I definitely don’t get as much time as I would like to practise without having to work on band stuff, but here’s what I have been working on over the past few months:

I’ve been trying to improve my independence between all 4 limbs, which I’ve generally been doing by picking a foot ostinato (repeating pattern) between kick and hi-hat, then running through various rudiments and sticking patterns while keeping the ostinato going. For example, I could be playing HKK (H=hi-hat foot, K = kick drum) either as triplets or 16th notes, then run through singles on the snare matching the sub-division of the feet, first on the snare, then moving around the kit. Then I would play double strokes with the hands, followed by inverted doubles (RLLRRLLR), triple strokes, single, double and triple paradiddles, para-diddle diddles, then groups of 5 and 7 with the following stickings – RLRRL & RLRLRRL. Then play them all again but leading with the left hand! Then of course try to improvise around the kit with different stickings and rhythms. It’s tedious as hell but the payoff is pretty satisfying!

Sometimes to be able to play one of these exercises, I’ll have to start with just the first few notes on the hands while playing the foot ostinato, then literally add one more hand at a time. It’s also been necessary to write out a few of these exercises so I could actually see where the feet and hands line up.

I learned this approach to working on independence from a lesson I had with Sydney drummer Peter Drummond late last year. He is an absolute king when it comes to playing creative solos using 4 limb independence and the lesson was hugely benefical. I would highly recommend seeking out the best drummers in your country and hooking up a lesson whenever they are in your town or vice versa.

Pete Drummond (currently plays with Dragon and Thirsty Merc)

Pete Drummond (currently plays with Dragon and Thirsty Merc)

You can also play a groove on the ride and snare while keeping a foot ostinato going - see the below video from my Instagram feed to see an example of me demonstrating this. In the video, I change the hands so that the groove changes from a triplet feel to a 16th note feel, all while keeping the foot pattern the same. This is called implied metric modulation, where it sounds like the tempo has changed, but really you have just changed to a different feel within that tempo i.e. changing the sub-divisions. 

The simplest way of trying these independence exercises is to just play a ‘walking’ pattern with your feet – kick on 1 and 3, hi-hat foot on 2 and 4. Once you can play different stickings and/or rhythms with the hands over this kick pattern, try playing the bossa nova/samba foot ostinato – K HKK HKK HKK etc. The rhythm is 1 2+3 4+. If you haven’t played a bossa or a samba before, start with these rhythms as it will help make you more comfortable playing the foot pattern.

Some books worth checking out on this concept include Creative Control and Creative Coordination by Thomas Lang and Extreme Interpedendence by Marco Minneman. Thomas and Marco are the masters of drumming independence along with Virgil Donati.

Other things I’ve been working on:

Improving my dynamics and ghost notes on the snare, especially while keeping 16th notes going with my right hand on hi-hat or ride. Having to keep the volume down to neighbours is a good incentive to work on this!

Working towards better improvisation at different tempos. Trading fours with myself (soloing for 4 bars then playing time for 4 bars), keeping the same sub-division i.e. 32nd notes, 16th note triplets, quintuplets, playing linear phrases only i.e. only one drum/cymbal at a time. Maintaining the same sub-division is actually pretty difficult as I have always placed an emphasis on rhythmic variation while soloing.

Nick Bukey fills (www.nickbukeydrums.com) – This guy has online fill lesson packages available to purchase along with free videos and PDFs which you can download. I’ve learned a bunch of the 32nd note and 16th note triplet linear fills that he has available on his site. The longer fills can be quite challenging!

Exercises from Instagram – Drummers like Sebastian Lanser, Anika Nilles and Elliot Hoffmann all post excercises which I like to try. As well as exercises, every now and again I’ll try and copy solo/fill/groove ideas from drummers on Instagram as well.

That’s it for now, stay tuned for some new drum videos coming very soon! 

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