This short post is aimed at those of you who are feel you are working too hard at the drumset to execute the ideas you want to express musically. Oftentimes, it is due to a lack of understanding of how fast or how slow we are throwing the sticks down to the drum or how fast or slow the pedal is striking the bass drum.
I wish to break down in this post the concept of Velocity as applied to drumming technique:
Velocity is generally defined as “the speed of an moving object in a given direction”.
Velocity has a direct influence on 1) the type of sound you produce on the drums, and 2) the degree of tension and relaxation in your technique.
i. Velocity Affecting Sound Produced On Drums:
When a stick is thrown slowly on the drum surface to produce a sound, the sound quality of that sound is thin. You hear more of the batter head of the drum along with the vibration of the snare wires against the resonant head (bottom side) of the drum, and less of the sonic qualities of the drum’s shell, the resonance of the metal parts, and the stick.This works well if you are playing rhythms that are less dense, but needs to be played with less fuller sounding tones, at slower speeds, and also at quieter volumes.
Throwng a stick down to the drum at a faster speed however will produce a fuller sound where you also hear an increase in volume. There is greater tonal detail of the drum which includes more resonance from the drum shell, the metal parts, and the stick itself (assuming you don’t grip the stick tightly). This works well obviously for louder volumes but also for quieter rhythmic passages which may require speed and greater dexterity.
As you can see here these differences in sonic qualities can be effected at ANY volume. Thus, for that matter, stick height and velocity are totally two different concepts but when combined together, you will not have to play in inefficient ways such as:
1) Lifting the sticks too high off the drums for volume and power
2) Whacking the drum harder to produce fuller sounds.
II. Velocity Affecting Technique
“Newton’s Third Law Of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
The above law of physics is the governing principle to this concept of velocity affecting technique.
We all know that good technique involves the rebound of the stick or the bass drum beater so that you do not have to do the extra work of picking the stick or the bass drum pedal beater back up before making the next stroke. The question is how much rebound from either are you getting as leverage for the effort you put in?
Leverage is defined as “the mechanical advantage or power gained by using a lever.” “Lever”, in the case of drumming technique, is the use of the different joints in your hand (wrists, fingers, elbow, and shoulders) and your feet (ankle, knee, and hip).
It is very important to understand that a higher degree of relaxation at any volume and at any tempo when using either of these joints in your hands and feet will result in a greater amount rebound from the stick or the bass drum pedal beater, which will thus provide leverage for the effort you put in. Again, if you do it correctly, the effort you put in is not as much as you would think. Ideally, you would want a 50/50 balance between the effort you put in and the leverage you get from the rebound.
How does this work?
If you throw the stick down slowly, the stick will not have enough rebound to bounce back up quickly. This means you will still have to pick the stick back up. Throwing the stick down faster instead with a relaxed grip allows the stick “breathing space” within your hand to rebound quickly. This allows you to play more efficiently and with less effort at any volume or tempo. The above principles also apply to bass drum technique.
In conclusion, depending on the sound you want to achieve, the density of your rhythms, and the speed and volume at which you play those rhythms, varying the degree of velocity will add flexibility to your existing technique that will eliminate doing everything from just one method, which can physically hurt you.
Please bear in mind that you cannot have just one way of doing everything you want to do on the drums if you want efficiency and relaxation.
If you’re in Singapore and would like to take a lesson with me on this, I can be reached at: 98291901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also check out these great instructional books and DVDs on the subject of drumming technique. I use these resources in my lessons and in my own development. I have better technique today than I did 5 years ago and I will have even better technique 5 years from now if I continue to refine the concepts learnt from within these resources:
1) Playing With Sticks (DVD) – Jeff Queen (Hudson Music)
– There’s a segment where he explains the concept of “Velocity” in a very clear, common-sense, way. Although catered mainly to marching ensemble drummers , everything discussed in this DVD can be adapted to drumset playing as well.
2) The Next Level (Book) – Jeff Queen (Hudson Music)
– There’s a chapter devoted to “Velocity” along with other very comprehensive technical topics that can be employed by any drummer.
3) A Natural Approach To Technique (DVD) – Joe Morello (Hot Licks Productions)
The late, great Joe Morello was one of those drummers who had the greatest technique in the world. In this DVD, he breaks down all the technical concepts with simple language, lots of wisdom, and dashes of humour.
4) Great Hands For A Lifetime (DVD) – Tommy Igoe (Hudson Music)
I use “The Lifetime Warmup” routine included in this DVD package in my daily practice. Very inspiring and challenging!!
5) Bass Drum And Hi-Hat Technique (DVD) – Michael Packer (Hal Leonard)
This instructional method helped me improve my feet on the bass drum and hi-hat pedals.
Many of my students benefited from working on these methods in their lessons with me and in their private studies too!
Thank you for reading this post, I hope it will at least provide food for thought when you assess your technique.