Sticks and Stones

I love stick control, any stick control! From Stick Control and Accents and Rebounds to Superior Technique and Developing Dexterity, I just can't get enough permutations of common rhythms and stroke patterns. Most drummers out there at least know of or own the Stick Control book, but not everyone knows how to properly use it, or any book for that matter. I can honestly say that, in the beginning, my use for stick control was a lot different than it is now, and with the progression of use came a deeper understanding of how to develop and maintain technical proficiency. Hopefully this can help someone else find more opportunities within the exercises.

Number 1: The Exercise Itself
Obviously you have to play the exercise properly. The stickings, rhythm, required repetitions and any other information must be executed precisely with little to no extra effort or struggle. Once "mastered" at a certain level, tempo can be adjusted to either be faster or slower. Really seeing how slowly and smoothly you can perform the exercise will determine how well your body is accustomed to the movement itself. The faster tempos will show you how agile the body can be within the exercise's structure. You can only go so fast, but you can always get slower. Go for that more! Stick control is an excellent medium to work on your time within different rhythmic patterns. Take advantage of and exploit this as much as possible!

Number 2: Improvisation
Only after the exercise has been "mastered" can you move on to another one. While continued work on every exercise is encouraged, they can get boring to some people. So, improvising on the exercise can give it more "shelf life" and make things a lot more interesting. Jacques Delecluse's method book has very simple rhythms within his exercises, but he encouraged and even wrote in specific improvisations, mainly using dynamics. So, instead of just practicing the same exericse at the same volume, you can use all dynamic levels, crescendos and decrescendos, and even subito dynamics to get more variation. Depending on the exercise, adding embellishments and accents can also make it more interesting to work on. Basically, you want to be extremely creative, figuring out what you can and can't do with that exercise. The more variations created, the more technique gained.

Number 3: Feel and Sound
So, within both of these we have two key elements: the physical feel, and the sound we create. Usually, the sound will influence the feel, but for a while, in my case, the feel influenced the sound. If that's like you then you probably have a great sense of feel but not so great variety if sound, at least at some point. In which case, really experiment to see what different feels sound like and just don't always go for the most comfortable feel. As for the ones whose sound influences the feel, really memorize how those sounds feel and see how many varieties and combinations of sound ideas create similar yet different feels. Be sure that the movements are effortless, not over tensed and over worked, and that the sound isn't crass and is very clear, unless otherwise intended. Stick control is just as much about developing your ear as well as your hands.  

Doug Waddell always told me, "I don't care which stick control you do, just make sure you do it everyday." This is definitely one of those things you do not want to just skip out on. Honestly, for most of my college days, that's all I would do, literally for hours on end. Just stick control and scales. If you can get that technique in tip top shape, everything else is a piece of cake. The more vocabulary the more ways you can express yourself. The more fluent in that vocabulary the easier it is to say what you want. So no matter what book you use, or warm up exercise, be sure to do it everyday and to really focus while you are doing it. The last thing we want is to be going through the motions with stick control, or else it won't fulfill its function of helping you get better. Experiment, set goals, mix and match, try new things, and be adventurous. You'll be surprised at how many things you can accomplish with this mindset.