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Strengthening a non-dominant hand

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  • Strengthening a non-dominant hand

    So...I'm literally just starting out...still on page 1 of Stone's Stick Control after a week, because every time I start practicing, I can't help but notice that my left-hand grip is just not as natural, comfortable, or effective as the right. Nor is my left wrist as strong or consistent in its motion, causing me to draw circles with the stick tip vs the clean arcs that come off my right. Even when I hold the stick between just my thumb and first finger and try to mimic the right's back-and-forth flick with the left, it's just dismally clumsy.

    Am I overanalyzing? How important/helpful is it to get left/right performance as close as possible (I foresee myself using American grip)? Are there specific exercises I can do? I tried rigging up a pair of sticks with some spacers in between and working both hands together with the thought that the right would constrain the overall motion, in essence "training" the left - but not sure if that's an accurate call or not.

    I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO stoked to be entering the world of drumming...I am in no hurry to get to the fun, fast part by skipping the basics, so no matter how arduous or boring, any and all suggestions are much welcomed. And sorry if this has been posted on previously.

  • #2
    Welcome to the forum!

    As with most questions, the answer is, "that depends"

    If you are strictly a hobbyist, then it only matters to the extent that you are able to play the songs you wish to play along with.

    If you plan to play with other musicians, being unable to play in a style that requires a strong left hand will limit the demand for your talents.

    If you plan to play in a drum line or for a living, having a strong left (and right) hand is essential.

    It sounds to me like you could use some professional lessons. I would seek out someone who is used to training drummers for college drum lines. A good instructor will quickly see where your weakness stems from and show you how to correct it. Books and videos can't diagnose.


    • #3
      Welcome aboard!

      It's good that you're looking closely at technique but don't let it hold you back too much making progress in other areas, there are plenty of drummers out there with a very weak left hand who can play most songs no problem.

      You could try strengthening your left had by playing uncrossed, in other words play the hi hat with your left hand and the snare with your right. Then when you go onto the ride, play it with your right and the snare with your left (as you're doing now). It takes a little while to get used to and it you'll get some interesting co-ordination issues but it'll develop both your hands equally. It's not for everyone but it might be worth a try, there seem to be quite a few people who play like this on this forum.

      Also don't limit yourself to American grip, I seem to go from American grip on the snare to French grip on the edges of the kit (ride and floor toms). So I've started practicing everything in both grips, if I notice myself playing German grip I'll start practicing that too. Everyone's diffrent, it's important to use the grips (and any other techniques) that are comfortable for you.

      As Stickinthemud said get a couple of lessons to sort out your basic technique just to make sure you're on the right track.

      Good luck!


      • #4
        Welcome to the forums. I'm relatively new around here, too, but I'll give what little advice I can. First, I'm really glad to hear that you're focused on basics. When you're starting is the time to learn good technique--it's harder to fix if you've been playing awhile with bad technique.

        And I'll second stickinthemud's suggestion for taking some lessons. Even if you can only afford to go for a month or two, let the instructor know this up front and explain that you really want to focus on basic stick technique. Make it clear that you intend to try to keep a regimented practice schedule (working through Stone on your own [and taking it slowly] shows that you seem fairly serious about this), but that you want to catch any major flaws before they become a problem. They won't be happy when you stop the lessons, but hey, that's why I said make it clear up front exactly what your intentions are. They can't get too upset if you're broke...

        As for basic technique, you need focus on both hands, even when one's not playing. Pick out a 2-3 inch wide circle on your drum head/practice pad/pillow/thigh/whatever. Hold the sticks firmly so that their tips are next to each other (~1/8" apart) in that circle, about 1/2" off the head. The sticks should be at an 85-90 degree angle to each other, and all fingers should be wrapped around the sticks, but not too tightly (no pinkies sticking out like some people want to do). Almost all of the control when playing comes from a combination of the wrist while striking and the three fingers on the back of the stick controlling the down stroke and rebound. Neither stick should be wobbling or moving while holding this position (we'll call this the 'hold position'). Now, lift one stick so that it's angled at about 60 degrees from the surface of the head and its path of motion is perpendicular to the drum head. Try to strike the drum in the exact spot where the stick was in the hold position. After striking, tighten up the fingers so that the stick stays still in the hold position. You want to make sure that you make one single clean note--it's easy to end up making a second hit during the "catch" portion of the strike. Also make sure that the bead of the other stick isn't wandering over the head during this. Work on this with both hands a few minutes each day (a little more time given to your weak hand), and again, pay close attention to what both hands are doing during this.

