Open Handed Playing

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Who has to cross their arms to play the hihat? That's part of your problem right there. You're not observing the mechanics of playing the drums correctly. Or you're playing in a really weird, unergonomic way.

"Open handed" is the name somebody made up for the technique of playing the hihat with your left hand to avoid crossing over. It has no meaning in drumming apart from that. Nobody says open handed to mean just playing the ride cymbal normally.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Thanks fellas-I was just having a play on words, but your comments really "resonate". Here's a Wikipedia article (for what it's worth hmmm) on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-handed_drumming. I note Billy Cobham has his ride above hats so plays both left handed (so sort of left handed playing is a better descriptor it seems). The "crossing-over" seems to be the issue. Seems the original idea conceived in : "Open handed playing was first conceived as idea with Jim Chapin's book Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, and Gary Chester's book The New Breed which emphasize coordinated independence, leading with both hands and legs." So seems it's to encourage ambidexterity that you don't cross over- so switch to left handed to play hats if that's where they are at. Since you can move the hats to either side and same with ride it seems using them as markers is useless-I like left handed or right handed better than open-handed. So true full ambidexterous open-handed would be playing left handed hats and then switch to your right handed ride in the traditional set up?? If both hats and ride on left and playing both left is that really open-handed-or more a left handed drummer a better term? I don't know it's that important Billy is just a phenomenal drummer however you describe it but the "open-handed" term seems a poor description. Being able to switch brain sides with complete control so either hand "open" to play any part.
 
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cbphoto

Gold Member
So true full ambidexterous open-handed would be playing left handed hats and then switch to your right handed ride in the traditional set up?? If both hats and ride on left and playing both left is that really open-handed-or more a left handed drummer a better term?
For a righty, ride on hats and/or cymbal with left hand, and lead fills with right. But the feet remain: right foot on bass drum, left foot on hats.

Enjoy:

 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
For a righty, ride on hats and/or cymbal with left hand, and lead fills with right. But the feet remain: right foot on bass drum, left foot on hats.

Enjoy:

Yep that's what I'm talking about it isn't really all "open" like ambidextrous ability to play a right handed or left handed set up with either hand/foot/limb lead with equal dexterity -so all limbs "open". It's half open LOL. Seems a silly convention because you have to have independence and ambidexterity to do anything on drums-nor do you have to cross arms as Todd mentioned. Seems more fighting one's brain/hand dominance just for arms-so if right handed (left brain) and go open would fight that dominance that left hand (right brain) takes over. Your feet would remain right side dominance. So as an exercise it probably is a good idea to "open" you up LOL. Hmmm since females tend to be more even-brained I wonder if they have a natural advantage in playing open? It's interesting so many beginners say open seems more natural?
 

bonerpizza

Silver Member
I teach lessons and a few of my students play open handed, the hardest part for many of them is that if you are playing on a traditionally setup kit when you switch from the hi hat to the ride your left hand goes from keeping time on the hi hat to now playing the snare. Also with my students that play open handed they tend to play the hi hat louder than my other students, I think it's more of a technique thing but I definitely work on hi hat dynamics more with them than my students that play cross stick.

If it feels more comfortable for you to play open handed then play open handed, don't feel like there's some rules on how you have to play or how you have to setup your kit or anything like that. You do you!!
 

Flow

Member
I practice playing open handed regularly and when I do this, I'll also practice playing fills leading with my left hand. I have no idea if I'll ever perform this way, but it's one of the best exercises I've found to develop my weaker hand.

At first it felt very awkward, but now it's starting to feel more natural, so it seems to be working.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
There are often simple answers and not that much talk about it. I remember just reading in an old Vinnie interview where he said he just played with his left hand on the hats until they got to a similar level of his right and.

That's a good reason right there. If you want your hands to be at the same level they have to do similar things and similar amounts of it.

Saying 4 times more is what the right hand gets isn't even true. If you haven't worked at it at all, there's a big chance that what you can do for a couple of hours with your RH with ease would totally kill your LH in a couple of minutes.

There are benefits for he RH hand apart from coordination, though. Just working on ghost notes on the snare is great and combined with the coordination aspect, especially if you're a player who wants to feel free, balanced and improvise, provide great benefits.

There will definetly be less of a hassle when you want change your setup a litle bit, play other people's kits etc... The idea of it being YOU and not the gear will be emphasized.
 

Treverer

Junior Member
Strange that nobody mentioned Harry Miree... I'm doing the same thing and once you get used to it, it opens up a whole new world. Would I like to be/learn to play ambidextrous? Sure, but unfortunately practice time on my kit is extremely limited and at my age it feels hard to "reprogram" your brain while also learning new songs etc. So why not cheat ;)

 

rikguy33

Junior Member
I've been playing for 35+ years and about 1 1/2 years ago I started playing with a band that does some Journey covers. After learning the songs, the only way to play like Mr. Smith was to play open handed. It feels awkward but it is easier to play the song correctly. Some songs it makes sense to play open handed. It's not always eay to switch back and forth but, it's what I do.
 

Peedy

Senior Member
My first drum teacher is a working pro percussionist here in Los Angeles. We went through both of them with the understanding that I’d need both. Usually right in the middle of certain songs that need both snare and FT heavy beats. Don’t limit yourself if you’re new to drumming and reading this now.

