Striking the Drum

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 32,829
    Expert drummer Wes Crawford breaks down how to efficiently strike the drum.

    Wes Crawford

    Wes began his professional music career after graduating with a B.S. in Psychology at Virginia Tech. Soon thereafter, he began performing drumset with the extraordinary Jazz/R&B singer Jane L. Powell, a musical association that lasted eleven years and continues as a managerial relationship. The group toured throughout North America and the Caribbean performing at festivals, universities, resorts, nightclubs, and cruise ships. They opened for such acts as Ray Charles, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, Lou Rawls, The Crusaders, Joan Jett, Ernie Watts, and Paula Poundstone, and occasionally performed alongside artists such as Tony Bennett, O.C. Smith, and Dorothy Moore. The 1,300 colleges and universities comprising the National Association for Campus Activities voted the group Entertainer of the Year in 1990, their highest honor, and Jazz Artist of the Year for 1990-1992. During these years of touring, Wes also recorded two albums with Ms. Powell as well as for several outside artists. Wes also conducted electronic percussion seminars at VA Tech and at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Gifted. In 1992, Wes settled with his family in the Washington, DC area as an independent artist on drumset and percussion where he currently performs and records with acts such as Shahin & Sepehr (Higher Octave/Narada world music recording artists), Cocktail Nuts (aka “C-NUTS”- Jazz versions of rock classics, on Wildchild/Mapleshade Records), mrudangam virtuoso Umayalpuram K. Shivaraman (including a clinic at PASIC 2000 and a featured performance at Baltimore Drum Day 2000), Squeeze Bayou (1998 winners of the “Best Non-Louisiana-Based Cajun Band Recording” awarded by the Cajun French Music Association), and Night Life (high-energy show band). Wes has also regularly performed and/or recorded with Aisha Kahlil (of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Eva Cassidy, Catalyst Events’ “Beatswork!,” Zydeco Crayz, Mary Ann Borelli, “Oh Susannah!”, Sugar Jones, and Armadillo recording artist Daryl Davis. His other noteworthy performances and recordings include those with the David Bach Consort (2nd place winner in the 1998 BET unsigned band video contest), Hennesy Jazz Search regional winner Jerry Gordon, and performances with Milestone recording artist Ron Holloway. Wes considers education to be an important link to the future of the percussive arts and teaches drumset privately and at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. He also performs in public school assemblies with Mosaic, which provided the musical instruction and curriculum for the 2000 Maryland Artist/Teacher Institute. Wes serves as the Director of the annual Drumset And Percussion Camp of the Goucher Summer Arts Institute and as Vice-President of the MD/DE chapter of the Percussive Arts Society. In 2000, Wes started, a site to feature his interactive educational media such as his popular “Drumset Play-Along DVD.” His latest “A Rhythmic Murder Mystery” interactive DVD features a solo electronic drumset concert, which he also performs live. Wes holds Associate Artist relationships with Maryland Drum Company and with Trueline Drumsticks, and he occasionally works as Music Consultant for the not-for-profit Sustainable Environments for Health + Shelter.

    So, once you feel comfortable holding the stick like this, and you might try and exercise, where you let your fingers out, bring them back in, just so that you know that youre not loosening up at the fulcrum, at the thumb and the first finger. Then it's time to hit the drum. Again, anybody can hit the drum, all you need to have to do is drop the stick, but you want to do it again, efficiently so that you dont use more energy than you need. Think of a single stroke as being a quick motion down to up, down up like this, I will hit the drum. This is our ideal stroke, because it uses the least amount of energy and effort on our part. We are pushing the stick down, gravity is helping us, then relax the muscles in your hand as soon as it strikes the drum and the stick will bounce back. Be careful when you try this at home, but I just want to demonstrate the rebound properties of the drum. As you can see the drum wants to propel the stick back, so lets use it to help us. Start with your stronger hand and Im going to assume thats your right hand, so you can reverse everything that I say, if youre left-handed, but start with your wrist fairly low, again, straight off your arm. Bend your wrist back slightly and then stroke down up. Say down up as you do it, so you think of it as a single word in a single motion. Down up, down up, down up. When that feels very comfortable, do it with your left hand; down up, down up, down up, down up, down up and thats the basic way we want to hit the drums. I say the basic way because there are many, many other ways we might want to strike the drum to get different sounds, and because were in a three dimensional environment once we start working on the drum set, but if you have this basic way down then it's going to be very effortless as you move around the drums, and you will be able to alter as you need to. So, this is the first step. Generally through these lessons get really good at each step before you move further, dont go to the next clip until youre real comfortable with what were doing in this clip. The motion, again, is all by the wrist, were not going up and down with the arm, keep your arms relaxed, elbows to your side, use your wrist, down up, down up, down up, down up, down up, down up, do it slowly and precisely so that you can feel and think about what it is your doing and you can monitor yourself to make sure nothings going wrong, it will eventually get into your muscle memory. In other words, it will become a habit to do it right, and thats when you can really move forward on the drum set.