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Drum Practice Tips from Tom Meadows
Drum Practice Tips from Tom Meadows
Session master Tom Meadows shares some exclusive drum tips with Gear4music! In part 1, find out how you can get the most out of your drum practice at home.
Tom Meadows is one of the most in-demand session drummers on the scene. As such, he knows a thing or two about practice and recording. We spoke to him for his top tips and perspectives on both topics.
Amid the current COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, many people have been using their time to hone their craft, whether that’s working on chops or getting stuck into recording projects. But how do we go about getting the most out of this time?
Tom kindly took the time at home to record some fantastic content and give an interview for Gear4music. Here you can gain an exclusive insight into his playing and recording techniques.
If you’re looking for perfect drum practice gear, check out the useful practice gear links at the bottom of this article.
Tom Meadows – practice tips
What is your golden rule for practice?
Irrespective of the crazy times we’re living in now, I always try to make sure that whatever I’m doing, I’m fully focused on that. Whether it’s phones or laptops, there’s always something to distract us. Even if it’s for half an hour, I focus on what I’m doing. My phone is either off or on airplane mode, if I need it for learning a song. So my golden rule for practice is that whatever I’m doing, for however long I’m doing it, I focus on that.
How do you personally make practice enjoyable?
It depends on the type of practice I’m doing. If I’m working on maintenance practice as opposed to creative practice, I get into quite a meditative state, and that’s when I do my best thinking. I was on a promo tour with Kylie a couple of years ago, and I found myself on a creative roll. But when I’m doing my maintenance practice, the time that drummers find least enjoyable, I never allow the exercise to become so complicated that it takes away from what I’m actually trying to practice.
One of the things that I do for single stroke rolls is 16 bars of sixteenth notes with my right hand, and 16 bars of sixteenth notes with my left hand. And then 32 bars of thirty-second notes combined. Because that’s such a zen thing, my mind is free to go to different places. That’s when I do most of my thinking, so that’s how I make it enjoyable.
Does your practice change depending on who you work with?
One of the biggest things that somebody said to me was, “you practice in order to get work”. People get really freaked out when they get a gig and they don’t have time to practice. We know that life is a balance, but they’re looking down the wrong end of the telescope. You’ve put the hours in, so now reap the rewards. Enjoy the work.
But for a long time, I wasn’t very good at practising at all. If I was going to Australia for the first time, I wasn’t gonna sit in my hotel room and practice ‘diddles while Sydney Harbour is just outside my window! You’re gonna make the most of these places. However, the caveat is that there’s only so long that you can coast through. I would say that up until 2018, for maybe ten years, it really was just maintenance practice. It was really just making sure that when I sat down at the drum kit that it didn’t feel alien.
What gear do you utilise the most for practice?
Up until I moved into this house, I would say that I went to my studio and played my drums. I’d maybe swap out snare drums and cymbals every now and again, just to try out the difference in sound. When I moved house, I did try a few electronic things, but what I came to realise is quite twofold. I really fell in love with the Reflex series of practice pads. I noticed a difference in my strength and fluidity after just a month on the road.
We’re talking about lockdown now, but funnily enough, my practice situation is no different to being on the road. I’d be in a hotel room with a practice pad just working on stuff. Before everything closed down, thankfully I did get some low volume cymbals, a Remo Silentstroke snare drum head and a Yamaha KP electronic kick drum pad. I have to say, I’m using the Reflex pad over the snare drum because it’s conditioning my hands as well as anything else. It just feels better to me. I like to have a clear delineation between a practice pad set-up and a drum kit.
How do you practice drums?
The Practice System
- Figure out much you can practice in a day - I used to be able to do around 4 hours.
- Break each day into sessions of 45 minutes. A 4-hour practice day would work out at 5 sessions (don’t forget 15-minute breaks minimum to keep refreshed).
- You could also spread these segments out over the entire day-try a few sessions in the morning, and a few later that evening.
- Next, choose all the core topics you want to work on continuously, i.e. HANDS, FEET, CO-ORDINATION, PHRASING, READING, STYLES, CREATIVITY etc.
- Give each of these core topics a letter (A B C D etc)
- Distribute each letter over the entire week of practice sessions. Make sure each day is different!
- If we decided that A = HANDS, we'll be practicing a HANDS topic several times a week.
- HANDS could then break down to different sub-topics e.g.fingers and wrist bounce, double strokes (open and closed), dynamic strokes (Moeller and straight motion), stroke rolls (open and closed).
- So, each time you practice HANDS during the week, you can practice a different sub-topic of HANDS.
So, as you see, we’re looking at most topics a few times in the week. You don’t have to work on just one thing within the topic for 45 minutes if you don’t want to: feel free to divide it anyway you like - it’s your system!
The drum practice system explained
Tom's Paradiddle Exercises
Paradiddle Exercises Explained
Rlrr Lrll Rlrr Lrll
rLrl lRlr rLrl lRlr
rrLr llRl rrLr llRl
rllR lrrL rllR lrrL
Paradiddle Exercise Demo
Taking it further - being creative with paradiddles
More to come
Stay tuned for part 2 with Tom Meadows, where we’ll talk about his recording techniques and setup from home!
More about Tom Meadows
Tom has a CV many pro players would dream of, having become the go-to drummer for Kylie Minogue, Will Young, Girls Aloud and Leona Lewis. He’s played huge arenas and countless sessions, and his experience of practice and recording comes from a truly professional background.
Tom has also visited Gear4music many times, creating fantastic demos for our studio.
Tom is also an endorsee for Istanbul Agop cymbals.
You can read about our joint visit to the Istanbul Agop factory, where we gained a wonderful insight into these traditional hand-made Turkish cymbals.
You can also watch our interview with Tom Meadows, where we talked about gear, career advice, drum influences, and much more.
Find out more | Tom Meadows - Website
Electronic drum kits – perfect for playing and recording at home.
Drum Noise Control – control the volume of your acoustic drums at home with low volume cymbals and silencing pads.
Drum Practice Pads – work on your stick control with a slimline pad.
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