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Stamina is one of the key things you need when playing heavy styles of music on the drums, or if you’re playing live or rehearsing for hours. Drum kits are one of the most physically taxing instruments to play, and that’s especially true when you’re rocking out on a live stage.
Here’s a quick guide on how to build up your stamina behind a kit. I’ll share a few tips and tricks that have helped me out dramatically over the years.
Warming up your body isn’t something that most drummers think too much about. However, you need to remember that playing drums for a long set is almost the same as doing a light to moderate workout.
Your body naturally tenses up over time, so warming up your limbs and joints will do wonders for improving your stamina when playing.
I strongly suggest performing drum exercises just before you play. Do it both before practicing at home and playing a live gig. You want to make a habit of it, so it’s better if you do it more often.
One of my favorite body warm ups to do is holding my arm stretched out wide and then rotating my wrist back and forth. I’ll hold a pair of drumsticks in my hand to add a bit of weight and momentum to the movement.
You can then play rudimental warmups on a drum or practice pad. Just slowly run through various patterns to get your blood flowing.
Perfect Your Technique
Along with not warming up, having poor technique is another big contributor to failing stamina. When you have proper technique, it means that you’re playing in the most optimal way that makes playing the drums easier. Holding your drumsticks correctly is also vital.
The easier it is on your body, the longer you’ll be able to play. So, having good technique will greatly improve your stamina.
This includes the way you position your drums as well. Having an incorrect seat height can quickly tire your legs out when playing double pedal patterns.
Make sure that gravity is on your side and that you’re not lifting your legs too much when you play the pedals.
Get the Right Drumsticks
Drumsticks are typically very personal to the drummers that wield them. Some drumstick sizes have felt far more comfortable to me than others, and you’re more likely to have better stamina when your sticks feel natural in your hands.
The heavier your sticks are, the harder they’ll be to play fast notes for long. However, lighter-weight sticks won’t deliver the same power and will break easier if you’re a heavy hitter.
You need to find a balance that is personal to you and your playing style. This is a very small detail when it comes to building stamina, but I’ve found that it can make a significant difference.
Build Muscle Memory
Muscle memory is arguably the most important aspect of drumming. When you do something repeatedly, your body accepts it and you eventually go onto autopilot. This is a key ingredient to building stamina and eliminating muscle fatigue.
The more your body gets used to playing patterns on the drums, the easier it will be to play those patterns for lengthy periods.
One of the best ways to work on this is by speeding up a metronome. You can start by learning a pattern at a low BPM. After playing it for a few minutes, raise the tempo by a few beats. I’d suggest 2 or 3 BPM every 5 or 10 minutes.
Your body will adapt to the new tempo after a while, and then you can repeat the process a few times until your body feels comfortable with the high speeds.
Once you can play those patterns at high speeds without thinking about them too much, you’ll find it a lot easier to maintain those speeds for longer.
Performing metronome workouts is the most practical way of building your drumming stamina. The click will keep you in time, and then you can use a timer to do short or long bursts of repeating patterns.
When practicing this way, you need to think of it as you think of endurance training in gym routines.
You can build some hand and foot workouts, and then you can work on them constantly so that you can eventually play them faster and for longer.
Practice Every Day
The final tip I have for boosting your stamina is to play drums every single day. Consistency is the key here! The more time you spend behind the kit, the better you’ll get at maintaining your energy for long periods.
A typical live gig for many drummers can be anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours. Keep your practice sessions around the same time, and make an effort to keep the energy levels high in a few of them.
You’ll find where your weak points are when doing this, and then you can focus on improving those to build your stamina.
Stamina Building Exercises for Drummers
Here are two practical exercises that have helped dramatically improve my drumming stamina:
This hand speed exercise has you playing single strokes and switching between subdivisions. Your hands will get tired after playing this for a few minutes, so the goal is to push through and maintain the same velocity and accuracy for as long as you can.
You’ll know when you’re comfortable with a tempo because you’ll be able to maintain it without your arms tensing up or feeling sore.
This exercise has the same sounds as the previous one, but you’re going to play it on your feet. Use your right foot for the first group of 16th notes, and then start with your left foot for the second group on beat three.
Your calves and shin muscles might start to burn after a while, but keep at it to boost those stamina levels.
Important tip – make sure you are not setting your throne height too low. If your throne is too low (or too high) your legs will have to work a lot harder. Your thighs should slope downward slightly toward your knees.
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Something else that I realized was affecting my stamina was how high I was lifting my arms to play. While you’ll get more power from the height, you’ll use more energy from your upper body. I’d suggest watching videos of yourself playing to see if that’s something that you can change.
Admittedly, it looks a lot more exciting when a drummer moves more behind the drum kit, but it’s another thing that you need to find a balance for.
If you combine all the tips I mentioned above, you should be able to easily build your stamina over time, and those long gigs won’t feel too taxing anymore.