Increasing Left Hand Speed
Youíre thinking you have all of these great drumming ideas in your mind and all you need to do is go out there and execute. You pick up your sticks and as you go to do your thing, you find your left hand dragging and bringing you down like a boulder tied to your feet. Have you ever felt this way? Many drummers Iíve encountered do not have equal dexterity in their right and left sides. Rightly so, right-handed people tend to favor their right, and left-handed people vice versa. It can be a very frustrating thing for drummers aspiring to do some fancy things on the drums, but with practice, anything can be achieved. Thatís right, you heard me. The ďoh so dreadedĒ word: PRACTICE.
Think of switch hitting in baseball. Switch hitters are considered more valuable batters to a team because he or she can switch sides on home plate depending on the pitcher. It takes great skill to be able to do this but no one on earth is naturally born with this skill (not to my knowledge, anyway). Of course, some will have a better inclination towards this, but the point Iím trying to make here is that every skill takes PRACTICE no matter where youíre starting from or who you are.
So letís dive right in and get to the bulk of things. If you want to get your left or weak side up to speed and be able to fly around the kit, youíve come to the right place. Iím not going to assure you any results or give you a money back guarantee (itís not like youíre paying anything anyway) but Iím going to offer you some sure and proven tips to get your weaker hand up to par. Like I mentioned above, itís going to take practice for all, more for some others, and even more for the seemingly hopeless. So here are some techniques you can try to help strengthen your weaker side.
I cannot stress the importance of rudiments enough. Go ask any accomplished drummer out there on what has influenced him or her the most in terms of playing and you can be assured that rudiments will be high on the list. With rudiments, you gain stick control and with stick control you will gain dexterity with both hands. This will translate into speed and naturally your weaker side will not be a problem if you develop both sides properly. So go out there, and buy a book on stick control that contains rudimentary exercises. I suggest Stick Control by George Stone. I know it can be boring and youíd rather be jamming to that new rock song, but this is a major and critical step in developing not only your weak hand, but your ďstrongĒ hand as well.
Another idea is to focus more on your left hand with some exercises that stress the left side. Here are some examples that when done every chance you get (watching TV, running on the treadmill, eating, you name it) can get your left hand up to par in no time at all.
Exercise popularized by Raab:
LLLL (4 seconds), RRRR (4 seconds), RLRL (4 seconds)
Increase the speed and time for each as you get more comfortable
RLLL LLLL LLLL LLLL
LRRR RRRR RRRR RRRR
Ghost notes with the left hand while playing grooves.
Use your creativity and make something up that will really force your left hand to work hard. Also make sure that you are using proper form. Do not compromise form for speed. But other than that, work your way up and really push yourself to get faster in these exercises. Feel the burn!
3. Open-handed playing
So what is open handed playing you ask? Basically you switch around your hands when playing your kit. So if you are a righty playing the hi-hats and ride with your right and the snare with your left, you would switch this around and lead with your left instead. So in essence, it would be like flipping your drum set around. This may feel awkward at first but once you get comfortable, it can do wonders for your weaker side. This should give you hours of frustrating practice time but it is one of the best ways for building ambidexterity when playing the drums. Using this backwards open handed technique, try to do some of the more intricate things you do when playing the set normally. Not so easy anymore, ey? Thatís what I thought. Keep at it until it almost feels natural.
4. Load up on the resistance!
If you lift weights, then this should be an easy concept for you. The more resistance you add, the more muscle and strength you will put on. This idea is no different in the drumming world. That being said, here are some things you can do for improving your left hand.
Practice the rudiments and exercises on a pillow. A pillow offers less rebound of the stick than a drum head or practice pad. This will force you to work harder to bring the stick up and will enable you to develop more strength.
Use heavier sticks for your left hand. You can either add some Diggit stickweights to your drum stick, tape some sticks together, or get some heavier sticks altogether. The key is to add more resistance so it will be harder for your left hand. Take the extra weight off and WALA, you already feel like your left hand is 10 times faster.
Diggit Drum Stickweights
These methods are suggestions to get your left hand up to speed with your right. Theyíre not the only ways to do it however. You can use your creativity to develop ambidexterity. Go out there and make a conscious effort to do all the normal everyday things you do with your left hand rather than your right. Take out the garbage with your left hand. Start writing with your left (although it may not be legible). The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. The important thing is that you keep at it and PRACTICE it. Trust me, if thereís a will, then thereís a way. And if you need more will and motivation, then hereís an idea: a strong left hand will skyrocket your drumming abilities to the next level. If thatís not enough motivation, maybe you should take up the flute instead.
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