Handwork — Why is it important what hand I use?

When playing a single drum in front of you, one of the most important decisions the player is constantly confronted with is what hand to use for a given stroke and why. As a teacher, the correction I give most often regards hand sequence. Why is it important what hand to use?

First, each particular combination of right and left is like a doorway to a path which will take you in a certain direction and not another. Each particular combination of right and left has its own character, with a specific kinesthetic or movement rhythm, which is marked by weight transfer from side to side. As you develop the pattern through repetition and variation, certain movements and sounds seem to flow, while others are difficult. This is a function of how ambidextrous you are, combined with the hand postition and weight transfer issues of the pattern you are playing.

Secondly, certain ways of playing patterns have a “clock” or regularly recurring stroke or hand position, built into them, which, when you become aware of it, helps keep you steady.

Thirdly, as you mature with your drumming you may find that the hand sequence becomes more important, particularly in regards to what you want to play next, during improvisation. If you disregard this internal logic of the rhythm, you will confuse your kinesthetic sense, which in a large part, is what carries you when you are PLAYING (being playful, not just repeating a part).

Finally, if you are involved in ritual drumming you may be aware that in some cases, the hand pattern has specific meaning. If you disregard that pattern, the ritual may not go as planned.

A huge amount of drumming can be learned just by working on hand sequence, even without a drum. For more information on this and related subjects, please see my book Conga Exercises.

Remember, you will be rewarded handsomely if you keep your hand in and do your hand work!

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