There is something very human about a daily routine. While it can be fun to break routine just to make life interesting, our bodies and minds really do function better when we have consistent behavior. Some of these strange routines can even be seen as quirky to others, but they can put you in the right mental or physical state to perform well. Over the years I have collected many books and routines that make up my daily practice sessions outside of learning new music. I wrote a series of blogs about my warm up routines this winter. While my routine was built from multiple resources, assembled together over many years, there is a new resource where you can get a lot of that in one. My old buddy Shaun Tilberg, has written The Regimen for snare drum that is designed to be your “one stop shop” for your daily snare drum needs.
The book is obviously influenced by a lot of the standard resources the percussion community has used for years. Shaun has blended those together into his own take on many of the standard technical issues we face on snare drum. Some of the more obvious influences to me were Stone’s Stick Control and Accents and Rebounds, Moeller’s The Art of Snare Drumming, Morello’s Master Studies for Snare Drum, and Wilcoxon’s Modern Rudimental Swing Solos for the Advanced Drummer. Shaun obviously has deep roots in rudimental playing. The beginning of his book sets up much like my first snare drum lessons with focus on rudiments and stick control. I believe, no matter what path you take in percussion, a solid rudimental foundation will pay off on any instrument.
After an introduction explaining his philosophy and goals for the book, Shaun starts with single stroke control and accents to establish basic stick movement. Shaun discusses in detail how the arm, wrist, and fingers all have roles and how to use them appropriately when playing these single strokes. A vital concept to understand at the start of one’s technique. Then multiple strokes are added, combining accents and single stroke combinations. He discusses the Moeller stroke and when to use it in these scenarios. Shaun clearly thought about the flow of the book, because it has a logical progression. When you start making permutations of all these elements the options are endless, but this book has a nice sequence.
There is a nice section on flams and variations on how you can practice earlier exercises by adding flams. While Shaun presents a lot of great options (including some new to me!) I wish there was a section on flam placement. I spend a lot of time talking to students about how wide or how closed flams should be, depending on the style. Most of what Shaun is presenting is influenced by rudimental playing, which suggests a more open flam. This is the best place to start in my mind as it is significantly easier to tighten up a flam than to open it up. Beginner students tend to play very flat, or tight flams, and I think this should be pointed out to those approaching flams for the first time.
Shaun touches on basic open and closed roll techniques and then dives right into some exercises. Thanks for the shout out to my book Shaun! Most of the exercises are more advanced exercises for finger and roll control. The types of exercises that don’t work on your roll specifically, but focus on skills that will ultimately make your roll better. After rolls, he has some great exercises on playing soft. The caption at the top of the soft section is “Everyone eventually finds a way to fake it loud, but it’s almost impossible to fake it soft.” I don’t know who said that, but it’s true!!! Once I am warmed up, I would say the majority of my practice time is on my soft playing and on my roll. The two most difficult things to do on snare drum.
The book concludes with two etudes written by the author to encapsulate the various topics covered in the book. The first, Off-beat Kicker, is a very approachable etude with lots of dynamic contrasts. Those dynamic contrasts make the grace notes and rolls rather difficult to control. The next etude, The Stuttering Scott, is much more difficult and will take more than a few hours to perfect. The more complicated rhythms, syncopated rhythms, and metric modulation make this etude really cool. The etude is clearly rudimental but also has influences from the French style and is very similar to the work of Joe Tompkins.
If the book wasn’t enough to help establish a daily routine, Shaun’s website is a great supplemental resource for the book. There are a bunch of explanation videos as well as lot of demonstration videos that will clear up any questions you might have. It is always good to have a visual with technical exercises and Shaun’s website provides that. It is great to see how relaxed his playing is. When people say “Gee, he makes that look easy.” what they should be saying is “Gee, he makes that look efficient.” The music is still hard! But with practice and efficient use of strokes, one can make it appear to look easy. Shaun is definitely doing that!
The biggest point I think all students should take away from Shaun’s book is that technical facility will help your performance. No one practices most of these exercises because they are “fun” or “exciting”. The repertoire and etudes are way more engaging! But, playing grids and repetitive exercises will isolate and fix technical difficulties that will make the repertoire and etudes significantly easier. While I am sure I will still go back to my standard Stick Control, Accents and Rebounds, and other standard method books, The Regimen will be a welcome addition to my music stand.