Categorizing Your Playing

Learn about different areas of drumming, what they mean and how to improve them.

When learning something it is very useful to break the subject down into smaller categories and identify those areas that you are weaker on and this can be applied to your drumming. So rather than taking the approach of 'I'm practicing today because I want to be better at drums' you could be thinking 'Today I'm going to work on my hand stamina because I noticed last time I played I was getting cramp' and your practice session will be that bit more effecient. Of course to do this it is helpful to know some ideas for categories so I will list these below along with a brief description of what they mean. This is by no means an exhaustive list, if you think of something that could be added please let us know on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I have listed the categories alphabetically not in any order of importance.

It should be notated that when working on any of these areas technique is always important.


Accuracy

This is to do with hitting things in the right place. When playing on a drum it is ideal to hit the center as this gives the fullest sound. So if you notice you are veering off to the side you need to work on your accuracy. A good indication of how accurate you are with your playing is to have a look at your skins after they've been on for a few months. If you notice little dints and smudges all over the skin your accuracy isn't great, but if they are grouped around the center you are doing well. To practice your accuracy you could play an orchestrated rudiment but put your focus on where you are hitting the parts of the kit.

Co Ordination

This is all about your limbs working together to create a part. For example, if you find you are working on a groove or fill with constant double kick and you're hands aren't in sync with your feet then your co ordination is off. Or if you are playing a rudiment with feet but your feet are slipping out of time the same could be said. Or if you are playing a linear groove but one or two beats are slipping out of time, this is your co ordination playing up. There are co ordination exercises given in most levels, click the 'exercises' tab to find them.

Dynamics

This refers to the ability to play at different volumes. Is there a soft section in a song that throws you off because you're not used to playing with lower stick heights? Can you not quite get that ff section loud enough? Then you need to work on your dynamics.

Fills

Another vague but important term. If you find that when you are playing a song you keep messing up on the fills then you need to work on this area. It could be a specific fill that is throwing you or there may be a common theme in many different fills. Identify what the problem is and spend some time working on it. Remeber though, learning the actual fill is only half the job. When playing fills you need to be able to get into it from whatever comes before and out of it from whatever follows. All without breaking your timing. As discussed under the groove category, get into the habbit of practicing your fill work with a metronome.

Grooves

This is a vague but important category. You may be playing songs and noticing that you're really good with your phrasing and fills but your grooves are sloppy and out of time. Or there might be a rudimentary groove idea that you just can't get. If that's the case you need to spend some time playing your grooves. It is a good idea to get into the habbit of practicing your groove work with a metronome. This will drastically improve your timing and is a useful tool if you plan to go into to the studio.

Independance

Independance is the opposite of Co Ordination and is the idea of your limbs doing separate things whilst still being in time. An example of a pattern that is demanding on independance would be a song like Blink 182s 'Feeling This where in the chorus a seperate rhythm is played on the cowbell. Another example would be if you are playing a fill where some single strokes are broken up by kicks and you are keep count with your left foot. Independance exercises are given for most levels, check out the 'exercises' area to find these.

Phrasing

Phrasing refers to structure, wether that is the structure of a whole piece, the structure of a smaller section such as a verse or chorus or the structure of a bar or two. There are many different ideas for phrasing so if you find you are playing the same things over and over you may want to spend some time looking into what other ideas you could use. Lessons on phrasing are included for most levels.

Rudiments

Another vague category! Rudiments are generally used as exercises to work on other areas such as speed and stamina but they are also very useful if you find you are playing the same parts over and over. By orchestrating more complex rudiments such as the double paradiddle or flamacue you can create interesting patterns that can be applied into your grooves or fills. We have many lessons on basic rudiments, ochestration ideas, accent ideas, fill application and groove application.

Speed

As the title suggests, this is to do with how fast you can play things. This could refer to a specific groove, fill, rudiment or exercise that you feel you could push the tempo of. The most useful tip for working on speed is the Two Minute Rule.

Stamina

This refers to the ability to play certain parts for extended periods of time and is usually combined with speed practie. If there's a song you have been playing that you find you start to slow down in towards the end because you are feeling worn out, this is the area you should be focusing on. The Two Minute Rule practice tip linked above can help with stamina, particularly if you increase the time limit.

Technique

Arguably the most important category of all as it will apply across all categories. This refers to the way you hold your sticks, move your wrists, move your feet, sit on your stool and more. It is incredibly important to make sure your technique is always correct as playing with bad technique will vastly restrict your abilities and could even cause you physical harm. If you are not sure if your technique is correct you should see a teacher who can talk you through anything you are doing wrong.

Theory

I almost didn't include this as it generally doesn't involve playing. But, if you are working through a lot of our lessons or using our sheet music and keep running into notation that you can't read or keep coming across works you don't understand then you need to focus on your theory. This is an area that a lot of drummers don't bother with but I would encourage you to spend time learning the theoretical elements as it will help you understand what you are playing, why you are playing it and will help you become a far more creative drummer. There are many theory lessons included on the site.