How To Hit The Drum

It really is the simplest act, but there is so much subtlety to it!

To me there are really only 2 basic rudiments in drumming: the single stroke and the double stroke. The single stroke is basically one stroke per hand.  You can play alternating single strokes as 8ths,  sixteenths, triplets, sixtuplets, or 32nd notes. It is one hit per hand, hand to hand. The double stroke is just that: two hits on the drum per hand. If you are playing a set of 16th notes in 4/4 time, every beat would have the combination of right, right, left, left. Simple and straight forward.

All the other rudiments in the lists that are out there (the 26 basic rudiments) are unique combinations of single strokes and double strokes. Of course some of the rudiments on the basic 26 require grace notes which we will discuss later.

Single Strokes and Hand Motion

There are so many ways your hands can move when hitting the drum once. You can isolate the wrist motion and hit the drum by grabbing the stick, bending your wrist up while grabbing the stick and then stroking down. You can also do a single stroke by simply using your fingers to hit the drum. You can also include hitting the drum using only your arm from the shoulder like the Tyco drummers. I believe correct technique comes from the balanced motions of the fingers, wrists, and arm when striking the drum. The volume and type of sound you require at the time will also determine how you hit the drum.

We are not linear machines like robots with simple motions. I mean, look at your hand. It has so many curves and is capable of so many subtle and complex motions and gestures. Our human bodies are natural machines designed with a variety of non-linear organic subtleties in how they move. That is why, although seemingly simple, a single stroke on the drum can be comprised of a combination of all these different anatomical factors.

As the single strokes get faster, the use of stronger finger motion will be required for efficiency. We then learn how to bounce the stick on the head, which is another way to play single strokes.

Below there will soon be an example of single strokes with different hand, wrist finger motions:

Next post we will discuss the double stroke motion and the 32nd note roll.

The First Step:Drumsticks

This article is for the beginning drumset student.

The following are just tips that worked for me when I started out.

First off it’s important to buy the right sticks. Make sure they are not too big for your hands. Even if you do have large hands, to start out, a good size stick is 5A. The 5A is a very “middle of the road” size stick. If the stick is too heavy in the beginning, you will have a hard time controlling it when it comes time to play. The same goes if it is too light.

The popular brands are Promark, Vic Firth, and Calato. Each of these makers design different drumsticks with different feels. The Vic Firth 5a, wooden tip has a nice balance and a nice feel. These are made out of hickory and are a bit light. If you want something more front heavy, I would suggest the Promark 5A oak sticks. By front heavy I mean the stick has more weight closer to the tip.

You can also choose wooden tips or nylon tips. I prefer the wooden tips myself. The tips don’t last as long, but I prefer the tone of wood on the cymbals. Nylon tips tend to pop off after a while too.

Anecdote:

When I first started playing drums, I didn’t have a kit yet, so at the time (I was 12), I would play in my bed with different pillows as the different drums, and I would jam to Rush playing from my little record player. Eventually my folks provided me with a drum kit, but I learned a lot playing on the pillows. I still exercise on pillows to this day. Playing singles on pillows is great for strengthening your wrists and fingers.

You now have your sticks, so how do you learn to play the drum kit without one? If you are a beginner and want to start playing the kit, here’s the first beat you should learn on drum kit, even if you don’t have one. Just follow the link.