As I have taught lessons in the past, I’ve always noticed a pattern among my students. We start off with basic technique, then we learn some grooves and simple songs, then some fills. It’s at about this time in their development that most every student comes to me with the same question: how do you go around the drums so fast? It’s a good question, because there is a technique to moving around the drums. And few books really deal with it. So over the next couple of weeks I’ll break down my technique for moving around the drums.
Speed around the drums starts with a concept that doesn’t seem obvious at first, but it’s crucial. When we talk about moving around the drums we are dealing with two separate issues: (1) speed and (2) moving around the drums. These are two separate concepts, two separate muscle groups, and two separate techniques. Today we’re going to tackle the first issue: speed.
We are only going to deal with one drum (or even a practice pad). To develop speed we have to focus on my three rules of efficiency of motion:
- Stay loose. Tension is the enemy of speed. So hold the sticks loosely in your hands and let them “float” in your grip.
- Speed starts small. Understand that speed is best achieved by using your smallest muscle groups. That means your fingers, then maybe your wrists, and rarely your arms. Trying to achieve speed by using your arms is like trying to win a NASCAR race in a tank.
- Don’t work harder than you have to. Every drummer should have a crush on Sir Isaac Newton, you know that guy who discovered gravity. The laws of physics that Newton discovered are in full play in drumming. So, if you hit a drumhead with a stick, the head is going to react on your stick in an equal and opposite manner. In short: throw the stick down, don’t pull it back up, let the drum do the “up” work.
Check out the video series I put together on the Moeller technique to see the ultimate example of applying these three rules together to achieve max speed.
Now using those rules, check out Speed Exercises. As usual, start slow, use a metronome, and gradually increase your speed after you’re more than comfortable at your current tempo. You can also check out Vater’s Mike Johnston Speed Chart for more exercise ideas.
Next week, we’ll take this speed that we’ve developed on one drum and start to apply it to multiple drums.