In my most recent private lesson, sensei said (essentially), "Carrie, your biggest problem is timing. If you're playing with other people your timing is fine, but when you play by yourself your speed is most inconsistent!"
So, guess what I've been focusing on lately? Let's practice one of the most basic drills I know that can help ground drummers in timing. I call it the Fraction Drill because that's how I think of the beats divided up.
1. Keep an even amount of "ma" (space) between each hit. It gets shorter each line.
2. Listen! Do the right and left hand sound the same when you play a particular line? If not, then check to see if they feel the same (is one hand more relaxed than the other?), and check to see if the height you lift the bachi is even.
Note, the bold hits here show the downbeat, not emphasis. However, if it's helpful for you to emphasize the down beat as you get started, then it's certainly acceptable. Work your way towards playing all hits even in volume.
Play each 4-beat line once and then loop:
Line 1: Play a slow "don" alternating, (1 hit per beat) R L R L
Line 2: Play the next line 2 hits per beat RLRLRLRL
Line 3: Play the next line 3 hits per beat RLRLRLRLRLRL
Line 4: Play the next line 4 hits per beat RLRLRLRLRLRLRLRL
Sorry it's totally electronic this week, but here is the audio (4 times at 120bmp):
Take your time and be consistent!
See if you can add the next two lines to this drill... Line 5 would mean 5 hits to every beat and Line 6 has 6 hits to every beat. Be sure to start slowly at the beginning so that you can fit all the hits in when you get to the end. Make sure when you go from Line 6 back to Line 1 that you don't rush!