I often hear people, friends and students complain that they can not play as fast as they would like to. Watch any video of the top players in Africa or Cuba play and it is truly amazing. How do they do it? A key to playing fast is playing relaxed. This does not mean “sleepy” it means “tension less”. Some people can relax or play with tension easier then others. There are mental aspects to this practice and there are physical aspects as well.
Practice makes perfect. As anyone familiar with me or my site will have heard me preach, the more you practice or play with yourself, the easier and more fluent your playing will become. A tip I suggest for gaining speed is a simple drum machine. They are readily available and relatively cheap and easy to learn as well. You do not have to be any type of techy or geek to learn how to use one of these machines very quickly.
If you by one at your local shop the salesman can show you how to program it. Here is what I do. Whatever rhythm I am learning or working on I program into the drum machine. If I am working on West African patterns I use the toms as dununs for example. Once I have the pattern programed in I play it at a comfortable speed, put on the headphones and play along.
Once I am warmed up, I check my self out in the mirror, another useful tool to see how I am sitting, where I am holding tension and if I am making strange faces. Once I am confortable, I speed the pattern up. I just play along and breath. Watch your breathing. Check out if you are holding your breath. Once your beath is natural you will notice it is easier to play.
After a few minutes at the faster speed you will forget it is faster and just be playing along. Try soloing. Leave space. When you are comfortable speed up again. I go on and on like this until I am playing incredibly fast. At the end of the session I always say, “wow, I was plying really fast”. I did not know I could do that”!
This is because in many ways we limit ourselves by a preconceived notions or a self “limiter” of what we think our limit should be. If we step back and allow ourselves to go with it or flow with the speed we can go much faster then we ever imagined.
Much of the positive drumming experience for me is about going past these preconcieved notions, the limitations we place on ourselves and also that others place on us as well. Drumming is magical and musical and like any other instrument be it violin, piano or drums it takes practice, dedication and a great teacher to help us raise our levels as well.