I was recently talking to a friend about practicing, and we decided on this definition: Practicing is when you take something that is difficult for you, and do it correctly over and over until it is no longer difficult. There are a few things in this definition to discuss.

First of all, this means that whatever you are going to practice, you have to first be able to do it. This might not immediately make sense, but stick with me. Think about it: the goal of practicing is not to figure something out, but to be able do something BETTER. If the goal is figuring out how to do something, then we call that “learning.” But, if “practicing” is the intent, then being able to play correctly the thing you want to practice is the starting point, not the finish line. For example, It won’t do any good for me to sit down and work on playing 16th note single strokes on a double kick pedal at 200bpm. I can’t do that. It’s not that it’s difficult for me, rather, I just plain can’t do it. So what should I do? How about trying it at 130bpm instead. I can do that… just not confidently because it’s kinda tough for me. So, according to my definition of practicing, I would sit there and do it over and over until the 130bpm tempo began to feel easy. Then I might graduate up to 140bpm, and so on. Eventually I would end up at my goal. (Note: Of course I am aware that learning HOW to do something is an important step in the process of mastering the drums, or anything for that matter. However, I believe that’s the job of your teacher/book/video/observations/etc, not your practice session.)

This brings me to issue number two: you have to work on something that you’re practicing for a while. Don’t expect to reach your goal overnight. There will probably be a long hill to climb in order to get where you want to be. It would be great if you could just download a certain skill into your brain with highspeed internet or something, but that just isn’t possible. You have to earn it… with TIME and EFFORT.

Thirdly, it is important to understand that comfort is the goal. Don’t just practice something until you can do it a couple times, work on it until you OWN it and it’s comfortable. Like I said at first, being able to play something is the starting point, not the finish line.

SUMMARY: In order for practice to produce results, it has to be real practice. The definition above is, I believe, a great place to start in making sure you are practicing for real.