Sometimes It's The Little Things

After teaching for so many years, I've found that it's often the little things that make a difference. If you are having trouble with your playing, or not making progress as quickly as you had hoped, check out the little things:

  • Check your GRIP: are you tensing up/squeezing your hand in some way? This will restrict the stick and also can cause cramps/stiffness in your muscles. Loosen up and let things move naturally.
  • SEAT HEIGHT: are you uncomfortable sitting, or do you feel off balance? Check your seat height. You should be balanced, stable, and not leaning in any direction. Move your seat up/down 1" at a time, leaving it for a few hours/days, before you change it again. You want to try it for an extended period of time to see what difference it makes. Then change it another inch and see what that is like. When you hit the sweet spot, you will usually know after playing for a while. You might want to move another inch to see how that is, then move back if that's more comfortable.
  • Is your RIDE CYMBAL too high? too low? The same goes for your Ride Cymbal. You want to be comfortable and feel balanced, not reaching for it and leaning. Again, try moving it at 1" steps (up/down, left/right, in/out) until you feel the most relaxed & comfortable.
  • CRASH CYMBALS: the same thing. If you are straining to hit them, then you are straining to play.
  • HI-HAT: Too high? Too low? Too far left? You want it to be comfortable for both your foot and your striking hand. 
  • SNARE DRUM: check the height/angle. You may have to change this after changing your seat height. The snare gets played the most, so it needs to be comfortable.
  • TOMS: If you have to reach/lean, then you might be impeding your playing. 
The most important thing is to remember to move things only 1" at a time, and then leave them there for a while, so you can get used to the position. If you move something say, 6", it will feel strange and probably throw you off, even if it's at what would be the optimum position for you. Take your time to zero in on what feels best. And make sure you feel balanced!

It's also important to remember that everyone is different in how their body is built, so there is no "one size fits all" setting on anything. A lot also depends on your grip (trad or matched), your style of music, and the size of your kit. Obviously, a 4-piece kit with 4 cymbals can be much more compact than a huge multi-tom & cymbal kit. While my seat & hi-hat height is consistent, depending on what size kit I play, my Ride will move around because of the different tom set up (2 vs 5 or 6), so sometimes compromises must be made.

Granted, you might not change things as drastically as Mr. Bruford did.

Don't be afraid to be different: it's your kit/drumming. Check out how Bill Bruford moved his hi-hat to the middle, in front of him, then had his snare & toms all on the same level, and his cymbals on another level above the drums. It worked for him.

A little change can make a big difference…

~ MB


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