Taking lessons or coachings from a teacher is a big part of our growth as musicians. The amount of information on technical and musical elements, and their experiences, that are available to us is priceless. However, this is not the only way for us to learn. Masterclasses, books, videos, podcasts, etc., are very helpful and give you more perspectives on certain aspects of your playing; it's good to have that variety in your tool box. Still, one source of information that we don't always take advantage of is our peers and colleagues. Often, they are either doing equally as well or are further along, and they may have found or experienced things that may help you reach certain goals. The fact that you both are working to achieve similar goals is motivating, encourages mutual support and offers opportunities for constructive criticism.
As I work on an audition list, I send recordings on the first day, to a close friend with really good ears, to have them critique them. Yes, it's only the first day of preparing, but it's good to both have someone keeping tabs on you and also to see where you are physically, mentally and musically. Each time that you do this you'll both see and hear the progress, no matter how small. So I encourage playing for your friends and also returning those favors to them as well. Having a buddy on this journey of bettering our musicianship can make it a lot easier than just going alone, and the more friends you have, the more fun it can be.
As musicians there's always something that we can practice, but as percussionists the task of practicing can seem overwhelming at times. I often thought, "How am I going to practice all of these in time for (blank)?" This question arose when I started watching the television show Avatar the Last Airbender. The premise of the show is that a child, Aang, has to learn and master four different fighting styles, in only one year, in order to save the world from an evil conqueror (very very good show). Obviously, we don't have to save the world after we practice (at least not in the same sense), but sometimes it can certainly feel that way. So, I watched this show seeing myself in the character, and I was genuinely interested in how he would accomplish this daunting task.
The key for Aang's "multitasking" was to find as many common threads between styles as possible in order to make learning, mastering, and switching between them easy and automatic; in some cases he had to find opposites as well in order to understand certain styles better. For us, our common thread is the snare drum and by incorporating the most basic elements of stick control in everything we do, it will make practicing multiple instruments a lot easier. In my case, I practiced stick control obsessively because I believed in that principle whole heartedly, and even as I practiced other instruments, I tried to make it feel as if I was just playing snare drum. I'll describe this thought process starting from the "closest" techniques to snare, to the farthest.
Mallets were where I really started to use this idea. Its hand to hand motion directly stems from stick control, and the main difference between the instruments is the rebound and horizontal motions. Here the fundamental idea that makes mallets easier is the full and up strokes, getting off the bar equally or faster than you arrived to it. So, I would practice my up strokes, first thinking about the snare drum, and then thinking about the mallets. The more comfortable you become getting to and from the bar, the easier it will be to move around the instrument, essentially by not taking too much time in any given spot or position. From here, you now have stick control, a different feel of the rebound, and horizontal movement at your disposal to use.
You can now apply both of these to timpani. Again, stick control can be a starting point, but the rebound is......weird. It's not as "dead" as a xylophone, but not as bouncy as the snare drum; it's often in between the two. Also, the horizontal movement can be applied, though this it's on a much wider scale, and includes the rotation of the torso, not just the arms. Hopefully you can start to make more connections like this across all the instruments, but the starting point can always be stick control. As you warm up, use this time to go through the "different" sides and feels of the instruments, so when you do get to them you won't feel like they are a completely new or different task. Yes, they all have their individual challenges and traits, but they all are based around the same principles: approach to the instrument (character), preparation of the stroke (to get ready to play that character), the stroke itself, contact to the instrument (length of time the object remains on the instrument), follow through (the body's response to the impact), rebound (the object's and instrument's response to the impact), and the reload (for the next prep).
