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By gottadrum462
#36364
Hi there! Any body have any exercise tips for playing with your non dominant hand? I started playing in May and now that I'm hooked and comfortable, I've been working on my technique. I keep struggling with trying to get my left hand to do what comes naturally to my right... I practice playing the same beat, alternating hands, but as soon as I try to pick up the tempo, or add onto it, I lose it. :doh:
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By Beerfola
#36365
I found my dominant hand is actually what slows me down when the tempo increases. It's just not as loose as the hand I don't use as much. The muscles tense up. Focus on relaxing and not tensing. Shorten your stroke and eliminate excess arm movement. Anticipate when you are going to execute a fast extended roll, take a deep breathe in and exhale during the roll.
You can try isolating your hand from your arm at the wrist and practice your stroke. Place your wrists on the back of a kitchen chair and play "air" djembe. If possible isolate the back or topside of your wrist in the same manner (under a hand rail or some such) and practice. This will limit your arm movement and help to shorten your stroke. Then isolate at the elbow, the object being to relax your shoulders and remove them from the equation. And then just stand and play air djembe. Without the resistance of actually hitting the drum you will build your djembe muscles.
Perhaps a bit extreme but you asked. It's difficult to transfer energy into your playing without tensing up but relaxing is really the key. Breathe. Your muscles need air and when they fatigue they tense up.
#36366
One tactic I have used is playing the same note with both hands at the same time, not a flam, not alternating, but simultaneously. So, both hands would produce a slap at the same time, or a tone at the same time.

This allows me to focus on minute differences in how each hand is playing, such as angle, force, and hand shape instantaneously via kinesthetic feedback rather than evaluating notes sequentially.

I'll admit it's not a good tool for learning a new rhythm, learning to play at tempo, building speed or endurance. I think of it as holding up two sheets of paper towards a bright light to see the minute differences in what should be identical images.
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By boromir76
#36373
Don't worry when it comes to speed. Speed will come gradually with months or in more realistic scenario, with years of playing and practice. Try to be always aware of what your both arms are doing, so you can correct any aspect of playing anytime. It is very importatant that you play and understand patterns and frazes in slow tempos first and only than start to speed up gradually, so don't rush. The hardest thing is to re- learn something which was learned the wrong way, just because of impatience or "let's play it fast, if I can not play it slow" aproach, where there is tendency to play things very fast therefore the mistakes become not so obvious.
One very efficient way to strengthen weak hand technique is "mirror playing" or playing as your weak hand was the dominant one. Always check that your weaker hand is doing the same movement from the same angle and that the fingers have the same contact with drum as the stronger hand.
Last edited by boromir76 on Mon Nov 02, 2015 7:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
By davidognomo
#36378
I was thinking this subject has already been discussed, I seem to remember a tread with exercises for the non-dominant hand... but this discussion became far more interesting than a lot of posts with exercises. each one is presenting his perspective on how he deals with the situation.

I started to experiment with my left hand, at a point. I heard that MK tells his students if they should start roles and rudiments with their dominant or non-dominant hand. A lot of djembefolas start their roles with their left. A lot of djembefolas play a lot of things as lefties, even if it's not evident or clear that they are left-handed.

When I play things as a lefty, a lot of things sound different - the swing, because of different speeds of response in each hand, and also because of the difference in sound. Another issue is the ending of a role or a rudiment. Sometimes, the left hand is the one to give that right ending slap; sometimes it's the right hand. And you end up choosing your handing having these issues in consideration.

It's good to know some accompaniments both ways, so you can alternate when playing longer, at dance classes or rehearsals, that's a great exercise. The second accomp. to Sinté (ttss|ttss|ttss ... ) is quite challenging on that, because of its feel - to be able to do it sounding the same way as when you do it starting on the dominant hand.

Bottom line, a hit - a note - is a note, not a hand. The hand produces the note. So a note should sound as it should, regardless if it's the right or the left hand that makes it.
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By batadunbata
#36412
Lots of good advice. From my experience:

1. You say you started in May, which is not very long ago. It will get better with time, as long as you work on it.

2. I recommend spending some time each practice session playing with your non-dom hand leading the beat. This sounds obvious, but the main thing is to actually do it, even if you are disappointed at how much less reliable it is. This is the main "trick". There is no way around practicing, and if you want two good hands, you have to let them both take turns leading.

3. If you are right handed, like me, this may be helpful to know: I thought my left hand was worse, until I had a lot more practice, then I was able to "trust" my left hand to lead, and now I think when I do that, it is actually better than my right hand, even though I am less "in control" of it. My right hand is more analytical, and less fluid, but generally faster and more forceful.

4. You can't get around the need to balance the nervous system. Yoga will help to stretch out any tension on that side of your body, and balance your nervous system with breathing and awareness techniques. Full body exercise also helps, as does dance, martial arts, climbing, etc.

5. I agree with boromir76, whatever you do, don't rush! So many drummers play faster than they are ready for, because it is easier to sustain a beat when you are adrenalizing, but to be good, you need to play subtle, which requires slow practice, and practicing tiny changes in timing as well as hand placement and hand pressure/speed/force.
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By batadunbata
#36418
Thanks djembefeeling, I appreciate your kindness.

