One thing many musicians suffer from is the crippling doubts that you're not good enough. From what I believe, this is normal. It's hard not to compare ourselves to the 6 year old you saw on Facebook that plays better than you. This digital age allows us to reach untapped inspiration, but it can also be harmful if you begin to compare. We are all on our own musical journey, and some people are further along the journey. When you are practicing and think 'what's the point?' you must remember the people you look up to thought the same thing when practicing - and maybe still do.
I try to practice regularly, however, if you're like me, there are days where the last thing you want to do is sit in front of a practice pad for an hour, tapping repetitive patterns until you are officially zombified. To be honest, sitting with a pad and playing rudiments isn't really helping you improve everything about how you play and what you play. I believe there are better ways to improve your playing in a broader way. This blog will detail some things I do.
1. It's important to practice SMART. What I mean by this, is to really focus on a goal for a practice session. Try to be realistic, don't think to yourself that you will be able to double your foot speed in one session. Focus on something really small and stick to it. Are you able to keep good posture while playing? What about your balance in hands? Can you play both hands in unison without playing flams? These are little things you can work on in a practice session. However, don't give up if you can't see any improvement after one practice! That's normal too.
2. Practice with a click track. This is SO SO important. When practicing with a click, you have a reference point to your playing. You will be able to hear if you are playing in time or not, which is invaluable information. It is easy to forget the click while practicing and before you know it, you'll be in the habit of playing a little looser without realising it. (Obviously this can be cool for some musical styles, but not for practice!) Don't fear the metronome! it's a tool to help you, not hinder you (which was a game changer when I realised this).
If you are more confident, you can set the click to play for a bar and mute for a bar, then play again - this can really help your timekeeping.
3. Record your practices. This can be a great way to look back and see things that you may not have noticed in the spur of the moment. Perhaps that 'sick fill dude' might not have been as cool when you look back...this happens to me all the time still. Also a great way to capture ideas that you may have played!
4. Identify your weaknesses. There's no point playing things you KNOW you can play. You can't really improve yourself by doing this. It's so important to push yourself to be sloppy at something new rather than tight with something familiar (for practice anyway). I am guilty of this I must admit. It's so easy to play a groovin' beat that is familiar and think 'YEAH I got this!'. We want comfort and familiarity, but I have found that I have learnt the most from experiences that I am not comfortable with.
5. Take a break. It's okay to take a break, this isn't Whiplash (if you haven't seen this film, I recommend it!). Sometimes your brain is a little fried after studying quintuplets for an hour and a half. If you feel like you can't take any more, you should take a break. Your saturated brain needs time to digest all that new information. You'll be able to come back with a fresh mindset and be able to continue. This will actually help you remember more information rather than cramming. I learnt this the hard way when it came to my biology exam...