Hand Technique Thread

flamateurhour

Well-known member
I've spent the last couple of years bouncing back and forth between different technique schools of thought and have reached a point where I'm absolutely dazzled by the broad range of approaches to employing motion on the drumstick. I've studied through a good portion of Bill Bachman's Hands Makeover, Great Hands for a Lifetime, Jojo's DVD, Gordy Knudtson's YT stuff, Ed Soph, Joe Morello, and my old University of Idaho prof's technique stuff, and I've come to a point of appreciation of how each artist has managed to come up with their own adaptation that works absolutely perfectly for themselves.

Is there a thread that is a great collective summary of the many approaches to hand technique? I've searched through the forum and have come across threads discussing/comparing&contrasting/debating individual approaches, yet I can't seem to find an open-ended discussion on the appreciation of hand technique in a broader sense (at least any longer than a single page). I understand that there is the "Drum Technique" sub-forum but much of that page is also dedicated to transcriptions, exercises, and other things of the sort. So in the spirit of this, here are some questions that I have on hand technique:


  1. What primary schools of thought have you applied to your playing? Where did this technique originate from and what is the reasoning behind the approach? What are the primary advantages or limitations have you come across when studying this technique?
  2. What are your favorite resources, either print or visual media, pertaining to the hand technique?
  3. What drummer(s) have your favorite "hands" in the business?
  4. What was your biggest "AH HAH!" discovery with your technique?
  5. What is your process for teaching technique to a student? Biggest do's and don'ts, order of operations, etc...
  6. What are you addressing with your own technique at the moment?
 
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C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I have always (for thirty-six years now) used German Grip (palms down, thumbs on sides of sticks, elbows away from torso, kind of like wings in flight). It's a wrist-intensive technique that affords maximum power and, in my experience, plenty of speed and touch as well. My first drum teacher heavily promoted this method, and it's the only I've ever employed. It suits everything I do both behind a drumkit and on a practice pad. I never play thumbs up for any reason, not even on my ride cymbal.

Who has the best hands in the business? I can't even begin to address that question, and I'm not being flippant. Narrowing my scouting down to one player would be impossible. It's similar to asking, "Who's your favorite family member?" Any response poses danger.
 
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flamateurhour

Well-known member
I'm gonna edit to say "Who has your favorite hands in the business". Very loaded question.

I'm going through a period of playing German after years of doing American grip with my hands fairly close and the sticks running more down the middle of my hands. It feels SO foreign to have my sticks meeting each other at a 90* angle again. Feels foreign but it's cooperating nicely with the Bill Bachman hands stuff that I'm doing.

Not even on your ride? I have an old drum teacher that would like to have some words with you sir ;)
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I'm gonna edit to say "Who has your favorite hands in the business". Very loaded question.

I'm going through a period of playing German after years of doing American grip with my hands fairly close and the sticks running more down the middle of my hands. It feels SO foreign to have my sticks meeting each other at a 90* angle again. Feels foreign but it's cooperating nicely with the Bill Bachman hands stuff that I'm doing.
Any variation that deviates from muscle memory requires adaptation. At this point, I have no incentive to stray from German Grip. It's indelibly engraved on my drumming identity. Experimenting elsewhere would feel like starting over.

Since you've reworded your question, I'll take the plunge: Dave Weckl. I'm not a jazz/ fusion player, and he's not a major influence, but I've encountered few drummers with his comprehensive command of sticks. He's about as unlimited as they come, and he's thoroughly relaxed throughout. Not many hands impress me in that manner.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
What primary schools of thought have you applied to your playing? Where did this technique originate from and what is the reasoning behind the approach? What are the primary advantages or limitations have you come across when studying this technique?
There is no one technique or source. I've tried many tings and most of them are part of my technique somehow. I didnæt get many lessons when I started out, but I went to enough different people to quickly find out that there were a lot of strong opinions and they all pretty much completely disagreed with eachother. These were Norway's top teachers and performers, so it wasn't just local amateurs, some with a direct line to the big American names.

For the most part I play trad.

Right hand has a second finger fulcrum, but all the fingers have that function when doing certain things.

I tilt my snare, but only sort of halfway. I only have my middle finger fully on the stickwhen I tilt it, so some traditional guys give me a bit of flack for that. The guy that taught me how to open my grip is a professor who studied with Joe Morello, so I guess it's ok. :LOL:

What are your favorite resources, either print or visual media, pertaining to the hand technique?
It will be anything I picked up the basics from. DVDs by Jojo, Igoe, Weckl, Chapin...


What drummer(s) have your favorite "hands" in the business?
Dave and Vinnie. Dave's clean, but Vinnie gets the type of results I want. I haven't paid much attention to others on vids. What I have seen is a lot of old orchestral drummers in person and the quality of their buzz rolls, that's something else.


