Open handed technique

jholland10

Junior Member
Can someone please explain to me the pros and cons of playing the drums with the "open handed technique" versus the traditional
form. Also some rudiments/ things to practice to get my hands faster and to improve my rolls speed.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
Can someone please explain to me the pros and cons of playing the drums with the "open handed technique" versus the traditional
form. Also some rudiments/ things to practice to get my hands faster and to improve my rolls speed.
You're leading with the weaker hand and it'll cross up your brain in a sense. :D Also since you're not crossing over, your mobility is increased. Problem is that when you're a righty playing open handed the usual rudimental grooves like paradiddles will need to be started on your left hand. That in turn increases dexterity.

It's not a be-all-end-all for technique though. Some things are better articulated with the dominant hand.
 

porter

Platinum Member
You're leading with the weaker hand and it'll cross up your brain in a sense. :D Also since you're not crossing over, your mobility is increased. Problem is that when you're a righty playing open handed the usual rudimental grooves like paradiddles will need to be started on your left hand. That in turn increases dexterity.

It's not a be-all-end-all for technique though. Some things are better articulated with the dominant hand.
Yup.

Having played an "Orbinated" setup for a couple months now, I definitely prefer open-handed to cross-handed playing. It does take some doing, since you can't really do the traditional RH-hats, LH-snare, LF-hats, RF-kick anymore if your hats are low (you have to either invert your feet or your hands from that traditional setup), but it really is a good motivator for practice and I find it much easier to write parts, especially interesting parts, with the way the setup flows. I also love having two independent hi-hats to complement pitches/chord progressions in the music.

As for rudiments/rolls.... start slow, practice a while, increase click by 2-5 beats, repeat. The way I got comfortable with reversed playing was just playing through music I know for a while and working out everything that I could do on a traditional set. I started off with a lot of Coheed and I've been jamming a lot of Mars Volta lately which will really beef up your left hand lead if you keep at it :)
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
Yup.

Having played an "Orbinated" setup for a couple months now, I definitely prefer open-handed to cross-handed playing. It does take some doing, since you can't really do the traditional RH-hats, LH-snare, LF-hats, RF-kick anymore if your hats are low (you have to either invert your feet or your hands from that traditional setup), but it really is a good motivator for practice and I find it much easier to write parts, especially interesting parts, with the way the setup flows. I also love having two independent hi-hats to complement pitches/chord progressions in the music.

As for rudiments/rolls.... start slow, practice a while, increase click by 2-5 beats, repeat. The way I got comfortable with reversed playing was just playing through music I know for a while and working out everything that I could do on a traditional set. I started off with a lot of Coheed and I've been jamming a lot of Mars Volta lately which will really beef up your left hand lead if you keep at it :)
I was on a disco gig for 7 years and it was boring a lot of the time so I began playing open handed. Did wonders for my left hand!

However it's kinda like going vegan; you can't just switch one day and expect all to be fine, it's a gradual process.
 

dzarren

Senior Member
I keep a standard set up, but try to play open handed with the hi hat primarily, but i still keep my ride on the right side.

I have a problem with "handedness" and i try to be as fair to both hands as possible in all regards, especially drumming.




with open handed playing you can incorporate any of the toms and even the ride while keeping nice time with your left hand.\but it is something that takes a while.
 

evogel

Senior Member
Gary Chester was a proponent of this. Some of his systems use left hand lead. His recommended set up was to have three sets of hi hats, the regular set on the usual stand, an x-hat on the right as well as one on the left so you could lead with the right or left and not miss out on the left foot hi-hat portion.

You had to do right and left hand lead .......as well as sing the click,etc. so ultimately you ended up with what is 5 way coordination with either right or left hand lead.
Meltdown city.

Dom Famularo has a great book on open handed playing too.

I tend to agree with Bill Ray though; some thing are indeed better articulated with the dominant hand plus, as stated, this is a gradual change over if one chooses to do it.
 

Hewitt2

Senior Member
I 'ripped off the bandage' and switched over to open handed drumming last year with no phase-in whatsoever. I quickly started to see the benefits to my weaker hand which is leading on the hats and the ride. Working Latin rhythms has been a huge enabler to developing strength and consistency. The kit is wide open too and I can work in various colors to the groove while still playing the hats or ride.

I am left-handed so years of sitting-in on right handed drum sets I believe made it easier for me to start leading with my right. While speed was and continues to be an issue relative to my left hand, I didn't have significant issues with coordination.

