The Anatomy of Drumming

The Anatomy of Drumming

I postet this on my Facebook-account in late 2016. Though i’ll put it here cause i feel that this topic is still relevant and i’m planning to dig deeper into it on this blog:

FELLOW DRUMMERS, PLEASE GIVE ME A COUPLE OF MINUTES OF YOUR PRECIOUS TIME AND READ THROUGH THE FOLLOWING: I my opinion, there’s a thing most of us drummers and musicians in general tend to overlook, but is nevertheless of utmost importance to all of us. If you’re as much in love with the drums as I am and interested in being able to play them for a lot of years to come, you should definitely spend some time thinking about a healthy and relaxed way of playing them! Here’s my 2 cents about this topic, so please bear with me while I’m trying to get to the point:

As some might know, I’ve always tried to be aware of all the different hand- and foot techniques out there and when and where they’re the most useful to use. For the last 12 months or so I was (and still am) intensively working on my left hand, since I had come to the realization that it had become really lazy through only playing the back-beat and that I had not only unlearned most of the rudimental basics I had had and was all of a sudden not even able to play doubles with my left hand anymore, but also had changed my technique in a way that was actually contra-productive to what I was trying to achieve. Instead of using rebound and gravity to my advantage, in the last 2 years or so of playing I relied heavily on force, which lead to cramps while playing and pain in my fingers, hand, wrist and arm.

This is why about a year ago I decided to go way back to the basics and start all over again – from age 16 to 19 I had been intensively practicing rudiments and hand-/foot-technique, which was something I wanted to pick up again. First though, I had to figure out what was wrong with the movement in my left hand, so I tried to do some profound research in terms of how my muscles work (I studied sport-education-books for proper muscle-training, for example) and what would be not only the most efficient, but also most natural way of playing.

After some time though, I realized that my muscles are not the only components of my body, so I had to go even deeper and also add bones and joints into the equation. I was struggling to find some “perfect natural motion”, since most people that know about drumming don’t know about anatomy and the other way round. This is why I was really stoked when I realized that only last year, John L. Lamb, a drummer and music educator from Portland, OR, had released a book called “The Anatomy Of Drumming”, which was exactly what I was looking for! This is a short quote taken from the introduction of Lamb’s book:
Take Phil Collins for example: At 58, Collins began to suffer serious neck problems. “My vertebrae have been crushing my spinal cord because of the position I drum in.. It comes from years of playing. I can’t even hold the sticks properly without it being painful; I even used to tape the sticks to my hands to get through.” […] “I think of it like Air Miles – it’s all part of the job. I’m not worried about not being able to play the drums again, I’m more worried about being able to cut a loaf of bread safely or building things for my kids. My doctors tell me it’s a work in progress; that it’ll take about a year for me to recover. They’re not strong enough to play the drums. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that again.” Also, most studies put injury rates for professional musicians around 40-60%. My own grandfather, a violin player in the Vienna Philharmonics Orchestra, had to stop playing some years ago because his right shoulder just couldn’t do the proper job of using the bow anymore, after decades of using it in a way which it’s actually not designed to by nature.

So, here’s the whole point of this post: I think that a lot of us musicians get so caught up in the emotional part of making music (which is important and absolutely wonderful!), that we completely forget to pay attention to HOW we’re using our body. This might not be a problem at all right now, but can and probably will lead to major struggles and injuries in the future.

The problem is that although or body originally moves in the most natural way, our brain is able to overwrite this natural movement by consistent repetition of a different movement. This means that if you’re playing drums for some years, you probably got into some habits that are actually really bad for you. I know that it’s really, really hard to change some habits you’ve had for years (I have been and still am struggling a lot in the last couple of months, to a point where I actually considered to just stop playing drums at all), but as it’s possible to overwrite your natural movements it IS totally possibly to change your habits into a more natural and healthy way of playing, which will prevent you from heavy, long-term injuries. And what I’m talking about here is not necessarily drum-technique, but rather just adequate posture, which will improve your overall health even when you’re not sitting behind the drums.

That’s why I want to invite all of you to get into this topic! Jon L. Lamb’s book “The Anatomy Of Drumming – Move Better, Feel Better, Play Better.” is available as both printed and e-book version and there’s also a one-hour-video of him talking about some things in his book that Drumeo uploaded the other day. Find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HdleIb5z-M
If you meet me on tour or anywhere else, I’ll happily share whatever knowledge I’ve collected so far, so please don’t hesitate to approach me about this and PLEASE, PLEASE don’t ignore this very important topic if you don’t want to end up like Phil Collins or so many other professional musicians!

Please feel free to share this with your drummer friends and/or tag them in the comments below.
Thanks for your attention! Keep on drumming! Love you all!