My evenness saga, long read.

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I wanted to share my experiences with everyone here about my own personal saga with my hands, and my quest for equality. It might go a little long.

No weak hand has been my goal since I came back to drumming in 2003 after a 20 year layoff. (had to learn how to make real money). Just recently, I feel I cleared the last hurdle, and I'm now on my way to the finish line. More on that later.

Anyway, before I took my hiatus, I was lucky to get lessons from a teacher who was very focused on a certain technique that has proved to be the best thing that I ever did for my drumming.

Teacher backstory: Did a co bill with a hard rock band in the 80's. Drummer was the best I had seen. I asked him who taught him to play like that and that's how I found this guy.

Anyway, when I returned to drumming in late 2003, to get back in playing condition, I would practice the hand development exercises I was taught in the 80's. They are killer exercises designed to build the hand and finger strength and dexterity. So I did these exercises...mainly on my steering wheel as I was driving. I didn't have a proper studio at that time, I hadn't finished the space in my house yet. But I did spend a fair bit of time driving for my work every week, so I decided to use that time to do these exercises. My right hand was still in pretty good shape after all that time, again, I attribute that to these killer exercises that stretched and strengthened my tendons permanently. But my weak hand was still retarded by comparison, it just wasn't cutting it. So I basically started obsessively focusing on my left hand strength. I endured hundreds of hours of burning and stretching muscles while driving, and in my studio, after I built it in 2005.

So I started late 2003 trying to get my hands up to snuff. They had never been fully up to snuff even in the 80's, and I was set on finally doing this thing all the way. If I considered my right hand at 100% dexterity at that time, by comparison, my left hand I would put at probably 40%. I just struggled with a bad case of retardation in my left hand for years, trying to strengthen it. By mid 2008, 4 and a half years after embarking on this quest, I could finally feel my left hand was starting to get with the program. I think maybe it might have been at 70% in 2008. My drumming pre 2008...not very proud of those recordings. But things started happening for me in '08, coincidentally, right after I joined Drummerworld.

Coincidence? I think not. I deeply believe DW has played a major part. This place allows me to explore my drumming thoughts with all of you. I'm convinced that talking and thinking about drumming is every bit as good as practicing drumming.

Anyway, by mid 2008, I was starting to grow a sense of the quarter note, the groove note. I just didn't have it/was not really aware of it/ before then.

As my groove started to develop, and my left hand was now actively contributing, this gave me more confidence, and it's just became this vicious cycle of good. I was really starting to feel proud of my recordings, and my stock was going up in my local scene.

All the while, I was working hard on my hands. Skip ahead to this summer, 2012. I felt I had got to about 95% evenness of sound between hands. Even though I was really close to sounding even, something still didn't feel quite right. It was still unbalanced feeling, even though I could play even sounding rolls. So just last summer, I really looked hard at what my strong hand was doing, and compared it to what my left hand was doing. Specifically, I was observing exactly which set of muscles I was using. This is where I discovered what I was doing wrong, my last hurdle, the last thing standing in my way of true equality between hands.

It was my left thumb.

My observation was this:

When I made a stroke with my strong right hand, my thumb knuckle, the one closest to the nail, was flexing. It was actually driving the stroke. This was the first time I ever realized that fact. I thought my fingers were driving the stroke. Nope, it was my thumb driving the stroke, flexing at the joint. My right thumb is a fast and nimble little mother. Pretty strong too. I compared this with my left hand. On my left hand, my thumb knuckle wasn't flexing whatsoever. Zero bending, held stiff, bent back almost. Huh. It was basically used as a fixed support so my fingers could use it to press the stick against to work the back of the stick, making the stroke. My left hand had developed it's own, not nearly as powerful and dexterous technique, that was using a different motion than my right hand, and I didn't realize for 8 years! I broke my right hand motion down, and I realized that my thumb is the prime mover in my right hand stroke, where my fingers were the prime mover in my left hand stroke. No wonder it felt uneven, even though it didn't sound uneven.

SO! Armed with this new info, I had to now alter my left hand technique to exactly match my right hand technique. I thought I was matched this whole time, but I wasn't looking closely enough, I was just going on sound mostly. The moral here folks is to visually compare your hands with each other and adjust your weak hand technique to match your strong hand technique. (talking matched grip only) I was playing with 2 different techniques for 8 years!

