I may have unintenionally become an open-handed convert


Silver Member
Ever since I started drumming at age 12, I've been a cross-stick player. But now in my 40s, I think I am transitioning into open-handed playing, which was rather unintentional. That probably doesn't sound possible, since I consciously chose to start practicing open-handed a few years back. But the goal was never to become an open-handed player. Rather, I had identified several weaknesses with my playing, and one of the worst was my underdeveloped left hand, which my right hand was overcompensating for in a big way. It makes sense that my dominant hand would develop faster, but I figured that it was also stronger because it did most of the work. So I originally starting incorporating some open-handed playing into my practice routine in an attempt to strengthen my left hand, and it started working. My left hand finally began to catch up a bit.

Fast forward to last spring. I sustained an injury to my right hand, which made drumming painful. Even if I laid off the drums for a week or so until the pain subsided, drumming would bring the pain right back. I decided my only recourse was to take as long as necessary to let my hand heal. But instead of stopping practice completely, I decided to practice strictly with my three healthy limbs. No right hand playing at all. This is when my left hand really began to strengthen, and I even began to enjoy playing left-hand lead.

When the right hand finally healed, I just continued to practice with a left hand lead, and recently I've come to a point where I actually prefer open-handed playing, at least where the hi-hat is involved. I still play right hand lead on my ride.

Now that I appear to be going down this road, I have a few questions.

How many open-handed players converted later in life, as opposed to playing that way from the start?

If you were a later convert, how did you handle the transition? Was it a slow process becoming as skilled at playing open-handed as with cross-sticking? Any tips to speed up the process?

Do you switch between left/right lead, or did you move your ride over to the left side?

With open-handed playing, I much prefer to have my hats mounted low, but this eliminates the possibility of cross-sticking for more complex patterns that I'm not capable of yet with open-hand. Did anyone struggle with this issue and how did you resolve it?

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I read your post with great interest. I would love to play more open handed style, however after playing right handed lead, traditional grip for 60 years it is not in the cards for me.

I can’t address your question about learning open hand playing later on in life. But I applaud you for doing it. Way to go !!!!!

I did make one big change about 4 years ago. While playing right/left cross over hi hat and snare for many years I always had to reach out with my right hand near my first tom so I could play loud ghost notes and other stuff with my left hand. If I did not do this my left hand did not have the freedom to play the way I wanted because the stick would collide with my right hand. I play American grip with my right hand and having to reach out, my right wrist was always at a bad angle for playing proper American grip. Well I’m sure you understand.

I could move my hi hat up near 10 o’clock on the snare drum, but then my left foot was sideways on the hi hat pedal. I did not want to use a remote cable operated hi hat because the ones I tried just did not feel right. A little too mushy for my taste.
Then I discovered the DW 9550 remote hi hat. I now use one and I love it! My hi hat is at about the 11 o’clock position. The center of my snare drum is fully open for my left hand. This setup has freed me up to play things with my left hand, while my right hand plays the hi hat, that I was never able to play before.

You can see here what I’m doing in this slow motion video using the DW 9550. (With a standard hi hat my left stick would be crashing into my right hand.)


Here is what my setup looks like with the DW 9550 hi hat. DW 9550 hi hats are expensive. But there are two of them for sale on Ebay right now for a pretty good price.



Platinum Member
Yes, very good post. I'm not a convert by any means (I'm actually more as Jim said above, I've put a lot of work into conventional right-hand lead playing and would rather have that fluency when I have the chance and motivation to play) but I do feel the pull towards playing open-handed and putting a foot-operated hi-hat on my right too. Below is an example of the ambidextrous-type set I use probably half of the time at home:

As implied I often switch between setups on a whim, though this is a mighty pain in the ass to do at college with a kit that others use regularly, so that doesn't help my practice regimen.

As for your hi-hat question, I understand, though I can't say I have many issues playing the hi-hat with my left hand in its standard right-hand-friendly height but you might use more of the stick tip/bow of the hats than I do (as opposed to the shoulder and edge). Not really a good solution there unless you want to do the hi-hat-in-front-of-snare thing.

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Everything is a habbit and result of training.

I've hardly played for 50 years or anything. About 6 years.

I cross and play traditional.

A big part of learning an instrument when we're young is really to learn about music.

Grip, crossing or open handed, double bass or not are really just technical things. With hardcore focus and dedication a lot can happen in a very short amount of time.

On a similar note, I've sort of been slacking off of practice the last week and a half. Mostly due to cleaning my home.

Though I've only spent like an hour a day jamming and fooling around on the kit I do offcourse have several pads set up around the house.

When I've had a free moment I decided to work focused om my left hand doing matched grip. I've done this sporadically in periods, but not made it the main project. I never got my fingers to work on the left hand in matched at all, but they're sort of coming together do useable degree now.

Open handed for strenghtening is a great idea, but if you have just a basic setup with one hi-hat, which I still guess most people do, there are many things that can only be done open handed and it will balance out any linear issues with the hands.

I think it's great regardless. It only helps. Only reason we struggle keeping the groove going in these cases is the weaker limbs. Put in the work and it is like anything else.

Some say practice what you use, but in many ways, you can't really use a lot of things until you have already practiced them. Then the possibilities just reveal themselves.


Silver Member
Thanks for the thoughtful responses guys.

Hollywood: I have considered a remote hat, and I'm open to the idea, but a couple things give me pause: The expense, as you mentioned, and making my setup more complex. Seems like sticking to a more standard setup makes gig life easier, both for setup/breakdown and when sharing kits for multi-band shows. I've considered a "compromise" of mounting some closed mini-hats to use in addition to the regular hats, and I might well do that.

porter: I dig your setup. I think I would be very comfortable playing it without any adjustment. And you are right that I tend to play the top of the hats as opposed to the edge. That's why it feels much better to lower my hats for open-handed playing.