While everyone has their own strengths/weaknesses, I would think it would be challenging to phase into open-handed drumming. For pros or working joes with commitments, it may make sense to restrict open-handed to the practice room; but for all others to realize the benefits and develop coordination it really needs to be a focal point to your drumming approach, otherwise the learning curve can be steep and long.

Claus Hessler is an amazing resource when it comes to open-handed drumming. His articles on the subject in Modern Drummer in recent years have made a great business case as to why it is a viable approach to your playing set-up; the exercises are very helpful and fun too.
 

feldiefeld

Senior Member
I really like the idea of not crossing my hands. I have played and do sometimes play open…but i consider myself a "dabbler." My feel and dexterity is based on years and years of playing with my right hand as the lead hand on the cymbal and my groove sounds good that way. I am not excited about the practicing involved in being completely fluent as an open handed player. My practice time is better spent on other things in my opinion. It's an old debate. I believe the logic of open handed playing is undeniable, but the reality depends on your given situation. For now, what I do is play that way when I believe it is called for (i.e. I really want a groove to include some tom notes and a consistent hi hat pattern).
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I've been dabbling in open-handed technique in a couple songs. Being a right-hander, I like how it frees up the right hand to play accents and fills with the right hand while I keep time on the hats with my left. It takes a little getting used to, obviously. My skill level at it isn't very good yet and my ghost noting is dismal, but it's worth learning because it opens up another avenue of thinking and approach to drumming. I watched a Steve Smith video awhile back and it convinced me that I should have this technique in my arsenal. I've been focusing on training my left side more these days by trying to get it involved more into the whole entire drumming process and thinking.
 
W

wy yung

Guest
I am a right handed drummer who began using right hand lead. Some years ago it became obvious to me that open handed would be a more flexible technique. 80% of my playing is now open handed and I wont ever go back.

The initial problems are obvious. Weaker lead hand. Dexterity between both that once relied on another way.

All I can say is do it. Your weaker hand will gain strength. And your ghosted notes will have virtually unlimited potential. Recently I was told there is no difference in feel between either hand leading.

Just do it. You wont regret it.
 

ronyd

Silver Member
well, for me, I'm a lefty playing a lefty setup. My buddy and teacher came over the house, so I setup one of my kits right-handed for him. He convinced me to leave the setup as right hand and play around with it. Plus the fact going tio an open mic nite, nobody wants to swap the kit around. Well, I have been, and I'm more comfy playing open handed. I think cross handed would take some doing timing wise, and doesn't feel natural.

I kindof surprised it didn't take me long to get comfy playing righty. Albeit, just talking simple rock and blues groove, and getting around the kit, like with paradiddles. I brain still wants to lead with my left, so will take time to remap my hands. Although I guess leading with left hand ain't all that bad - Ringo is a lefty, playing righty setup, and leads with his left I believe.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Can someone please explain to me the pros and cons of playing the drums with the "open handed technique" versus the traditional
form. Also some rudiments/ things to practice to get my hands faster and to improve my rolls speed.
I can't think of any cons. It's all good. It forces me to think different, and as stated, strengthens your weak hand, but more importantly, the part of your brain that normally doesn't "take the lead"... is now taking the lead.
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
I can't think of any cons. It's all good. It forces me to think different, and as stated, strengthens your weak hand, but more importantly, the part of your brain that normally doesn't "take the lead"... is now taking the lead.
Just to play devil's advocate here...

The biggest con I've heard has been that you spend hundreds of hours working on stuff that will add zero to your vocabulary. In other words, you are learning how to play the same beat you already can do instead of learning new things or improving the sound of your current vocabulary. Imagine a guitar player learning all his scales on a lefty guitar to "open his mind". Don't think so.

I can't say that I've ever heard an open handed player (including Carter and Simon) play anything that I thought was brilliant because of the open handed approach. They are brilliant players because of who they are not because they ride with the other hand.

I'm not against open handed playing. I played it exclusively for 3 years. But it wasn't this incredible boon to my playing that blew me away. It was just using a different hand to ride with. (Plus unless you change your tom setup, you will still have to play "righty".)

Mangini has taken this to the extreme with his fully ambidextrous kit but then again, he told me he spent 6 years working it up. At least he can say that he can do chromatic scales on his kit without crossing his hands. That is something new. I can't say how much application one might find with it but it still is new.

Yeah it's cool but it does not necessarily improve the impact of your musical statement.
 

Nour Ayasso

Senior Member
Just to play devil's advocate here...