What was your biggest "AH HAH!" discovery with your technique?
It was really when I just saw the dogma and understood technique was an individual thing. Very much comfirmed when I took my first lesson with Gary Chaffee who started off talking about technique by saying "Drummers are really stupid, Odd-Arne..." Basically, because we're to hung up abouut right or wrong with this stuff.


What is your process for teaching technique to a student? Biggest do's and don'ts, order of operations, etc...
I work with kids and we start with bounce and principles. If they don't have a preferred stick and ask for a recommenfaion it an SD-2 Bolero where my idea is similar to that of the thick light pencil we use when we start writing. What I do further is based on the individual and they don't have to do what I do, they get a full perspective and then we adjust as we go along. If there's an obvious issue I try to be a smart teacher and always explain why, so we avoid any resistance. My attitude will always be that there are many ways to do things, but there are some that obviously don't work.


What are you addressing with your own technique at the moment?
It's sort of a broader picture.

The last year I've been working wrists a lot more consciously and been working on surfaces with less rebound. Right now it's all just coming together, which means I'm working a bit more on speed than I've done in a while.

EDIT:
As for materials; With me the main books I use are All American Drummer and Sticking Patterns. I use both on a very deep level and they inspire a lot of different approaches.

With my students it's mostly the Lifetime Warm-Up that I spice up with various modified SC, traditional drum corp exercises and maybe some selected copies from ADD. They basically have a personal folder with their own stuff and the basics of that is something they all share as a Montessori type approach is a big part of how I solve modern social and motivational challenges. There has to be an inspiring and compassionate learning environment, so that's always step 1 regardless of other things that I work on at the same time. It works really well, but it's really hard to get leaders and old fashioned colleagues to get it.

here are basically teo types of teahders. 1) Those who are outdated and stuff and 2) those who have no history and don't know tradition. If you understabnd bith and apply a bit of common sense that's the recipe for success. Obvioulsy, being humbnle and having the ability to view your resulsts objectively aka having no ego. Al the issues in music education comes down to this. There are a lot of these types of issues most places, but the truth is that this work is quite simple if you allow it to be.
 
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Griener

Member
There’s no debate about the best hands in the business. It’s Bob Becker. It’s not even close.
Bob Becker, the guy from the Nexus percussion group? I thought he was specializing mostly in mallet playing, but obviously he used to play drum set in is early years as well. Can you post any videos where one can watch his hand technique?
 

Griener

Member
Bob Becker, the guy from the Nexus percussion group? I thought he was specializing mostly in mallet playing, but obviously he used to play drum set in is early years as well. Can you post any videos where one can watch his hand technique?
I found this video of him playing one of his compositions: At the 7 minute mark he switches to snare drum. very nice controlled drumming, indeed.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
  1. What primary schools of thought have you applied to your playing? Where did this technique originate from and what is the reasoning behind the approach? What are the primary advantages or limitations have you come across when studying this technique?
  2. What are your favorite resources, either print or visual media, pertaining to the hand technique?
  3. What drummer(s) have your favorite "hands" in the business?
  4. What was your biggest "AH HAH!" discovery with your technique?
  5. What is your process for teaching technique to a student? Biggest do's and don'ts, order of operations, etc...
  6. What are you addressing with your own technique at the moment?
Metal drummers perspective:

1. Like CM Jones, I use a ton of German grip. I play mostly with the fulcrum, utilizing a ton of bounce. I do rotate between techniques as I move around the kit. For the most part its German, as my snare, hats, and 2 rides are all directly in front of me. I spend the most time there, so I use German the most.

2. I dont look at hand technique anymore. It was sorted close to 30 years ago. I look more at how others use technique and what they do with it, and adapt as needed.

3. John Longstreth:

4. Once I figured out how to control the bounce, and once I understood that doubles feel different than 2 singles.

5. I dont teach, so this does not apply.

6. Ambidextarity.

"Who's your favorite family member?"
That's easy, my wife. I have to live with her, and I chose her. I didn't choose the rest of those people. They just happened.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
My primary school of thought is to let the stick do the work i.e. , let the rebound work for you. Watching some old videos of Joe Morello to me that's the ultimate display of that technique.
I Watched Buddy Rich a few times live in concert & that really introduced me to a more wrist involved with the finger technique (when my eyes could follow him!)

Dave Weckl's instructional tape, Tommy Igoe's DVD and his explanation of the fulcrum are awesome and Jim Chapin's tape where he explains the Moeller technique where all helpful as well. I also love watching old Mel Lewis videos and how the stick dances in his hands effortlessly.
Peter Erskines displays this at times in recent videos.

Matched grip with hands turned slightly in a more French grip like a timpanist- watch the Chester Thompson instructional video. where he shows his technique exercise. That man has serious power and speed.

My biggest 'Ah-Ha" moment in technique was setting my proper snare height and the resulting angle change of forearm/wrist/hand.

