Creating Incentives

“If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
Derek Sivers

As I have mentioned before, practicing drums is BORING. In order to actually do it, you have to find ways to incentivize yourself into doing it. Once you start, the battle is essentially over. Everyone knows they should practice—lack of knowledge isn’t the problem—the problem is having (creating) the incentive to practice.

“You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action.”
-Dr. Jerome Bruner

What does this mean? Essentially, we often do not have the motivation to do something. No one feels like practicing drums after a long day of work or a stressful bout of school work. Willpower is weak (See interview with David DeSteno on willpower and emotional success). However, if you’re able to sum up the will just to get started, inertia will kick in, and it’s easy to stay there and finish the task.

And it’s even easier if you create an incentive for yourself!

I often fall prey to what was mentioned above. I do not feel like practicing after a day at work or after a long study/homework session. However, I have become quite effective at creating incentives to get myself to practice.

I have spent the last few weeks at home during the day time. I know myself well enough to know that around 11 am is when I get hungry. This is around the time when I will practice. I incentivize myself with a fantastic meal afterward. I normally prep the meal before I start practicing and get excited about it in the process. Then I practice, which consists of a structure I will discuss in my next blog post, and then I reward myself with a meal. If I am playing a video game, I will incentivize myself by saying that for every hour of practicing, I get an hour of video game time. This is quite effective and lets me feel productive while gaming. Or, if I am playing a game for a few hours at a time (most recently Horizon: Zero Dawn) I will set a timer for an hour. Whenever the timer goes off, I will go play 2 rudiments for 5 minutes each. Another incentive I remind myself of is that the more I practice my band’s songs at home, the tighter I will be able to play them live, and there is no better feeling than playing a tight set.

This is how it feels to play a tight set:

via GIPHY

My task to you is to create an incentive or incentives to practice. Figure out what works for you. There’s no need to create a perfect system, often times, perfect systems are abandoned. The good system you stick with is better than the perfect system you abandon. For people who are willing to take it to the extreme, there’s stickK. But there are significantly less punishing ways to accomplish the same results.

Let me know in a comment or an email what works for you!

What to do when you’re stuck

Have you ever experienced practicing something over and over and not being able to get it right? I definitely have. I’m currently practicing songs for a new band, and there are certain parts that I just cannot seem to get right no matter how many times I practice them. Most people tend to give up at this point.

Don’t be like most people.

Getting stuck can be incredibly frustrating. There are days where I will be able to play a part perfectly, and then the next day I can’t seem to play it at all. I have legitimately gotten infuriated to the point of tears about things like this. The solution is to practice perseverance and willpower. Know that you just have to ignore at and keep going. This can be incredibly difficult, that’s why it’s something you practice, not something you just do.

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once said “Our actions may be impeded…but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accomodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

We have to reframe these parts that we are stuck on not as things holding us back, but as things propelling us forward. With every pass over that hard part and with every repetition of that hard song, we get a tiny bit better and a tiny bit tighter. After all, “it’s always the hard part that creates value.”-Seth Godin

One thing I like to do is ask myself the question “What would this look like if it were easy?” This simple question forces you to analyze whether or not you are going about whatever it is your doing in the most efficient way. Perhaps there is a better way.

My task to you is to take any parts that you may be stuck on, and reframe them in your mind as things you must practice in order to make yourself better. No matter how long it takes, and no matter how difficult the part is. It’s those parts that mold us into better drummers. We have to do everything we can to overcome these obstacles. Whether that consists of contacting another drummer to get advice, reading up on some new practice techniques, spending more time practicing, or maybe just finding an easier sticking pattern.

Let me know how this works for you in a comment or an email. I hope that this post can act as some form of encouragement during a tough period of growth.

Here are links to the books from which these ideas came from:

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

Netflix & Drum? Hacking Your Practice

Practicing drums is BORING. I’m not talking about playing along to songs; I mean incessantly and mindlessly doing paradiddles and other such rudiments over and over. BORING.

Here is a hack that I use to revolutionize my practice. I’ve heard a few drummers say not to do this. The thing is, none of the people I’ve heard talk about this give any actual data on why this is bad. They just say things like “Don’t do this; it is bad.” Well I am telling you not to listen to them— sort of…

“The human brain is built to take conscious knowledge and turn it into unconscious knowledge—learning consists of taking things that are strange and unnatural, such as algebra and reading [or new rudiments], and absorbing them so steadily that they become automatic. That frees up the conscious mind to work on new things.”-David Brooks’s The Social Animal

You’ve likely experienced this. Practicing a rudiment so much that it becomes automatic—You no longer consciously focus on it. Well that’s the goal here.

