How often do you sit behind your drum kit and immediately start playing a show or start your practice routine. No practice pad action, no stick twirls, not even the obligatory Zombieland limber up routine. STOP IT RIGHT NOW! You’re doing your body and your music a severe disservice. Warming up is essential to good, healthy playing. Let’s face it folks, we play a very physical instrument. And to think that we can sit down and play 200 bpm from a cold start is insane. You’ve got to have a warm up routine to save your muscles (tendonitis is no fun, trust me) and to get you loose enough to play well!
You drumline guys and gals already know what I’m talkin’ about here. Every drumline warms up for at least half an hour before a show – mostly to avoid physical damage caused by the stress of playing their very high-tensioned instruments. But the same idea should be true of drumkit players as well. Now, you don’t need half an hour to get warm. But at least develop a few licks to work on to get the blood flowing, and to get your fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles, hamstrings, and calfs warm before the show starts.
Here’s Mike Johnston’s take:
Here’s my routine:
- I always start with 8 On a Hand. 1 measure of 8’s with my right hand, one with my left. Repeat. Then add one bar of 16th notes – alternating strokes – at the end. I do this for about 5 minutes starting at 130 bpm and increasing 20 bpm per minute. You can stay on one drum for this or work on moving around the kit. Just make sure to stretch your hands out with this exercise. (Also, I always keep quarter-note time with my feet with this one.
- If I’m going to play a lot of double-kick work, I repeat the same exercise with my feet (although much slower). When I do this one, I keep a basic rock beat with my hands.
- Right now I play a whole slew of double strokes with my kick drum, so I’ve added an exercise for that. I play basic time with my hands. Then I play 1 bar of the last two 16th notes of each beat with the kick. Then I play one bar with the last two 16th note triplets of each 1/2 beat. Then one bar of the last two 32nd notes of each half beat. I work that from 80 bpm to 100 bpm. That’s confusing, but it’s basically this exercise from Mike Johnston (no 64th notes for me):
- I always end the warm up with this paradiddle lick. Again, keep time with your feet! Rlrr Lrll Rlrr Lrll Rlrlrr Lrlrll Rlrr | Lrll Rlrr Lrll Rlrr Lrll Lrlrll Rlrlrr Lrll | Rlrlrlrr Lrlrlrll Rlrlrr Lrlrll Rlrr | Lrlrlrll Rlrlrlrr Lrlrll Rlrlrr Lrll | Rlrrll Rlrrll Rlrr | Lrllrr Lrllrr Lrll —– Again, that’s kind complicated, so try just thinking of it this way: 4 singles (paradiddle), 2 doubles, single (repeat with left hand) | 2 triples, 2 doubles, single (repeat with left hand) | 2 Paradiddle-diddles Single (repeat with left hand)
- If I’m going to be playing a lot of rolls, I’ll warm up by going between single stroke 16th notes (or triplets), open rolls, and buzz rolls.
The idea is to pick some exercises that work the basic strokes you’re going to use at the gig or during your practice session. Pick and choose what you want to use. But always use a click, always warm up just below your failing threshold, and always stay loose.
*Hey Mac guys: Garage Band makes it’s really easy to create your own custom warm up click tracks. Try it some time!