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   Learning, improving, and honing our chops is a lifelong process, and definitely a long term goal for any serious drummer.

   However, it’s one thing to try a new lick and figure out the way it works, and a completely different thing to really master it.

   This is why I think it’s important to complement resources like ‘Drum Chops Mastery – Gospel Chops & Beyond – Free Excerpt‘ with a discussion about how to make the most of such exciting materials.

   We can consider this article a companion to all licks, phrases and fills freely downloadable from the Blog and free content in Confident Drummer.


   We’ve all heard a million times how important it is to start practicing slowly.

   There’s no other area of drumming in which that is more true than in complex phrasing and Gospel Chops. And that’s quite paradoxical, given the speeds at which we end up playing these ideas.

   Yet, as we know, speed is always a byproduct of control, and the way to get control is to spend a long time working on slower tempos.

   As we notice, in the aforementioned ‘Drum Chops Mastery’ excerpt there are no suggested Beats Per Minute ranges for practicing those studies.

   The reason is that it’s necessary to explore all tempos and also that, since we are working on developing our Chops, there’s no limit to the top speed we can reach.

   We can see how each new generation of drummers sets the bar a little higher than their predecessors did.

   How valuable and applicable this can be in a musical sense it’s an entirely different story.

   At the same time, each of us has to keep at it for as long as it takes to reach the level needed in order to express our ideas.

   The question to ask ourselves is always the same: can we express all we feel and have to say, with what we are able to play? Unless the answer is yes, we need to go practice some more.

   To make the most of any chops and phrasing method I recommend following these guidelines:

  • Focus on one or two licks at the time and follow a detailed practice schedule like for instance the one outlined in ‘One Month Drum Challenge‘.
  • Start by practicing each phrase exactly as it is written.
  • Create a basic song structure and switch back and forth between the exercise you are practicing and some bars of a simple groove. Experiment with each of the most common musical forms.
    You can begin simply by alternating a bar of groove with a measure of the Lick. Then you can move on and work through some of the most common song structures: 3+1, 7 + 1, 2 + 2, 4 + 4 and so on.
  • Experiment with creating your own variations: try adding different accents, orchestrate as you like, mix and combine ideas.
  • Become fluent in using the phrases you are working on by practicing improvisation.

   These last two points are explored in depth in related lessons like ‘30 Ways to Practice a Vinnie Colaiuta Lick‘, ‘Musical and Creative Inverted Paradiddle Applications‘, ‘Improvisation – 1 Minute Drum Solos in 11 Different Styles‘ and ‘Unmusical vs Musical Drum Solo‘, with explanations and ready to use examples that we can apply, so that we can truly benefit from this work.

   As we keep practicing, should we get stuck on any exercise, it’s important to keep in mind that there are only two possible scenarios:

  • Either we have rushed through it and increased the tempo too early, and because of that we haven’t achieved the level of control necessary to play faster.
  • Or we may have a flaw in the fundamentals of our drum technique, which compromise the possibility of going beyond a certain level.

   It’s important to understand that mastering the basics of drumming is essential in order to comfortably work on these studies and see the results we want.

   If we are aware of any area of our technique not being in great shape, we need to pinpoint the problem and fix it. Maybe with the help of a teacher, or by creating an effective practice plan.

   At times we are probably going to have to face periods of little or no progress, in spite of the hours we put in. And that’s normal, because plateaus are part of the learning process and the time frame for advanced topics like these is always long term, as said before.

   The phrases will start to come out spontaneously only after a long time.

   It can take years to fully internalize such complex ideas, and that’s exactly why the most intelligent thing we can do is to flip through the examples available, pick a dozen of Licks that we find particularly cool, and eventually make them part of our vocabulary by learning them inside out.

   It is no coincidence that this approach is exactly what all the greatest drummers have always done: they don’t necessarily know how to play everything, but they mastered a few phrases that they can execute in endless variations and that became part of their style.

   Then, anytime we feel like it’s time to add something more, we can always come back to our licks collection and try a new one.

   But it makes no sense to strive to play every single example, if the price to pay to do that is ending up sounding sloppy.

   Where to start? Download and print ‘Drum Chops Mastery – Gospel Chops & Beyond – Free Excerpt‘, watch the video demo and choose one phrase you like. Practice it 10 minutes a day for a couple of weeks using the ideas explained here. See results, get motivated, repeat 😉

   Related resources:
Drum Chops Mastery – Gospel Chops & Beyond
Phrasing & Fills – Altitude Drumming Volume 5
Drum Technique Booster – The Masters’ Approach



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