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Practice Without Drums – Think Before You Play

Visualize Playing the Drums

Did you know that you don’t have to be sitting behind a set of drums to practice playing the drum set? There is a technique called visualization that will allow you to create a mental picture as if you were playing the drums. We’re following a plan to play drums in 4 weeks and this is Lesson 10 of 12.  See the complete Plan by clicking here.

Most athletes use visualization to improve their ability.  Musicians also use visualization to improve their skills and help relax before a big performance.

Visualization is making a mental image of something, usually an event that will happen in the future. Seeing yourself already playing the drums tricks your brain into believing that the goal is possible. Imagining a goal will help you accomplish something easier and faster than if you don’t focus on it.

One of the habits in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “Begin with the End in Mind.”  In other words, we should visualize our end goal first and then determine what steps will be needed to reach the goal.  It is important to visualize your ambition often and in as much detail as possible.  You will be surprised how some of the steps will become easy as you continue to imagine yourself reaching a goal.

Have you tried visualization and had trouble? Try this simple exercise.

  1. Find a photo of a drummer sitting behind a set of drums and study it closely.
  2. Then close your eyes and think about what you saw.  If you see an image that is similar to the picture, you are visualizing.
  3. Now add as much detail as possible.  Think about how you feel sitting behind the drums.
  4. Imagine the feeling of your hands as they grip the sticks.
  5. Feel how your fingers are wrapped loosely around the sticks.
  6. Visualize your arms as they move around the drum set.  How do the drums sound when you hit them?

Visualization Tips

Visualize something that you’ve already accomplished, such as, a drum beat that you can already play.  This will help you get comfortable with the idea of visualization.  Now imagine a new goal, a drum beat or a song that you can’t play yet.  If you have trouble seeing the future, switch back to thinking about what you can do now, then try again to visualize the future.

It’s important to see the activity through your own eyes (from the first person) rather than watching yourself from the outside. You can watch yourself as if it was a movie but it’s not as powerful as if you see the action in first person.

Your visualization will work better if it is as real as possible.  Avoid still shots and imagine yourself in a first-person movie or, if you play video games, a “first person shooter” where you are the hero behind the drums.  Replay your movie over and over, visualizing yourself as a great drummer and achieving your goal.

If you are trying to learn a beat, try imagining you alone playing the drums.  Once you feel comfortable drumming solo, play a song and imagine yourself in the band.  See yourself in vivid, vibrant scenes, as real as possible.

Take Action

Now it’s time to act.  Listen to a song that you would like to play on drums.  Close your eyes and visualize sitting behind the drums and playing the beat to the song.  Think about, in great detail, how you will play the beat on your drums.  This can be done anywhere but it has the most effect when you are sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, as if you were sitting at a drum set.

Now listen to the song again and add another layer of feeling.  Imagine watching the other musicians in the band and interacting with them as you all play the song together.  Concentrate on playing your part but also listen to the parts being played by the other musicians.  While imagining yourself playing the drums, listen to each instrument individually and try to play your drum part with them.

With your eyes still closed, start moving your hands and feet and try playing the song as you listen to it.  Go through all the motions and feelings as if you were really playing the song with a band. Relax as you go through the motions. Are you able to play the song now?

Make visualization a part of your daily practice routine.  If you have not had a chance to imagine your goal before you start to practice, take about 5 minutes to review what you are about to practice and where you want to end up at the end of your practice session.

The more you visualize your goals, the quicker you will accomplish them!