In this installment of The Thinking Drummer, I take a little look at Push/Pull aka Open/Close hand technique.
It’s something that I’ve been working on seriously for several months now.
Let’s talk about what it is, what the possibilities are, and how you can learn it.
First of all, I’ve been interested in this technique ever since I first saw Jojo Mayer demonstrate it in 2008 in his Hudson Music video on hand technique, Secret Weapons for The Modern Drummer. But this technique was not a priority for me until recently.
So why the change? What made me decide to really pursue it?
The simple answer is that I found myself, because of the pandemic that hit us in 2020, in a house with no access to a drum set. I needed something drumming related to work on. And I thought, “OK, now’s the time to get this together.”
Any drummer who has seen Buddy Rich play a ridiculously fast stream of single notes with his left hand might be excited by the proposition of being able to do that drumming magic trick. I’ve seen Jojo do this too. I love technique, and I love these crazy feats. The idea of being able to do that myself has great appeal for me.
Part of the appeal is also that not many people have mastered push/pull. So, if you want to set yourself apart, why not learn it? It isn’t easy to document, but it certainly seems that push/pull is difficult enough that not many people are able to do it at any kind of high level. In fact, I would bet that most drummers don’t even attempt it.
And why not?
There are some good reasons for not doing it. The most important one is probably that you have more important drumming tasks to spend your practice time on. And I agree with that thinking. I would not focus my time on push/pull if some essential component of my drumming technique were deficient. Happily, after many years of playing, my technique is pretty solid, so I don’t feel like the opportunity cost of working on push/pull is significant (especially during lockdown).
So, now, let’s have a look at the power of the technique. One of the most impressive purveyors of push/pull is Yoni Madar. He calls the technique “open/close.” Check this out. It’s fucking insane.
Now, check out Ramon Montagner. This is mind-blowing.
Do you see the power of this technique?
If you can master it, you will be able to play one-handed rolls. You’ll also be able to play cymbal patterns previously unattainable. I would like to be able to play 16th notes very fast with one hand on the hi-hat or ride and that seems doable with this technique.
If you could then interlace your hands and had developed them evenly using push/pull, imagine the single stroke roll you could play!
And if you check out Gordy Knudtson, Ramon Montagner, and Yoni Madar, among others, you’ll find that people are taking push/pull to new places. For example, Yoni has worked on linking push/pull together with Moeller and the results are pretty spectacular.
So, perhaps you’re excited about the possibilities. The next logical question would be, where can you learn this?
I would check out Yoni Madar’s video course, which I’ve written about HERE. Yoni has taken push/pull very far indeed.
Clearly, Jojo Mayer can use this technique, so check out his DVD, Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer.
The other person I would trust to instruct me is Gordy Knudtson. Gordy has a series of videos on YouTube that I’ve found helpful and he is definitely a leader on the topic. Gordy’s YouTube channel is HERE
It’s a difficult technique, that’s a certainty. But is it achievable? Yes, definitely.