Feel the rhythm: A tip for drummers

Drumming is an amazing and satisfying activity, but it can have its challenging side, too. One of the challenges to playing the trap set (for instance) is getting all your limbs to do something different, but work together.

Now, there are several things to figure out at once: tempo (speed), dynamics (loudness), syncopation (playing notes and accents at different times), and four limbs to use. This feels a bit daunting, and students can quickly send all their mental energy to the tips of their fingers and toes.

This doesn’t sound at all bad – after all, isn’t that what they’re using to play?

True, but rhythm doesn’t start at the fingers and toes. It doesn’t start in your brain or on your lips either. Counting is necessary (even out loud), but counting with your mind or with your lips does not necessarily unify your limbs. They can still be a little bit off (in drummer language, every note is more like a flam), and it sounds very choppy.

So my tip is really for any musician, but it happens to be especially crucial for a drummer: Feel the rhythm.

What? Right – feel it, but not in your fingers and toes, and not in your mind or off your lips.

No. Feel it in your core. Your torso. Your center.

Sound strange?

When you “count” using your center mast – your chest – all your limbs follow. Relax and let your body feel the rhythm.

Try practicing this while listening to music. Don’t play. Just listen and try to feel the rhythm in your chest. No, you won’t feel it physically (unless the volume and bass is turned up really loud), but try and allow yourself to naturally move to it. Go ahead and dance, but let it start at your core.

The more you can train yourself to feel the rhythm in your chest, the more free your limbs will be to follow. Otherwise, they will try and lead, but that works about as well as one sibling trying to manipulate another by using a parent.

Unify your limbs by feeling the rhythm in the center of your body.

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