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After several months, a drum student of mine still seems naturally to lead with the left, despite practising on a right handed set up kit. It was at my suggestion. I'm at the point where I'm considering changing the kit round. Anyone had similar experiences and solutions? I just feel for his future, it's better to put more effort in now, given that he's going to have far more opportunities to play on r.h. kits. Or go with the flow?

  • Can't say for drummers, but I've known a lot of left-hooker guitarists who can play rh guitar better than most rh guitarists. – Tetsujin Mar 5 '18 at 12:26
  • @Tetsujin - yes, I've had this theory for decades that says guitars need the neck played by the better hand ! But with drums, it's rolling round the kit that's a problem, arms get crossed over. – Tim Mar 5 '18 at 16:35
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Personally I consider myself a left handed drummer despite being right handed in everyday life. I write and play guitar right handed, but on drums it always felt natural to play with my left. Back when I learned in school I led with my left and when we had the opportunity to play on a real kit rather than our practice pads I played open handed. I also played timpani and preferred having the low drums on my left.

I think the bigger issue is footed-ness. It depends on the genres he intends to play, but a lot of genres have complex and heavy bass drum lines that require dexterity in that foot. Another issue is if he wants to play with double bass drum pedals; that is strictly speaking the only drum set equipment that is not reversible, and there are not quite as many choices for left hand DB pedals as right.

For switching sets around I've never had much of a problem. Cymbal stands, snare, and floor tom are easy to move around. The only tricky part is the rack toms since they will likely have to be readjusted height and angle wise to fit over the bass drum. This is more of a problem if the toms are mounted on the bass drum rather than on cymbal stands. Racks can also be really annoying, as would microphone set ups.

I'd say let him try it out and watch his bass drum foot to see if it can keep up. If he really feels comfortable playing that way it's going to be a lot easier for him to learn. Most gigs should give him enough time to switch a set around, unless there's not 5-10 minutes he could have. Bringing his own double bass drum pedal would be the only equipment he'd need to bring that's unique to a lefty setup.

  • Great insights, but I don't understand how a double pedal can't be used the other way around. unless it's not readily available as such. Will check my double pedal tomorrow. But for him that's way in the future, if ever, thanks. – Tim Mar 5 '18 at 21:13
  • A double pedal by design can only be used one way. The beaters are on the right pedal while the slave pedal extends to the left. As far as I know no one has yet invented a pedal that can be reversed. If they did they would surely have a money maker on their hands! Using two bass drums and two single pedals would of course not have this issue. – Tama Mar 5 '18 at 23:56
  • Looking at my Gibraltar pedal, it would appear that I could strip everything down and refit it in reverse., so the main pedal will be on the left. Not tried yet, but the theory seems o.k! – Tim Mar 6 '18 at 7:50
  • Several double pedals are reversible, the Mapex Falcon, and the co-incidentally named Tama Iron Cobra amongst others. – Tim Mar 6 '18 at 15:33
  • Wow, that's pretty cool. I've never owned a double pedal so I was just going by what I've seen in stores and online, since most manufacturers make specific left hand double pedals. My single pedal is an Iron Cobra so I may have to look into one when I can afford it. I suppose that means there's one less reason not to let him play left handed. – Tama Mar 6 '18 at 21:54
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Try switching the kit around for the guy, if you have not already - at least once to give him the chance of attempting to play the drums the way they were meant to be played when leading with the dominant hand... No harm ever came from trying.

Case in point, I played with a leftie on and off for a couple years (about 10 years ago.) He, however, played the drum-kit in a right-handed set-up. He did this because he "learned that way" and "always played drums that way" because of (according to him) the very reason you state: he had more opportunities to play on a right-handed kit over the years... After several instances of losing tempo (in either direction by speeding up or slowing down,) missing beats, and/or generally 'not playing well,' I insisted that he switch the kit around to accommodate his dominant hand... As a matter of fact, I did it for him (he was a stubborn artsy-type.) Saying that the difference was drastic is a complete understatement. In the couple minutes that it took to switch around the kit (including the rack toms and the double bass pedal,) this guy went from being 'just ok' to someone I might actually call a "drummer."

Now, this guy was not a drummer (at least in the same sense that I am not a drummer, hence the 'bassist' in my display name, even though I can play and write for drums fairly well.) We were doing another project at the time - he is a singer/guitarist. But, we liked to have fun while we worked and he could play drums. And after the switch, he could play them better than some others who I have heard call themselves "drummers." Seriously, it was like playing with 2 different people... I can't stress this enough. He went from 'bad' to 'good' almost instantaneously. It was embarrassing and we both laughed about it later.

Forgive me if I rant but, I am also getting tired of seeing some of these answers on this SE that one might pull out of motivational social media posts. "Do what works for you, man" or "as long as it feels good, it is good" and the like... I could start learning to play the clarinet by sticking it up my... nose. But, it does not matter how good I became at playing it that way. Someone that learned to play the instrument the traditional way would ALMOST ALWAYS have the creative advantage and higher level of skill - and, arguably, the more fulfilling musical experience. (Unless I am literally the one in a million through-the-nose-clarinet-player.) And, no music teacher would teach me to play that way or allow me to learn to play it that way no matter how much 'I like doing it like that.'

The instruments we use today are modern technology. They are manufactured and set-up the way that they are in order to be used as efficiently as possible. There may always be some novelty to seeing someone performing in some strange way; like playing piano while standing on your head. However, if anyone is playing an instrument in any way other than the way in which it was 'meant to be played,' then that person will LIKELY NEVER achieve the full potential of skill on said instrument (despite there always being exceptions to the rule.)

  • Played a gig last night with a drummer I've played with on and off for several years. Chatting after he admitted he is l.h. but learned to play r.h. - because most kits were/are set up that way (as the kit at the venue). Hasn't messed him up! I still believe that every (good) drummer needs to be ambidextrous, and should be able to play open or closed, but it's rolling round the kit that is a problem. I can only manage r.h., and really struggle l.h. Last night, 4 different drummers took the stand, so if the kit had to be rearranged, it would have been a real pain! ( I was on bass). – Tim Dec 5 '19 at 8:55
  • @Tim Yes, I see the predicament! And, I agree that really good drummers (Stewart Copeland) would not be vexed by the orientation, especially if playing open-handed... But, not all of us are that good ;) Did you ever try to switch around the kit for your student? – Tim Burnett - Bassist Dec 5 '19 at 9:02
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    Have to admit - no. And his sister has the same 'affliction'! He has two kits, so I might admit defeat and swap one over, but still believe it's not so good for his future in the big bad world... And then, when he comes to my studio for lessons? – Tim Dec 5 '19 at 9:06

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