When I am practicing a new rudiment, at first, I focus solely on it. The movements, the timing, the pattern, the dynamics, I make sure to get it all correct. For me, after playing it for 5 minutes at one speed, then another 5 minutes at a faster speed, I am able to play it slowly without focusing on it. The key phrase here is slowly without focusing on it. At this point, I go to Netflix on my iPad and find something to distract me from the BOREDOM of practicing this rudiment over and over. You see, I am putting some of my conscious attention on something else in order to further thrust this rudiment into the subconscious. I use the app ProMetronome which still keeps the metronome going while watching something on Netflix (currently It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).

There is a video on Mike Johnson’s Instagram page of him practicing a paradiddle while saying two letters of the alphabet aloud, then two in his head. This is essentially the same thing. He is consciously focusing some of his attention on something else in order to further thrust these body mechanics into his subconscious.

To sum this up, my formula when practicing a new rudiment is this:

  • Play the rudiment for 5 minutes at a slow speed
  • Play the rudiment for another 5 minutes a bit faster
  • Pause for a moment and put on something to watch
  • Resume the metronome and keep going in increments of 5 minutes while increasing the speed

I still make sure that I am playing along with the metronome accurately. This hack allows me to practice for a much longer time, and I have seen drastic improvements in my playing since doing this due to the longer amounts of time I can spend on practicing rudiments. Sometimes, if I am doing just kick drum rudiments, I will set up my laptop on my snare drum and play games. I am a big fan of the tower defense game Kingdom Rush. This can be exceptionally difficult to do at faster speeds, but if you get it down, it really helps with limb interdependence.

The point here is to get the rudiment so solid that you are able to focus some of your attention on other things, like a tv show or computer game, while still playing solidly.

I encourage anyone reading this to try this out. Leave a comment or send me a message stating whether or not this worked for you or if it was a disaster.

Below are links to the Mike Johnson’s Instagram video and the book that I mentioned.

Lessons from the road: Alphabet Tourette's Syndrome. #drumlessons #mikeslessons

A post shared by Mike Johnston (@drumteacher76) on

Want more practice hacks like this one? Subscribe

* indicates required

The Importance of Tracking Practice-Visualize Your Improvement

“What gets measured gets managed”-Peter Drucker

I first stumbled across this quote in one of Drucker’s books. I’ve also heard it discussed in numerous blog posts from other people I follow, mainly business blogs. Here‘s a great example of one such blog post.

I believe not enough drummers apply this principle to their own practice. Here is an example of my last few days of practice from my practice notebook. I don’t put down every little thing I practice; for example, I don’t put down the songs I may be practicing, my warm ups, or things I may just jam along to. What I do put down are the different rudiments I’m practicing and the speeds I’m playing them at. (Most of the speeds below are being played as 16th notes)

IMG_0083

As you can see, it’s not super complicated. I think this is so helpful, as “What gets measured gets managed.”

I set a goal for every day. If I achieve this goal, I write in all capital letters next to the entry “GOAL.” If I do not achieve this goal, I write “Did not complete,” which just means that I was unable to play that speed solidly and consistently. Instead of practicing it poorly, I slow it down to where I can practice it in the correct manner. It’s about internalizing the correct body mechanics, not internalizing sloppiness (see Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning).

The incompletes do not discourage me, they simply serve as a reminder that I need to work on that rudiment more. There are even days where I will nail a speed, but the next day I will not be able to complete the very same speed. It just shows me that I need to practice that speed more to increase consistency.

Try using a practice notebook. Send me an email on whether or not you like it and why (highvelocitydrumming@gmail.com).

Here are links to the books that I obtained this knowledge and these ideas from.



Product Feature: Remo Sound Controlled

Hello all,

Welcome to my website. The idea for this has been in my head for quite a while, and I am so excited to finally release it.

Anyhow, this snare head, the Remo Sound Controlled coated head, is my absolute favorite snare head. It has been my go to head for the last few years. It has a wonderfully well rounded sound, and it’s capable of doing everything I need it to.

In the video below, I show how it sounds in different tunings, isolated at first, and then along with some loops.

Check it out, and if you like what you see, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel, or my blog, or both!