I like to work from Stick Control, Accents and Rebounds and Dom Famularo's book. I have a quote of Dom's printed next to my practice spot on the wall as a reminder: "Tension is the Enemy of Movement"
 
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C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I play mostly with the fulcrum, utilizing a ton of bounce.
Yes, a characteristic I forgot to mention in my first post: My execution is centered on natural rebound, allowing the sticks themselves to perform the bulk of the work. I cringe when I encounter drummers with tight grips, stiff wrists, and arms flailing about as though they're drowning at sea. Efficiency and relaxation are at the core of my technique.
 

Benthedrummer

Junior Member
I can answer question 3 with a certain degree of confidence.

In terms of drum set players, for me......Sonny Emory has the best hands in the business.

His finger control with his tympany style single strokes are utterly stunning.

His posture, overall kit ergonomics, speed, musicality and relaxed disposition makes him my only true, genuine drum hero.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
1. The first "school" of technique I learned was through drum corps, the style developed by Fred Sanford and Bob Kalkofen, which is a decent style as corps technique goes. The technique taught by my college professor, Charles Dowd, was focused on sound, not high performance chops, and he gave very little specific verbal instruction about it. At some point I got a lesson with Dom Famularo, and developed what he taught me into the technique I used for most of the 90s, with a very open grip and a lot power-- I was playing a lot of loud improvised music. After that I developed my own technique for playing softer with control-- that's much better adapted for regular professional playing. It's only mine in the sense that I'm picky about things I have not heard others be picky about. It looks like regular old “German” grip.

2. I just watch videos of players I like playing music, or I see them play in person. I might watch Jojo Mayer's video if I was thinking about getting into high performance technique.

3. "Best hands" isn't really meaningful to me. There are many great players whose technique is perfectly adapted to what they play. I like Bob Moses's technique-- that grip is similar to what I was doing in the 90s. I also like Steve Gadd's technique. I like my friend Steve Pancerev's technique. I like economical technique with some grace, that is well adapted to the drum set, and I generally don't like snare drum-looking technique.

4. Realizing how little it matters, I suppose. I've seen great players I liked to look at, and great players I hated to look at-- their hands, anyway. I'm not really interested in music that demands optimal high performance snare drum technique.

5. It's very individualized. I go over some of the things in the link in question 1, as necessary. I don't lead with technique.

6. Nothing specific. Technique always follows from what I'm practicing-- I'll make little adjustments to do the thing I'm trying to play.
 

jazzerooty

Junior Member
1. The first "school" of technique I learned was through drum corps, the style developed by Fred Sanford and Bob Kalkofen, which is a decent style as corps technique goes. The technique taught by my college professor, Charles Dowd, was focused on sound, not high performance chops, and he gave very little specific verbal instruction about it. At some point I got a lesson with Dom Famularo, and developed what he taught me into the technique I used for most of the 90s, with a very open grip and a lot power-- I was playing a lot of loud improvised music. After that I developed my own technique for playing softer with control-- that's much better adapted for regular professional playing. It's only mine in the sense that I'm picky about things I have not heard others be picky about. It looks like regular old “German” grip.

2. I just watch videos of players I like playing music, or I see them play in person. I might watch Jojo Mayer's video if I was thinking about getting into high performance technique.

3. "Best hands" isn't really meaningful to me. There are many great players whose technique is perfectly adapted to what they play. I like Bob Moses's technique-- that grip is similar to what I was doing in the 90s. I also like Steve Gadd's technique. I like my friend Steve Pancerev's technique. I like economical technique with some grace, that is well adapted to the drum set, and I generally don't like snare drum-looking technique.

4. Realizing how little it matters, I suppose. I've seen great players I liked to look at, and great players I hated to look at-- their hands, anyway. I'm not really interested in music that demands optimal high performance snare drum technique.

5. It's very individualized. I go over some of the things in the link in question 1, as necessary. I don't lead with technique.

6. Nothing specific. Technique always follows from what I'm practicing-- I'll make little adjustments to do the thing I'm trying to play.
Nice post. The selection of various techniques are many and there are many paths to the waterfall.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Nice post. The selection of various techniques are many and there are many paths to the waterfall.
And some of players with the deepest groove and/or most musical creativity don’t have especially great hands. I do think, though, that developing great hands/feet will never hurt your groove or creativity.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I do think, though, that developing great hands/feet will never hurt your groove or creativity.
Probably so, but I haven't been able to prove it with my own playing. Mostly the state of my snare drum chops just hasn't made much difference in what I actually played— beyond just normal stuff, and a few select items that are well-adapted to the drum set. People can visit my site to see what that entails. I came back to the snare drum really hard for like ten years recently, just to see what happened if I added a bunch of vocabulary. Zippo, creativitywise. It helped my precision and my control at softer dynamics.

It sounds like I'm some kind of anti-chops guy, but that's just because the curve has gotten really skewed-- everybody's doing Buddy Rich level stuff, and beyond. But that was always extreme, and it's still extreme even with a lot of people doing it.
 
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