All in the Approach

Lane Armey

Want to be successful at playing your instrument? It starts with how you approach it.

The “approach” to a drum or keyboard is a phrase used often to describe a wide range of factors. Here are a few I think are particularly important.


Good posture is a prerequisite to many aspects of performing. Put your shoulders and arms in the correct position to enable strong down strokes. If you play on a marching drum, your posture will determine how you fill up your carrier to avoid excess drum movement. And good posture is critical to conveying confidence.

Foot Position

Don’t take your feet for granted. Stand in a strong second position with your feet slightly turned out, shoulder width apart. Never stand with one foot resting on the other or with bent knees.

If marking time, do so confidently and aggressively to create a strong internal pulse.

Drum Position

Make sure your instrument is flat, resting on a solid stand or carrier, and that you are playing in the correct area (center of a snare, bass, or keyboard and about an inch from the edge of quads).

Upper Body

You want to have a relaxed upper body—never tense but also not so loose that you hunch over and disrupt your posture. Bend your arms in roughly a 90-degree angle.

Grip on the Stick

Firmly grasp your sticks or mallets. If you are squeezing them and getting white knuckles, you are working too hard. If someone could walk up and easily grab the sticks right out of your hands, you aren’t doing enough. Your hands should be relatively flat with a slight downward angle of the forearms and sticks. If you can draw a straight line from your elbow to the bead of the stick, you are off to a good start.

Vertical Stroke

Just like when golfing, no one likes a slice. “Lead from the bead”—every stroke initiated from the bead back through the stick to a solid wrist turn and slight rise of the forearm.

Set yourself up for success with a confident approach to your instrument.

About the author

Lane Armey

Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. In the past, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.

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