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Thread: Arms in or out?

  1. #1

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    My first instructor was adamant that I keep my arms close to my body and use only the wrists. We worked over and over on the wrist action, with my arms not getting too much involved.

    My second and latest instructor says the arms should be somewhat away from the body with a more "wavy" movement of the arms. We're working on a "hybrid" that incorporates the wave yet also my wrist.

    After being drilled on keeping my arms close to my body (when I could of course), and using only my wrist and really building up that kind of style...I'm confused as to what the correct positioning is.

    I understand that everyone has their own style but what is the "right" way - if there is one.

    Throwing this also out there to those who teach...is there a difference for men and women? Now before anyone jumps on me for that and says a drummer is a drummer...there is a difference how men and women naturally hold their arms.
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  2. #2

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    i would say that what ever way that you are more comfortable is the right way , but,,,, id also say that however your current teacher said that you should do it , is also the right way. lol so take your pick ...
    Tamaholic

  3. #3

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    Rain, it is entirely possible that both your drum teachers are correct. I'm speculating here, but as a new drummer, there are early skills that have to be mastered. Making sure that a drummer learns to use the wrist correctly, rather than all arms is vital to continuing development. Later on comes learning to apply a whip-like motion (which later can be used to master the Moellar Technique), and/or utilizing the fingers to control the movement of the sticks. All of thses skill are important, and second teacher may be building on the word of the first teacher, without communicating completely that this is simply the next step in your development.

    Like I say, it speculation, since I don't know the actual events.
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  4. #4

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    Short of moving from 1 drum to the other (or cymbal), your wrists should do most of the work.

    I don't know what this wavy motion is, but the image I get in my mind doesn't seem like the way to go.

    Your arms have to move, that's a given, but you don't want to be flailing all over the place, that's just wasted energy.

    I look at it this way: I use my arms to get my hands where I need them to be, after that, it's wrists and fingers.

  5. #5

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    I had an instructor in college that made us practice rudiments on the snare with a music stand placed flat 6 to 8 inches over the drum. Claimed it taught greater wrist and arm control. Maybe it worked, but all it did was drive me nuts. It wasn't about playing loud, but controlling what you play. It kept you patterns tight and consistent, and sure made you concentrated on what you were doing.
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  6. #6

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    Both will work. If you watch pro players, you'll see some who's motion is tighter and others (especially those that have been taught with a lot of emphasis on Moeller) a lot looser with more flowing arm movement.

    If I had to pick one direction to move you in, I would pick the latter because drummer's who play that way tend to play more fluid which, in turn, usually translates into smoother, less-rigid sounding performances.

    By the way, I've been playing and teaching professionally for over 30 years.
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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by drummer View Post
    Both will work. If you watch pro players, you'll see some who's motion is tighter and others (especially those that have been taught with a lot of emphasis on Moeller) a lot looser with more flowing arm movement.

    If I had to pick one direction to move you in, I would pick the latter because drummer's who play that way tend to play more fluid which, in turn, usually translates into smoother, less-rigid sounding performances.

    By the way, I've been playing and teaching professionally for over 30 years.

    Drummer, I'm assuming you make a distinction between flowing and flailing.

    I would like to think that I flow around the set, as opposed to flailing away.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickthedrummer View Post
    Short of moving from 1 drum to the other (or cymbal), your wrists should do most of the work.

    I don't know what this wavy motion is, but the image I get in my mind doesn't seem like the way to go.

    Your arms have to move, that's a given, but you don't want to be flailing all over the place, that's just wasted energy.

    I look at it this way: I use my arms to get my hands where I need them to be, after that, it's wrists and fingers.
    Precisely. I see the same mistake being repeated over and over again with new students coming in. And the thing that gets me is that a few students have been to certain drum teachers who have never corrected their students mistakes, most likely as a result of doing half-hour lessons in a drumshop....what I term the "sausage factory"....simply because the guys who are teaching don't have enough time in that half hour to address these grip and motion fundamentals, and therefore prevent further mistakes (I know this only too well about the lack of time....I did a period of time teaching at a music store, and after my time there I had enough, what with the work practices, workplace politics and dodgy owner who I'm more than glad to see the back of...).

