Recently, I’ve been making some significant changes to my technique. Continually obsessed with getting better, I’ve found that technique is one of the most–if not THE most–effective ways of adding new tricks to my repertoire as a player. Seems obvious perhaps, but the notion escapes many.
Raising your drumming game by improving technique is extremely powerful. Of course, this notion applies to musicians in general. In his book “Effortless Mastery,” famed jazz pianist and educator Kenny Werner recounts a story about a journalist who asked him (I’m paraphrasing), “If you could instantly change one thing about your playing that would improve it, what change would you make?” Werner describes his answer as instantaneous and needing no thought whatsoever. The simple, obvious answer, according to Werner is, “easy–give me more technique.”
Currently, I’m focusing on two things:
1) switching from predominantly traditional grip to predominantly matched grip.
2) adding double pedal back to my foot repertoire.
Let’s get into more detail on these.
First: The much debated matched vs traditional grip (I’ve written about this before: “The Thinking Drummer: The Trouble with Traditional Grip”). Let’s listen to what über drummer Thomas Lang has to say (excerpted from DRUM! Magazine’s 2010 interview):
“I will never play traditional grip again. I’ve changed my grip after 37 years. I learned to play traditional. My teacher said, ‘This is how you play drums.’ No argument, no discussion, this is it. So I did. And I’ve been playing like this all my life. And I’ve been playing very heavy music and loud music and complicated modern music with this crutch, which is a joke, a curse. This makes no sense at all. It’s a stupid solution to a stupid problem.”
“All my life I’ve been working with all these stupid things, with the left hand, with the angle of the hand with relation to the forearm. The exact location. Everything from whipping motion to finger control to Gladstone, Moeller, you know, all this nonsense, for so many years, with such determination.”
That’s it. Game over. Traditional grip is dead as far as Thomas Lang is concerned. For me, it’s not dead, but it is definitely dying. I am furiously practicing getting my left back up to speed sans traditional, and the main road block is doubles. But, I’m working hard on it because I agree with Lang.
I don’t take things like switching technique lightly. The switch is going to ultimately make me a better technician. You know why? Once I get my doubles to point with matched grip that I’ve achieved with traditional, then I get to work on some other very big advantages that only matched grip can offer.
French grip singles: My right hand has a lot of power and speed via this grip, and the thought of matching that with my left hand (no pun intended) using the same technique is quite exciting indeed. All the gospel chops guys with blazing singles? Have you ever seen them do that with traditional grip? No, of course not.
Beyond that, there is a french grip based push/pull technique that I have my eye on that will also supercharge my technique.
Overall, moving from traditional to matched, given the above, seems like a pretty good bet to me. So, I am moving forward with it.
The other thing I’m working on, as mentioned in my recent post on double bass drumming (“The Thinking Drummer: On Double Bass Drumming”), is using the double pedal to get multiple notes in a row.
Again, the realization that some things will just be easier, faster, and more powerful using two feet has fueled this move. The first thing I’m concentrating on is just playing two notes in a row (Right Foot followed by Left Foot) with speed and finesse, and substituting this method for my single pedal doubles method in my playing when appropriate. Will this replace my single pedal technique for two notes in a row? No, it will not. But it WILL supplement it in a significant way.
I’m writing about this because I want you to understand (and embrace) that technique is a never-ending journey of discovery and improvement. It’s meant to be enjoyable and fun. The idea of being better and how exciting that is should be all you need to keep the process and practice going. Don’t stop. Keep looking for new ways to get better. Keep your eyes and ears and mind open. You never know when inspiration will hit and you’ll realize there is something that you should change. The point is to allow your drumming technique to evolve.
I’ve come clean about my technical journey. Now, the question you should be asking is how can YOU improve YOUR technique?