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How To Develop Flawless Technique
By Eugenio Ventimiglia
© 2009, All Rights Reserved.
A balanced perspective. We have different schools of thought when it comes to technique. In my Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . and we go from drummers who study almost only technique as if playing was just that (bad). as usual. First of all. to people that consider technique as the grave of expression. a brief premise. is the ideal approach I think.-1- How to Develop Flawless Technique Let’s finally talk about the topic that tends to engage the most who is new to the drums. and often becomes an obsession even for expert players. a prison that keeps creativity confined (pretty bad).
and has to be put at service of our talent. The other side of the coin is that. functional part of a drummer. Therefore technique is a two edged sword. create and feel? I believe that who has something to say. I think about technique as a link between what we feel inside and the possibility to express it accurately on the outside. That’s it. That’s why I consider technique the means to obtain control over what we want to play. and in order to learn any language we necessarily need the means to express what we want to say. If we work on Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . has everything inside right from day one. the one that allows the idea to be converted into sound on drums and cymbals.-2experience. by widening our technical knowledge. Let’s look at technique as the mechanical. What happens if we don’t have enough control to execute what we are able to imagine. music. who is creative and naturally musical. and once we know that we always have such level of proficiency. Musicality should always be the central thread. then. he already has a basic rhythmic conception partly innate and partly due to listening and the infinite sonic influences that surround him. music is a language. This is a risk we need to always bear in mind and avoid. we need no more technique. the voice you already have. we take the risk of ending up playing more ‘mathematical’ solutions out of a book. It’s essential to feed talent. as it is possible to end up trapped by too much technique and forget about the most important thing. and might definitely get to the point where it’s ruling our ideas. And developing a wide technical knowledge will allow him to express all of this in detail. In other words. rather than what we feel (very bad). with the mechanical side. Not to be better or faster. technique is part of our being musicians. My advice is to think about working on technique always with the perspective of enriching our music.
Because if we can’t detach from thinking while playing. interaction between the limbs. muscle memory. The perfection of such motions will be our reference point. While music is made with feeling. It’s crucial that control is at that level. the mind has to be clear from other thoughts. In fact. too’. And to be able to use it in the most appropriate musical moment. We can’t think of playing as a process of continual reasoning about what we are about to play.-3something complex. and so we can say that control is the means to play well. And this automatic movements are the things that when we sit down to practice we repeat over and over. movements. Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . we will end up thinking only about that. there is a precise and careful development of the BASICS. what does technique exactly consist of? Technique is a collection of automatisms. I’m convinced that at the root of being able to play relaxed and accurately. and in order to have that. we need a technical knowledge such that we can play automatically. he’s got that down. the foundation on which to establish our competent musicianship. and to have our minds free from the technical aspects. and not because we want to show our latest drum licks. it is the way to perfect execution. Each rhythm we execute is made of a series of automatisms that perform it for us. it’s over. while we focus on the music and the interaction with the other instruments. which allows us to create a series of sounds produced either in a linear fashion or in unison. and not the idea that others can then say ‘um. Done with the necessary premise. Because if we perceive that something is not functioning right. the reason behind that should always be love for music.
think about it. because that’s what the problem probably is). is to never forget to spend a long time honing our basic skills. ok. So. Speed is just one of the effects of proper. taking care of each detail with dedication.-4- The basics are the secret to obtaining a technique that will help and support us in all our musical adventures instead of limiting and slowing us down. A common mistake is to consider the fundamentals as already mastered. what are these basics then? My list includes: 1 – The grip. 6 – Our sense of time (which I discuss in the dedicated booklet). Does it sound weird to you that I talk about technique and I don’t mention speed? Well. With the consequence of finding sooner or later a limit impossible to overcome … unless … we go back to the basics !! (if you ever find yourself at a dead end. 3 – The Moeller technique. and as a result of this reasoning to go to the next level too early. at any level. 5 – Coordination among the 4 limbs. dedicated practice of the right movements at slow tempos. even too easy to be still thinking about those. granted. So that the muscle memory can integrate each tiny piece of the Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . 2 – The way we get sound out of a drum. 4 – The rudiments. associating technique to playing fast is exactly the cause of all the troubles I was talking before. That’s why the best thing we can ever do to never struggle.
