There is a natural evolution that exists in every industry and the drumming industry is no exception. Over time, we see new products, new techniques, and even new controversies -- which render new questions. A lot of questions and controversies arose from the creation of the Drumometer. I will explain its purpose, different ways to work with it, the benefits of its use, and how to increase your speed with the Drumometer.
The Drumometer is a wonderful practice motivator if used right. WFD Champ Jotan Afanador told me that his first 1-minute run was around 950. And, in just a few years, he went to over 1200 strokes in 60 seconds I don't think Jotan would be able to increase this kind of speed without practicing with the Drumometer. Jotan's method was to start a single stroke roll very relaxed for the first few 1-minute runs, and purposely not pay attention to what the scores of these runs would read.
First, try doing 20 to 30 one-minute single strokes in a row without stopping. Most drummers have the old Drumometer that only allows you 60 or 90 seconds at a time. So, if you have this model, simply keep hitting the reset button on the Drumometer for 1 half-hour. And, if you have the new Drumometer, all you have to do is hit the reset button once, because you can set it for 900 seconds or 15 minutes. Don't worry what the score says and stay relaxed. If you care too much about what the score reads, you will start to tense up, and this will defeat the purpose and lead to hand injury. Within about 2 weeks time, your score should really jump -- hands or feet.
To really develop a great technique, a drummer must work on endurance exercises. Likewise, in order to play very fast single strokes and hold it for 60 seconds, a drummer has to develop endurance to maintain these speeds. The Stick Control Book by George L Stone or the Master Studies book by Joe Morello is great to practice as long as the drummer keeps practicing without stopping. If a drummer works out with the Stick Control Book, or practices these Drumometer exercises that I'm explaining, and sits there for at least 1 half hour without stopping, he will develop endurance and speed. A lot of drummers do these exercises for 5 minutes then get up for coffee then go back! This is unacceptable if you want to develop endurance. Tiger Bill Meligari told me he would find a good 2 hour movie put it on and play single strokes throughout the 2 hour movie without stopping -- Now that's developing endurance.
If you practice these exercises and find your score is decreasing, do not panic. Sometimes when you are reaching a new peak of speed, your muscles can start to break down and you will lose speed for a few days -- then out of nowhere, you see the improvement. It's a great feeling and worth all the effort when you can play faster than you ever were able to. It takes a lot of time to reach each peak of speed improvement, but what a treat when you do! Sometimes it's like standing on the top of a high mountain and screaming like Tarzan! Ha Ha!
We are not as concerned with the high numbers on the Drumometer as much as we are concerned that the minute run is played technically correct in the WFD competitions. If the drummer alters his way of playing just to break a record, that doesn't impress WFD. The drummer must play the run exactly the way he plays the drums. What good is playing fast with the Drumometer if you can't apply it to the instrument? Everything we practice must be for the benefit of the instrument. If a trumpet player develops fast chops with just the mouth piece and doesn't practice playing the trumpet, what good is it!? Ha Ha! Practicing with a relaxed run and increasing the speed naturally is much better than attacking the pad tense just to see 1000 strokes. If a drummer shows me a relaxed 950, I would be more impressed than he if shows me a very tense 1020.
The WFD competitions are a motivator for drummers to practice more and develop better technique. These competitions are like a Major League Home Run Derby before the all-star game. The players (FOR FUN) see how many home runs they can hit, but when the game starts, they play for the team. Similarly, the drummers see how fast they can play, but the WFD expects those drummers to play for the band when playing a gig. If a drummer doesn't understand this concept, we feel it's that this could be due to the mis-guidance of teachers, not the WFD.
The WFD drummers were very experienced players long before there was a WFD. And these guys are with the WFD because they believe in what the WFD is trying to do. Boo McAfee (then called Boo Boo McAfee) was known for years in Nashville as a great soul-grooving drummer. He surely knows what a drummer has to do first to be a great drummer.
I personally feel that keeping a daily log on your progress can be a great motivator to keep on practicing hard. Years ago when I was developing my technique, all I had was a metronome. With a metronome you had to guess your improvement; now with the Drumometer, you can see improvement by even one stroke which would have been impossible to see using the metronome only. BUT, I believe in practicing with both the metronome and Drumometer. (The new Drumometer II actually has a built in metronome that goes up to 300 bpm and includes a volume control.) I think a drummer can pace himself to find a proper speed he can handle without straining through the minute run. A metronome with a tap button will enable the drummer to find his 1-minute relaxed speed much easier and can eliminate any injury from straining.
I noticed in speed competitions that the drummer's stick height would hinder their scores. Remember -- the lower the stick is to the pad, the faster one can play. Some drummers are competing with the stick far too high at 10 to 12 inches off the pad. Another problem I noticed is drummers not concentrating on hitting in the middle of the pad. When the sticks start hitting the rim of the pad, a drummer loses tons of strokes. Also, when a drummer buzzes the pad instead of making one stroke, the run is disqualified because the Drumometer registers every stroke of the buzz, which is unfair to other competitors in the speed competition.
You can also improve your timing with the Drumometer. Set the metronome to 120 BPM and play quarter notes for 60 seconds. The Drumometer should read 120. Now try this again at the same speed without the metronome and see how close you can come to 120 without the metronome as a guide. The WFD calls this the internal clock practice. This can really develop your sense of timing. I'm sure there are many great ideas you can apply to this unit that have not been thought of yet, but will be discovered in time. And it will result in drummers with a much greater technique and sense of time.
Johnny Rabb has a great DVD on how to practice with the Drumometer called 30 Days to Better Hands, and my DVD is called Practicing Properly. I use the Drumometer a lot in this DVD. You can get your copy of these and other DVDs by clicking here.
To give you a concept of the progression of speed in time by using the Drumometer, notice these results: Johnny Rabb was the first to break 1000; I was the first to break 1100; and now Mike Mangini is the first to break 1200.
Always have a goal when practicing with the Drumometer. If you can do 850, keep trying for 900. If you can do 950, keep trying to break 1000. Mike Mangini can do close to 1250, and I'm sure he has 1300 in mind as this is being written. In fact, the two guys that can perhaps reach it right now (or soon) are Mike Mangini and Jotan Afanador. Go for it guys and keep practicing with all the determination you have, and you will see the results you want to see.
Special thanks to Dan Britt for his assistance with this article.
To view video clips of Art and his DVD Practicing Properly, please go to www.artverdi.com
Art Verdi is a WFD Champ and the first person to break 1,100 strokes in 60 seconds. Art has conducted numerous master classes on the topic of hand technique and has performed with several greats to include Jack Wilkins (Buddy Rich Band), Shirley Scott (John Coltrane, Bill Cosby), Sal Salvador (Stan Kenton), Phil Woods (Benny Goodman), and Stanley Turrentine (Max Roach, Ray Charles).