    Repeating these mistakes, such as slogging the drums with too much arm movement, over time, those mistakes will become habits....bad habits. Currently I'm at least correcting one young guy's grip and technique...and he had been going to another drum shop for two years before he was recommended to me by another student. But you hit the nail on the head there, Rick, the arm's primary job is to simply get your hands to where they need to be. But I'm amazed about how sometimes people ignore that advice until it is often too late and they've caused a hand or elbow injury as a result.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumbledore View Post
    Precisely. I see the same mistake being repeated over and over again with new students coming in. And the thing that gets me is that a few students have been to certain drum teachers who have never corrected their students mistakes, most likely as a result of doing half-hour lessons in a drumshop....what I term the "sausage factory"....simply because the guys who are teaching don't have enough time in that half hour to address these grip and motion fundamentals, and therefore prevent further mistakes (I know this only too well about the lack of time....I did a period of time teaching at a music store, and after my time there I had enough, what with the work practices, workplace politics and dodgy owner who I'm more than glad to see the back of...).

    Repeating these mistakes, such as slogging the drums with too much arm movement, over time, those mistakes will become habits....bad habits. Currently I'm at least correcting one young guy's grip and technique...and he had been going to another drum shop for two years before he was recommended to me by another student. But you hit the nail on the head there, Rick, the arm's primary job is to simply get your hands to where they need to be. But I'm amazed about how sometimes people ignore that advice until it is often too late and they've caused a hand or elbow injury as a result.


    For every really good drum teacher out there, there are X number of hacks that are in it for the money.

  10. #10

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    If you guys ever seen the video of Neil Peart and Freddi Gruber ( famous Jazz drummer) talking about how to hit around the kit. It is very interesting of how Freddie's movememnt with the sticks almost like martial arts sort of speaking. It is hard to explain you would have to see it to understand what it is I am talking about.

  11. #11

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    I do find that I keep my arms in for playing jazz or blues..but rock and roll....all theory thrown out the door.
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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl MCX Man View Post
    If you guys ever seen the video of Neil Peart and Freddi Gruber ( famous Jazz drummer) talking about how to hit around the kit. It is very interesting of how Freddie's movememnt with the sticks almost like martial arts sort of speaking. It is hard to explain you would have to see it to understand what it is I am talking about.
    Yes Gilles, I did see this video. Neil states that after taking lessons from Freddie, he moved his ride over his bass drum which made a huge difference in his playing. When I start to get too ambitious with a huge set up, I stop and try to remember the results Neil netted by taking the advice of Freddie Gruber by making smoother flowing arm movements and less 'stick waving'.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickthedrummer View Post
    For every really good drum teacher out there, there are X number of hacks that are in it for the money.

    Ain't that the truth......

    I've been teaching for many years in my area....in students homes, at a store and in my own home. In that time...I've seen dozens of "teachers" come and go. They're usually disorganized, unprofessional, and unprepared. I've actually inherited many of their students for one or reason or another. As a result, I've seen their work, including lessons plans, transcriptions, and even thrown together attempts at making a drum lesson book - which on each occasion was just plagiarized material taken from other things. Much of it was hand-written on manuscript paper (at best). It was awful.

    I've seen their ads (usually on Craigslist) - and they promise the world, boasting about how they have all the "secrets" and "techniques" to make you a great drummer, bragging about how long they've played the drums, all the styles they can play, and some even arrogantly post pictures of their kit....(like that makes a difference).

    One guy (no names)...even advertised that he was the "ONLY FULL-TIME PROFESSIONAL DRUM TEACHER IN THE AREA".

    (Oh ....really?)

    I contacted him through Craigslist..got his information (name & number)..found his profile on Facebook (among other things)and did some snooping...... he was a 1st year Community College drop-out, lived at home with his Mommy, and was unemployed. I asked if he had any openings...he said....yeah, "anytime".

    (What ? doesn't sound like a "full-time" to me. If you call me right now, I'll give you a couple slots here and there, if you can't do those times, I put you on a list, or try to re-arrange my schedule).

    Lastly...they undercut your price by 25% - and openly insult the other teachers in the area in their ads. Claiming, for one lame reason or another, why you should choose them over a more established teacher and not pay $20/$25 for a lesson somewhere else.

    It's one of the frustrating elements of this business.....

