You’re in the middle of an intense riff.
Then you notice you’re getting out of breath, your hands continue the grove but your mind cannot keep up. Instead, it realizes that your arms are sore and your shoulders are stiff. You notice that you are now chasing the beat, you’re losing your timing…and your control.
This is a drummer’s worst nightmare.
Typically, a song lasts about 3 to 4 minutes. If you’re jamming in a jazz band or a math rock band, that could go up to 7 minutes.
If you don’t want to experience the drummer’s nightmare, you’ll need to build up your Drumming Stamina.
3 ways to build Drumming Stamina
1. Practice Practice Practice
There’s no two ways around it. Clock in actual hours on the drum kit and your drumming stamina will improve over time.
To help you get started, here are some key areas that new drummers can focus on to improve drumming stamina are:
Endurance on the kit
If you want to be able to drum for an hour long set, then you’ve got to clock in the hours at practice, on the actual drum kit.
And it’s not all physical. ‘Passion’ and ‘enjoyment’ alone will not be able to fuel you forever. It’s easy to get distracted in a long drumming sessions, you’ll need to build mental focus as part of your endurance on the kit.
Take note of how long each of your regular practice session is. Then extend them slowly towards your target drumming duration. Say you’re prepping for a 1-hour set, start where you are and aim to seat through a drumming practice session of at least 1.5 hours of moderate intensity*. (i.e. scrolling on your phone midway for inspiration doesn’t count!)
Not sure what to actually do during the practice session? That’s easy, start with any of the following:
- drum grooves
- your set list (if you’re practicing for a gig)
You could also work on your:
The most common reason drummers want to improve their endurance because of speed.
The faster you try to drum, the more likely you are to tense up. Try doing this for just 15 minutes and you’ll start to feel the ache in your arms and shoulders.
Include some speed training exercises to build up your muscle memory and endurance. Here’s my compilation of exercise to train your drumming speed to help you get started: How Drummers can Develop Hand Speed and Control [+11 Drum Practice Exercises]
Build those important muscles
Other than practicing on your kit, you can extend your training to improve your endurance faster.
A common exercise is to practice your basic rudiments on a pillow. Pillows tend to absorb the impact from your drumsticks, practicing on them really helps to train your arms and wrist. Try a quick 15 minutes session and you should feel it in your arms!
Hold up! I’m not asking you to hit the gym, so don’t skip this section.
Work those muscles
If you plan to be jamming with a band, regardless if its just for kicks or for a live gig, you’ll need to be able to seat at your drum kit for at least 30 minutes. This means you’ll be relying on your back muscles and buttocks to support your weight for at least 30 minutes.
And the new or untrained drummer could develop lower back pains.
If you plan to jam or perform, build up your back muscles with simple exercises. You can find a list of suitable exercises on YouTube, use something that’s suitable for your fitness level.
Some exercises to consider:
- Lower back exercises
- Shoulder Conditioning or endurance exercises
p.s. I’m not a specialist, do consult your personal trainer or an expert if you need help!
Get some cardio work in
On top of strengthening the key muscle groups you’ll need for drumming, consider getting some cardio work in.
The simplest is to jog regularly, start with once a week for 30 minutes, extend it if it feels too easy.
Don’t need to get too technical with this, we’re not training for a marathon. The idea is just to get your heart pumping at a higher rate for a longer period (which is similar to what your body will experience during a gig or a jam), and to increase your lung capacity.
But if you’re the type of person who needs a training schedule to follow, here:
Warm up before a long gig
Warm up and get your body and mind ready before a long gig, you’ll feel the difference towards the end (and also the next morning).
It’s routine to warm up around the kit so get yourself into the zone. But before you even seat on the drum throne, do some stretches and body warm ups.
Here are some useful stretches you can refer to:
I’ve also listed some simple warmups to prevent lower back pain here.
3. Drink lots of water
Keep yourself hydrated especially if you are in for a longer drumming session!
Most drummers would sweat quite a bit while drumming, even in an air-conditioned. It’s inevitable since you’re into the groove and moving your body constantly.
Hold up on the beer till after the gig, have some bottles of water near your kit instead.
Why is Drumming Stamina important?
Drumming stamina is not just a physical limitation that hinders your drumming.
A drummer with low stamina also tends to be mentally weaker and less focused. This means you’ll tend to screw up your rhythm more easily. Such a drummer would also tend lose focus once they hit their physical limit.
This would inevitably affect your band or the folks you’re jamming with.
Remember, as a drummer, you’re the rhythm foundation that holds up the entire band.
You losing focus and rhythm could derail the entire performance.
I’ve shared 3 ways to improve your drumming stamina above;
- Clock in practice time on the kit
- Keep hydrated
I hope these are useful, and if you have more tips to share, do leave them in the comments below! If you found this useful, browse the rest of Drumming Basics‘ articles here!