What is the best way to practice? In this post, we are going to take a look at a few over-arching ideas before jumping into some more detailed thoughts next week.
Know The Song
Sometimes we are so amped up to learn a song we don't take the time to listen to it first. Listening is critical! It both shows you what success sounds like and helps you catch mistakes when you make them. Often I don't even touch the drums until I've had a chance to listen through a few times. If you don't know your destination, you'll never know when you get there.
Create a Map
Keeping with the travel metaphor, it helps to create a chart. Even just a structural map with little cues like "Bridge (BIG TOMS)!!" can really help you settle in. At the end of the day, I prefer to have my parts memorized, but charting the song myself actually helps me do that.
If you don't know your destination, you'll never know when you get there.
Listen to Everything
Obviously drummers are going listen to the drums, but don't stop there. You need to listen to the other instruments as well. What kind of patterns are the guitars or strings doing? What kind of feel is the keyboard creating? A good example of this would be "He Shall Reign Forevermore" by Chris Tomlin. Listen to the tom groove in the chorus and how it compliments the string section. What else do you hear in the song?
Sometimes those subtle differences will make all the difference in the world. Practice well, listen well, plan ahead, and it won't be long before your bandmates take notice.