Drumming is serious business; serious and fun business. It is a chance to be with friends and others who share your love for rhythm and music. Drumming sessions and circles can last an hour, or can go on for great lengths of time, sometimes at the physical expense of the drummers involved. Whether you drum for yourself, in a band, in a drum circle or for whatever reasons, you know that if you drum for too long, your arms, shoulders, back and hands can start to feel fatigued. Extensive drumming can lead to repetitive stress injuries, and even cause you to slow down the beat. With the proper warm-up techniques and between-session exercises, you can build your endurance and keep drumming long into the night, and even the next day.
Drumming is a full-body activity, involving more than just hands and arms, as well as your ability to create and maintain rhythms. Your brain and muscles need oxygen to work efficiently, so when you begin your warm-ups or drumming exercises, start with breathing. A good supply of oxygen will benefit your muscles and mind and prepare them for the work ahead. Breathing can also help you focus your thoughts and even be the start of a warm-up rhythm that extends into your intial drum play, getting the oxygen and inspiration flowing naturally.
After a few minutes of breathing, or even while you
breathe, begin to tap out a slow rhythm with your hands on your
practice pad, Djembe,
lap, pillow or something soft to get your hands moving, but keep them
protected from any hard hits until they are ready. Rotate quarter- and
eighth-note beats between your hands, slowly building up the speed of
the rhythm. Continue to drum your warm up rhythm for 5-10 minutes,
adding in your personal touches as you go, and be sure to keep
breathing. You can also try a Paradiddle rhythm, rhumba or a “4+3” rhythm where one hand plays four beats and the other plays 3 in the same measure.
Once your body is warmed up, it is time to stretch your drumming muscles. While drumming involves different parts of the body, the focus is on the upper torso, particularly the shoulders, arms and hands. Rotate and stretch your wrists by holding your arms straight out in front of you and pulling your hand and fingers toward your shoulder. Then, stretch your fingers individually, being sure not to overextend them. If you have drum sticks, you can use them to help stretch your shoulders by holding them in both hands in front of you and pulling your hands apart. Be sure to also rotate your neck gently, and keep breathing.
Taking the time to warm up before your drumming session can make a difference in your rhythms, the music and in your own physical condition. Drumming is an aerobic exercise (270 calories an hour!) and the action of drumming can be quite a workout, no matter if you play rock drums, bongos, Djembes or any other percussion instrument. Caring for your body as you care for your instrument will keep it ready and willing to drum for years to come.