Within the first minute of initiating my left hand stroke with the thumb, I realized how weak my left hand thumb was, because it protested with a burning sensation. It was held stiff all these years and the muscle really never got worked. So even though it was a bit of a setback for me, I had to now kind of start over with my left hand, but I knew I had really cracked this nut. It was the missing puzzle piece. All that was left was more time spent strengthening and coordinating with the newly refined grip. I now knew the motion I was supposed to be doing. At gigs, I would look down at my left hand, to see which technique it would default to, and it defaulted to the bad way for the first 2 months. But after focusing for a few months on the finishing touches of my left hand technique, it now is starting to default to the right way, with the thumb initiating my strokes. My sound between hands is identical now, but the best part is it feels balanced. FINALLY!

So after a just few months of focused left hand thumb strengthening....honestly, I'm so happy....I feel sooo in control... My singles now feel balanced. That's just huge for me. Sitting behind the drumset anymore is like.... watch the F out, whoever is listening to me is gonna get grooved. I don't know what it is, but the better my weak hand gets, the deeper my groove gets. I have to say that metronome work was very instrumental in the development of the groove. It just wouldn't be the same had I not put some real time in with it. Can't recommend that clicky thing enough.

I can tell by the genuineness in peoples mannerisms, and their enthusiasm when they compliment me that this groove thing is really starting to come together for me. It can be learned, I'm proof, I never had it until fairly recently. I wanted it. You have to want it, and want it bad. I feel as though I am newly initiated into the brotherhood of groove, by virtue of my new and happening left hand, and it's just gonna get better from now on. It's already extremely satisfying, and I really mean that. I can only see better things ahead.

I realize and I apologize for the lack of modesty but sometimes you have to just drop all that stuff so you can communicate.

I also want to share a great thumb exercise I came up with for anyone who is interested. You know how you make a "gun" with your hand? Keep the fingers tight against the palm and grab the stick at the butt end with the thumb and index. Using those 2 digits, make a stroke, let it fully rebound, and make sure your thumb is flexing at the joint closet to the nail. Keep those last 3 fingertips tightly touching the palm, you're isolating the thumb muscle here. You should feel burn fairly quickly if it's weak.

Thanks for sticking..Oh wait, no pun intended ha ha.

This post was made possible by the foundation for the development of equally capable hands.
 
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BickDutt

Junior Member
"watch the F out, whoever is listening to me is gonna get grooved"

Hahahah! Love you Larry, I wish my dad could have been as cool and genuine as you, with great hobbies and drive!

Gonna work on that exercise, I need to get my left hand in order. Many thanks!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Thanks BickDutt...I had pondered whether or not I should do this thread. Been wanting to do it since I realized about my left thumb thing, but always decided against it. I thought it was a bit self indulgent, and how many use the same technique as me anyway? So I held off. Finally today, I said screw it. Someone might benefit from this info, so here it is. That's what this place is all about, the betterment of ourselves and our drumming. So, self indulgent as it may seem, my motives are to share my experiences with others, in the hope that some small percentage will benefit.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Great to read, Lar.

I went through a period of, well, maybe not inactivity with the drums, but a long stretch of not really practicing or improving. Then, a few years ago, I was inspired. I started to hit the practice routine hard. I started playing out more, revamped my grip, even how I play the pedals, bought new drums, worked on my reading chops, got more serious about working with the metronome and recording my progress, etc. It's been very rewarding for me, too.

It's hard to unlearn bad habits and break through to new levels after you've been in the game for so many years. But with determination and a lot of hard work, it can be done. By anyone.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Great story and a well earned congratulations. Picking the hands apart takes dedication, patience and true spirit as not to get distracted.

Though I do think what I'm about to say has been taken farther than it needs to sometimes, few things will help execution on and around a set of drums more than a great set of hands.

That's what the purpose of technique is - a means to an end. Not an end within itself, if that makes any sense. The end in this is to freely execute the musical ideas you wish to communicate without the issue of lack of technique getting in the way.
 

ronyd

Silver Member
Hey Larry, great story. So can you share the exercises you did while driving? I usually use the hand/finger squeeze gadget, called the grip master. but I'm sure I could use some of your exercises.
 
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