Andrew McAuley: The process changes from song to song of course, but there are a few steps that can be applied when learning most (or at least many) difficult pieces or parts. Obviously, the first thing any musician should do is listen to the entire piece. Next, I would recommend figuring out the form of the song. This makes it much easier to help keep track of your place in a piece. Take note of what the other instruments are doing so that you can understand how everything comes together to form the big picture. Next, if you can read/write musical notation, I would recommend transcribing the drum parts so that you have a visual to work with as opposed to depending solely on your memory or guess work (which can be wrong from time to time). Finally, play to the piece or at the very least, play through the form that you originally wrote out. Remember to start off extremely slowly and gradually speed up to the actual tempo. What are some other steps you guys would recommend?
Steve McHugh: I approach it in bite-sized chunks. For example, if I’m working on a new rudimental snare drum piece, I’ll typically break it down into 1 or 2 measure snippets, and practice each little snippet as a separate little exercise, and SLOWLY. Then, I’ll eventually start stringing together all of the little snippets, put on the metronome, and speed it up as I am able.
Nathan Figlar: First put it in sections that makes sense….practice each section slowly then speed up until you get the “feel” starting to happen…then work dynamics and subtleties….then get the transitions from each section…..then again doing each of these from slow to proper speed.
Gootch Ibarra: I’m a repetition learner do it a thousand times then do it a thousand more.
Mike Rothschild: I like to do a variety of things back to back. Meaning, I’ll listen to the song a few times. Maybe just jam a bit with it. Then listen to it some more. Then (and this is huge for me), I’ll write some general charts, marking where the verses, choruses, etc. are. Then jam along some more. After I get comfortable with all of that, only then do I start transcribing the particularly difficult areas. Sometimes I won’t transcribe it note for note, but mark down certain accents that need to be emphasized, and listen and play to those parts enough to memorize the exact fill (that is, only if you’re trying to play the song exactly the way someone else did it). Then I try to wean myself off the charts, so I can play it by memory, and not from reading it.
Joshua Lee Mason: 3 parts at a time. Cycle through in different orders until fluent. Put them together in order, rinse and repeat.
Jason Havelock: Listen to it, practice it. Fail at it. Repeat until massive rage. Break stuff. Forget about it for 2 weeks come back to it and nail it first time. Easy!
Paul Scarpelli: Break it down and slow it down. If you have to, just learn the hands parts first. After you figure out how to play it slowly, keep at it. The speed and flow will come in time. Don’t be discouraged.