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5 military principles for effective drumming practice

Each practice session is an opportunity to refine techniques, improve precision, and elevate overall performance.

The rich traditions of rudimental drumming are deeply rooted in military history, and the connection between military training and our drumming community is profound. By integrating military principles into our practice routines, we can elevate our skills and ensure the continuous growth and mastery of this art form.


In this blog, we will delve into five military principles that can improve the way you practice, helping you to achieve higher standards, precision, and effectiveness. These principles are not only time-tested in military training but also perfectly applicable to your professional life, and of course, the demands of rudimental drumming. These 5 strategies can enhance your practice sessions and lead to superior performance, ensuring the sustained excellence of our cherished drumming traditions.



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A soldier in action and a drummer performing on a RD Pad


1. If it’s not 100% correct, do it again

Each practice session is an opportunity to refine techniques, improve precision, and elevate overall performance. The principle of "If it's not 100% correct, you need to do it again" serves as a cornerstone in the pursuit of excellence. This principle underscores the necessity of achieving high standards in all tasks, a tenet that is as crucial in the military as it is in the world of drumming and any other high-performance field.


However, achieving high standards is not synonymous with perfectionism. It is about dedication to continuous improvement and the willingness to repeat a task or repetition until it is consistently correct. Perfectionism implies that every repetition should be performed perfectly, an unrealistic expectation that can lead to anxiety. Instead, strive for excellence by being willing to repeat a task or rep until it is executed correctly and consistently.


But how does this work in practice?


Before picking up your sticks, set clear, measurable goals for your practice session (this is also connected to principle 5). Perhaps you are working on perfecting a particular rudiment, refining a show segment, or achieving greater synchronicity with your bandmates. Whatever the goal, have a plan that outlines the steps needed to achieve it (note for note, rudiment for rudiment). This might include specific exercises, tempo increases, or focused practice on challenging passages.


Strive for excellence by being willing to repeat a task or rep until it is executed correctly and consistently.

Play through your reps with precision, paying close attention to technique, timing, and consistency. Remember, the goal is not merely to complete the motions but to play each note with intentionality, as a ‘lucky shot’ will never lead to consistently excellent performance. After each repetition or segment, take a moment to evaluate your performance (this is why many marching bands implemented something among the lines of ‘check and adjust’). This can take only a few seconds.


Assess where improvements are needed. Did you achieve the clarity and accuracy you aimed for? Are there any recurring mistakes or areas that felt particularly challenging? Is this the quality you want to deliver in the end? No? Do it again. Each iteration brings you closer to your goal. Never stop before achieving consistent correctness because “if it’s not good, you need to do it again.” Each time you revisit and refine a task, you are not merely correcting errors; you are building a foundation of discipline and high standards that will elevate your drumming to new heights.



2. Train as you fight

In both military and musical contexts, realistic training is essential to ensure that skills transfer seamlessly from practice to performance scenarios. This principle underscores the necessity of making practice sessions as realistic as possible to prepare for actual performance situations.


Research in the field of training and development consistently emphasizes the importance of realism in training scenarios. The concept of fidelity, which refers to the extent to which training simulates real-world conditions, is pivotal in this regard. Also in the military, high-fidelity training, which closely mimics actual combat situations, has been shown to significantly enhance the effectiveness of training programs. The benefits of high-fidelity training are thus well-documented in military research. Soldiers who train in environments that closely simulate combat conditions show improved performance and preparedness when faced with actual combat. This is because such training enhances their ability to respond to stress, adapt to unexpected situations, and perform under pressure.


You want to gain muscle memory based on the rebound you get from the drumhead and on the size of the drum/rim for rim shots.

Translating this principle into drumming practice means creating training sessions that replicate performance conditions as closely as possible. This involves rehearsing in the same physical conditions, using the same equipment, and adhering to the same routines as you would during an actual performance. Drummers who engage in realistic practice sessions are better prepared for the demands of their performances. High-fidelity training helps you develop muscle memory, mental resilience, and the ability to maintain focus under pressure. By training as you fight, you cultivate a level of performance that is not only technically proficient but also resilient and adaptable.


To train as you fight in drumming, consider the following:

  1. Practice on your real instrument, or a very realistic practice instrument: Especially in drumming it’s important to practice on your actual instrument. You want to gain muscle memory based on the rebound you get from the drumhead and on the size of the drum/rim for rim shots. This principle is also the fundament for what’s resulted in the RD Pads.

  2. Mimic Performance Conditions: Replicate the physical and mental conditions of a performance. This might include practicing with audience noise, simulating the distractions of a live event, or performing under the same time constraints you will face during a real show or contest.




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A Rope Drum Pad is standing next to an actual rope drum
'Train as you fight' was the impetus for the very first design of the RD Pads


3. Attention to detail

The principle of "Attention to detail" is paramount in the aim for excellence in drumming. This principle emphasizes the importance of meticulousness in practice and performance, acknowledging that small mistakes can lead to substantial problems. I think everybody can imagine a small error made in a combat situation, can lead to desastreus consequences.


