Most of us drummers are way more comfortable with our right hands than our left hands. The overwhelming majority of drumline music is written to take advantage of that. Triplet and sixteenth note phrases usually start on the right hand. Loud releases on the right hand. Rim shots on the right hand. Tap rolls start on the right. On and on. So it is no wonder that most of our practice goes into righthand- led exercises. What is largely ignored is how much stronger you can become by throwing this practice out the window and “taking it off the left.”
I see students all the time play with uneven roll and tap quality. Yes, you can improve your left-hand sound quality by continuing to work right-handed rudiments and exercises. But a path to quicker success can be taking those same exercises off the left hand. Play your 16th note timing exercise off the left. It does not change the part at all, but it forces you to put your left hand on every downbeat. You start thinking more about that left hand and putting a little more weight behind it. This strategy is a surefire way to build your left-hand strength, resulting in more even sound quality between your hands.
A Different Progression
The normal progression of drummers is to learn an exercise and work on it as written (probably off the right hand), then proceed to the next more challenging exercise or rudiment. A better progression is to master that first exercise off both the right and left hands. Only then move on. Developing your skill set more evenly will pay big dividends down the road.
A Personal Experience
Many years ago I was cut from a drum corps audition after being asked to play lefthand hiertas.
My reaction: “What? Who in the world can play left-hand hiertas?”
I could play them for days off the right. Made no difference— I folded the second it came to the left hand.
So whether it is building your own quality of sound or preparing for a big audition, do not forget your left hand.
About the Author
Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. During the past 15 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.