Learn to Play Drums Online: Technique III and Ergonomics

This is the third in a series of posts about drum technique. Read part 1 and part 2 here.

Pay attention to your body when you play, as it will tell you if you’re doing something wrong. There was a period of 6 months or so when my forearms started hurting as if they had carpal tunnel. I wrote it off as “maybe I’m just practicing too much.” After bringing it up with a trusted instructor, he said that I was doing something wrong and I should be able to play all day, every day without pain. After revising my technique, my pain went completely away!

The stick should be treated as a new bone on your arm. You should let your larger wrist muscles do the heavy lifting. If you rely on your fingers too much, you’ll find they’ll tire, cramp and create shooting pains. Use your fingers for support and added control at high speeds, but use your wrists to play. This was what was causing me pain with heavier sticks after a couple hours of practicing at high speeds.

Any tips you find from office desk posture can be applied to the drums as well. Play with a straight back and a reliable drum throne to reduce long-term complications from sitting too much. Exercise like running and weight training will also increase the strength of your core and make this easier.

imageimageAll musical equipment can be heavy. If you play with a rock band, the amps will probably be heavier than you think, so move them with two people. Also, don’t pack your hardware bag too full. It’s better to split your stand into two bags than risk injury. I’ve had both a hernia and a thrown-out back from moving equipment, and I wouldn’t recommend either. Thrown out disks can require a lifetime of spinal cortisone shots or surgery, and hernias require pelvic surgery to fix; so just take the extra care to lighten your load and save yourself the trouble. Also, like my dad says, don’t forget to lift with your legs and not your back.

imageimageYou will lose your hearing without earplugs. It may take ten, or twenty, or forty years, but it will happen. After 14 years of playing, I’ve lost many high frequencies due to only intermittent earplug use. I know older drummers who are completely deaf on one or both ears. Many musicians have tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears. Wearing earplugs can be a pain, and you have to relearn how to listen, but it’ll save your most precious resource as a musician – your ears. I recommend going to an ear specialist and getting musicians’ earplugs for about $100. They’re molded to the shape of your ear, making them easy to take in and out, and they have a frequency response that lets you hear vocal ranges better.

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