Drumming is for Everyone

So What Should I Play?

These are a few guidelines that are useful to keep in mind:


  • The difference between noise and music is repetition. Repetition is what makes change sound good.
    • Change makes going back to the old phrase fresh
    • Longer phrases leave more interesting spaces.
    • Having two or more themes to move between is useful.
    • Each person has a subjective perspective.
  • Less is more. The more drums, the less each has to play.
    • Find space in the phrase where you can add your voice.
Transformus 2014, Percussion Junction

  • Bass drum, Less is Even MoreBass drum is the anchor of the phrase.
    • Play notes that have time to ring out.
    • Sparse, and Rock Solid wins every time.
    • Everyone should take a bass drum shift now and then.
    • Someday you may be the only one in the room who can, so know how.
  • Never play so loud that you can’t hear everyone else. if over 50 drummers, you should still not play louder than most people around you.
    • The more drummers, the less each has to play
    • Drum fill only when its your “turn” to keep things interesting.
    • When in doubt, follow the groove.
  • Bounce off the drum. The drumhead has to vibrate free of your hand. Get it out of the way when you want to make a resonant tone.
    • Sometimes Dampen the drum. To hold the drumhead with one hand, and hit or tap with the other gives a short dampened sound,
    • Many Types of Drums. will have techniques for increasing the range of voices.

Hand Maintenance Tips

  • Aim your palm for the rim. The edge of the drumhead is a hard ring. If you hit that ring hard in a place where the knuckles in your fingers or palm are close to the surface, it can hurt for two weeks or more.
    • To avoid this, use the center of your palm, just below the knuckles, as the part of your hand making most contact with the ring. That part of your hand has a good deal of muscle protecting the bones.
  • Have Athletic Tape. When the air is dry and you are prone to dry skin, your fingers, especially fingertips, may start to split after playing for a while.
    • You should do whatever you would normally do as far as a hand moisturizer, starting several hours before drumming.
    • While drumming, I would recommend having very little or no oily or wet products.
    • If you know you are prone to finger splitting, tape up first. One strip around a finger that hasn’t been split will prevent it from happening.
    • If you wait till you feel it, it’s too late. You should tape up at that point, but the damage is done. Careful making lemonade for the next week or so. It takes a while to heal, band-aid or not.
  • Listen to your hands. If you do anything that hurts your hands, stop doing it.
    • The backs of your hands shouldn’t be used. This can only end badly.
    • If you see blood, stop playing.
    • If it hurts, it probably doesn’t sound great. Stop doing that.

My Way to Drumming

I like to play drums with people. Living has a rhythm to it, and when you drum with people, you are all ‘rhythming’ together. Many as one. In synch with each other, yet each drum and each drummer has a unique voice. I like community drum circles , where everyone is welcome to come and play drums, play a shaker, dance, sing, or just sit quietly and listen if they want to start slow.

I started playing in the street. I brought my bongos and conga into a small park every Tuesday night. I’d take the two drums of the bongo apart so two different people could play. Some people would bring their own drums. Around 11:00PM the police would persuade us to leave, so we’d walk the couple of blocks to the River, and play there as late as we wanted. Once someone brought an entire trap set, but the norm was a few people and a few drums, and playing together.

Drumming is deeper than a language. It is a synchronization of consciousness precise to the millisecond. Moving bodies, moving minds, and cacophonous sound is not an experience you can do by yourself, nor is a recording anything like the immediacy and spontaneity of being there. You can watch a video, sure, but you can’t change it, moment to moment with your own perspective and sonic story.

Drumming doesn’t require talking, it needs listening. I was a listener at drum circles. I tried to listen to what other people were drumming, and paid attention to the sound around me. As much as we are all deeply connected while playing, each of our experiences is necessarily wholly our own. The room sounds different from every vantage.

Come drum with us on the second sunday of every month at our Cheerful Strength Studio in Cold Spring. The next is this weekend, Sunday Dec 8th. Sign up so you don’t forget. 😉