Pete
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
I played open handed for years, toured, gigged and recorded with it.

Let me let you all in on a little secret:

There is no "world of possibilities" presented to you just because you put your left hand on the hihat.

It's possibly the most over-rated drum technique thing that people advocate. It won't make you Simon Phillips, Billy Cobham or Claus Hessler and it won't advance your actual playing of music. Those great players got great by practicing and playing their asses off, not because of their hand position.

What it WILL do is waste your time relearning how to play stuff you can already do now except it will now be a little sloppier.

And all that stuff about how it will make your left hand so much better is also an exaggeration. Your hands will get better by diligent pad work not because you rode with your left hand.

My 2 cents, let the flames begin.
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
Agreed, re: it's just right-hand lead., but I get why people say "closed" to differentiate it from "open" left-handed. That said, no one *has* to cross over to play right-hand lead on a righty kit. I picked up my technique from a combination of marching band technique (not having the stick be a straight-line extension of the forearm, but more of an angled, German palm-down grip), and from Bill Berry's intro in the video for "The One I Love". That was a revelation for me; "Holy- I *don't* have to cross my arms...!?!" I never did it again. In recent times, seeing the video, I've noticed that he may not have been using a traditional hi-hat stand, but maybe a cable hat. But, it works for me with a regular stand. BD and HH pedals symmetrically placed on either side of my snare, with my knees about an inch & a half from the drum, places the HH cymbals in the perfect place to be able to just move my right forearm forward & to the left a touch, and I can play the hats with my right hand and leave more clearance for playing the snare with my left than Berry shows in the video.

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Aronoff said in Modern Drummer (I'm paraphrasing from memory here) that he started playing open-handed when he needed a sloppier, Replacements/Stones-y vibe, which worked because he wasn't as proficient this way, but the problem ensued that because he did it so much, he got very proficient at that also and it lost its effect, so he had to stop. :D Inspired by his statement though, I began practicing it a long time ago, to force some increased efficiency and speed in my left hand. 20-25 years later, I'm nearly equally adept at it also now, except I can't *quite* play as fast (usually as fast as I need to for my gigs, though), nor can I play patterns quite as syncopated, when playing lefty. But certain songs that aren't super fast or syncopated (Jumpin' Jack Flash, What I Like About You, etc), I'm equally confident playing the hats with left or right lead.

I played open handed for years, toured, gigged and recorded with it.

Let me let you all in on a little secret:

There is no "world of possibilities" presented to you just because you put your left hand on the hihat.

It's possibly the most over-rated drum technique thing that people advocate. It won't make you Simon Phillips, Billy Cobham or Claus Hessler and it won't advance your actual playing of music. Those great players got great by practicing and playing their asses off, not because of their hand position.

What it WILL do is waste your time relearning how to play stuff you can already do now except it will now be a little sloppier.

And all that stuff about how it will make your left hand so much better is also an exaggeration. Your hands will get better by diligent pad work not because you rode with your left hand.

My 2 cents, let the flames begin.
No flames here, but, I'm actual proof that it's not overrated; it's very useful. No, simply doing it won't make you Phillips, Cobham, Beaufort, etc, but if it wasn't viable, they wouldn't do it either. It's only a waste of time for those who think things will instantly improve from using it. Quite the opposite, actually; things will feel wobbly & hinky for a while, until you get used to it, and even then, it takes a long time for it to feel totally "normal". Also, the left hand WILL get better, as mine did- again, not simply from switching, because it takes time invested, but from by diligent *playing* more with the left hand. Pads not required (but encouraged when unable to actually play the hats).
 
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Yoshinya

Senior Member
Mike Bordin of Faith No More (and formerly Ozzy Osbourne) has always played open-handed. I think he was the first guy I ever saw play like this (via MTV, around 1990?) and it sort of blew my mind:
 

SYMBOLIC DEATH

Senior Member
Mike does it because he also left handed and possibly right footed IIRC. There was a MD interview with him 20+ years ago where he talked about it..
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
The only guy in the world who has ever done a gig. Still a ridiculous video.
The vid isn't my style either. He has lots of good info for those inquiring about his setup, but I also think he's trying way too hard to be funny to 15 yr. olds. I'd enjoy his vids more if he was just informative. It seems he has enough personality that he doesn't have to amp it 200%. I don't get the "only guy" comment- goofy as he is, I didn't get the feeling he thinks he's the best guy around. In the only two other vids of his I've seen (chat sessions with Carter Beaufort and... Fall Out Boy guy, I forget his name), he was very reverential and respectful (but still being way too goofy for my taste).
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Since women are more open minded LOL as in both hemispheres of brain more connected you’d think it would be easier and more common in female players -just as an observation. Now I love all the great open handed players but it’s because of their tasteful playing. Likely more great players who aren’t open so really what does it matter other than a personal preference. I see no biomechanical , ergonomic, or any other advantage- but it does seem like a worthy exercise to increase your ambidexterity. I find it odd nomenclature and just a personal preference like Ringo’s odd manner. A traditional player can emulate and cover a open handed players song and vice versa. I know it’s probably just me but I find it odd so much ado about it. Which hand hits the snare or cymbal or leg hitting bass or hats doesn’t matter if in time and playing tastefully.
 
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