Back in issue 4 of Sick Drummer Magazine we had Eyal Levi write a column on how to master playing with a click. These tips will help you train yourself to be comfortable at your desired tempo, for both live performances and recording. Eyal Levi is the guitarist in Daath, but also a very well revered recording engineer who has recorded many insane drummers. He is also a member of Levi / Werstler and Avalanche of Worms, which was recorded with Sean Reinert.
Can I play all the parts to a click? If not, then it's high time to get started. Here's a simple way to go about this. Go to Google and type in "Drummer Metronome". Find something that fits your budget; just make sure that it can handle tempo changes within a song. Then type in "Drummer Headphones". Vic Firth's tend to be the most popular, but browse for what makes the most sense. Once you have your setup, get to programming. Figure out your tempos and practice your songs to that click. Now here's the trick: don't just play to a click. It needs to feel as though the click isn't even there. If you are struggling against it then you're not nailing it. If it's too fast, slow it down to a tempo where you're comfortable, and build from there. Just make sure that you are grooving to the click. Remember, the click is your friend. Here are some simple exercises which will help you lock in to that groove.
1. Find the tempo/tempos at which you can play through the entire song comfortably. Don't find the tempo at which you would like the song to be, find where you are comfortable. Play the song to the click at this tempo until the parts become second nature. For some people, this means playing the song ten times, for some it means a hundred times. It doesn't matter how long this takes, MAKE SURE YOU CAN ROCK THE FUCK OUT OF YOUR SONG TO THE CLICK!
2. Switch the metronome so that you can only hear it on beats 2 and 4. If your metronome can't do this, just cut the tempo in half (that is, 250 BPM becomes 125 BPM). You are about to be forced to hear 1 and 3 in your head. Now I want you to play the song like this until it's second nature. Notice how much your feel improves by doing this. Again, do not even think about moving on until you are comfortable with this!
3. Switch the metronome so that you can only hear the 1. Repeat the process above. If you can nail this in the pocket by only hearing the 1 on the click, then you can truly play your song with good timing. Now the fun part.
4. Bump up the click by five BPM. Go back to number 1.
Repeat this process until you are at your desired tempo. This may sound tedious, but just give it a shot. The rewards will be great. Also, you will find that once you've been through this process with a few tunes, you will pummel through learning newer material the right way.
Okay. Hope that helps. Till next time.