Learn to Play Drums Online: Technique I

Drum technique is also personal to a degree, but there are definitely wrong ways to do it. The end result is the important part; how you get there is less so. No matter how you hold and use your sticks, you should strive to make a consistent, resonant sound and you should make that sound with as little effort as possible. You can go for style points later and get all sweaty after your set because you’re working so hard (too hard), but to start you need to know how to control your playing efficiently. Everything else is just show. I say “just” show, but putting on a good visual performance is also important for a drummer. That part just needs to come after a mastery of the sounds and technique.

My favorite drummer is Steve Gadd, mostly for his technique and then for his interpretation. Other drummers play faster than him (like Buddy Rich), but honestly: fast is easy. Gadd’s beat from Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” for example, couldn’t be played without good, fast chops. But that beat isn’t an opportunity to show off a drummer’s chops, it’s a tastefully crafted complement to the song. There’s nothing wrong with a little ego-tastic soloing, but the better technique you have, the easier it will be to play.

The basics points are:

Don’t squeeze the life out of your sticks. Don’t hold them like a club or hammer. Hold them more like a knife you use to perform delicate cuts and maneuvers. All your fingers should stay in contact with the stick during the stroke.This means no thumb-pointer finger pinching, that “technique” whereby your last three fingers get splayed out like they’re having a cup of tea. You lose all control this way. It’s a fine line between having a fulcrum in your grip that gives you control and lets the stick breathe.

Think of the stick as an extension of your arm, like an extra bone. You should start by thinking of it as fused to your fingers and let only your wrist move the sticks (this isn’t an absolute rule, but a starting point). You can try placing your pointer finger on top of the stick in matched grip to force your wrist to do all the work. This is how your wrist should feel once your fingers are in their usual position.

Read the second post about drum technique here.

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