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‘I’m late, I’m late for a very important date. No time to say hello, good-bye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!’ White Rabbit, Alice In Wonderland

These practice hacks are great for days when the whirlwind of life takes over! Even though at least an hour of focused practice is the goal, sometimes life gets in the way. It’s easy to fit at least one of the following 10 practices into your day to keep the momentum going!

1)  Undistracted Music Listening

I call this the Questlove factor. He has over 60,000 records in his collection! You will probably find him adding to his depth of inspiration, history, and groove, rather than breaking paradiddle speed records. Try undistracted music listening in your car, or while going for a walk. Listening while multi-tasking doesn’t count!

2)  Video Review

Sometimes, especially if I can’t make noise, I’ll just review a video of my playing from practicing, or a performance. This adds so much awareness to working on weaknesses, and growing strengths. A relevant Youtube video can count too! (No watching cat videos)

3)  The 3 Minute Rule

Connect with your instrument daily, even if it’s just for 3 minutes! Of course we need to practice longer than 3 minutes a day, but going for this small daily goal will compound to create huge momentum! This creates a habit of daily practice, even when you don’t feel like it, that starts to run on its own so you don’t have to use willpower. Make practice an addiction, not a discipline!

4)  Think Drums

I once saw Marco Minnemann take sentences from TV shows and turn them into grooves and phrases on the drum set. The Holland drummer Han Bennink would imitate the sounds of the city on his snare drum with brushes. Listen to the rhythm of the turn signal in your car and jam with it. When in a grocery store lineup, what is going on in the groove backing the music over the sound system? Inspiration is everywhere! I love listening to sounds of nature to observe the rhythms of the earth. (Bird song rhythms are fascinating!)

5)  Sing Drums 

I first learned this while studying Indian drumming. This is an oral tradition, focusing on a spoken form of drumming called Konnakol. As I walk my steps are the tempo of the groove, like a bass drum keeping the pulse. Then I can sing rhythms over top, or create a string of Konnakol ideas while I walk, trying out many different groove ideas.

6)  Talk Drums   

Sometimes just talking drums with a mentor or friend can get you fired up to move the needle forward on your goals, and spark some new ideas and inspiration. Iron sharpens iron, and man sharpens man! Even a quick conversation can be reaffirming and get you focused. I know a drummer that organizes ‘drummer breakfasts’, where drummers get together and share challenges, strategies, and ideas.

7)  Set Yourself Up For The Next Day

What gets scheduled gets done! If today is lost, at least you can set yourself up for tomorrow. Put it in your schedule to review your practice journal, and make a written plan for tomorrow. Writing it out and scheduling it means you are way more likely to pick up those sticks!

8)  Traffic University

Today we can carry so much knowledge in our pockets like podcasts, audiobooks, videos, digital books. Instead of wasting your commute or exercise time, take advantage of it! Learn on the go.

9)  Visualize

See clearly your future self. Olympic athletes have won many gold medals using this practice, and can take as little as 2 minutes. I have a ‘Mind Gym’ I’ve created where I go to visualize what I’m working on, which I can see clearly on on a giant video screen. There are many ways to practice this, find what works for you.

10)  Idea Review
This is great because it plants an idea into your subconscious mind to continue to elaborate on. I have a voice recorder on my phone with many of my ideas recorded, and sometimes doing a quick review can solidify or grow an idea into something bigger. These ideas are gold because they come from your inner world, not from any outer source like a book or video.