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"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training."    Archilochus

In every drum corps I marched in, there were pre-contest rituals of shaking hands, high-fives, war chants and other emotional paraphernalia that were attempts to conjure up mental and physical abilities - courage - in a few minutes.  There is something to be said for determination and focus. Maybe it helped these people tamp down their fear of an opponent or a large crowd. Or it could have been their fear of knowing they really were not ready. It is certainly gut-checking to be walking into the stadium to compete and watch the Phantom Regiment, Madison Scouts or Blue Devils get a raucous standing ovation complete with flash bulbs going off like a forest of Christmas trees. The stadium shakes.  The ground trembles.  Rookies forget their chants quickly. They think they can and thought they could but now cast doubt on their own ability and those around them.  It isn't words spoke to the self.  It is a feeling. A brief "I know I can" or "We can't beat that."  In the Civil War troops would ask those coming from the battle, "Have you seen the elephant"?, meaning have you been shot at? They might say, "Hell yes, that was one big elephant!" Skulkers were yelled at. "Flicker flicker yellow hammer", in reference to a southern bird with a yellow coat. They were being called cowards. It isn't cowardice to be afraid. It is cowardice not to prepare yourself for when fear does come. My first snare contest was a large group of music studios competing against each other. I remember standing in front of the judge for a long, long time as he wrote notes on the previous contestant. My instructor, Johnny Wallace from the Detroit Big Band of the same name said my lips turned blue. I had practiced hard for the contest having written my first competition solo. It went well. But I remember learning there is a difference between controlling your technique and concentration in front of an audience in a place that looks and sounds different than at home with a refrigerator close by. There is a physical difference in how muscles react to brain commands. It takes time to learn that self criticism makes you better than you think you are. Judges only catch half or less of mistakes. You have a personal window of error that no one else knows. Experience teaches this. Believe in your training regimen. The better it is the more judges seem to miss.

"Fatigue produces pessimism."  General George S. Patton  (U.S. Army 4-Star General, World War II)

Physical training should only be done when the style template is secure.

Physical training makes the mind strong. You know what you are capable of and stay within your limits under pressure.


Interval training involves higher best performances and higher worst performances with respect to a test.

With drumming the test can be a minute speed drill, 100 measures (slightly more than the length of a solo), 

or 500 to 1000 measures of endurance.

You are on your own comparing speed to execution.

If it is dirty, slow down to get an accurate read.

Goals can be set for springtime individual contests, then adjusted for other contests that you enter.

Some sports use a month or two month goal to peak, others like marathon running have longer time frames.


Training is a law of diminishing returns.

People improve fast in when beginning to learn skills.

Once a style template is set the amount of hours to noticeably improve greatly multiplies.  Where 10 hours serious practice once was "good enough", it might take 16 hours per week to reach a next level and 25 hours the next.


The closer one gets to perfection, the more hours it takes, not only to reach a higher ability, but to keep that ability. You will find that once the body is trained, the body trains the mind to "know it can", which is the last stage of mastery.

32M Speed Drill Chart.jpeg

This is a speed drill time chart for 32 measures.

32 measures was chosen because it is the normal march tempo for a drum corp at 128 beats per minute.

(Remember to start counting measures with "0" not "1")

Different note bases can be used:

24th 32nd 40th 48th or something like 18th or 36th

The idea is to decrease the amount of time it takes to play 32 clean measures of something. It is more of a sprint for fast twitch muscle building.

Similar is a one minute drill that counts the number of clean measures of something per minute.

The table allows a conversion from the amount of time (seconds) it takes to play 32 clean measures of common note bases, into "beats per minute" at a normal march tempo of 128bpm. (if you takes 61 seconds to perform 32 measures of a 40th note base rudiment cleanly, your tempo in 4/4 is close to 158bpm. (40th bases are usually for fast roll training.)

You can also use solo segments for practicing them faster than intended to muscle build.

You can also build endurance by practicing these in a block of 5, then reducing the time in between the drills by 5 seconds every week.  If you use 32 measures as a drill and place 2 minutes between them, the next week you try 1:55 and so on till recovery has improved, something much needed in solo competition against people who really know what they are doing. The "7 second rule" applies for short bursts of energy in a solo. With speed drills, getting recovery down under a minute into the 45 or 50 second range is good.

As my instructor Jay Tuomey stated: 

"Sometimes it is just what nature gives you."

Discoveries you may want to consider:


After you test your coordination going faster than your clean speed 5 to 10 times on a passage, your mind will sort the new difficulty when you sleep.  It should be better the next day.


