Many drummers prepare for their drumming performance with a pint of beer and a cigarette before they climb on stage and demonstrate a gruelling two hour set, exerting great physical effort and putting significant strain on their body.
This might seem satisfactory for some more gentle styles of music but in general, playing the drum set is a very physical activity and to enable optimum performance, as well as playing longevity, it would be a good idea to fore-go alcoholic or nicotine nerve calmers and instead consider a drumming warm up routine
Why Warm Up?
There are two main reasons here. One is performance related and one is health related.
You wouldn’t take on a 100 metre sprint with cold muscles and just a pint of beer for lubrication. You would soon find pulled muscles, sprained joints and torn tendons appearing in your life.
Some well known drummers tell us they don’t warm up or practice. My advice is to avoid buying into this just because it suits the lazy part of your personality. The guys that really don’t warm up are outnumbered by the more sensible guys that do warm up, and they also risk injury and poor performance. Warming up prepares your body for action, and this is especially necessary if you are playing regularly, such as on a tour. The need for such preparation becomes even more necessary as you age so it is good to get into good habits from the start.
To use the sprint analogy again, an unprepared sprinter would only get in to optimum running speed by the end of the race (if at all), by which time his competitors would have finished and beaten him.
Although music shouldn’t generally be looked upon as a competition, the desire to perform at your best from the start of the performance to the end should be paramount. Don’t use the first three or four numbers of your set to warm into the show. Come out and start on all cylinders from the first number. Your warming up should occur backstage, not in front of the audience. They have come to watch a professional show and that is what you should deliver from the first note.
HOW TO WARM UP
There is no definitive warm up routine, and every drummer will have a different regime that works for him/her on both a physical and mental level to prepare them for performance.
The main thing is to get the blood moving to all the relevant muscles, oxygenating them and getting them supple and ready to endure the forces that will be applied to them through drumming.
Whatever exercises work for you, it is important to stay tension free. I used to try cramming a warm up into about two minutes so I would be forcing my hands to play at very fast tempos before they were warmed up. I would also find that, as a result, I was very tense whilst doing this and was holding my breath. Exactly what the warm up should be avoiding!
As soon as I realised my error, I decided to allow enough time to warm up. This in turn allowed the process to be relaxed. I was able to concentrate on slow steady breathing as I begun to play at a slow tempo. As my muscles warmed up, I found that the speed naturally increased. I also found that whereas my limbs didn’t feel ‘together’ at first, after a sensible, slow warm up, the limbs soon locked in together which boosted my confidence and left me feeling excited about performing.
WARM UP EXERCISES
Here are several ideas that you could use to warm up. The time spent on a warm up is down to individual taste but anything from 15-30 minutes should suffice.
It is advisable to start slowly, working through some basic rudimental exercises such as flams, paradiddles , single stroke rolls and double stroke rolls. As you start to loosen up, begin to vary the speed and dynamics. Use a variety of strokes to work your wrists, fingers and forearms. Basically, make sure you are working all the areas that will be involved during the gig.
You could also try stickings such as:
RRL RRL RRL RRL
LLR LLR LLR LLR
RRRL RRRL RRRL RRRL
LLLR LLLR LLLR LLLR
After several minutes, mirror these exercises with the feet. A bass drum practice pad with a bass pedal attached is a great tool such as the Pearl BD-10 or the DW Steve Smith Backstage Kick.
Once the feet and arms have been warmed up, try the hands and feet simultaneously to align all your limbs and get them working together as one.
Often these rudiment based exercises are great for warming up but sometimes you may feel put off by their non-musical nature. I too have found this but rather than not warm up at all, I have found that just playing something creative on my practice pad works just as well. I might get a little groove going and start tapping my feet on the floor to get all four limbs going. Now it doesn’t feel like warming up or practising. It just feels like playing for fun. The end result has always been the same; at the end my muscles are warmed up and I’m ready to play the drums.
Through the sport I have enjoyed in my life, I have learned that cold stretching isn’t effective for me and so I will always warm up the muscles first. I have taken this through to drumming as well and therefore, once I have sufficiently warmed the muscles up, and I feel supple, I will then to a few basic stretches. The result for me is that I feel very loose, relaxed and ready to perform at my best.
- Allow enough time before the show for a proper warm up.
- Stay relaxed and breathe
- Build Slowly
- Work hands and feet
- Stretch the muscles too
- Stay hydrated