One of the pitfalls that a lot of drummers and drumlines have is that they work on exercises or rudiments that do not directly translate into the music. There’s nothing wrong with working on the newest crazy flam rudiment. Or building your rudiment vocabulary before a big audition. Or writing a drumline exercise that is just really cool.
But given that time is often sparse, it is best to prioritize those things that directly translate into your show music. You can take this one step further by building an exercise program around your show music.
Adapting Your Exercises
For example let’s say your show music has a lot of triplet rolls in it. You probably already have a triplet diddle exercise. First off, make sure your triplet diddle exercise incorporates rolls. Do you play a lot of tap rolls? Then make sure to incorporate tap rolls. Do you play forte-piano tap rolls? Add them in. Do you play any really long eight- or 12-count rolls? What about a two-bar roll passage that has left and right hand tap accents in it? Make it a tag ending onto your exercise. Now instead of just a stock triplet diddle exercise, you have an exercise that works specific aspects of your show music.
Playing at Appropriate Tempos
Tempos also come into play here. If you play triplet rolls in your music at 152 and 168, then make sure you are working your triplet roll exercise at those same tempos—perhaps even slower to build sound quality, perhaps even faster to build chops—but especially at those tempos that directly relate to your show.
Considering Other Possibilities
While I think roll passages are the easiest example of applying this strategy, you can really do it with anything challenging in your show. Add your flam passages into your flam exercises. You probably play a lot of dynamics in your show; are you working dynamics in your exercise book?
At the end of the day, you want your exercise program to do three things: warm up your muscles, work on key fundamentals and work specific things from your show that can immediately translate into a higher performance level.
About the Author
Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. During the past 15 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.