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Do It Yourself

Stick Trix

ENOUGH TALK! It's time to pick up the sticks - preferably middleweight ones, say 5As. The grip is all-important. Put the stick down in front of you, tip away from you and blunt end towards you. Now pick it up between thumb and forefinger, about two-thirds of the way down from the tip. The last third or so of the stick should nestle in your palm, with your fingers curled gently around it. The end of the stick should be free to waggle out of the back of your hand, as the stick pivots on your thumb/forefinger grip. You need to hold the stick firmly enough for control, but loose enough to allow it its natural bounce.

Get the feel of the stick by holding it tip upwards, at a right-angle to the drum skin (or practice pad/table top), and letting it drop - don't let go! - onto the surface. The stick should bounce like a ping pong ball. If it doesn't, you're gripping too tightly; if it fells out of your hand, perhaps you should hold on a bit tighter!

When you're used to doing this, with both hands, you can start to add power to the fall of the stick (ie. hit instead of drop), and to lift the stick after the tip and surface have connected once. The force of the stroke should come basically from your wrist, not from your elbow or shoulder. OK, so you see drummers with their sticks around their heads, but that's just for show: you really can get the power you need from the wrist. Practise single hits of the stick with each hand. (One of the most important lessons of drumming is to overcome the domination of one hand over the other). Aim for a single, clean, firm tap, not too hard or too soft, and remember to let the stick bounce off under its own steam. You'll find that the power of the stroke depends both on how hard you bring the stick down and on the angle/height from which you bring it down.

Experiment, and you'll soon master the range of dynamics you an get out of a drumstick. An accent is simply one harder stroke in amongst other consistently hit strokes - to stress, for instance, the beginning of a bar.

Play single beats, one hand after the other. Keep it slow and regular - don't speed up - and make sure both hands hit with equal force. That's trickier than it sounds, and your non-loading hand (whichever it is) will need extra practice. When you're happy with it, try playing along, alternate hands again, in time to a record, on the regular beats of the groove. It's a good test of your timekeeping. If you find yourself getting out of time, pick a slower pace. (That's the rule for all practice - start dead slow, get it perfect, then speed up by degrees. If you start off too fast, your playing will be jerky and unrhythmic.)

As you improve, introduce simple differences into what you play. For instance, each beat an be subdivided into two half-beats, so you an play something like the notes in Diagram N.

Even if you don't read music, you an see that there are two notes in the 3rd beat, and only one in the 1st, 2nd and 4th. Observe the "sticking" (R = right hand, L = left hand), to develop your ambidexterity. Make up your own patterns like this, but keep it simple for the moment, and remember to follow all the points mentioned already.

Something else to start practising now: to play the kit, you have to break down the natural connections between your limbs. It sounds painful, and actually it can be. But look at it this way: normally your right hand and right foot work together, as your left hand works with your left foot. That's what you've got to overcome. Try playing slow alternate beats with your sticks, as before, but now practise tapping your feet in time, first of all right foot with right stick, and left foot with left stick, and then (much more difficult) left foot with right stick, and right foot with left stick.

A second limb independence exercise you should try is this. Play even beats with the right stick, then add a tap of the right foot every other beat. Do the same for the left side of your body.

Assuming you haven't torn your hair out practising these exercises, I'll see you in the next issue, in which we'll celebrate the New Year by playing our first rhythm on the kit.

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Phaze 1 - Copyright: Phaze 1 Publishing


Phaze 1 - Jan 1989

Do It Yourself

Feature by Trevor Parsons

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