For me, I spent a long time figuring out variations of these principles on snare drum and put together combinations that would work out for other instruments. The better I got with, the more I would do variations based on any instrument and transfer that information to others, and the cycle would go on. Before long, every instrument influences the next in some way, and a place to try this is snare drum and timpani or xylophone. I found that playing snare drum as if it were a timpani helped free up my playing and my variety of sounds, which almost automatically helped all the others. So, I didn't have to spend an hour working on a tambourine stroke, but maybe I spent 10 minutes translating the information into "tambourine." Also, since timpani forces you to use arm to get around, cymbals can benefit from this as well. Granted, the mallets are not 15lbs+, but the engagement of the arm is key for cymbals to work well. Paying attention to that and the strokes that produce good sounds on timpani, generally full strokes, up strokes or extremely bounced down strokes (not a dead, harsh throw), gives you a sense of what will work for cymbals.
In a way, you are multitasking without jeopardizing any individual instrument's growth, and by doing this each one can develop more equally. It often feels like we put so much stock in snare drum or mallets and when we go to our technique bank, tambourine and bass drum are pretty much empty. I'm definitely suggesting to not think of each instrument as a separate subject, even though on some level they are. Four mallet technique can influence your tambourine roll, your snare drum roll can influence your cymbal crash, and your timpani playing can influence your xylophone. Definitely set aside time to literally practice each instrument (maybe doing the strongest and weakest instruments back to back), but keep in mind as you do this that, within one of them, all the others reside. Happy practicing.
If I look at a wall, I know what it feels like. If I look at a statue that's within a glass display, I've already touched it. I can look at any instrument for three to five seconds, and know how it feels, pretty much. As a child I was fascinated by how things felt at the touch, especially pearl necklaces, and couches, and I would often compare feels, whether the objects were smoother or rougher than each other. Fast forward to sophomore year of college, when I began practicing visualization in my practice, I suddenly started to feel the sticks in my hands, as if I was actually holding them and playing. So, what I started doing was exploiting this "side effect" and visualizing myself practicing, but thinking about different types of sticks or instruments in my hands. This continued for about a week and I began to notice that the mere sight of them would trigger the visualization exercise, and before I could even touch the item, I already knew what it would feel like.
This really came in handy during the latter two years of college. I had an hour and forty minute commute to school and I would sit on the bus or at the train station and visualize myself practicing, so that I'd be ready for my physical practice. I eventually expanded this to cymbals, tambourine, xylophone, etc. The technique really is based in meditation and an extremely active imagination and my body reacts to the perception of my mind (I feel weight, balance, and texture just by looking at the object). It's also good to physically practice with several variants of items to introduce new sensations to your mind and body, so that it has a reference to draw from. Even this form of feeling is connected to my ASMR triggers, but it does take more time to "charge up." If I don't use it for a while, the strength of that connection with objects weakens. Therefore, I have to practice using it often and I will look at a wall, a pearl necklace or anything, and visualize how they feel. For me it is a type of telekinesis, and even though I'm not actually moving objects, I really can almost touch them with my mind.
Every room we walk into is unique in some way but the one constant that they all share is the air. What I learned to do is feel and listen to the air in the room in order to determine how sounds I make would travel within that space. I believe that silence can have a depth and a sound that's unique to each space, and since we are breaking that silence, it's good to have an idea of what type of canvas we are painting on. You can even hear how rooms are effected by the weather, humidity sounding and feeling really thick or dark, and dry climates sounding brighter or very present and feeling more open. Combined with my "telekinesis," I can visualize what I have to do in order to make appropriate sounds in any given room simply by listening to the air.
Again, it helps to practice in several spaces to introduce new sensations to your body, and information to your brain, really your ears in this case. For me, however, it does get annoying at times because I can't "turn it off," so in my daily life I sometimes ignore it for the most part. Still, if I continue to ignore it for a long enough time, it too begins to fade and get weaker, like the telekinesis, so I try to "incorporate" it daily, without going too crazy. It does take a lot of energy and brain power, and whenever I take auditions now, the "air telekinesis" really drains me. Even when I showed someone how to hear this way, they left with a headache, so if this interests you, fair warning, have Ibuprofen and lots of water in hand.