variables and making it your own.

Good luck and happy drumming!


Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from "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 stepsyou 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!

Subscribe to 100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS by clicking HERE.

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





Thanks to Bruce Becker for offering his 3 words of advice to drummers (ASSIMILATE, IMITATE, INNOVATE), and for inspiring me to write this week's article!


What do Neil Peart, Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, and Bruce Becker have in common.....? All of these drummers have sought the unique insights and perspective on balance and motion from drum "guru" Freddie Gruber.
Gruber's reputation rests upon an approach that stresses a more efficient use of the drummer's anatomy. Gruber has often been referred to as the "zen" master of teaching. This rare insight into this approach was spurred on by Freddie's close 40 year friendship with Buddy Rich. It can clearly be seen in Buddy's playing.

Bruce started his studies with Freddie back in 1977. It was at this time when Freddie's activity was at its height. Bruce not only studied for 8 years, but watched Freddie teach. Over the years Bruce was present for hundreds of students and became increasingly aware of the value of Freddie's approach. He was also able to watch the evolution and changes Freddie made in response to musical styles and drum innovations of the time. "I was there at a unique time during the late 70's and mid 80's. The pace at which I saw Mr. Gruber evolve was mind boggling. I would literally spend hours and hang......and this went on for years", Bruce recounts in a June '93 interview in Belgo Beat (Belgian Drum Magazine).

Upon relocating to Europe in 1992, Bruce spent quite a bit of time traveling with Gruber. Together they did a series of Clinic and Masterclasses in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. While Gruber would pontificate, Bruce would demonstrate on the drums. At this time Bruce also became the Head of the Drum Dept. at A.I.M. (American Institute of Music) in Vienna, Austria. There he spent time actively putting his thoughts and concepts together based on all that Gruber had shared with him.

Bruce's conceptual approach and unique ability yields great results. His equation is Balance + Motion = Emotion. He offers the most comprehensive insight into the teachings of Mr. Gruber, and has been teaching since '82. Since returning to Los Angeles, Bruce teaches privately and has a steady stream of working drummers.

Bruce has worked with diverse artists such as Suzanne Somers, Beach Boy Family and Friends, Andy Sheppard, Deborah Henson-Conant, David Becker, Joe DiOrio, Herb Ellis, Barbara Dennerlein, Suns of the Dead, and Frank Gambale.

RULE 3: Play It Slow.

Michael Miley began drumming when he was 4 years old. His dad played him “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins and after the classic drum fill, Michael knew right then and there what the future would hold for him. Then of course after he had heard “Hold the Line” by Toto and “Good Times, Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin, he began his pursuit for developing a fast right foot. Jeff Porcaro and John Bonham remain his top favorite drummers. However, being born on the same day as Keith Moon (August 23rd), Michael, with the Rival Sons (Earache Records), has ironically established a style of his own that echos the reckless abandonment of “Moonie” (now “Miley”). He has recorded and/or performed with Kelly Clarkson, Jay Buchanan, Joe Firstman, Bird3, Josh Kelley, Santana, Ricky Martin, Tony Lucca, Veruca Salt, Mickey Hart, and Rival Sons. He also was in the House Band for “Last Call with Carson Daly” on NBC for five years. He is currently the drummer for Rival Sons on Earache Records. They have three LP’s and one EP available on iTunes and in stores everywhere. They’re about to record their
fourth full length album in Nashville with Dave Cobb.

Michael has studied with Roy Burns, Dave Garibaldi, John Molo, Chalo Eduardo, Chuck Silverman, Chuck Flores, and Dean Cook.



10 Ways To Practice WITHOUT Touching Your Instrument | Steve Such Drums

Often times we find ourselves in situations where we are unable to practice our instrument.

Maybe the volume is too loud for you to practice in the space you're in, maybe you're traveling, or maybe you can only play during limited hours in the day.

These situations happens all the time... so what do we do?

Here are 10 ways you can become better at your instrument... without even being near it.


Learn from the greats, and use their vocabulary to develop your own personal sound concept.


Learning about the life of a musician who has been successful in their genre can provide great insight on how to (or how not to) succeed at a career in music.


Take up painting, writing, photography, or anything creative. Music has always been (and will continue to be) influenced by non-musical art forms.


When you write a piece of music, you start thinking “Big Picture,” which helps you to focus on the role of your particular instrument.


Professional musicians and educators spend a lot of time on stage, but we can’t forget what it’s like to be an audience member as well. Go enjoy the concert experience and soak in the inspiration!


Becoming familiar with another instrument allows you to 1) communicate with other musicians more effectively and 2) recognize what other players would expect from YOU on your instrument.


Knowledge is power. Subscribe to music magazines for news, interviews, and lessons relating to your instrument.


We all have favorite artists/albums, but it’s important to check out new music to keep things fresh and to get new sources of musical inspiration.


Be a musical sponge, soak up as many approaches to playing your instrument as possible. YouTube is your friend!


Many books have been written about the power of visualization. In your next practice session, work on everything as you normally would, but WITHOUT your instrument. Instead, visualize the physical movements made and sounds created, the way you WANT them to be. The next time you pick up your instrument, you’ll notice a difference. Try it!