I found that practicing on a pad helps very much. You cannot always get to a drum kit, and don't always want to volume. Pad work is good to focus on things that you don't need a drum to do. I like work on how I'm holding the sticks. I've improved my grip this way. I also work on my doubles, and rudiments. I am not a strong rudimental drummer, so I work through some of the rudiments I am weak on using a pad. When playing with my band, I can throw in some stuff now in a fill that i only worked on on a pad - so pad work must have been helpful. Also, i do pad stuff for a few minutes before band practice - to warm up my hands.
I have a few drum pads. I have a 10" table-top one I use at home. I also have a 'practice pal': The Practice Pal is a small 5" round practice pad, that has a velcro strap to strap it around your leg. It is designed so that the back of the pad (that goes against your leg) is rounded so it is stable on your leg - but the playing surface is of course flat like most pads. I don't know who makes it, but I've seen them in many music stores. there is another brand that is totally flat & looks like a ping pong paddle, and the pad or the handle strap again your leg. I've not used that one, so i can't tell the difference. But I love my practice pal - have pad will travel! I like to use it watching tv, listening to music, anywhere & anytime. I actually brought it to my wedding, and my honeymoon! I was on a Jamaican beach working on my paradiddles & swiss triplets!! My wife doesn't complain [usually.. since she is a bass player in one of my bands - that's how we met.) If you can get a pad that allows triggering, or use a silent trigger pad, you can also do pad practice with a Groove Guide [click here for more info on the Groove Guide]
Working With A Practice 'Kit': I setup a pad on a stand about snare height, then I built a bass pad ( a piece of form over my apartment radiator!) & connected my pedal. It lets you do pad practice but setup like a drum kit. I practice beats & simple fills - since there is no pad for toms, everything must be done on the 1 area. I plan to add pads in the future- to have a full practice kit. I work on my hand/foot coordination , and was working on earning double pedal. I did this with a double pedal for about 8 months before I took my double pedal to my band's practice. And I was able to do most of what I learned on this 'practice kit'. But of course, it is not the same as practicing on a kit, but it is great help- and doesn't bug the neighbors or my wife like a loud drum kit would! And it is much more fun than a pad alone! I can sometimes jam with music (or just the metronome) for HOURS! And HAVE FUN!
Practicing on your drum kit: remember, don't always play stuff you sound great at - when practicing, work on those thing that you don't sound great at- otherwise they'll never get better. And use a metronome & a Groove Guide. The most important part of being a drummer is your time - so work on that!
Even Hands: Slow down your practice tempo to the level that both hands are good at, whatever it is your are practicing. - and you REALLY SHOULD be using a metronome for this. Don't worry about playing fast yet. You must first focus on smooth clean notes.
Start by practicing whatever it is you want to play clean (rudiments, a beat, etc.) at a SLOWER tempo than you usually do - and you MUST be using a metronome for this. I suggest starting MUCH slower you want to hear EACH NOTE as an individual and focus on making every note SUPER CLEAN! Then, when that is accomplished - gradually increase the metronome's tempo A LITTLE EACH DAY like 2 bpm faster than the day before. At each tempo - make sure you play each note clean. If not stay at that tempo or go back down a bpm or 2, until you can play each note of the part clean.
When you get to a tempo close to what you would have normally practiced at, stay at that tempo for a while. You should now be able to play the part clean.
And take your time. DO THIS EVERYDAY and it will improve. Also, check with every book you have that discusses hand positions, and with your teacher if you have one, BEFORE each practice session, on your stick handling and positioning - so that you reduce the development of any bad habits. BUT DON'T WORRY - I found my hands naturally improved with time because the 'proper' handling of a stick is not just what someone decided - it is the most efficient for getting rebound. Also, don't hold the sticks too tight. That concept of using a really firm grip & snap was a technique that was starting to become popular with teachers, but now every time I read Modern Drummer, it seems like some famous drummer mentions how you should NOT use that 'tight' technique - you should let the stick move in your hand -let it bounce off the drums- not holding too tight. [ see section on sticks for some grip info ]
Do singles & doubles with your left hand. You can also try switching yr left & right hand on the kit (ride with left; snare with right) that is how I play normally but on a right handed kit. I just started that way & it seems natural for me. I do certain other stuff left handed too.
To keep both arms even, I play reverse of that (ride with right like most people) every so often.
To wrap up: