I’ve been practicing the drums more, and I’m starting to have a few breakthroughs.
I’m noticing that a lot of it is about combining limb movements. I got a practice book that talked about “limb independence”, but I think it was leading me down the wrong path. Maybe at higher levels of drumming, I’ll be focusing more on independence, but since I’m still getting started, I think that “limb combination” is actually more important.
I used to look at music and say “okay, so here’s the pattern for the hi-hat, and then here’s the pattern for the snare, and here’s the pattern for the bass drum”. Then, I’d try and play each of them at the same time. This is a great way to drive yourself crazy.
Instead, I’m focusing on counting — the “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and” beat counting thing. It makes it easier because I know at “1” I have to hit the hi-hat and bass, at the “and” I hit bass only, “2” I hit hi-hat, “and” is nothing, “3” is hi-hat and snare, and so on. So, it’s really like playing a single pattern of combined movements, rather than each limb doing it’s own thing.
After I do this for about 15 minutes or so, just playing and counting a few measures, I start getting that independence developed, but the independence goes away after a while and it’s back to a single pattern of combined movements. Doing the counting really helps keep it on track. I can totally see how this is the basis for a good foundation, however. After a hundred or so hours of this type of practice, I can see how someone could be really solid at picking new stuff up quickly.
One other thing that’s really helping is a piece of software called Guitar Pro. It seems good for learning either guitars, bass, or drums. There are a bunch of sites with tabs to learn from, so it’s a great way to make practice much easier. You not only get what the notes are, but also the rhythm. (Edit: runs on Windows or OSX, thanks Jason)
Also, in searching for info on this, I came across this paper, “A Perceptually Driven Dynamical Model of Rhythmic Limb Movement and Bimanual Coordination“. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds fancy.