Playing fast is something that every drummer thinks about at some point in their careers. Beginner drummers will want to play fast while more experienced drummers may want to figure out how they can get even faster.
The key to playing fast on the drum kit is endurance. Endurance of your hands and feet is what will unlock the ability to play fast for extended periods of time. So, how do you build up your endurance? Here are some tips to help you with that.
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The very first thing you need to do is to understand that this isn’t a race. Improving your craft takes time, no matter what it is. With regards to drumming, there will never be a quick fix. So, you need to adopt the mindset of improving slightly every day. You won’t notice it quickly, but when looking back, you’ll see dramatic improvements.
Think of it as training to run a race. You can run a short while before having no more energy. When you run the next time, you’ll be able to run a bit further. That cycle will continue until you can run way further than you could initially. Endurance and speed on the drums work the exact same way.
Another thing that you need to know is that a metronome has to become your best friend. Every exercise and beat you play to improve speed will need the use of the metronome. That click track needs to be there when practicing everything.
Technique is seriously important when playing the drums, especially when you’re trying to play fast. How you hold your sticks can dramatically change your outcome.
There are a few ways to hold the stick such as German Grip, French, and Traditional Grip. Whatever grip you use depends on your own personal preference. However, there are a few things that are true for all of them.
If you use too much of your arms when playing, you’re going to start tensing up. The looser your arms, the faster you’ll be able to play. If you use too much of your fingers when playing, the same thing will happen. Your most important thing to focus on needs to be your wrist control.
When focusing on your wrists, your finger and arm movements will naturally follow. You can use your fingers to play double strokes and your arms to play heavy strokes.
A great way to practice wrist movement is to turn your sticks around in your hands. Hold your arms up and play some patterns on your forearms. This will force your wrists to get in the optimal position for playing.
Practice Pad Work
Now that you’ve got your technique in check, you can start doing some exercises to increase your speed. A great way to do this is to play patterns on a practice pad (I personally recommend this one for most people) along with a click track. You need to do it for an extended amount of time to increase your endurance.
Thankfully, practice pads are very easy to set up in front of a TV, allowing you to practice and chill out at the same time.
Remember to focus on your wrist control when playing patterns. The best way to increase your speed is to find the highest BPM you can play something at comfortably and then increase the tempo slightly every few minutes.
For example, let’s say you can play a single stroke roll comfortably at 120BPM. Play it on the pad at that speed for 3 minutes, then increase the tempo to 125BPM. You won’t notice the difference, so it will be easy to increase to that speed.
Keep slowly increasing the tempo every few minutes and eventually, you’ll be able to play that single stroke roll comfortably at 200BPM.
Songs with Similar Beats
Moving over to the drum kit, a great way to increase your speed is to play along with songs that have similar drum beats. This allows you to have fun playing along to music while practicing a specific groove. Start with a song that has the beat fairly slow and then gradually move up to songs where the beat is played quickly.
For example, Kashmir by Led Zeppelin has a steady basic rock groove driving the whole song. That exact same groove is used in Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. However, it’s a lot faster.
This is just an exercise to do when you get bored of drilling out exercises on the practice pad. It may be difficult to find many songs like this, but it will help you immensely when you do!
Drum Kit Workouts
One of the trickiest parts of playing fast on the drums is the fact that you need to move your hands all around the kit. This is often what catches beginner drummers off guard and stops them from playing smoothly and cleanly. So, creating drum kit workouts that are continuous and driving is a great tool for improving your speed and accuracy.
Let’s take the single stroke example from the practice pad section. You can do the same thing along with a metronome, but now you need to move your hands around the drum kit. Starting on the snare drum, play a bar of single strokes and then move to the high tom. Carry that process on until you’re back at the snare drum.
Doing this for extended amounts of time will increase your endurance and make it a lot easier to play quickly around the kit. There are many other exercises like this that you can come up with. If you’re unsure of what to do, just revert to playing rudiments.
Bass Drum in Fills
A bit of a drum hack for playing quickly is to add bass drums in the middle of your fills. It will feel weird at first, but eventually, it will become second nature. The reason that it helps with speed is because that added bass drum will allow your hands to take a small break when playing.
The name for this kind of thing is linear drumming which can occur when no two drums are played at the same time. Linear drumming is a lot easier to play faster than when you mix all your limbs and play them at the same time.
A great way to practice this is to do the single stroke exercise, but replace one of your hands with a foot every now and then. It has the potential to create some spicy drum fills as well as help with increasing your speed.
It’s important to remember that drumming isn’t just about playing fast. It’s about serving the music and playing what feels right at the moment. Unless you’re playing extreme metal, fast playing isn’t always going to be the right thing to do.
With that being said, the exercises I mentioned above have helped many drummers in improving their speed and endurance. They’re tried and tested methods.
Just remember your metronome and remember to be patient with your progress. Structure your practice sessions to have some endurance work involved. If you do just 20 minutes a day, you’ll improve drastically in just a few months. So, get practicing!