    Bottom line....it took me three years to build up my body of students to get to the point where I could leave my regular job 4 years ago. (Where I also worked 50+ hours a week along with the 12+ hours a week each evening teaching along with gigging three nights a week). I did this through the store I worked at, word of mouth, Sam Ash or GC store referrals, or various types of advertising. There were good months and bad months in that time. I never gave up, and worked hard to maintain my base, cultivate new students, and develop fun, exciting and productive lessons to feed my students. I ran my family through the ringer at times. But...over those years I had a lot of emotional support, proud to say I'm doing ok.

    I made a lot of sacrifices to teach. I'm passionate about it. I Had to change my life$tyle, left behind paid vacation$, paid $ick days, and job benefit$. Not to mention the sacrifices and tolls that it puts on my family and kids in the home. It was a major life adjustment - It's a lot of work - and it irks me off when some arrogant clown that can't even play and teach a songo comes out and lowballs everyone.

    [end rant - forgive me]



    About the arms.....I teach to keep your arms down as much as possible,(no chicken wings) it helps you stay relaxed which helps maintain stamina, conserves energy, and even prevent repetitive use injuries over time. Tired drummers develop bad technique issues, they end up playing louder to compensate, ad easily develop bad habits. A relaxed drummer uses less effort to play, develops clean technique easier, and doesn't need to hammer the heads to play fast.

    Yes...of course you are going to need to raise your elbows when you play. Especially when doing fills. But if you find that you are raising your arms (shoulder to elbow) more than 45* when your simply playing a K SN HH beat....I recommend that your re-evaluate your approach, kit set up and playing style. It will take a little adjustment...but you'll be better off in the long run.
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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by late8 View Post
    Yes Gilles, I did see this video. Neil states that after taking lessons from Freddie, he moved his ride over his bass drum which made a huge difference in his playing. When I start to get too ambitious with a huge set up, I stop and try to remember the results Neil netted by taking the advice of Freddie Gruber by making smoother flowing arm movements and less 'stick waving'.
    Glad you seen it too late. Neil does mention how it changed his whole drumming techniques. I remember Freddie saying to Neil there are two things wrong with your drumming

    1 - you hold your drumsticks wrong
    2- you are wearing the wrong shoes.

    Freddie left this world on Oct 11/2011 at the age of 84. Neil was lucky to be able to get Freddie to teach him his techniques. RIP Freddie

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl MCX Man View Post
    Glad you seen it too late. Neil does mention how it changed his whole drumming techniques. I remember Freddie saying to Neil there are two things wrong with your drumming

    1 - you hold your drumsticks wrong
    2- you are wearing the wrong shoes.

    Freddie left this world on Oct 11/2011 at the age of 84. Neil was lucky to be able to get Freddie to teach him his techniques. RIP Freddie
    Great post Gilles! Imagine Neil's reaction when Freddie said "you hold your drumsticks wrong"...

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by late8 View Post
    Great post Gilles! Imagine Neil's reaction when Freddie said "you hold your drumsticks wrong"...
    Don't know if he took it as a compliment or an insult.LOL I betcha he did'nt argue that out especially coming from such a great drummer.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by pearl mcx man View Post
    don't know if he took it as a compliment or an insult.lol i betcha he did'nt argue that out especially coming from such a great drummer.
    +1

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickthedrummer View Post
    Drummer, I'm assuming you make a distinction between flowing and flailing.
    Well of course. Think of a brand new swimmer in the water. That's flailing. Now think of Michael Phelps. That's flowing.
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  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by drummer View Post
    Well of course. Think of a brand new swimmer in the water. That's flailing. Now think of Michael Phelps. That's flowing.
    Good example Drummer.

  20. #20

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    Rain,

    I then approach the drum set as I do marching tenors. The wrist/fingers are used for the vertical motion required to strike the playing surface where the elbow/shoulder are used for the horizontal movements from surface to surface. Since a drum set has multiple playing levels, everything changes a bit when you have to reach for a cymbal or move between the hats and the snare as the arms are then used to change elevation as well as move from side to side.

    The arms should simply be comfortable at your sides. I can't imagine someone getting it wrong if they are told to just be comfortable.