the more control we will have over the sound. and here a great teacher’s advice is recommended. Being sloppy or tense while playing is largely due to imperfections in the motion required. and also the volume of the music you play. To some people it’s very loose. My take is that the more our grip focuses on having the wrist as the ‘engine’ of the stroke. The spot that holds the stick in place. that is. and can therefore begin to gradually allow us to play that movement faster and with CONFIDENCE. is critical once we have set up the proper grip. the mistake of having sped up too soon … we all look forward to turning the metronome knob. Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved .-5correct movement necessary to execute the study we are doing. but the thing to do is to remain at the same tempo for as long as necessary (and this may mean to spend weeks on the same exercise). You need to find the sweet spot where the fulcrum feels really firm without having to squeeze. or fulcrum. without flaws. GRIP. the more we keep the wrist aligned to its natural motion (the one we would use to bounce a ball). In my opinion the fulcrum position needs to be chosen based on the shape and size of your hand. others hold the stick exactly between the index finger and the thumb or the middle finger and the thumb. the length of your fingers. dynamics and nuances of the notes we play. We have many kinds of grip and ways to hold the stick. and every teacher and drummer has great reason to endorse one or another. Having this point of reference around which the stick can rotate but not fly off is crucial to enable technical progress.
As far as traditional versus matched grip goes. and therefore allows an easier control of low dynamics. imagine it like the hand is dancing with the stick. and not in the drums. From a technical standpoint. not holding it tightly. although some drummers claim that using traditional grip gives them a different feel and somehow makes them more creative. and not to generate the strokes. but to me fingers should be integrated only as a way to control the rebound. which means that developing and then maintaining a good technique will require less effort. It’s best to think about the hand as a glove that wraps around the stick. with the fingers always upon it. lies in my opinion in our hands (and even before in our heads). nor letting it get out of the hand. there are many different views. Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . A great deal of the sound we are able to get out of a drum. Personally I find matched grip way more practical. SOUND. There’s a lot of talking about fingers. But it’s enough to say that the number of muscles used in matched grip is much higher. the only real advantage of traditional grip that the hand is under the stick.-6Good practice should always aim to gradually feel the grip very sure and solid while the hands remain relaxed and let the stick bounce and vibrate. allowing and following its natural rebound in order to make the most of the energy applied.
So how does this movement work? Simply put. and making sure we don’t choke the energy of the stroke in any way (by burying the stick in the head or squeezing it). once perfect. what makes a huge difference is the way we hit a drum. that needs to be even. we can consider time as the space covered by the movement between each stroke. we won’t need to do twice the work necessary to achieve a certain volume. and lies at the basis of the fundamental motions. But the Moeller motion is complex and requires a long time to be mastered at all tempos. and unfortunately if learned incorrectly it could do more harm than good. resides in a correct understanding of the Moeller technique. which is essential to play drums. mechanisms we were discussing. automatisms. From a technical point of view. drumheads etc. we will avoid pain in the arms and hands (and undesired tendonitis …).-7sticks. so that in a wide and graceful motion that always exactly covers the same space. in order to be accurate and relaxed. Hitting the drum in the middle. It is the movement that. are the key points to accomplish a whole bunch of important things: we will have a fuller sound. and to do that in time. so any vibration we somehow block. MOELLER TECHNIQUE. A vital element in our sound. allows us to play anything. It’s important to keep in mind that sound is generated by vibrations. letting the stick and the head resonate freely. Given an acceptable drumset quality. we find the perfect ally to play with flawless time and feel. imagine you are holding a Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . we are muffling part of the sound potentially coming from our stroke.