The biggest con I've heard has been that you spend hundreds of hours working on stuff that will add zero to your vocabulary. In other words, you are learning how to play the same beat you already can do instead of learning new things or improving the sound of your current vocabulary. Imagine a guitar player learning all his scales on a lefty guitar to "open his mind". Don't think so.
The thing is for drumming you've BEEN drumming with your left hand. Teaching your right hand how to fret and and your left hand how to pick, knowing that you'll be doing the opposite, is obviously not going to 'open your mind'. That being said, teaching your left hand how to be independent (aka MORE CONTROL) you can create vocabulary you weren't able to before. Oh and there's plenty of stuff to do on an ambidextrous kit that you won't beable to do on a normal kit.

Go look up Anup Sastry, he took lessons from Travis Orbin and look how he applied it.
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
That being said, teaching your left hand how to be independent (aka MORE CONTROL) you can create vocabulary you weren't able to before.

I've heard every proponent of open handed playing say this. Please direct me to some actual recorded examples of this new vocabulary that was never able to be played before.

Oh and there's plenty of stuff to do on an ambidextrous kit that you won't beable to do on a normal kit.

Such as? I already mentioned the chromatic scale thing please provide concrete examples.

Go look up Anup Sastry, he took lessons from Travis Orbin and look how he applied it.


I checked out a vid of him playing "Ghost". Killer player but he played right hand lead in that video.

Maybe I haven't heard it yet, I'm open to the concept. I just feel that it is much more of a "drumistic" thing than a musical thing.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I'm not sure why this seems to be a controversial topic every time it comes up ... and the left-handed guitar analogy is just bogus (it's not useful). I'm as lazy as anyone (of not moreso) and practicing something that isn't immediately useful never gets on my radar, but there are pretty straightforward applications for playing open-handed.

If your left hand is on the hats, your right hand is free to roam the kit. The obvious advantage here is that the limitation goes from physical reach to the imagination (and current skill level, of course). Whether one feels like taking advantage of this on the kit without changing its configuration is another matter, but I just don't see the controversy. The example everyone uses is Steve Smith's drum part on Don't Stop Believing, which is great. What am I missing here?

I guess I can only speak for myself, but I haven't spent enough time in the shed to get both hands fully equalized, or even anything close to it, so given that I feel the pulse primarily in my ride pattern, I can alter my feel significantly just by swapping ride duties. Crudely speaking, I go from swingy Ringo to linear Aynsley Dunbar in as long as it takes me to get my left stick up on the hats and my right on backbeat duty. I suppose I should have enough control to consciously make that happen without switching up, but I don't - and I'd wager 95% of other drummers don't either, so leveraging that inequality can be really useful.

It does take some getting used to, and there are limitations to its usefulness (IMO), so I'm only part-time with it and never terribly rigid about shoulds and shouldn'ts. For example, if I'm riding lefty on my hats, I don't try to get through fills lefty. There are times I'll play left hand lead on fills, but again, it's because it changes the way the fill feels, not because I'm trying to be academic about it.
 
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cornelius

Silver Member
Just to play devil's advocate here...

The biggest con I've heard has been that you spend hundreds of hours working on stuff that will add zero to your vocabulary. In other words, you are learning how to play the same beat you already can do instead of learning new things or improving the sound of your current vocabulary. Imagine a guitar player learning all his scales on a lefty guitar to "open his mind". Don't think so.

I can't say that I've ever heard an open handed player (including Carter and Simon) play anything that I thought was brilliant because of the open handed approach. They are brilliant players because of who they are not because they ride with the other hand.

I'm not against open handed playing. I played it exclusively for 3 years. But it wasn't this incredible boon to my playing that blew me away. It was just using a different hand to ride with. (Plus unless you change your tom setup, you will still have to play "righty".)

Mangini has taken this to the extreme with his fully ambidextrous kit but then again, he told me he spent 6 years working it up. At least he can say that he can do chromatic scales on his kit without crossing his hands. That is something new. I can't say how much application one might find with it but it still is new.

Yeah it's cool but it does not necessarily improve the impact of your musical statement.
I don't think of open handed playing as a way to sound different, or new - it's just an ergonomic way of getting to the same place. IMO it only makes sense to play open handed if you really don't like crossing over. Dabbling with it is cool if you want to play a groove or two that requires your left hand to lead - but to really get it, you have to move your ride to your left, lower your hihat and really commit...
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
I wish there was a more affordable remote hihat available, something that I could mount above my bass drum. I would love to try open handed playing but I wouldn't want to switch to left hand lead.

If I switched to left hand lead that means I would have to play with matched grip and my left hand matched is terrible.
 
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