Over the last few weeks, I've been forced to face the fact that I have hit a plateau in a specialized skill I have been developing for many years. The single stroke roll is the most simple way to play a drum - just alternate hits between the right and left hand, one hit at a time. Aside from the practical application on the drum set, drummers today have pushed this drill into an extreme sport. Some drummers are playing more than 1100 strokes in 60 seconds, with the world record sitting just above 1200 strokes.
I've been playing for about 8 years, at this point in time. I made a decision to practice the single stroke roll diligently for the last four months, with the aim of pushing my limit speed ever higher. However, despite the daily practice, I've been stuck in the same speed range as when I started this phase of training about 4 months ago.
Now, I'm not as fast as the top athletes, but my speed is pretty decent. Currently, I'm stuck at about 700 strokes per minute. I honestly thought I could push to 750 with just a few months of focused effort. However, this has not been the case.
Without getting into too many details, I'll just explain that I've used a consistent strategy for practice, which I developed based on a lot of research. I watched and listened to the top athletes, and took bits and pieces of their advice to create my own practice routine, which I thought would be ideal for my current skill level. This amounts to about 40 minutes a day of work, not including warming up. And, I've done this for at least 6 days per week, on average, on top of the other practice I do with my drum set.
Despite the effort and strategy, I have not seen any tangible increase in speed. I will admit that higher speeds have become more consistent and effortless to play, but again, there has been no real change in my limit speed, which is a huge disappointment for me.
I decided to contact one of the top athletes to see if he could offer any advice. He explained that plateaus are normal, and that there is only a certain speed you can reach given your technique. In addition to this, as one reaches their genetic potential, we move further into the realm of diminishing returns, and it takes additional effort to see ever decreasing returns on the time invested.
But, I am still baffled that I haven't seen any change in limit speed. In the past, whenever I put my attention on something, I get results. It may take time to see, but I do get them. This time is different. I honestly don't know how to handle it.
The problem is that because I'm within this realm of diminishing returns, it's risky to change up my practice routine. Perhaps what I'm doing *is* indeed a good method, but it really will just take a really long time to see results. On the other hand, it might be that my routine is completely ineffective, and that I really do need to make a change. But, then, how long until I can expect to see results after I make the change? Could it be five months? Certainly, it won't be immediate.
Have you ever faced a plateau which baffled you? If so, how did you deal with it? Leave a comment below and I'll get back to you.