Common best practices amongst marching percussionists are using a metronome, and drumming in front of a mirror. From our experience, students tend to practice 3 ways:
Without a metronome and a mirror
With a metronome only
With a metronome and in front of a mirror
There are numerous benefits for drumming in front of a mirror. Today we will elaborate briefly on the 3: Motion Awareness, Sound Visualization, and Performance Optimization
Motion Awareness - The top players in the world make everything they play look easy. For example, quad drummers from Rhythm X make a difficult roll and singles passage look as simple as playing accent tap on drum 2. They can do this because they understand how to relax their grip on everything they play to ensure the stick is doing all the work, with their hand acting only as the facilitator. If students practice in front of a mirror, they can see their grip tightened on difficult phrases, which subsequently impacts their sound quality and ease of motion. By visually seeing these issues, the student can isolate each hand to ensure their stick motion on harder passages is similar to easier parts. An instructor may point these things out 10 times, but sometimes the player just needs to see it themselves to understand correction is necessary for advancement.
Sound Visualization - Rudiments vary in difficulty per each student. A common issue with sound quality inconsistencies on rudiments stems from poor height consistency. If the ‘e’ count of a 16th note paradiddle is lower than the diddle on “+ a”, the tap quality and sound consistency will diminish. Visually seeing these discrepancies can be a quick fix for the student without needing an in depth analysis from an instructor.
Performance Optimization - You are the toughest critic in your drumming career. Use your reflection as an audience and focus on each practice repetition as a performance. Learning to drum with nerves in your belly is one of the best simulations for an audition and competition environment. Playing well in front of yourself builds confidence, and confidence combined with well developed habits breaks walls down.
Author: Matthew Regua