Maximizing Your Lessons

By Jason Jackowich

With drum lessons ranging from only 30 to 60 minutes a week, it’s very important to be looking at ways to maximize that time. What do we actually retain? What were those breakout chops we learned? 

I remember sitting down to my kit the day after a breakthrough lesson, picking up my sticks, and then ended up just staring at them for a bit. There was no way I could duplicate what I had learned. Sure the particular beat or chop was written down for me, but when I began practicing it, I wasn't able to conjure the same energy that I had in lesson. Why is this the case?  

I believe it is purely due to the energy exchange that happens between two people during a lesson. We are challenged to think hard and play hard, and we feed off one another when we "get it.”  It's hard to recall some of what we learn during a lesson let alone try to recreate the energy of the lesson. I'm writing this blog in an attempt to bridge the gap between a lesson and home practice. 

1. Take Video: One thing that has helped my students immensely is to take video during their lessons. There are times during the lesson where it is obvious that this would help. Simply whip out your phone and ask you instructor to repeat that beat or chop. There is something about watching the video playback during practice that puts you back in that place. Just seeing the surroundings of the practice studio gets those juices flowing. 

2. Take notes: I know this seems obvious, but so many of us don't do it. Little notations above a written piece of music can do wonders when jumping on the drums for a home practice. I remember a lesson in particular in which I couldn’t remember a particular sticking for a beat that I had nailed during lesson. Once I looked at my written notes: BINGO! There it was, and I was able to practice it instead of having to wait to revisit it during my next lesson. That would have taken up valuable lesson time to go over something again from the previous week, and I was able to practice it for a whole week as well.

3. Slow down: It is tempting to try and get a ton of information learned in what really is short period of time. It can be more beneficial to learn 2 or 3 things well as opposed to sloppily squishing in 4 or 5. Make sure to be up front with your instructor about how well you're grasping a particular concept during your lesson. Just because you actually hit the piece of instruction one time doesn't mean that you have it perfect like the back of your hand. Speak up when you know you should work on it a little more to get it solid. We instructors are not immune to getting going too fast sometimes, too, and we may need a reminder to slow down on occasion as well. This will only benefit you MORE when you practice in between lessons.  

Bridging the gap between lessons and home practice can be difficult, but these tips can help you better connect your lessons to your home practice. I wish you the best success in your drumming!


You can read more drumming tips on Jason's blog post "The Power of the Paradiddle" and learn more about Jason on his Teacher Profile.