"But, I don't think any arranger should ever write a drum part for a drummer because if a drummer can't create his own interpretation of the chart and he plays everything that's written, he becomes mechanical; he has no freedom." -Buddy Rich 

For the inexperienced, drumming may look sloppy and uncoordinated without any signs of the musician playing notes and following the rhythm of the song. However, that couldn't be farther from reality. How's that? Well, for starters, drumming is not as unorganised and easy as it looks. To flawlessly execute songs with superb timing, a drummer needs to dedicate himself to many hours of diligent practice.

The majority of successful drummers have spent many years trying to improve their style and to create unique beats that demand being heard. 

Therefore, without further delay, we shall provide essential tips to help aspiring drummers achieve their goals and so prepared that they'll be ready to perform at Glastonbury or Lollapolooza in front of millions!

Practice the Assigned Pieces

It's no surprise that those who earnestly practice end up succeeding. Why is that? Well, practice makes perfect! So, it is in the best interest of an amateur drummer studying with the ABRSM to set time aside every day to review the three pieces of music that are analysed during each grade.

For instance, during each Percussion Combined Grade, three pieces can be chosen by the student: a piece of a snare drum, a work of timpani, and an arranger of a tuned percussion. The freedom of choice is a unique advantage of studying with the ABRSM since students can choose a piece that they are passionate about and work hard to master it.

Also, since the assessors will evaluate a candidate on their ability to play the three pieces, regular practice will make you go from zero to hero in no time!

Know the Scales and Arpeggios

remember to analyse
By frequently studying the scales and arpeggios, success is guaranteed! (Source: Unsplash)

After the three pieces of music, knowing the correct scales and arpeggios is equal in importance. Drummers are categorised between excellent and great based on their knowledge of scales and their timing when using them to perform a song.

Since the ABRSM drumming exams are all merged and incorporated as the Percussion Combined exams, some percussion instruments performances are more scrutinised by examiners when considering the scales. For instance, according to the full percussions' syllabus, the tuned percussion instrument has candidates master scales and arpeggios in the technical requirements section.

Also, spending time honing essential scales and arpeggios is not a waste since they are necessary for building strong technical skills. Such as? The following are just a few:

  • Reliable Hand Movement, 
  • Co-ordination, 
  • Fluency, 
  • Muscle Memory, 
  • Pitch Development. 

The previously mentioned reasons are only a few of the benefits of trying hard to memorise your scales and arpeggios. Experts have additionally discovered that when a performer knows his/her levels, they develop more confidence and security when playing in front of others and while sight-reading.

Have Role Models

Although many might say you should never meet your role models, that doesn't mean you can't listen to their music.

When preparing for drum exams, it is highly recommended to spend a lot of time listening to the rhythms and watching the techniques of your favourite drummers. Why? They will encourage you to be a better drummer, shape your playing, and help you to adopt a style that will stay with you throughout the years.

Therefore, before or after practising a new piece on the drums, please spend some time watching Youtube videos of the world's most influential drummers rocking their way on stage. Some of the amateur percussionists most revered drummers, and for a good reason, may include Neil Peart, Keith Moon, Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr, Phil Collins, or John Bonham.

By looking up to a role model, drummers work diligently to practice to be the best since they know that even their talented heroes have had to work hard to achieve success. 

Display Reasonableness

taking time to relax
Take a deep breath, relax, and remember that if you put your best effort forth, you will succeed! (Source: Unsplash)

Remember, even though you are studying with the ABRSM and you want to succeed during exams after each grade, balance and reasonableness are needed. Why? We're human, and we make mistakes.

Even if we strive to perfect our skills and do everything in our power to try and capture a distinction on percussion assessments, many factors cannot be controlled. Such as? The mood of the examiner, our health, and our imperfection nature that sometimes makes us skip a beat or forget a scale.

We are in no way discouraging future drummers not to perform their best; however, it is best to approach Percussion Grade exams with an open-mind and understanding that not everything might go as planned. Just have fun and do your best; ultimately that's the greatest you can do!

Perform a Mock Exam

Ever heard the expression, "imagine all of them in their underwear?" Well, if you have your one of millions of people who been given this advice to try and reduce nerves during a stressful situation such as an assessment or a stage performance.

But, does it really work to imagine people in their barely clothed to reduce anxiety and perform better? 

The fact of the matter is that when you imagine people in a vulnerable state, you do not view them as threatening critiques who only wish to see your demise. Nonetheless, another way of lessening pressure and tension of upcoming tests is to practice ahead and complete a mock exam.

Mock exams are highly recommended since they put the performer at ease and make them realise that examiners are real people with feelings who ultimately want to see you succeed; surprise, surprise, they're not monsters!

Ask a few friends and family members to join you a few nights before your end of grade exam with the ABRSM. Perform the pieces you were required to study, practise your scales, and rehearse sight-reading. After you've completed a mock exam or two if needed, you'll be relieved to discover that your nerves can be calmed and all in attendance can expect excellent performance!

Find a Practice Buddy

buddies for life
Finding a practice partner to review the drums with is a fantastic idea. Who knows you might make a life long friend! (Source: Unsplash)

Two heads are better than one. Therefore, it is in your best interest to find a fellow drummer to practice new pieces and bounce ideas off each other. Practice buddies can come from different levels and ages; the critical part is that they have a passion for drumming and can help you to achieve greatness.

A bonus of finding a drummer friend to practice with is that you find someone other than your tutor who will listen to your performances and suggest tips that might improve your form or style. Also, since they're your friend, they won't charge you an hourly fee as a tutor does!

Drumming practice partners can be found while learning with the ABRSM since they may be studying at the same time as you. 

We hugely recommend finding a fellow drummer that has more experience with the instrument than you do. Why? Their advice will prove to be invaluable when it comes time to perform examinations.

Hire a Private Drums Tutor

The more knowledge you acquire, the more you'll want to keep learning; this is so true when it comes to mastering the drums! If the drums, or any other percussion-based instrument, is right for you, you'll want to keep ironing out any kinks and continue learning for months and years to come.

Nonetheless, it is essential to mention that being self-taught has its struggles, and the recommendation of hiring a private tutor should be duly noted. Why? Well, the overall pros of seeking the assistance of a personal drum instructor outweigh all of the cons. Not convinced yet? Take a look at the following reasons:

  • One-on-one learning, 
  • Success from the start, 
  • Confidence builder, 
  • Strength-based training, 
  • Personalised help where it is needed, 
  • Helpful tips and tricks. 

If the previously mentioned reasons have convinced you, we much suggest hiring a private tutor today to ace the ABRSM Percussion Combined exams. But where can one find professional drum tutors? Superprof is and always will be your answer!

The community of tutors offered on Superprof greatly surpasses all of the competition in so many ways. Such as? Quality and expertise of tutors, range of subjects and topics offered at affordable prices, and classes that suit the unique needs of each student.

For example, there are over 350 drum tutors around the United Kingdom offering classes to all levels of drummers.

Want to know one of the best things about Superprof? The first class is always offered free of charge!

In conclusion, we hope that all of the seven tips and tricks offered in today's article will help amateur drummers studying with the ABRSM face their exams head-on with a lot of confidence knowing that they can succeed and make drumming fun at the same time. We sincerely wish all of our readers the best. Goodnight, and good luck!

Need a Drum teacher?

Did you like this article?

5.00/5 - 1 vote(s)


Avid movie-goer, reader, skier and language learner. Passionate about life, food and travelling.