The more you will master these concepts. Jim Chapin. How far will it fall? Now imagine you can use your whole arm. but it widens at slower speeds and shrinks at faster ones. like when we jerk a rope and see the wave going through its entire length. while the arm with its movement and weight determines when an accent is played. Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . and figuring out how to obtain an effortless massive physical presence is truly the single most important technical skill to cultivate. and watch the explanatory videos by Dave Weckl. and not from exerting energy downwards. Then check out the performances of some of the great drummers that employ it (particularly Steve Gadd. to see the perfect execution of this technique.-8tennis ball in your hand and you want to throw it as far as you can just using your wrist. Vinnie Colaiuta and JoJo Mayer). Do some research on youtube. so that the downstroke (the actual execution of the stroke) can result from dropping the arm and letting the stick fall. The drumset as a matter of fact is a very physical instrument to play. The wrist maintains its motion. Dom Famularo. the more you will be able to draw from such resources when needed. A correct use of the Moeller technique is based on a perfect control of the upstroke (the preliminary motion). It’s important to start slow and expand and amplify the motion. At various tempos the movement is still the same. how much further will it go? Another way of seeing it is to think of a whipping motion. and relying on gravity and the arm’s weight instead. JoJo Mayer. Applying this idea to the drums allows us to handle an incredibly wide dynamic range without doing all the work necessary to produce more energy. Freddie Gruber. and also to try to play at different dynamics.
although the drum has thousands of years of history. It’s important to be able to play either heel down. the socalled drumkit has turned 100 just this year. but the rudiments. and in fact the ‘traditional’ school of teaching drums demands that the student spends at least one year working on this one drum before moving to the entire kit … I think it’s excessive to see it this way today. Here even the lower limbs come into play. moving the feet backwards at about two thirds of the base plates. and generating the stroke with the whole leg and from the hip. We will then have a wide control of the Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved .-9- RUDIMENTS. are an essential element of the rhythmic language. that is the different ‘words’ we can put together combining our hand’s movements. and developing them on the snare drum in the first place will grant us to have solid ideas on which to found our vocabulary and phrasing on the whole drumkit (Steve Gadd is a perfect example of a drummer who has wonderfully transferred the rudiments on the drumset. or heel up. always turning them into music). COORDINATION. with the feet on the whole pedal base plates and thinking the stroke from the ankle. The drumset is such a young musical instrument! Compared to classical instruments. as the first drum pedal that allowed to play bassdrum while sitting was built in 1909! But at the core of our instrument there is the snare drum.
while the unisons must produce a single sound. don’t know and don’t care whether or not you can play a paradiddle in sixty-fourth notes. always bear in mind that once you are making music you have to let that all go. There can be no friction. (and the best reason to practice it carefully is precisely to not have to think about it while playing …). Also. as if they where already part of a musical situation. Instead. Remember that other musicians. With all that said. the audience. even mechanical exercises should be practiced trying to make them groove. it doesn’t matter how much technique you study. a melody.. Each part has to smoothly align to everything else. focus on the other instruments and what you are feeling. and especially no flams. The difficult thing about accuracy and clarity lies in having the 4 limbs perfectly fitting together.10 dynamics even on the bass drum. particularly the ones between hands and feet. Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . and not just being able to play at 200Bpm with one hand. or the producer. imagining a bass line. Again. we need to practice all the possible combinations (very good the classic ‘4 Way Coordination’) starting as slow as possible and paying great attention to the alignments between each limb.
Jojo Mayer. Modern Interpretation Of Snare Drum Rudiments . New Breed .11 - Recommended Resources: . 4 Way Coordination .Gary Chester. Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer ( DVD ) Confident Drummer : TECHNIQUE – How To Develop Flawless Technique © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved . 150 Rudimental Solos .Dom Famularo.. all.Elliot Fine. .Dave Weckl.Buddy Rich. Master Studies .Joe Morello. It's Your Move .George Stone. How To Develop Technique ( DVD ) .Charlie Wilcoxon. Accents And Rebounds .Gary Chaffee.
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