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Old 04-01-2010, 01:07 AM
jmhudak17 jmhudak17 is offline
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Default How hard do I have to play?

I play punk, alt rock, and grunge. I've always been a pretty hard hitter, but today during my drum lesson I had a sort of epiphany. My drum teacher told me I was lifting my hands up too high when I play. He told me I should keep my hands low so that I could play rolls faster, and I would require less effort. I tried it, and it made drumming a 1000 times easier. I've been practicing for sometimes hours a day on my timing/playing, and my results have been inconsistent. My question is though, how soft can I play and still get away with it? Do I have to constantly hit hard in the genres I play, or should I focus more on staying steady and playing somewhat soft (especially if my drums are mic'ed when I play somewhere)? Also, can I still get moderate/loud volumes with lifting my hands up high? Thanks in advance to anyone who answers.
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Old 04-01-2010, 02:10 AM
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

Well, it is 100% easier to play faster with more articulation if you don't lift your arms up high.

And there will 101 people who will say you shouldn't lift your arms up high, because it's waste of energy, or takes away from being a better player.

But at the same time, some types of music, some bands, it just calls for slamming the drums.

There are plenty of successful drummers who do beat the daylights out of their drums. I can't imagine trying to tell Scott Travis, Deen Castranovo or Kenny Arnoff to hit less hard.

But somewhere in there is a balance between the two.
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Old 04-01-2010, 02:21 AM
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

I always admired how soft Matt Cameron played when he was with Soundgarden and yet he still got a HUGE sound. Of course you would need to mic your kit but you can play heavy music that way. In the studio it is almost always better if you don't beat the stuffing out the kit and let the mics do their thing.
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Old 04-01-2010, 02:22 AM
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caddywumpus caddywumpus is offline
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

I think the question should be "how appropriate can you play for the music". Sure, hitting hard and swinging your arms above your head is great for show, just like stick twirling and head-banging, but it's absolutely NOT necessary. Also, you'll notice when rock drummers play really fast, they may still play hard, but they "bring it in" to their torso. No big arm swinging, because you simply can't play really fast notes with such big movements.

Okay, so how "soft" can you play and get away with it?...Part of this is answered by if you're miked or not--if your sound is reinforced by a (good) PA system, you can play really soft and still take peoples' heads off. Another part (the more important part for me...) is what timbre of the drum you like. Certain snare drums open up when you hit them hard. Others choke. Some really bark, and some really crack. It all depends on the drums you're playing. But, to get an authentic rock sound, you'll have to hit the drums at least a "medium" amount of heaviness. Tapping them won't give them the speaking power that you want for rock music.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:36 AM
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

main snare hits = medium-hard, ghost notes = medium-soft. cymbals = medium-soft.
edit: before i get lynched this is obviously my opinion (disclaimer).
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Last edited by toddy; 04-01-2010 at 06:51 AM.
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:38 PM
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

in my experience i've found that you have to hit different things with different amounts of force because some drum/cymbal sounds cut better that others. for example, it's tempting to ride the hats with huge arm swings because it's easy to do and it looks cool but it's not necessary. the hats cut through the mix so well you don't really need to beat the crap out of them. and if they're miced, it's even less necessary. the snare usually also cuts pretty well, but if you want to get a big sound out of your backbeats without a lot of arm swinging then try hitting rimshots. rim shots are a great way to get a lot of volume without much effort. it's actually good not to hit them too hard because if you do you'll break sticks every two seconds. the toms usually need to be hit harder because they don't cut as well. micing these definitely helps. the bass drum definitely needs to be hit hard if you play loud music. in fact, it really should be miced more than anything else because without micing it can easily get buried in the mix.
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:44 PM
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Coldhardsteel Coldhardsteel is offline
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

In marching, there's a system for dynamics that goes by inches. The farther away from the head your drum stick starts, the louder the strike.

it goes 3-6-9-12-15, 3 being the softest and 15 being the loudest.

Since what your drum teacher told you is basically what I got drilled into my head in marching, here's what I can say: Punk and Rock call for 12-15 most of the time. Maybe you can play 9 but anything lower I think could be seldom used. If you're the average rock drummer.
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:11 PM
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Neil Neil is offline
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

What's the reason for hitting hard? Is it more a showmanship thing? Certainly I find drummers very entertaining when they're going for it. Or is it because you need to cut through the mix?

My fast rolls are always pretty 'quiet' but I don't worry about it as I know that the audience aren't wearing ear plugs, additionally for me playing with a less energetic style gives me enough energy to last the 2hr + sets we do.
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Old 04-08-2010, 10:01 PM
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tonyp123 tonyp123 is offline
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

If hitting hard is causing stress in your hands, wrist, and/or arms, I would recommend easing up the strokes to avoid injury to the tendons. Another benefit of using a relaxed approach is I find it helps the groove tremendously. When I overplay (volume-wise), I usually wind up getting ahead of the beat, especially during fills.

If you can't hear your drums over the guitar amps, that does not necessarily mean the audience can't hear you. Even without individual drum mics, the vocal mics at the front of the stage will pick up quite a bit of drums and cymals and they will be heard through the PA.

Main point is use a natural, muscularly-relaxed approach in all your playing. This is a common theme in most of the drum method books I've read.
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Old 04-08-2010, 10:26 PM
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Default Re: How hard do I have to play?

I admire headroom. When you're playing at 100% with full movement, in my mind you are at your limit. But if you can play the music, whatever the music and however loud the music, and not look like you're working too hard, you appear to be able to do even more no problem, something I think is really cool.
Take John Entwistle for example. The guy just played killer musical bass lines, with all kinds of testosterone , all while looking like he's thinking about his next new car....
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