Every drummer must be familiar with practice pads. They are the little rubber octagons or circles that your drum teacher always used to annoy you with, remember?
Well, your drum teacher might even have been right. Practice pads offer you a portable, comfortable solution for you to improve your drumming skills.
As with anything, practice pads come with their certain advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, there is a way to eliminate most of the disadvantages and make unpaired use of the advantages.
Only practicing with your drum kit leads to certain limitations. You are tied to a place and in some cases even a time frame. Using a practice pad your practice schedule easily becomes location independent and it will totally be up to you to decide when you practice.
Practicing using practice pads offer a very convenient way to practice. They are very light weight and silent, so you can even practice your latest chops during the night, you will not disturb the neighborhood.
Drum practice pads are usually manufactured in a way so that their surface has very similar response to that of snare drums. That aspect of theirs makes them a perfect tool to practice rudiments, like rolls or different paradiddles. The importance is a different subject – enough to say that learning to play them perfectly is essential in the evolution of a drummer.
Another advantage of using practice pads is that they highlight even your slightest mistakes. The high volume of acoustic drums might hide some of your rather subtle flaws. Practice pads will not, the rubber surface echoes every tiny mistake you make, helping you to find and diagnose them.
One of the advantages of practice pads is that using them you can easily eliminate all the distractions that toms and cymbals represent. This property can also be considered a disadvantage: you will never be able to appropriately practice a beat or a complex fill on your practice pad. In some cases, you just need all the members of the drum kit.
Also, as I said before, the surface of practice pads is reminiscent mostly of snare drums. The different members of the drum kit have different responses. The tension of the drum heads differ, the materials used differ. You cannot practice how to play something on the toms or on one of the cymbals using the practice pad.
Practice pads come in a whole range of different makes, prices and materials. There are more expensive practice pads that feature different surfaces for imitating the different members of the drum. Also, there are electronic practice pads with programmable sound presets.
I am sure there are people who use these pads to their full potential – however, if you have at least somewhat regular access to a drum kit, you have no reason to pay for a fancy practice pad. I have been using a regular seven inch practice pad with no extra features whatsoever for years and it has proven to be more than useful.
My experience only proves that a practice pad is a must for every beginner drummer. A consistent practice routine is obligatory if you want to make progress – and having your practice pad and a pair of drum sticks always close to you will remind you that you have work to do.
Most people that use drum pads tend to practice rudiments. This is because rudiment practice doesn’t require any specific drum tone as it is purely hand and stick technique based. For this reason many drumline drummers will use pads as way to improve their playing.
If you are planning on practicing rudiments then it’s recommended that you concentrate on the: single stroke roll, double stroke roll, paradiddle, flam and drag. Most of the other rudiments are based on these five movements, and if you can master these initial five then you should be able to pick up the other 35 easily.
Using pads can provide you with a great way to practice your showmanship drumming. This is commonly referred to as stick tricks, and contains things like: stick spinning, throwing and backsticking. This is very often seen in drumlines, and by learning these tricks you will be able to give yourself a much great sense of coordination.
Overall if you are looking for a good way to be able to practice your drumming without making too much noise, or spending too much on a drum kit then practice pads can provide a brilliant alternative.
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