ACM Asks: How To Perfect your Practice Routine?

02 Jun 2020

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Joe YoshidaHow to get more out of your practice routine with ACM tutor, Joe Yoshida.

Joe Yoshida has graced stages with the likes of Katie Melua, Toseland and Mika to name just a few. When he’s not on tour, in the studio or doing TV work, we are proud to have him bring back his knowledge directly to our ACM students as one of our much valued Drum Tutors. We caught up with Joe to find out more about his ‘Bang For Buck’ practice routine, and get his advice on how to get more out of your practice routine as a drummer…

Talk us through your practice set up and recommendations for practice gear?

“Personally, my main go-to at home is an electronic kit, but having said that, I make a lot of gains using either my practise pad kit or even with a single practise pad. A single practise pad allows me to concentrate on the most important aspects, such as the mechanics of my playing.”

What is your bang for buck concept, how does it work?

“The Bang for Buck routine is my very own concept which, in a nutshell, allows you to gain multiple benefits from a single, simple routine. This includes working on your theoretical understanding of subdivisions; which in turn improves your timekeeping with the metronome; and its primary focus is to give you more ideas for improvising as a whole. It works by going up and down the rhythmic scale of subdivisions and applying common sticking patterns that most of us already know.”

How much time should you dedicate towards practice as a drummer?

“I personally believe the amount of practise should be measured by quality. By doing it by duration, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a solid outcome. Have your goals intact within your mind, and set out to engage with routines and concepts that would develop the required techniques. I have always practised until I am able to do what I set out to do, without it impacting other things in my life in terms of time. Understand that there are things you practise with a limitless timeframe against a gain to which you’ll see no end – like, improving your rudiments. With this in mind, just pace yourself incrementally and simply get better than the last time you worked on it. Also, be more aware of how long it would take you to achieve results, as this level of awareness is essential for a working professional.”

Aside from theory and techniques, what other things should you practice as a drummer, eg drum tuning?

“Knowing your gear is a must. Knowing what gear works for each situation enables you to make better choices when choosing, and could also mitigate excessive expenditure. Also, knowing how to get the sound you want and in turn what heads to use, and how to tune your drums would help you become more employable as a working drummer – especially, if you could get the sound quicker. Watch lots of videos about these skills, and ask other drummers about how they tune and what they use. This could also be good impetus to network with others in the same field – so it’s a win-win.”

If you’re performing a function gig or west end show, how would you gear your practice towards that goal of doing your best performance?

“Theatre work comes with considerable responsibility for a musician to be an adept reader, and there are similar applications for those looking for work on cruise ships. With function work included, you’ll also be negotiating a range of heavily contrasting styles, and a reasonable depth of understanding would be required to improvise in each style. Surf the web for play along tracks with charts to address all of these things, and explore a good range of styles. Start to understand how each style is defined, and stretch your learning by expanding your record collection. Have an open mind towards what you listen to – give anything a shot. Lastly, get your basic rhythmic theory chops up. There are many brilliant resources online, and all you need to do is stick it in Google and try them out.”

How do you look after your physical and mental health when setting out a practice routine?

“Try to understand how you work. This means, some indication towards how much time you need to complete the tasks you set for yourself, and simultaneously, how long you’d be happy to spend as a whole. I find that it’s very difficult to make gains when you’re simply not feeling up for it, so instead, give yourself a break as long as you reschedule when you’ll come back to it. The key to better longevity is to be your own boss about what you do, and this requires self-awareness. Another thing would be to have a hobby other than music, as this would help give you better balance between your music and life in general, and it’ll help you recharge your interest and love for what you’re primarily aiming for. By looking out for your physical and mental health on the scale of practising, it would put you in good practice for when you turn pro, upon when what you love doing becomes a lifestyle.”

What are your favourite tutorial channels to follow online?

“More recently, I’ve been enjoying Drumeo for the sheer variety of drummers that are showcased. I find that the more I diversify my attention towards who and what’s out there, the more I’m able to broaden my perspective. I’m able to find new challenges to keep growing.”

What are your top tips on practising at low volume levels?

“Aside from the various items on the market – like silencer pads – you could be creative and achieve something similar on the cheap. Place tea towels on your drums and cymbals; pack your bass drum with pillows and bedding and lay layers of off-cut carpet underneath the entire footfall of your kit to dampen the vibrations. This would inevitably require you to put aside the enjoyment you get from the sound of your drums, but understand that technique can be developed in any case. Beyond, various brands have great drumhead alternatives that are fit for silent practise – like Evans’ SoundOff Mesh Heads – and other expansions like Zildjian’s L80 Low Volume Cymbals and TAMA Silent Tips for your drumsticks. These items are designed to retain the feel of playing on a drum kit without having to hold back. But, always remember the humble practise pad and the benefit it brings.”

What software and tech can you use to review your performance and technique when practising?

“Given that you’d always work with a metronome, on top of this, some ability to record yourself would allow you to be much more objective; as listening to yourself is the first step to build your self-awareness. Filming yourself would be even better, because a lot of improvement stems from visualising how you use your hands and limbs. Pick up a free DAW to begin editing your recorded playing – such as GarageBand for Mac / iOS and Cakewalk for PC. Here, you could begin to create your own metronome loops and edit audio for social media content, and furthermore, being able to program MIDI drums would not just allow you to build your own loops and click tracks, but also help you build further skills for the working drummer.”

If you found this article useful and want to find out more, check out Joe’s Instagram TV Masterclass which features a practical demo of his “Bang for Buck” concept. ACM goes live Monday to Friday on Instagram between 15:00 – 17:00, so make sure to follow us on Instagram (@acm_uk) to get involved in our live programme of Masterclasses, Industry Insights, Mindfulness and Busking sessions, as well as  collaborative streams with our brand partners.

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