Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Weight Room: Get Left

This post is for @danikamercier. Thanks for being awesome!

It is said that any team is only as good as the weakest member, and in drumming, the left hand is usually the weaker teammate, sometimes even if you're left-handed. So, what can we do to bring Ol' Lefty up to speed?

Before we get started, here's a basic concept that has helped me develop consistent technique between the hands. Whenever you play any exercise or excerpt, focus on making the two hands sound, feel, look and move the same. This includes grip, where on the stick you're holding, path and travel, stick height, velocity, etc.

Some of what I'm going to suggest will push your endurance, so be very careful not to overdo your practicing. Listen to your body, take breaks, stretch, etc. Remember that there's a difference between the "burn" of pushing yourself to develop endurance and strength and the pain of damage or injury.

Stop at the first sign of pain! Don't risk an injury by trying to play through! And if it hurts, reexamine your technique to make sure that you are relaxed and holding/moving the stick properly. Good technique shouldn't ever hurt.

Now, on to a few good exercises.

First, good old "Eight On A Hand." Honestly, this is one of THE best exercises to work on basic stick technique. Again, work on getting the hands the same in terms of technique, then vary your stick height, dynamic and tempo. Beyond that, go for at least a few minutes at a time. I do mine to a favorite track or two (Foo Fighters are my current flava!), and really try to stay focused on getting the technique and sound consistent.

Second, take Eight On A Hand to the next level. Make it "Sixteen On A Hand," and play it as a measure of 16th notes on each hand. Again, try to make each note sound the same and carry the same "weight." If someone were to be in the next room and only hear you (not see you switching hands), they should hear it as if it were just the same hand forever. Same sound. You get the idea.

With both Eight and Sixteen, try to play for at least a few minutes at a time. Then, you can move around the drum kit, with and without foot patterns, to increase not only your speed, endurance and strength vertically, but laterally (around the kit) as well. Pick a pattern or improvise, but don't sacrifice your technique or sound quality for anything!

Next, take the Stick Control book and get serious about it. Even if you just practice the first section, get serious about making each stroke the same and work up to insane levels of speed. I also use these exercises around the kit with jazz, samba and other foot patterns. Not only do you get great hand workouts, you start to develop linear fills, grooves and solo ideas, not to mention filling your tool bag with great, rhythmically sound improvisation ideas.

Lastly, let musical integrity guide all that you do practice-wise. Don't ever sacrifice quality of sound, clarity or clean playing for speed or anything else.

Happy drumming!

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