I'm going to keep it short this week. "How do I practice while I'm on the road?" I see this question frequently among drummers and feel the answer is pretty simple. Below I will share with you how I keep up chops on the road without driving the rest of the band to insanity.
First and foremost, let's ditch the excuses: "I forgot my pad" or "I don't have a pad." I don't care, use your knee. I don't carry my pad with me on the road simply because it is too heavy. My knee works just fine and gets the same damn results. Don't cheat yourself, you do want to get better, right?
Ok, now that we've squared the BS excuses away, think "small" or "slow and steady." What does that mean? Well, pick one or two exercises that you will work on for an entire run. The idea is to focus on one thing (something you want to get better at) and slowly improve it with downtime you have on the road. For example, I've been wanting to improve doubles and therefore have been working on exercises that focus solely on doubles on the road.
Where's the downtime?
Let's start with the venue. Think of all the time you spend waiting for the sound person to set up mikes. Use this time to work on the exercise you've picked for yourself. I get anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes daily doing this. Maybe the line checks for other instruments are taking longer than usual. Ding, more time for your chops instead of mindlessly sitting at the kit. You'll likely want to warm up before you play, right? I usually give myself another 10 to 20 minutes before I perform using the selected exercise. You have put in approximately 20 to 60 minutes a day building chops before you're band has even hit the stage. See how that works? Also, depending on the day, you might have plenty of time in between soundcheck and performing as well. Utilize the time wisely and in a way that works for you. Trust me, there is plenty of time somewhere in your day.
Simple, find a nearby park or open area near your hotel/air bnb/etc. I've never had to walk further than a half mile to find a park or other suitable area to work on chops. Maybe you're lucky enough to have you're own hotel room. Then you really have no excuses. Think about it, even just 20 minutes on your day off is better than nothing. Again, we are thinking small with bigger goals in mind.
It's that easy. This may seem pretty straight forward, but I see this question ALL THE TIME. In all honesty, sometimes I feel it's simply a matter of lacking self motivation to improve. If you want to keep your chops up, you can find a way. Trust me, the pros don't have excuses and you shouldn't either. You can play drums on literally anything and don't need a 10 piece drum kit with 35 shiny designer brand cymbals to practice. If these ideas don't work for you, figure out your own way or e-mail me with your current situation for ideas/help at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does This Work?
Yes. Below is an exercise I created for myself five months ago. As a test, I've only worked on this particular exercise with free time I've had on the road as described above. My max bpm at first was 90. Five months later I am playing this warmup with ease at 160 bpm. So go ahead, try it yourself and quit making excuses!