When trying to play difficult passages or mentally tired, do not drop your hands. 

The only thing you will get is instant trouble.


The further back the forearms are, the more upper body strength will be needed for speed and execution. This is also true for how far up the stick is gripped. Play too far back and you are pushing more weight. Play too far forward and you are not getting enough natural bounce. Place the fulcrum an eighth of an inch behind the center of gravity of the stick.


Practice in front of a mirror or reflection of a computer screen to check forearm bone placements, stick arcs and angles. At extreme speeds they are going to have to be perfect to the physiology.

Nerve cells take 8 times longer to heal than muscle cells. If tired of practicing, sometimes take a day off. It can improve you.

Power comes from the inside close to the body. By keeping the center of gravity of the arm bone masses closer to the body center of gravity, you reduce "moment of inertia", a property that causes a system to go out of balance. The further the arms are away from the body, the more energy must be used to maintain control. Boxers and martial artists know the best attack is a punch from close to the body with weight behind it. Quick. Efficient.  Powerful. A well trained drummer uses martial art concepts.

The forearm bone weight needs to be behind accents for articulation and projection. To do this requires grip strength so that interior notes between accents (soft notes) are controlled. Drumming is about muscle, not relaxation.


When a mistake happens and you stop, the error is most often on opposite the hand that stopped.


The weight of the wrist needs to be behind the second note of a diddle using a wrist turn. Otherwise, he sending note is condensed - too close to the first -  and lacks the same sound power. In a line of players this is known as "fuzz".


Use a medium thick towel over the pad or drum for strength training 30 minutes per practice using opposite ends. The added resistance and about 5% weight will build speed, control and endurance. Be careful not to use it too much as your coordination will begin changing to the added weight and less bounce.


Know the 7 second rule. It takes about 7 seconds for muscle tissue to return to its normal chemical state when taxed in the extreme if you are in shape. Much longer if you are not in shape. Individual competitors take note.


The forearm can move faster than the wrist can turn.

The forearm has much more weight than the wrist bone mass.

The forearm movement will use much more muscle to move.

Speed is in the arms, not the wrist. Wrist movement keeps fast notes, especially diddles - open. Use muscle. Train your arms.


Always practice loud. If you can play FFF, you have the ability to play PPP. If you practice PPP, the opposite in never true.

The great tenor Pavorotti said parents never understood why he taught beginning singers to scream. You need air in your lungs. Singing is screaming.

The most likely place for a mistake is the second note of a phrase for that is the note that sets time, especially true of a grace note diddle or flam.


To better separate the beats of a 32nd note roll, work the left wrist by turning it back. Don't watch the beads. If the back part of the stick is moving back and down, the beads must be coming up forcing the notes to separate more, especially needed when introducing speed. 


The best 2 or 3 in the world at anything are very similar physically.

The difference between first place and others is superior concentration. The mind that can concentrate the best at that level wins. 

Irish Reel - Speed and Coordination Difficulty Practice

Decrescendo Single 5s w Flam Release   24th Flam Trips  22nd Note Padaflas  Dotteds Stutter 7 Singles   

48th Base Consecutive Tap 6 Stroke Rolls    

Reverse 40th Base Decresendo Tap Six   16th Flams  32nd Drags  Fast Hertas   32nd Flam Drags

Double Flam trips In 18th Base  Sweetened 4s & 7s  Hemiola 40th Note Ratamacues    

Flammed 8 Stroke Roll  16th Note Flams In Triplet Accents  Sweetened Hand to Hand 5s   

Backward Flam Triplet (Duchudas)

Titanium - Speed and Coordination Difficulty Practice

(An Electronic Dance Music Top 40 Radio Tune)

Complex Flams    12th Note Flams   Sweetened Tap Rolls    Sweetened Left Hand 7s   24th Flam Trips    24th Dotteds    

22nd Note Padaflas w 24th Note Flam Trips   

24th Note Double Mills w Single Mills   

Reverse Single 5s Decrescendoed    24th Singles   

36th Note Accented Singles   Open Dotteds H to H

32nd Drags 32nd Flam Drags   48th Note Tap 6 Stroke Rolls   24th Accented Singles    16th Flams   16th Flams Accented Trips     Reverse Tap 6 40th Note Base Decrescendo Rolls  

Fast Fours (One Handed Huertas)  

Sweetened One Hand Lesson 25s  

Flammed One Hand Lesson 25s   Hemiola 40th Base Ratamacues  

36th Note Swiss Nontets

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