The Body and the Drumset

I think about movement and the body in relationship to my drumset.  What is involved in executing a splash-close on the hi-hat?  What are my hands and fingers up to when performing a double-stroke roll on the snare?  What angle is the best for the ride cymbal so my shoulder can stay relaxed?  I wonder all the time about what body parts and what skills are being called upon to make a beat happen.  And as an occupational therapist, it's basically my job - what does the body need to do to make this activity happen in the most efficient way?

So the most logical way to explore anatomy in my mind is piece-by-piece, as in the general components of the modern day drumset.  Not many other instruments are a whole body exercise, but playing drumset requires all available limbs and a stable foundation from which to move.   Posture is held and practically every joint and sense is engaged at some point during a groove.  In some ways, it feels like dancing.  At least on a good day.  On a bad day, it feels like being hurled from the top of a staircase with two left feet.  


Reference Point

I recently calculated that I have been drumming on and off for over 25 years of my life.   I never really meant to, never was forced to do so, never studied formally or played in marching band.  It was just something I really liked to do.

In reflecting upon this number,  I realized that I have had a consistent movement (and emotional) reference point for nearly all stages of my life.   I drummed through puberty.  I drummed through awkward teenage years and all sorts of family drama.  I played from my first kiss and played even harder through breakups and falling in love.

I drummed through undergraduate studies, 3 changes in majors, then through 7 different jobs in 10 years before returning to school to get my master's degree in occupational therapy.  

No matter where life took me, I always found myself behind a drumset at some point.

The body has a way of remembering through it all and then putting some of the more beneficial material to good use.  I can multitask with the best of them.  I am coordinated in ways that I can only trace back to basic problem solving with limb independence from a drum throne.   I tend to have a good auditory memory from years of memorizing drum parts that has come in handy with remembering names and music arrangements in gig situations.  And I have been told that I have a good sense of humor, because you really need one when you come up against this frustrating instrument.

The body also has a way of remembering that shows up in aches and pains and limitations.  I've picked up my share of repetitive stress injuries and compensatory patterns from all aspects of my life.  It's pestering, annoying, worrisome - but it can be downright devastating if you can't participate in the things that bring you joy.

There's so much to learn about the body in all aspects of moving through this world - both physically and emotionally.  After 25+ years of playing, my reference point for movement is as a drummer. So if I can find out more about how I move as a drummer, why I can do the things I can and why I can't do the things I can't, then maybe the patterns will get better, the practice time more efficient.  Maybe the hands and feet will get faster, my nervous system will work with my playing rather than against it, and I can sidestep an injury or two.  Perhaps even the work I do at the hospital or clinic to help others will be more succinct...all from the understanding that comes from how I feel when I play drums.