        Now, for a basic exercise you can do to build up strength. When I was in drumline, the first warmup exercise that we did everyday was called 8-on-a-hand. It's exactly what it sounds like--a bar of eighth notes played on each hand. We'd do it for 15-20 minutes everyday, starting at a ridiculously slow tempo (~40bpm) and slowly ramping up to about 240bpm and then back down. Nonstop. (Just writing that brings back memories of the burning.) You don't need to do it that long or at those speeds, but if you can devote 5 minutes a day to it, that'll help with control and endurance (you can also do this with only one hand for a few minutes if you want). When doing it at the slow speeds, follow the sticking advice I gave above--after each stroke, the stick should end up in the hold position. All strokes should be at the same volume (no accents anywhere). Work on consistency in the motions and strike area. And as always, pay attention to what the non-playing hand is doing, too.

        This may sound overly-regimented, and it probably is a little. But it absolutely will help strengthen your hands and it will have an effect on your set playing (being able to consistently hit the hat and snare in the same location will give you consistent tones out of both). Good luck and feel free to PM me with any questions.

        EDIT: And yes, when you move over to a set, you can certainly loosen up a fair bit. Even when you do, though, you'll still have a lot more control over where the sticks go when you're playing.
        Last edited by Abecedary; 11-29-08, 07:22 AM.


        • #5
          If you are literally "just starting out", don't get too hung up at this point. I wouldn't expect your two hands to behave identically because you never use them that way. With time and practice, things will come along. My only suggestion is that whenever you do an exercise, keep working on it until the reverse sticking is as smooth and natural as the "normal" right-hand dominant sticking. For example, if you're doing paradiddles, RLRR LRLL, leading with the left should become just as natural as leading with the right. This might sound dumb, but try starting the exercise with the weak hand. That is, lots of drummers ALWAYS start paradiddles with their right hand for example, and might be very fluid, but if you ask them to start with LRLL they stutter a bit. Some folks can do a great 5 or 7 stroke roll starting right, but not so great starting left. Get the picture?


          • #6
            Wow, I am just blown away, folks! Truly appreciate the very constructive suggestions and feedback.

            Stickinthemud, I had been wondering about lessons - you've answered my unspoken question there. And I appreciate the goal-specific breakdown.

            Fatrich and Jimfiore, appreciate the "cross training" pointers. When I meant American, I guess I meant a mix of American, French and German all in contrast with the traditional grip. So I'm with you there.

            And Abecedary, these are EXACTLY the kind of detailed instructions and specifications I was looking for - I can't thank you enough! You can be sure I'll be practicing this until I find and start my lessons!

            Thanks again, and all the other folks out there, please keep the suggestions coming!


            • #7
              Originally posted by JimFiore View Post
              but if you ask them to start with LRLL they stutter a bit.
              A bit ?!?
              Sheesh, I keep practicing and it seems like my left hand is my right hands' dumb brother. Sometimes I feel like my left hand is a club.

              ges74, like others have said, in the beginning, do not worry too much about it because this is a completely natural occurrence.
              Truth is, my left hand has ALWAYS been a problem, and for most drummers, the left hand is a struggling point.
              But focusing on your left hand with practice can dramatically improve it.

              Go VERY SLOWLY when practicing. It is better to get the practice completely right at a slow speed, than playing too quickly and wrong. With time and effort, your speed and fluency will improve...the more you put in, the faster it will go. The only problem is getting bored with it.

              Hang in there. Get a few lessons and good luck with the practice!


              • #8
                I'm sure its an overused cliche but I think its important to note in this case:

                Practice DOES NOT make perfect - it makes permanent.

                Therefore, its critical that you learn proper technique (such as the "no pinkies sticking out") early on and at slow speeds. While it is endless fun to jump on the kit and play grooves with wild fills and rolls and such, it may become a bad habit that is rather difficult to go back and fix once you feel too advanced to want to go back and learn the basics.

                Starting with lessons is definitely the right way to go, if possible. I have seen it time and again where people say they will do what they can on their own at first and seek lessons when they hit a "plateau". The problem with this method is you will be spending extra time with an instructor trying to undo what you have perfected (perhaps the wrong technique).... and naturally, its much harder to break bad technique then to learn good form in the first place.

                How many times have you heard (or thought to yourself) - I keep going back and doing the same fills or beats that I always do? The obvious reason for this is simply because we tend to practice what we already know for some reason.... we want to hear what sounds good and that happens to be what we know. Same applies to proper technique.... you will tend to go back to what you first learned and practiced. Therefore, try to learn it the right way from the beginning.

                These are all great suggestions and valuable advice! Ultimately, the best way to strengthen a weaker side is to just USE IT.... not just in drumming but everyday activities (eating, shaving, brushing, etc.). Ever try to brush your teeth with the same speed and accuracy as your right hand?

                You are not alone!


                • #9
                  Well...! I was going to contribute to this post... but having read through it, it seems everything's been covered!