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Since there aren't many drumming or percussion related questions, I will start this out with one of my own. As a drummer of almost 20 years, I still have a weaker left hand (and arm), despite trying most tricks I have heard about. Anyone else have any ideas/methods for increasing ambidexterity for stick control? Not just "play more rudiments" ...

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Are you concerned about drum-set playing or rudimental playing? the answers will be slightly different. –  Gordon Gustafson Apr 27 '11 at 23:06
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Either way, the hands/limbs should be equally fast/strong. I have yet to meet a drummer who doesn't want this (well, maybe with present company excluded)... –  nicorellius May 4 '11 at 17:59

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Anyone else have any ideas/methods for increasing ambidexterity for stick control?

I don't really see what your problem with having one hand stronger than the other is. There is never a requirement to have both hands equally good when playing; all you need is for both of them to be good enough for what they need to do. If the dominant hand just happens to be a little better, that's fine! As long as they can both do what they need to do, you're good.

The one big thing to keep in mind is that the distance in ability between your primary and secondary hands doesn't get too wide. If you're dominant hand starts better than your non-dominant, you practice for a year, and both hands get better equally, there's no problem there as your 'weakest link' improved just as much as your strongest one. As long as you practice both hands equally, this shouldn't be a problem. If you find your dominant hand progressing continually faster than your weak hand and the gap just keeps getting wider, then you have a problem and should probably examine your practice habits.

If you really have issues with one hand being stronger than the other, the only real answer is to just practice more with the weak hand. You can do this in a variety of ways:

  • Practice weak hand only for a little while.
  • completely switch the roles of the hands for a while. For set this will mean resetting up your kit, for snare this will mean just play every note in the piece with the opposite hand you used to. Making your right hand learn traditional also accomplishes this.
  • Do exercises that involve both hands completely equally. Whenever your dominant hand plays a note, your weak hand should be playing the exact same thing in the same way at the same time. No leading one hand, no varying dynamics, just equality. You can obviously do this in tons of less extreme forms and just practice all your normal stuff with emphasis on the weak hand, but if you want perfect equality, you really need to practice with it.

If for some insane reason you must become ambidextrous in more than just your playing, then just force yourself to use your weak hand more. This is insanely difficult as you don't make a conscious decision to use your dominant it every time you open a door. If this isn't enough, impede the use of your dominant hand with a mitten or some similar mechanism that will constantly force you to become ambidextrous. But be prepared to spend a LOT of time figuring stuff out and even more explaining the reason why to other people why you have to dial your phone, eat your meals, and possibly even write with your weak hand with a mitten on the other. :)

Bottom line: Don't make hand equality an issue unless it really needs to be!!!

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Whether you like it or not, your left hand (for right-handed players at least) is always going to be the weaker hand. That's just life. However, to improve your ambidexterity - aside from more rudiments - there are a couple of things you can try to improve your control and precision.

Swap your kit around. Set it up in a left-handed configuration and try playing it that way for a few weeks. It takes a lot of concentration initially and builds your limb independence.

Change to a traditional grip, or if you already play traditional grip, swap each hand's stick grip over.

If you really want to make your weak hand as strong and disciplined as your strong hand, you really have to focus a sustained effort (and I mean several years of practice here) to build it into a dominant hand. This is because as long as you're still playing or practising, your right hand will always be getting more use and attention to the detriment of your weaker hand. Like I said at the start, you can build your control and skill with your weak hand using a number of tricks, but you're not likely to ever have both hands as evolved as each other.

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Won't swapping the kit or swapping the grip just make things more confused for him, introducing disorientation (especially when he comes back to his normal setting) without bringing any more dexterity? –  ogerard May 3 '11 at 7:17
    
Did you guys forget to read the part about being a drummer for 20 years? Having played more than 500 live shows, you really think I haven't set up my kit in all these ways? I mean, I appreciate your thorough answers but I thought I was kind of clear that I wanted to "seed" the drummer portion of this board... –  nicorellius May 4 '11 at 18:03
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You don't need to get snarky, we're just trying to offer useful suggestions. I think @CrazyJugglerDrummer is most right when he questions what your motivation is. –  Phil.Wheeler May 4 '11 at 19:32
    
It's a valid question and you guys gave valid answers. It's just that the level of observation was lacking... No need to get upset. –  nicorellius May 4 '11 at 23:41

One slight variation on @CrazyJugglerDrummer's suggestion to change your setup is to play open-handed on your existing set - if your kit is set up with hihat on the left and kick on the right, practice some songs playing your hihat with your left hand and your snare with your right, as Billy Cobham and Simon Phillips play. This is one of the ways I've worked on my left hand.

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I think the best solution to your problem is to completely forget about your dominant hand and give total attention to the weaker hand. By doing your domestic work with it, play ghost notes with it, start your beat with it. Always make sure as you start your down beat, your weaker hand starts with it.

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Typing "ur" in place of "your" is rather obnoxious. –  The Chaz 2.0 Oct 31 '11 at 5:34

Without sticks I start with left hand open and palm facing up then starting with the index finger tap your finger into the palm of your hand at a regular speed maybe x16 then move onto the middle finger and so on. Go back and forth through the fingers and gradually speed up making sure intervals are regular. Also try with the palm facing down. Gradually your speed and finger control should improve. Plus you can do it anywhere!

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See, this is what I'm talking about! Thanks. +1. Although I'm sure most posters here are great drummers, I've tried most of the suggestions already, having been playing drums for 20+ years (you just try everything in this amount of time ;-) ). However, the tip in this answer, I have not tried and therefore will try. And I see how it could improve strength. –  nicorellius Aug 7 at 16:54

In looking for workout advice, one of the thing one author said was "train for strength two or three days a week, and train for your sport the other days."

And, well, my "sport" is drumming, largely on a kit. But it occurred to me that one part of my workout for strength training is about correcting the imbalance that we tend to suffer because of side dominance.

My recommendation is to find a good split workout, where you work just one arm or legs at a time. Then test yourself: find the 1 Rep Max for each hand/arm/legs/foot. A good trainer will have a protocol for that.

Then do a split workout of weak:strong:weak:strong:weak:weak:weak. So, you might do 3 reps with you left hand, three with your right, three more with your left, 3 right, 3 left, 3 left, 3 left. Don't go to exhaustion, leave a couple reps in the bag at the end of the work out. Use 80% of your 1RM for the weight.

Exercise I have been doing: grip training (for better french roll), wrist curls, and single stick rudiment with 3 lb weights instead of sticks.

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