Odd-Arne: I'm the opposite: I never really took to traditional grip, but I do tinker with it now and then in practice. Actually, I've recently been practicing almost exclusively with French grip and it has really strengthened both of my hands.

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I think trad is sort of "special interest" these days, but I pretty much started that way way before I started playing drums.

Every drummer I grew up with played that way and the 2 lessons I had with David Via back in '99 also way before I actually started learning for real. He played trad, but we didn't talk much about it.

I sort of agree with Tony though, if you reallywant to know everything about drumming......

In any case whenI play matched the left hand can do everything correctly now, but it doesn't take much to get sore. Right hand can go all day. Makes it very clear that it's just a conditioning issue, though. Same with trad really. Won't get far unless the thumb and fingers are really happening.


Silver Member
I think it's cool that you adopted traditional grip in this modern age. It certainly worked well for the drumming greats of the big band and jazz eras, and it seemed like those guys could do anything on a kit, so no reason why it wouldn't work today. In fact, when I was just starting out, I noticed that two of my favorite drummers in popular music played traditional grip: Stan Lynch and Stewart Copeland.


I switched to open hand drumming but still lead with my right hand, so my hats are in front of the right corner of the bass drum between my 14in floor tom. I too use the dw 9550 remote setup and can't say enough how much I enjoy it.


Senior Member
I have also been devoting a lot of time to improving my left hand, but I've always found open handed playing on the hats to be slightly uncomfortable. I feel like the hi hat really needs to be configured appropriately for the open hand to be played with the same degree of finesse as cross stick.


Senior Member
This has been a topic very very near and dear to my heart. I started out like most right handers, i took lessons, and i was taught to cross over with the hats and have my ride cymbal on the right side. Of course i soon discovered that i could play with more fluency on the ride, simply for the fact that i never had to worry about my left hand interfering with my right hand.

I have a big ish kit at home, with 6 toms. I had it set up as a regular right handed kit for quite some time. I noticed that with my double pedal set up the way it was, my hi hat was way too far to my left. I had a hard time crossing over. For many years, i have been utterly obsessed with symmetry. One day, when i was reheading the kit, i tore it all down, and came to the realization that it could be set up mangini style, with three toms on each side, and the snare right in the middle. I ended up buying two remote hats, that criss-crossed the kit, so i could always play open handed,without changing the sticking. The hats where simply moved to the ride cymbal side, but the kit was mirrored, so the left side was the same as the right side. So upon the realization that drums could be a perfectly center handed/symmetric instrument, i decided to dedicate my time to doing this, and relearn the craft.

Now i have a similar conceptual setup as Porter, with two hi-hat stands, one on each side. Right now, i also have a remote hat on each side too, but if i had to choose, i would go for the dual direct hi hat stands.

So i decided to learn everything left handed. I used to play a lot of billiards, and one day i decided to learn the game left handed. I tried and tried and tried, and could not make a shot, but one day, i suddenly could just PLAY. And it felt natural. it was gradually working up to that point, it was just suddenly up to the point where i could play, but for the several weeks before, i couldn't play at all. I also noticed that my right hand got significantly better without any direct practice. I think it was just a focus thing. I thought maybe the same thing might happen with drums. So i started learning everything left handed. Not just open handed, but flip the feet too. And i was right, at some point i could suddenly zone into the left mode, and switch fluently between the two.

I have my master symmetrical kit, but i also have a small 4 piece kit set up.I find myself playing almost totally right handed when playing gigs, crossed over and everything, since im using only a single pedal, with no double pedal to get in the way. I suppose in times of a gig, my muscle memory takes over and it is just more natural to play right handed.

But like you, i really want to just lead on the hats with my left hand, but still keep my ride on the right hand side where it belongs.

sorry for my long story, but essentially, for me, the largest problem was to play beats open handed, where the snare lands in between the hats. Because at that point, you're basically playing a single stroke roll leading with the left hand, and it just feels funny. So i practiced that for a bit, just to have a left handed single stroke roll around the kit, or just on the snare. I started to start fills with the left hand and end on a crash with the left hand.

and you know how when one plays a paradiddle, the lead constantly changes? So if im going around the kit, i can just insert a double stroke at any point and change the lead. I use this very often to land on a crash on whatever hand i feel like.
For me the key to getting open handed playing down, which i still struggle with, is to practice all the beats that deal with the hands. The legs seem to fit back into the mix relatively easily if you aren't going to switch those around.

i used STICK CONTROL by stone. PAGE 5 only. I will play quarter notes with the left hand on the hats, and i read the patterns with L standing for right hand on the snare, and R standing for right foot on the kick.
So RLRL will just be snare bass snare bass as eighths and quarters on the hats. After i worked through all of page 5 right handed, open handed, left handed, and open handed but left handed, i felt i had covered all bases, and my left side drumming caught up with my right side. I dont know why, but i was a dream of mine to be able to hop on a left handed kit and play it like i had always been playing left handed. That will probably never happen since i was born right handed, but it's a pipe dream to work towards.

My first set up

I realized i could have a mirrored kit.

And my pedal set up is like this now.

Im not sure why but this is my favorite kit right now.
I was able to get the kick pedal on the outside of the hi hat stand, so i was still able to get the hats real close and be comfortable crossed over. But i still have the hats real low so i play them with my left hand, and have the ride where it normally is.
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Silver Member
Hey dzarren, thanks for all the info and photos (nice kit!). I think I will try that stick control routine you described.
As for my setup, I've come up with a poor man's solution: Mounting closed hats on my right side. I will post a pic once I get a chance.