Five Minutes to Mastery

A photo of Jeff Queen.

In order to master a given skill, you will need to be able to play it with excellent quality at any tempo.

Practicing Process

I will use Flam Accents as a model, but you can follow this general practicing process with any skill (scales, permutations, drumset grooves, hand drum tones and patterns, etc.):

On day one:

  • Set a stopwatch/timer for 5 minutes.
  • Set the metronome to 36 beats per minute (bpm), subdivided in 3/4 quarter notes with the accent on beat 1.
  • Start the metronome; start the stopwatch.
  • Practice the exercise for five minutes at the set tempo, playing with perfect heights, rhythm, and interpretation the whole time.
  • Repeat at 38 bpm.
  • Stretch and repeat at 40 bpm.
  • Say “Whoo hoo!” and repeat at 42 bpm.
  • Get up and move around the house, knowing that you have just gotten a ton better at whatever you were working on.

On day two, start the process wherever you left off and continue increasing the tempo in two-beat increments. If you follow the model and work 20 minutes a day, you will advance through 6 to 8 bpm a day.

Skills Gained

By going through the described process, you will also gain these key skills in your progression as a musician.

  • Patience and Focus. To play super slow for this length of time will take all of your focus, and to progress as slow as I recommend will take a lot of patience.
  • Tempo Control. You will be learning what it feels like to play exact rhythms, in time, at any tempo.
  • Consistency and Muscle Memory. When you play as many perfect repetitions of the skill as you can, you will build muscle memory, quality, and consistency to last a lifetime.

About the author

Jeff Queen

Jeff Queen has been involved in drum corps since 1989 as a member, technician, caption head, and now judge. Jeff is an original cast member of the award-winning Broadway Show “BLAST!” and is currently the percussion coordinator for Carmel (Indiana) High School, the five-time Bands of America champion. He is also the author of “The Next Level: Rudimental Drum Techniques” and the “Playing with Sticks” instructional DVD.

Q&A With Ed Argenziano

Q&A with percussionist Ed Argenziano with Dennis DeLucia. From Halftime Magazine, a print publication and online community about the marching arts.