I forgot one more tip for practicing left hand:
I recommend taking up the eastern arts of tai-chi and bagua-xiang (an easy way to start is to watch videos online etc), and pay special attention to using your left side of your body, so that eventually it feels symmetrical in various postures and motions. This takes a while, but it will improve your drumming many times over.
Another eastern art is qi gong, which involves smaller movements, but more focus on breathe and energy. It is useful for deepening your inner awareness and feeling of being grounded and interconnected with everything, which helps to lose yourself in drumming, music, dance, etc.
It might sound like a lot to take up all the things I've suggested, but a little of each goes a long way, and they can flow into each other, and fill out your practice.
I could go on about why these are so useful, but my advice is try it for yourself, see if you don't drum better and more balanced after doing some yoga, deep breathing exercises, and emptying your mind with chanting or qi gong/yogic sounds. Om'ing is a great way to clear out the cobwebs.
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By michi
#36419
davidognomo wrote:I heard that MK tells his students if they should start roles and rudiments with their dominant or non-dominant hand.
I've witnessed this several times. Mamady walks around the circle and asks each person to play a six-roll starting left and starting right, and then tells them which side they should start their rolls on if there is a clearly preferred side for rolls (for almost everyone, there is). So, Mamady doesn't care whether a right-hander rolls left or right; he just wants them to roll on their "natural" side, whatever that is.

I've been working for several years on rolling from the left (which is my weak side). Initially, I couldn't do it at all. Now, I can do it almost as well as from my right. All the practice is paying off… :)

Michi.
#36422
batadunbata wrote:see if you don't drum better and more balanced after doing some yoga, deep breathing exercises, and emptying your mind with chanting or qi gong/yogic sounds.
It might sound like a lot to take up all the things I've suggested, but a little of each goes a long way, and they can flow into each other, and fill out your practice.
that seems indeed to ask a lot. I would rather spend that time on the drum, for that alone already provides awareness for a balance of your left and right side. on the other hand I see that a change in method is more efficient than sticking to one method all the time and everything supporting the balance might help. that said: trying to play as fast as you can for as long as you can sometimes also helps in beoming faster ;) -- it helps you see where you are still tight, and playing for a dance class forces you to relax with utmost urgency...
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By michi
#36424
djembefeeling wrote:trying to play as fast as you can for as long as you can sometimes also helps in beoming faster ;) -- it helps you see where you are still tight, and playing for a dance class forces you to relax with utmost urgency...
I second that, very strongly. I just spent a weekend at a drum and dance camp where I was the only drummer around who could play for the dancers. So, there is just me, and I cannot afford to take a break because there is no-one else, and the warm-up alone is over half an hour and, for the last ten minutes, seriously fast. Playing for twenty minutes? No problem. Playing at high speed for ten minutes after just having played for twenty minutes? Not so easy.

I found myself going stiff in my shoulders towards the end and consciously reaching for places where I could relax to avoid going into lock-up.

The long and short of it: there is no such thing as a wasted minute on the drum. Even if you play the same pattern for 45 minutes or more. There always is something new to learn.

Cheers,

Michi.
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By batadunbata
#36454
Good advice from Djembefeeling, I agree it is very important to be able to play at speed as well, and "let loose" etc.

Very interesting to read Michi, great comments, I learned a lot from that.
One thing I try to do when I get that tight feeling, is something I copied from videos of Djembe masters in africa (on Youtube) which is to lift the shoulders up as part of the motion of drumming, so it is almost a dance which starts from the shoulders, rather than just an arm motion. I don't do it enough, but it always helps when I do. It helps with what you mentioned, finding areas which can be loosened/relaxed.

After giving this topic some thought, while practicing, I found myself doing something that helped me a lot. I was playing a rhythm and I would alternate which hand I used every cycle of the rhythm to lead and hit the bass/dun with. It creates a nice undular motion, to switch hands after each cycle. I found that it was very easy to work on my left because I was repeatedly comparing it to my right, and was able to kind of "ease" it into sync with my right. They worked together as well, and I kept going until it sounded smooth and felt relaxed. They sort of dance together.
I recommend a rhythm within your comfort zone, but which is interesting enough to keep doing.

It may sound like a lot to do the things I suggested earlier, but the reason I mention them, is that in any physically athletic coordinated task, it is the difference between night and day if someone has worked on toning their nervous system or not. Of course drumming can be an excellent way to tone the nervous system in many ways, but it is also limited, by the posture and repetitive motion, so it will not have the same results as for example, stretching the hamstrings, doing a backbend, a twist etc. Of course these things help with the stiffness which can come with drumming, but what is less obvious is their other benefits, and those of breathing techniques, and subtler work which for example concert pianists begin with. They aren't allowed to touch a piano until they work on posture and breath. Balancing the right and left hand are a lot harder to do if the imbalance originates from stiffness in the spine or hips, so it is very helpful to add holistic techniques into the kit.