Expanding Your Movement

It's something that I've been interested in since I began studying with Marc Damoulakis in college, and essentially what makes my Spatial Studies book unique. The fact is that many drummers out there don't know their own physicality very well, if at all. Movements towards a low tom tom or ride cymbal can be erratic and inefficient, wasting energy and causing the resulting sound to suffer. Unless there is a knowledge of a "better" way, or that they can relieve some unnecessary tension, etc., the movements may be left unchecked, often resulting in injury, broken equipment, etc. So, what is the "better" way, and how do people discover and explore it for themselves?

Essentially, whatever the most efficient way of accomplishing a goal is, is the "better" way. That being said, in my book I encourage the student to continually take note of how their body feels whenever they incorporate or execute a new movement. If it feels bad, adjust until it feels good, or natural. It's a guarantee that if you strike the instrument, no matter how you move, as long as it's relaxed throughout the stroke, it will produce a good sound. That being said, because we are all different and unique, our movements will not be exactly the same. Yes, the variables of efficient movement and relaxation may be the same, but how we interpret that and execute it will inevitably produce a different sound from person to person. 

The trap for us orchestral musicians, in my opinion, is that we are a very stable group. We only really move our arms, hands and occasionally our legs when moving up and down the keyboard. In part, I think this is because of the nature of our job and instruments, but also I think it stems from a desire to be accurate. "The more you move around, the more likely you will lose consistency," or something to that effect. So, I feel like we are the most at risk of having our movements stifled and habitually small, compared to the movements of a marching drummer or a drum kit player. We can counter this by incorporating the exercises or habits of those genres in our warm-ups and practice sessions. However, I've gone beyond even that. I've studied dancers, martial artists, methods of movement like Feldenkrais and Alexander technique, acting philosophy, etc. All of these have something in their pedagogy that can benefit us as drummers. 

I encourage you to take the time and think about how much you actually move while playing your instrument. Forget about missing notes, or having every eighth note sound the same on your drum. How would you play if you didn't have to worry about accuracy, or staying in a fixed stance or position? How far does your arm reach in all directions? How do you bend your knees as you move around the keyboard? Questions like these can really inform you on how much you move, and honestly, it might help you figure out why you can't accomplish certain tasks. In my book, I give exercises for exploring your physicality, but again, outside of the music field, there are many resources for you to dive into as well. Take a little time and try these ideas out, and see where it takes you.