By now, musicians all over the world are familiar with this famous scene from Whiplash. It was one of the most quotable moments of the film, and has spawned countless memes on social media. But as drummers, how do we actually avoid rushing or dragging ourselves?
To answer this question, we must first understand the root cause behind the problem. Both rushing and dragging are caused by one common issue – practicing at specific tempos that feel comfortable to ourselves. Being creatures of habit, we all have preferred tempos that we fall back on when practicing grooves. For example, certain rock drummers might feel most comfortable playing at 4/4 100bpm, while jazz drummers may default to 120bpm in 6/8 time. This problem is compounded by the fact that most of us tend to neglect practicing with a metronome. Therefore, when the rock drummer is told to play along to a song that is at 80bpm (again without a metronome), he will end up dragging. Likewise, the jazz drummer when asked to play a rock groove at 100bpm may end up rushing.
Practice with a metronome
It goes without saying that the easiest long-term solution to this problem is playing along to a metronome or click track. Rushing tends to be a more common issue opposed to dragging, so make sure to practice your grooves at a slower tempo, for example 40bpm. This will train your muscle memory and help you internalize the rhythm, and, counterintuitively, also will enable you to play faster in the long run.
If you’re looking for a free solution, check out our award-winning metronome app.
Separate your grooves and your fills
We often insert fills at the end of a groove by default, and rightly so. However, it is important to separate the two during practice. Many drummers fall into the habit of of knowing the groove better than the fill, and thus rushing to move their hands into position in order to execute the fill at the end of a bar or phrase. Knowing a groove front-to-back will enable you to play it regardless of where you insert it into the song, instead of only being used to playing it in conjunction with a groove. By practicing like this, you will not only build chops, but also improve your timekeeping abilities and thus reduce rushing and dragging errors.
Record your practice sessions
When you are in the moment, it is easy to get lost in the music. While this isn’t a bad thing, you also become less fully aware of your playing when your body goes into autopilot mode.
This is why recording yourself can be so useful. By watching what you have just played, you can quickly identify timing inconsistencies and fix them during your next playthrough. To keep yourself accountable, you could also keep a video log to ensure you are constantly improving. Try uploading weekly practice videos and tagging us @soundbrenner to stay motivated.
Use a vibrating metronome
Speaking of Soundbrenner, our wearable devices are the perfect solution to your rushing/dragging issues. By feeling the beat instead of hearing it, you can more easily perceive the tempo of a song, and thus play more accurately. If you are rushing, you will feel physical feedback as the vibration falls after you have played a note, and vice versa if you are dragging. This allows you to quickly correct tempo mistakes on the fly. Even better, the lack of a click track means you won’t be distracted by annoying noises.
Lock in with your bassist
If you are playing in a band, try focusing intently on what your bassist is playing. The two of you are responsible for holding down the rhythm section, so developing strong synergy with your bass player is a must. While it is a general rule of thumb that the bassist follows your rhythm, you should actively listen to each other and provide rhythmic feedback where necessary. Having a tight bass + drum combo is what makes good bands sound great.
And there you have it, 5 tips to solve your rushing or dragging issues. If you follow the steps listed above, you will never get a cymbal thrown at you during band practice (hopefully). Good luck, and happy practicing!
Soundbrenner is a company dedicated to helping musicians stay focused on what truly matters: their music. Click here to find out more about our products.
Got a question about the Soundbrenner wearables? Reach out to us at [email protected], we’re happy to help!
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