The 4 Essential Building Blocks of Drumming

Posted in Guides And Tips

picture of drumming sticks and mullets in black and white

In previous articles, I talked about a popular style of learning that I call Polka-Dot Learning and explained why it’s detrimental to use for a long period of time and then explained what I call the Blueprint Method and showed why this method of learning is far more effective and yields greater results.

But what exactly should you be focusing on when you use the Blueprint Method?

What topics should you be evaluating and striving to improve as you practice?

This is always a tough question to answer, but I believe there are four essential building blocks that every drummer should focus on in order to achieve a high level of playing.

In this article, we’re going to go over what the four building blocks are, what they include, and how they relate to one another so that you can use them to put the Blueprint Method to effective use.

Let’s get started.

Building Block #1: Rhythmic Knowledge

The first and most essential building block is your rhythmic knowledge.

Your rhythmic knowledge is the foundation of every drumming related skill you learn because it’s the framework that we operate and function in. You must understand how rhythm is structured and organized as well as how to count it.

Some drummers believe that you should just “feel” the groove and therefore never take the time to learn what it is they’re playing. While every drummer needs to be sensitive to the feel of a passage, knowing what you’re playing as well as how it’s structured and organized on a fundamental level is equally important.

The more rhythmic knowledge you have, the more vocabulary you’ll be able to use and the more structurally sound your playing will be. Both of these things are crucial for the current ability and future development of every drummer.

Building Block #2: Technique

Once you know what to say (rhythmic knowledge), you have to have the skills and abilities to actually say it.

This is where your technique comes in to play.

In the grand scheme of things, your technique has one purposes: To provide you with the facility to clearly convey a musical idea in a way that is accurate and healthy.

Many drummers get caught up in the details of technique without this purpose in mind. If you are at a point in your development where you can convey the ideas you want to convey in a clear and healthy way, you are better off spending more time enhancing your rhythmic knowledge than trying to enhance your technique for knowledge you don’t yet have. Expanding your rhythmic knowledge will challenge your technical skills and give you reason to push forward and refine your technique with purpose.

Think of your technique as the machine that converts your rhythmic knowledge into music.

It’s a very important machine that you must service regularly to keep everything running smoothly, but it’s important that your technique and rhythmic knowledge grow together.

There’s no need to have a giant power plant that takes up a 5 acre warehouse when you only have the materials, knowledge, and demand to power a single 60 watt light bulb. Your technique should advance due to the demand placed on it by your improving rhythmic knowledge. Not the other way around.

graphic representing the 4 building blocks of drumming

Building Block #3: Execution

The third building block is the coordination of the building blocks one and two.

Without technique, your rhythmic knowledge is just a concept or idea.

Without rhythmic knowledge, your technique is an unworkable machine.

The coordination of the two is what brings your musical ideas to life and allows you to play what you want to play, when you want to play it, the way you want to play it.

Just as your technique needs to grow with your rhythmic knowledge, your ability to execute needs to grow with the demand of your improving rhythmic knowledge and technique.

Many drummers neglect this building block and don’t spend time improving the ability to consistently execute on a passage at a high level because they think they have it down. It’s not that these drummers don’t want to be better, it’s that they don’t have the expectation or standard of achieving at a higher level and are therefore satisfied with a sloppier level of execution.

It’s important to know that this building block is more about setting high standards for yourself than it is learning new information. If you want to be a great drummer, you must be able to execute the playing of a passage at a high level. This starts by being as precise and detailed as possible when you break things down and practice them so that you can master them and make good habits out of them.

Building Block #4: Expression

The final building block is the ability to phrase the execution of a passage in a way that is artistic and true to your own voice.

Expression is the final building block because if you try to phrase a passage that you don’t have the rhythmic knowledge to understand, the technique to play, or the ability to execute on a high level, it won’t sound good regardless of how you phrase it.

Good drummers have mastered the first three building blocks. Great drummers have mastered all four.

Conclusion

As a drummer, there is so much you need to think about and coordinate that it can be very challenging to determine what qualities you need to practice in order to get better.

By boiling everything down and focusing on the four essential building blocks discussed in this article, you should have a much better idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are as well as what order you should address them in for future development.

Reflecting on these building blocks in your own playing and consistently evaluating which ones you need to improve through the Blueprint Method will give you a clear vision and platform to make significant improvements in your playing.

What building block do you need to spend time developing? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.