Drum Lessons on good posture and how it relates to drumming, and your health.

If you are attending drum lessons, your teacher should certainly be discussing appropriate posture with you. Learning drums, and generally playing drums with a good posture is a very subjective topic. During our drum lessons in San Diego, we discuss all aspects of playing the drums – including that all important topic of posture.

In 1997, I worked for several months playing drums on a cruise ship. A typical day would involve starting at 5pm in the evening, and finishing around midnight. This would happen six days per week, so as you can imagine, there was a lot of playing involved. At the time, I was very much an “un-schooled” drummer, and my grip, and posture, left a lot to be desired. I started to become more aware of this as I watched and learned from the other drummers on board the ship. On returning to England at the end of the contract, I started to develop numbness in my finger tips, and I had also developed occasional pain in between my neck and right shoulder.

I attended an initial physiotherapy session – the first of about 10 to help correct the problem. On learning that I was a professional drummer, one of the first things my physiotherapist asked me to do was show her how I sit when I am playing the drums. From this, she identified part of the problem immediately. I was “slouched” down on my lumbar spine, and as such, over a long period of time, managed to compress muscles and vertebra in my lower back, and neck. This was almost certainly causing the numbness in my fingers, which affected my playing (especially hi hat playing) considerably. Aside from the “manipulation” of neck and back that I received during my sessions, I was asked to try a new approach when playing – simply sitting up on my lumbar spine instead of slouching. For the first few weeks, it was very frustrating as I could not play as well as I could in the posture I had been using my entire playing career.

It also made me re-evaluate my set up, and I did some research, as well as took advice from teachers and other professional players on how they set up their drums. The overriding opinion I received is that drum set up is a very personal choice, and what might be right for one person, may not be right for the next. After all, we are all different in build, shape and size. Some of the advice that I adhered to over the years includes sitting up straight on your lumbar spine, watch the height of you drum seat, get rid of the back rest, and adjust the height of your drums and cymbals.

One of the useful tips I received regarding seat height, was to have you thigh parallel to the floor. If the angle of the thigh was imbalanced (i.e Your knee was significantly higher then your waste, or lower then your waste), then it is an indication that you may be sitting too low, or too high. Secondly – you may want to consider ditching the back rest from that comfy drum throne. The problem is that you can tend to sink your back into the rest, which can have a detrimental effect on your overall posture. While some manufacturer’s back rests are ergonomically better then others; If you are sitting up straight, you really shouldn’t need a back rest at all. If you rely on a back rest because it is painful to play any other way (due to a back condition or any other issue), you may be worsening your condition. Watch the height of your snare drum. Some good advice I received is that the snare drum is the centre point of your drum set, and ought to be at a height where it “sits in your lap” – not so high that you raise your shoulders when you play it, and not so low that you are driving your forearms into your legs when you play. The hi-hat, toms and cymbals will be adjusted to your comfort level once the snare drum positioning is set. You really ought to be able to hit any drum or cymbal, while maintaining a good upright posture, and not significantly raising your shoulders – which ultimately affects your neck muscles. (Which, as you have heard from my experience, can effect the hands and arms). One thing I can say (at least from my own experience) is that if you are sitting up straight with all of your drums and cymbals in an ergonomically sound position – your playing may be stronger, more accurate, and ultimately more controlled then if you are slouching, and sitting low on that all important lumber spine.

Other things to consider, which I will cover later, are grip and pedal technique. If you are gripping your sticks too tight, your upper body may be “tight” when you play, and you will almost certainly feel that in your neck. This will also impede the fluidity and speed of your playing – something I have discussed in previous blogs. Pedal techniques, such as heal up and heal down also have an effect on posture; but this will be covered in more detail later.

If you decide to approach your playing in a different way having read this article, (and in addition to your own further research); be prepared for a little frustration while you are going through your transition. As I said; I found that in the first few weeks, I could not play as solidly as before – but that is a hurdle you will soon get over if you diligently stick to your new technique. I can only tell you that my playing is as strong as it has ever been, mainly (I believe) due to my posture, and I couldn’t begin to imagine slouching on my lumbar spine, now that I am aware of the effects this has on other parts of the body.

If you would like to make an appointment to see me to discuss your posture, and the ergonomics of your drum set; then fill out the contact form, and I will come back to you with options within 24 hours. Thanks for checking in!

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