Should Speed be a Goal on the Drums?

Today I just want to throw out this interesting and kind of controversial drumming question:

Should we actually set speed goals in our practicing and work on getting faster on the drums?

The two main camps in the drumming world offer opposing opinions on this…

There’s the “chops” world - The school of thought that pushes quick hand technique, impressive foot technique, and lightning-fast fills around the kit. Then there’s the “groove” world - The school of thought that puts groove, feel, and vocabulary before speed and technique. For some reason most drummers fall into one of these two camps. Now the “chops” camp was a bigger deal back in the 70s and 80s with the onset of jazz “fusion,” led by drummers like Dave Weckl and Dennis Chambers. That was when every young drummer had the dream of going to music school at Berklee, where one might learn how to attain such drumming mastery.

However, things are different now. We are all taught that chops aren’t the key to success at the drums, and they certainly don’t “pay the bills” (as the joke goes). So in today’s world of “groove and feel,” how much effort should we devote to upping our chops?

You guys know that I don’t talk a lot about flashy chops on the channel - Otherwise the whole “non glamorous drummer” thing would fall apart (haha). But let’s get down to the main point of this discussion:

If you’re diligently working on developing your technique as a drummer, smooth playing that feels good will naturally develop. So will chops.

What do I mean by this? If your goal is to improve your groove and improve your feel and make your playing smoother and more fluid, you’ll inherently have to work on getting your technique to a certain level. As your technique gets better and better, you’ll naturally be able to play faster - whether or not you have that intentional goal!

For instance, playing smoothly requires loose wrist motion (less arm, more wrist). Subtlety and nuance are driven by finger motion within that wrist motion. and this is a skill you develop when practicing doubles. This is where we find some “crossover.” If you want to work on speed, you might spend a lot of time practicing doubles. If you want to work on control and smoothness, you’ll also spend time practicing doubles. There’s a lot of overlap here, and this is important to realize.

There’s no need to compartmentalize yourself into one school of thought or the other. Work on growing as a player, and keep practicing and improving your technique. You’ll actually get better at both sides of things (chops and groove), and you’ll become a more well-rounded player.

As always, let me know if you want to learn more about this topic. I think it would make for a great video. :)



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