    Tan

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickthedrummer View Post
    For every really good drum teacher out there, there are X number of hacks that are in it for the money.
    Took the words right out of my mouth, Rick!

    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl MCX Man View Post
    If you guys ever seen the video of Neil Peart and Freddi Gruber ( famous Jazz drummer) talking about how to hit around the kit. It is very interesting of how Freddie's movememnt with the sticks almost like martial arts sort of speaking. It is hard to explain you would have to see it to understand what it is I am talking about.
    Neil also mentions that in his DVD "A Work In Progress" I think, right? I think he mentions Freddie's work with him, although Freddie isn't in that particular one though. Now that one is an absolute must-see video. But I do know the interview you're talking about (thank God for Youtube!)

    Quote Originally Posted by EddieV View Post
    Ain't that the truth......

    I've been teaching for many years in my area....in students homes, at a store and in my own home. In that time...I've seen dozens of "teachers" come and go. They're usually disorganized, unprofessional, and unprepared. I've actually inherited many of their students for one or reason or another. As a result, I've seen their work, including lessons plans, transcriptions, and even thrown together attempts at making a drum lesson book - which on each occasion was just plagiarized material taken from other things. Much of it was hand-written on manuscript paper (at best). It was awful.

    I've seen their ads (usually on Craigslist) - and they promise the world, boasting about how they have all the "secrets" and "techniques" to make you a great drummer, bragging about how long they've played the drums, all the styles they can play, and some even arrogantly post pictures of their kit....(like that makes a difference).

    One guy (no names)...even advertised that he was the "ONLY FULL-TIME PROFESSIONAL DRUM TEACHER IN THE AREA".

    (Oh ....really?)

    I contacted him through Craigslist..got his information (name & number)..found his profile on Facebook (among other things)and did some snooping...... he was a 1st year Community College drop-out, lived at home with his Mommy, and was unemployed. I asked if he had any openings...he said....yeah, "anytime".

    (What ? doesn't sound like a "full-time" to me. If you call me right now, I'll give you a couple slots here and there, if you can't do those times, I put you on a list, or try to re-arrange my schedule).

    Lastly...they undercut your price by 25% - and openly insult the other teachers in the area in their ads. Claiming, for one lame reason or another, why you should choose them over a more established teacher and not pay $20/$25 for a lesson somewhere else.

    It's one of the frustrating elements of this business.....

    Bottom line....it took me three years to build up my body of students to get to the point where I could leave my regular job 4 years ago. (Where I also worked 50+ hours a week along with the 12+ hours a week each evening teaching along with gigging three nights a week). I did this through the store I worked at, word of mouth, Sam Ash or GC store referrals, or various types of advertising. There were good months and bad months in that time. I never gave up, and worked hard to maintain my base, cultivate new students, and develop fun, exciting and productive lessons to feed my students. I ran my family through the ringer at times. But...over those years I had a lot of emotional support, proud to say I'm doing ok.

    I made a lot of sacrifices to teach. I'm passionate about it. I Had to change my life$tyle, left behind paid vacation$, paid $ick days, and job benefit$. Not to mention the sacrifices and tolls that it puts on my family and kids in the home. It was a major life adjustment - It's a lot of work - and it irks me off when some arrogant clown that can't even play and teach a songo comes out and lowballs everyone.

    [end rant - forgive me]



    About the arms.....I teach to keep your arms down as much as possible,(no chicken wings) it helps you stay relaxed which helps maintain stamina, conserves energy, and even prevent repetitive use injuries over time. Tired drummers develop bad technique issues, they end up playing louder to compensate, ad easily develop bad habits. A relaxed drummer uses less effort to play, develops clean technique easier, and doesn't need to hammer the heads to play fast.

    Yes...of course you are going to need to raise your elbows when you play. Especially when doing fills. But if you find that you are raising your arms (shoulder to elbow) more than 45* when your simply playing a K SN HH beat....I recommend that your re-evaluate your approach, kit set up and playing style. It will take a little adjustment...but you'll be better off in the long run.
    Oh yeah, definitely alarm bells ring when you see ads like that. Some great advice you gave there. Cheers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl MCX Man View Post
    Glad you seen it too late. Neil does mention how it changed his whole drumming techniques. I remember Freddie saying to Neil there are two things wrong with your drumming

    1 - you hold your drumsticks wrong
    2- you are wearing the wrong shoes.

