Drumming—The Mental & Physical Aspects

Originally posted on the old blog, Thursday, November 26, 2009
It takes strength to play the drums, to play percussion. Not just a physical strength, but a mental strength, for these are very demanding instruments. More than anything else, percussion is a family of instruments that each have their own techniques, spirits, languages, demands. The concentration required to make sense of it all is astounding! Broken down, it is as much as asking oneself, "am I holding the stick correctly for this instrument?" Or, "can I combine this technique on two radically different instruments?" Yes, there is a mental toughness that is required.
  • Being a drummer is hard. To be a drummer is a life force. You have to be motivated to even deal with this instrument. ~ the late, great, jazz drummer, Roy Brooks
Metal, plastic, wood, skin—hard, soft, brittle, stiff, flexible; these are the issues we are constantly up against and need to adjust to. It is one thing to move from one key to another on a piano, where all 88 keys are essentially the same, it is another to move from a 32" gong to a 12" drum, to a wood block, to a small shaker, and keep the musical flow unbroken. There is a discipline and mastery required of both self and instruments. One needs to immerse themselves into the percussion and make it an extenuation of “self”, so that barriers between man & music are eliminated. 
There is also a mental need to keep track of all this varied information, and to be able to call it up at less than a moment’s notice in the heat of performance. It’s not enough to rely on muscle memory alone. One needs to anticipate the next move both at once and ahead of time. This dualistic nature is at the heart of percussion.
And there is the pure physical aspect of percussion. For many percussionists, the physical layout of their instruments covers much ground and may even encircle them. There is the need to be strong, yet flexible in movement, like a dancer, able to balance the body in moving gracefully from one instrument to another. 
Find your space…
~ MB

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