Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Hands

Having good hand technique and proper stick control is paramount to being a good drummer. For me it's a constant process of refinement. These days I find myself continually trying to tweak how I grip my sticks and physically use my hands when moving around the drums and it always translates into my getting a better sound and feel coming out of the instrument.

I've been fortunate to spend some time with Joe Morello and John Riley over the past few years and it's exciting to hear how my drumming improves after making seemingly subtle little adjustments to the way I physically play the drums. Tommy Igoe's DVD "Great Hands for A Lifetime: The Lifetime Warmup" as well as practicing through Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual have also been very helpful in applying these techniques to playing rudimental patterns in a musical way while refining my grip and motion.

With all that in mind the following clip comes from percussionist Beverly Johnston via the Facebook:

This lesson is obviously taught by a cello teacher and comes from Tai-Chi but I think the concept is an important one and could easily be applied to drumming as well.

Furthermore, here's a good one of drummer/educator Danny Gottlieb in a recent clinic demonstrating his approach to basic, fundamental drum strokes:

Speaking of traditional grip, last month I had the opportunity to work with some university percussion students in Saskatchewan over a series of master classes and workshops at the University of Regina. I came across a student with a strange looking left hand traditional grip that I had never seen before that looks something like this:

You'll notice that the most significant part of this grip is the position of the thumb. In this grip the thumb and the index finger don't touch whereas I was always taught to keep the thumb on top of the index finger and to use the index finger on top of the stick to provide a center and focus to the stroke. Instead the thumb places over the stick.

Apparently this is the left hand traditional grip commonly found in Scottish pipe snare drumming and (according to John Riley) similar to how Mel Lewis gripped his sticks as well.

I've been messing around with this approach and find it quite useful and practical for playing fast, loud and messy press rolls. I think the added pressure required of the thumb to keep the stick place at the fulcrum point helps a lot in that regards. Something to think about anyways...

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