    Freddie left this world on Oct 11/2011 at the age of 84. Neil was lucky to be able to get Freddie to teach him his techniques. RIP Freddie
    Yep, Neil and a fair few other top players like Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colauita and Steve Smith. Freddie will be missed. Same with Jim Chapin.

    Nice to know that a lot of us on here have had similar experiences and think sort of on the same lines. Cheers, guys.
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  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by SnareTan View Post
    Rain,

    I then approach the drum set as I do marching tenors. The wrist/fingers are used for the vertical motion required to strike the playing surface where the elbow/shoulder are used for the horizontal movements from surface to surface. Since a drum set has multiple playing levels, everything changes a bit when you have to reach for a cymbal or move between the hats and the snare as the arms are then used to change elevation as well as move from side to side.

    The arms should simply be comfortable at your sides. I can't imagine someone getting it wrong if they are told to just be comfortable.

    Tan
    Oh man, that reminds me of the time I was in music college where quite often the drum teacher that was there (I won't mention names, but a fair few local players are aware of his, ahem 'method') would sometimes say to me "Oh, you're holding the sticks wrong, blah blah blah" (this is the same guy who incidentally I had to corner and ask him how did he hold marimba mallets and he said "Oh, you hold them just like sticks".....meanwhile I was saying to myself "Oh really now? Wait.....so I just spent a year and a half going to lessons there only to be told that, when I could have just spent time at home practicing that??? Now how did he get the job there in the first damn place?")....and there I was holding my ground saying that not only my first drum teacher, a Canadian guy, used to teach marching drums both here and back in his homeland, but the grip I was using I have seen countless amount of times in videos by some of the American drum greats that you can get from any decent drum store, and it had been also expounded by the other drum teachers I had gone to over time....plus add in the fact that I found how I gripped had been time-tested for over at least a decade in bands both live and in the studio....and not only have I used this way of playing successfully (____), but that he (pointed to a drummer mate in our drum class) I have seen him play that way too, and he took lessons with Milan Troha, the head teacher at Billy Hyde's Drum Academy (here in Sydney) plus he had worked in the store, we've known each other on the scene for years, (____), so tell me.....how come we haven't heard about your playing before?

    I think the time when (___) demonstrated alternating flams by moving the hands back and forth with a sweeping diagonal movement, (so that imagine if you had a row of snare drummers, each movement would bump into the guy next to you).....I think when he showed that instead of a nice straight up and down movement, which is what he should have been teaching instead....that's when I was almost prepared to walk out of the class. Told my classmate about it the next day, as he was away, and he just said "what an idiot". He still says that about him whenever I see him (my mate) working at one of our local drumshops.
    Last edited by Drumbledore; 07-06-2012 at 05:57 PM.
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  23. #23

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    Just want to say a huge thank you to all who replied!!! I had my lesson this morning and my instructor was very pleased, and somewhat surprised I think, at the improvement I made this past week.

    Before my lesson I re-read this thread again. For some reason it gave me a sense of confidence and a feeling that I could do it the wrists and arms properly. Something stuck in my subconsciousness so I was able to visualize doing it right - and I did.

    I have a feeling I may have gotten through another major learning barrier.

    (But why do there have to be so damn many of them?!)
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  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain View Post
    Just want to say a huge thank you to all who replied!!! I had my lesson this morning and my instructor was very pleased, and somewhat surprised I think, at the improvement I made this past week.

    Before my lesson I re-read this thread again. For some reason it gave me a sense of confidence and a feeling that I could do it the wrists and arms properly. Something stuck in my subconsciousness so I was able to visualize doing it right - and I did.

    I have a feeling I may have gotten through another major learning barrier.

    (But why do there have to be so damn many of them?!)

    This is not a easy instrument to play. Craigs List, E-Bay, and Pawn Shops are loaded with drum sets from people who just couldn't do it.

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by drummer View Post
    Well of course. Think of a brand new swimmer in the water. That's flailing. Now think of Michael Phelps. That's flowing.
    As a guy who was a pretty good highschool swimmer, I love that analogy. It doesn't hurt that Phelps was gifted with pretty much the ideal frame for the sport.
    Mmm... Saturns.

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