Simple Ways to Efficiently Improve Your Hand Speed for Drumming

Simple Ways to Improve your Hand Speed for Drumming
If you're a drummer, you'll agree that any drummer's dream would be to try to enter the WFD at least once to show their worth in terms of speed drumming. If only you knew how, right? Well here you go, a set of really simple exercises to get those beats per minute pumped.
The WFD, or World's Fastest Drummer, is an international drumming competition that pits you against the biggest drumming personalities in the world. This includes artists like Mike Mangini, the drummer for Dream Theater, one of the biggest bands of our time! Mike set the record in 2002 for the fastest bare hands style drumming, a staggering 1,138 Singles in 60 seconds! Now that I've got your attention, we continue along the path for getting your hands all limber and blazing fast. It includes a series of warm-ups, exercises and cooling down, which you will have to do regularly before you reach a professional level.
The Road to Speed Drumming
These might be the simple ways to improve your hand speed for drumming, but face it, there's no such thing as 'simple'. The exercises may look easy enough, but what always sets the best from the good, is perseverance and determination. The yellow brick road is yours to follow, just make sure you stay on it and see it to the end.
Warming Up
Hand exercise
Drumming is a physically demanding part in the field of music, almost as good as a contact sport. And as with any contact sport, a warm-up session is essential to get your muscles stretched, the blood flowing and the hands fluid.
  • To get your arms stretched and ready to go, we will work from the shoulder to the hand. Raise your hands above your head to slowly rotate them in circles. Start clockwise and then rotate counterclockwise. After that, rotate them to make only a half circle instead. This should work out all the stress in the shoulders and loosen them up.
  • Next, keep your shoulders steady, cross your hands together and slowly inch your hands across your back, towards the spine. Keep your shoulders steady so you can feel the biceps stretching. Be careful not to overdo it and get cramps.
  • Roll your hands into fists and slowly rotate them, clockwise at first, then counterclockwise. Be very gentle with your hands and feel out each kink starting to stretch out.
  • Finally, shake your arms about, till you feel them all loose and wiggly.
The next part is about stick movements. It is advisable to get a practice pad for the warm-ups, so that you can do it without the drum kit and so you won't annoy the people around you.
  • First up, play quarter notes - RRRR | RRRR. Be very steady, don't get excited and start out fast. Keep it slow, simple and rhythmic. After about 20 or 30 seconds, start building up on the speed steadily. Keep increasing your speed until you're at your fastest. Stay at the top speed for about 5 to 10 seconds, then slow back down to the first speed.
  • The same goes for your left hand. Start off steady and slow, build up speed, go to your fastest and then slow back down.
  • Four reps on each hand should be enough.
  • For the second part of stick movements, we move to a simple paradiddle - RLRR | LRLL || RLRR | LRLL. Work on this and vary your tempo the same way you did on the previous exercise.
Speed Drumming Exercises
Speed drummer
You may use dead weights on your sticks when you train for speed drumming. Start out without them and see if you need them. Also, you need to figure out how slowly your slower hand really is. Your first step to getting faster is to work on your slower hand and get to speed with your stronger hand. All through the exercise, you will pay extra attention to this problem.
  • Speed drumming is all about fluidity and expert technique, so it's important to get your basics right. Figure out the best way to hold the stick according to your comfort and make sure you don't change your grip while playing.
  • You will be using a metronome at all times to measure yourself. Do not practice without it.
  • You will be using the Gladstone technique all the while. It is better suited for getting a faster pace on drumming than the Moeller technique. You will play better and faster because of the Gladstone technique, since the Moeller technique employs a more rigorous pattern of hand movement.
  • Do not get too much rebound height. The more the rebound, the more you'll have to work to get your hands back to the next beat. Keep the rebound under 3 inches.
  • Start out with the three-note play - RRL | RRL | RRL | RRL || LLR | LLR | LLR | LLR. If you're right-handed, play the latter more to improve on your left hand strength, but only at the start. Once both hands are at the same speed and strength, you will be alternating both patterns. The former pattern is to be played more for the lefties to increase their right hand strength.
  • After that, comes RRRL | RRRL | RRRL | RRRL || LLLR | LLLR | LLLR | LLLR.
  • Concentrate on the technique all the time. Remember that the Gladstone technique is about the 'Down' and not the 'UP/DOWN'.
Warming Down
The catch to speed drumming is, the more relaxed your hand is, the faster your hand gets. Building up on hand strength will be to no avail if you don't learn to relax your hand muscles the proper way. That is why you have to warn down too, it is as important as warming up because it makes sure all that practice is worth the effort and doesn't go to waste.
  • Place your hands behind your head and rotate the elbows in a circular motion.
  • Hold one stick with both hands with the back of the hand facing the ground. Pull your elbows away from your body as you lift the stick up in both hands at the same time.
Breathing and your State of Mind
Drummer
As a final note, a little information on how to breathe when you play the drums. More than just following the patterns, you need to grasp the way the rhythm flows from your chest to your feet and hands, making your movements a lot more rhythmic. Also, it sometimes happens that you might forget to breathe when you play a particularly hard roll. You'll just tire yourself out even more if you do that. This is not a problem that everyone faces, it mostly happens at the beginner's level. For your regular four-note pattern, just breathe in for four beats and then exhale for the next four beats. For a smaller beat patch, take steady deep breaths over two sections.

Your state of mind is always the first thing that comes out when you play the drums, especially at the later stages when most of the easier patterns fall into muscle memory. If you mess up in an attempt to play faster, you will get irritated. That's going to affect your next attempt and it's going to keep on building up. So every time you start drumming, make sure to take a single, deep breath to calm yourself down, then let it rip!
Keep at it every day and you'll start seeing the results in about a week or so. Always remember to keep a good balance between practice and playing the drums for fun. Make it a habit to play the drums after you are done with your practice, you'll know the difference in your playing and you won't stop having fun!
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