Posts tagged Time
I’m having trouble locking in with a bandmate… What do I do? | Ask The Drummer Podcast #011


ask the drummer

Ben from Florida asks about locking in with other bandmates. What do you do if you can’t seem to lock in the pocket with another musician? In this episode, I offer my thoughts and tips on how to approach these situations when they come up.

Show notes and links for this episode can be found at


Benny Greb - The Art And Science Of Groove DVD


1) Listen Now In iTUNES (Recommended)

2) In Browser


What do YOU do when you have trouble locking in with another musician?

Enter your comments, tips, or suggestions in the comments section below and I may choose to read your comment on a future episode of the ATD podcast!

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. 

My Fills Are Rushing... What Do I Do? | Ask The Drummer Podcast #001

ATD 001 - My Fills Are Rushing... What Do I Do?



Andrew from San Diego asks a question about timing. His time is solid but his fills tend to rush.

In this episode, I'll offer a my strategies for improving timing during fills.




1) iTunes (Recommended)

6 Reasons Drummers Play With Bad Time (And How To Fix It) | Steve Such Drums


To a drummer, time is everything… it’s the single most important role we play as a musician.

How do we develop solid time BESIDES working with a metronome? 

In this article, I’ll address 6 common problems that can cause drummers to play with bad time.


Have you ever played a show where all the songs seem SUPER slow? It’s most likely because your adrenaline or nerves shift the way that you PERCEIVE tempo. This can cause all sorts of timing issues for the working drummer!

The good news is that you don’t have to only experience this phenomenon on the gig; it’s possible to practice playing with adrenaline away from the stage.


During your next practice session:

1) Play any groove along with a metronome.

2) Leave the room immediately and run around the building 2-3 times. Stop when your heart-rate is high.

3) Come back into the room and immediately play the same groove you played earlier.

Do you notice a difference? Does the groove feel slower now? Learn how to adapt to adrenaline or it will get the best of you!


Are your backbeats ALWAYS placed on the same part of the pulse, or are some backbeats slightly late? When you crash, does your bass drum foot line up exactly with your right hand or is it a little different each time? It’s these types of subtle inconsistencies that can cause significant fluctuations in solid time-keeping.


1) Record your next performance. When listening back, DON'T listen to the big picture but instead, focus on each limb SEPARATELY.

2) Being honest with yourself, answer the following question: "For each limb, what are my timing tendencies?" Work to adjust these tendencies. (EX. My bass drum foot always plays ahead of the beat)


Yes, it’s possible that the way you FEEL the time is preventing you from playing solid time! Billy Ward’s DVD “BIG TIME” is an EXCELLENT resource as he goes into this concept in great detail. For instance, in the DVD, he discusses the example of playing extremely fast up-tempo swing and how rather than counting each quarter note individually (1234123412341234!!!), he will count/feel every half note, every bar, or even every 4 bars. (1……..2………3……..4…….). This mental shift will make your time-feel much smoother overall, and free you up to see the big picture rather than focusing on each quarter note. This is hard to explain in an article, so I'd really recommend checking out the DVD.


1) Play up-tempo swing time (~200bpm)

2) Feel each quarter note on the ride cymbal individually as the pulse (Say out loud: “1234”)

3) Feel each half note as the pulse (Say out loud: “”)

4) Count each bar as the pulse (Say out loud: “1…2…3…4…”)

5) Count every 2 bars as the pulse (Say out loud: “1…….2…….3…….4…….”)

6) Once comfortable with all variations, practice shifting between all 4 without stopping.


Yes, we know that subdividing is important… however when’s the last time you consciously FOCUSED on subdividing in your head during the gig?

Sometimes the reason our time isn’t solid is because we’re not paying close enough attention to subdividing the pulse! We know we should be doing it, but we often forget to subdivide in the moment.

When we actively focus on subdivisions, it becomes quite difficult for our time to fluctuate because the subdivisions act as frequent “checkpoints” that keep us in time.


1) Imagine that you’re turning a metronome on in your brain. Before playing your first note, hear the subdivisions looping in your head. For example, if you’re playing a swing tune, feel the triplets running in your head first. When ready, begin playing.

2) While playing, verbally count these subdivisions out loud ( “1 E A 2 E A 3 E A 4 E A”).

You will be surprised at how quickly this exercise can expose fluctuations in time.


It’s possible that the way you’ve set up your kit makes it difficult to play in time because the amount of energy required to move from piece to piece is more than necessary.


Yep... we’re going to re-build your kit from scratch. Remove all drums, cymbals and hardware from your setup area.

1) Start with the throne. Is the seat height set comfortably?

2) When seated, notice where your feet naturally rest. Add the bass drum and hi hat stand in these spots (you may find this goes against the conventional setup as the bass drum may now be angled a bit).

3) Next, set up your snare drum comfortably between your legs.

4) Set up your toms. How can you position them so that it’s easy to move between the snare drum and the toms?

5) Set up your cymbals. How can you position them so that you don’t have to spend a lot of energy in order to reach them?


In a dream world, everyone in your band has metronomically perfect, rock-solid time. Hooray!

But in the real world, it’s not that simple. Let’s face it… everyone feels time differently. Maybe a bassist tends to lay back while a singer tends to be on top of the beat. We all have our own tendencies, and we have to remember that everyone else does as well.

But, we’ve all been in a situation at least once in our career where someone in the band just seems to have terrible time. When these situations happen, it’s YOUR job as the drummer to become the unstoppable train that keeps going no matter what!


INSTRUCTIONS: If you’re in a band, try playing a song you usually play, however this time, you’ll be playing along to a click track / metronome.  The twist: the rest of the band will NOT hear this metronome, only you will. No matter what, your job is to stay locked in with the metronome and the rest of the band is to follow you.

This will not only help the other members in your band to improve their ability to lock in with you, but it will train you to develop the confidence to LAY IT DOWN when you need to keep the band locked in.


It’s important for us to know how to LEAD, but it’s also equally important for us to know how to FOLLOW.

INSTRUCTIONS: Repeat the above exercise but have another bandmate listening to the click this time. Now your job is to follow THAT band member!

This exercise can be extremely difficult for a drummer, and many embarrassing train-wrecks will ensue… but after a bit of practice, you’ll notice your ears opening up and will find that you and your band mates are locking in with each other like never before.

Steve SuchTimeComment