Cognitive psychology underscores the importance of attention to detail in reducing errors and enhancing task performance. So it also enhances your training strategy; When individuals focus on the finer aspects of their tasks, they are more likely to identify and correct small errors before these escalate into significant issues. This approach is particularly used in high-stakes environments, such as aviation and healthcare, where even minor mistakes can have serious consequences. But it’s equally useful to get your drumming to the next level.


Incorporating attention to detail into your drumming practice involves a deliberate focus on the nuances of your performance. Attention to detail starts with a focus on technique. Every stroke, every note, and every rudiment must be executed with precision. This means paying close attention to hand positioning, stick control, and the exact timing of each beat. Practicing slowly and deliberately at first can help you refine these details. As your proficiency increases, you can gradually increase the tempo while maintaining the same level of precision.


Attention to detail starts with a focus on technique. Every stroke, every note, and every rudiment must be executed with precision. This means paying close attention to hand positioning, stick control, and the exact timing of each beat.

As I’ve already mentioned in this blog at the first principle, regularly review your practice sessions to identify areas where errors may occur. This can also be done by recording your practice and listening for inconsistencies or mistakes. When you find an error, take the time to correct it immediately. This prevents small mistakes from becoming ingrained habits.


4. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast

Deliberate practice involves focused, intentional, and repetitive actions aimed at improving specific aspects of performance. This method is crucial for mastering complex motor skills and achieving high levels of proficiency. By embracing a deliberate approach to practice, drummers can develop smoother and more efficient performance techniques that ultimately lead to faster and more accurate playing.


Begin by practicing new techniques and pieces at a slow tempo. This allows you to focus on precision and accuracy without the pressure of speed. Pay close attention to your hand movements, stick control, and timing. Ensure that each stroke is deliberate and consistent. By starting slow, you build a solid foundation of muscle memory and control. Slow is smooth.


By starting slow, focusing on precision, and gradually increasing tempo, you build a foundation of smooth, controlled movements that translate into faster and more accurate performance.

Once you have achieved precision at a slow tempo, gradually increase the speed. This should be done incrementally, allowing your muscle memory to adapt to the faster pace without sacrificing accuracy. Use a metronome to help maintain a consistent tempo and to track your progress as you increase speed. This gradual approach ensures that your playing remains smooth and controlled, even as the tempo rises. Now your smooth technique enables you to play it fast.


Incorporating the principle of "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" into your practice routine is essential for achieving high levels of proficiency and control in drumming. By starting slow, focusing on precision, and gradually increasing tempo, you build a foundation of smooth, controlled movements that translate into faster and more accurate performance.


5. Prioritize and execute

By prioritizing key tasks and focusing on them with undivided attention, you can enhance your productivity and effectiveness. Research on executive function, supports the principle of prioritizing and executing tasks. It’s true that prioritizing tasks and focusing on one task at a time improves overall efficiency and reduces cognitive overload. This approach allows for better concentration, reduced errors, and more effective use of mental resources.


Here again, it’s a good first step to identify the most critical areas that need improvement. This might include specific techniques, challenging passages in a piece, or areas where consistency is lacking. By clearly defining these priorities, you can ensure that your practice time is focused on the most impactful tasks.

Develop a structured practice plan (just as you did based on principle 1) that allocates time to each critical task based on its priority. For example, if perfecting a particular rudiment is crucial, dedicate the initial portion of your practice session to this task. This ensures that you address the most important areas when your focus and energy levels are at their peak. Also, making clear your structure beforehand, prevents spending a disproportionate amount of time on your warm-ups.


By clearly defining priorities, you can ensure that your practice time is focused on the most impactful tasks.

Also key here, during practice, to focus on one task at a time. Avoid the temptation to multitask, as this can dilute your attention and reduce the effectiveness of your practice. By concentrating on a single task, you can achieve a deeper level of engagement and make more meaningful progress. By identifying the most critical tasks and focusing on them with undivided attention, you ensure that your practice time is used optimally, leading to significant improvements in performance.



Integrating military principles into your drumming practice not only refines your skills but also ensures the lasting legacy of drumming excellence. By committing to continuous improvement with "if it’s not good, do it again," you build a foundation of consistency and high standards. Emulating real-life performance conditions through "train as you fight" prepares you for the demands of live performances. Focusing on "attention to detail" helps you catch and correct minor mistakes, enhancing overall focus and precision. The principle of "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" underscores the importance of deliberate practice, leading to smoother and faster performances over time. Finally, "prioritize and execute" ensures that your practice time is spent on the most impactful tasks, leading to more efficient and effective practice sessions.


By embracing these strategies, we weave military precision and discipline into our drumming practice sessions, and we’re fostering excellence. Only together, we can cultivate a culture of dedication and mastery, ensuring the enduring presence of rudimental drumming for generations to come.

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