Is Your Attitude Stopping You Being The Best Drummer You Can Be?

Is Your Attitude Stopping You Being The Best Drummer You Can Be?

Since I started teaching drums as a full-time thing a few years ago, I started noticing that when learning or, more specifically, becoming a pupil in our adult life, students above 25y/o seem to behave a bit like children. Now, I don’t mean this in a negative way at all! In fact, I behave exactly the same way when I’ve gone to see a drum teacher. So, how can we use this to learn drums better?

What interests me about this observation is this perceived change in attitude; the shift in which we proceed to accept information from an ‘expert’ (i.e. someone who’s considerably ahead of us). We surrender our trust and our will to this person, placing ourselves in a vulnerable position, and perhaps making feel a bit like kids again.

Have you noticed this yourself perhaps as a teacher or as a student? My partner, who teaches English in an ESL school, reports this exact same behaviour of her students. Senior as they may be in age or job in their native countries, she says they behave like middle schoolers. Now, her stories revolve around immature behaviour, which isn’t the case in my experience; my focus here is a general approach to learning.

So with that in mind, how can we make the most of this (i.e. learn drums better), our rejuvenating child-like sense of learning and adventure? To me, it’s about approaching learning something new with an open mind and a disposition to change something about ourselves (i.e. learning a new skill or developing it further).

The great Dom Famularo, said it best. To him, the fountain of eternal youth was to constantly be on the cusp of learning something new. Therefore, following on from those very wise words, consciously and actively try to

  • Keep an open mind, but not just when going for a lesson; do so in picking up new information and perspectives. Even if you might not agree with it, it might enrich your knowledge

  • Take advantage, and try to impress your teacher. On one hand, learning is done for ourselves, yet it’s also motivating to hear encouraging words from your teacher

  • Work with a mate on things you’re struggling with

  • Base your learning around projects like songs you’d like to cover, for instance

Thank you for reading my blog, as usual. I hope you’ve found this useful or interesting in one way or another. I would love to know what you think; whether you like it, or think it’s rubbish!

Apply Yoga Techniques to Learn Drums Better

Apply Yoga Techniques to Learn Drums Better

This article explore how to learn drums better by using yoga principles. These will help you:

  • Gain awareness of your body and muscles in the context of developing technique

  • Improve technique by changing your approach to practice

  • Gain freedom and spiritual peace when practicing technique through focusing on your body

By the way, if you’re after my article on how to play drums, you can read it here. Anyhow, let’s continue…


One of my drum students is a yoga instructor. Recently, during a drum lesson focusing on relaxing the wrists, hands and understanding rebound, she mentioned something that really caught my attention.

Whilst going through some hand exercises, she seemed almost hypnotised as she performed each stroke trying to generate rebound. I remarked on her focus, which she replied had to do with meditation. She pointed out that she’s able to stand barefoot on the floor and feel the ground beneath her feet for hours to be aware of herself; a technique borrowed from her training in yoga.

learn drums girl

This got me thinking that part of learning good technique, essential when we learn drums and becoming a better drummer, effectively coincides with being aware of our body. More specifically, our muscles, movements, and truly feeling these experiences. In other words, being able to understand, isolate, visualise and feel muscles and movements in order to ‘work’ them to their full potential.

The goal when we learn drums, therefore and as with yoga, is to achieve physical and mental liberation; to remove our limitations. In the context of learning technique, this is to freely express what creatively comes to our mind and into the instrument in real time, without our bodies “saying no” to what our heart and mind sing.

Update 29/01/21: I now practice yoga daily, and this article rings more true than ever! If you’re interested in how to learn drums with a yoga-informed sensibility, check out my drum lessons and get in touch! 

Re-examining the basics

So how can we learn drums better by using yoga principles? Let’s start by getting back to basics and re-examine what we take for granted. So, let’s look at defining percussion.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, percussion is a “musical instrument played by striking with the hand, a stick or beater, or by shaking”. It includes drums, cymbals, xylophones, gongs, etc.

learn drums percussion

Wonderful percussion instruments!

So when it comes to the drum kit, it’s our body using external tools, i.e. drum sticks, drum pedals, in order to produce the desired sound. Shouldn’t we, therefore, become intimately acquainted with such tools to get best results?

Certainly! Here are a series of questions that may, or may have not, already crossed your mind.

Our hands

  • How do the sticks feel in our hands (their weight, thickness, surface, material and vibration)?

  • How do the sticks rebound on different surfaces, and how that feels to our hands?

  • What’s happening with our fulcrum, and auxiliary fingers (or the cradle, as I like to call them)?

learn drums hand

Be mindful of how you grip the drum sticks, how your hands and arms move, etc…

Our feet

  • How do our feet feel against the pedal’s foot plate? For instance,

    • The tension of the springs

    • Angle of the foot plate, and foot plate resistance

    • How does the pedal rebound

    • Should we wear shoes or not

Explore your relationship relative to these tools. Consciously examine how they feel, how you use them. How they currently react and function, how they should, or perhaps how you want them react and function; what are the physics, and mechanics taking place?

Think of oneness with the instrument as the goal of this exercise. To work as one with it, in harmony.

Yoga and mediation

Yoga aspires to instil oneness / harmony, which leads to liberation; to be completely free. Adyashanti, an American-born spiritual teacher, describes this liberation as “emptiness dancing”, or perhaps in our case, “emptiness drumming”.

To achieve harmony, we’ll need to consider the following Yoga concepts, as identified by, London-based Yoga teacher, Charlotte Carnegie on her book The Incomplete Guide To Yoga:

  • The ground and how it feels beneath you (i.e. sitting on the stool, your feet on the pedals). Drop and relax into it.
  • Softness is strength, not a weakness. Let go and soften your body as much as you can, asking yourself how much can you let go.
  • Laughter, joy, curiosity, and wonder. The experience of learning new things should be joyful.
  • Listen intently, and do so with your whole body. Be aware of sounds, vibrations, and your surrounding.
  • Feel. Open and free your chest and ribcage to focus on the physical sensation of playing.
  • Connect your pieces together to achieve fluidity; your body parts working as one.
  • Flow. Relax through your hips, pelvis, chest and shoulder girdle.

Create space in your mind, body, and time. For instance, attend to the spaces between the notes when refining your timing. Or the space between the drum head and tool (stick, pedal beater) when refining dynamics.

learn drums yoga

In Practice

As previously mentioned, removing limitations from our body opens doors to freedom. By utilising all of our senses in the development process, we will achieve a more rounded experience of our bodies and tools we’re working with to achieve our goals.


For instance, when explaining the principles of rebound and stick control, I refer to the basics. How our grip should, by definition, flow freely with our sticks’ movement, without intruding on it’s natural trajectory and force. This means a relaxed fulcrum, and fluid cradle.

For this to happen, our body needs to be soft, and aware that our movements are interconnected (i.e. arm, wrist, fingers). These fingers must become accustomed to feeling how the stick moves, adjust to the movement and provide the necessary space required. The trick is in visualising and isolating each finger to let the stick flow in order for rebound to occur as freely as possible.

An example of this would be that this feeling can help us evaluate when a double stroke or controlled rebounds are required.

The same principles applies to our feet, with both the bass drum and hi hat pedals. We want to drop into the ground and feel the surface underneath our feet, and how these surfaces react to our movements. The more intimate the relationship with the tool, the more limitations we can overcome.

Taking the heel-toe technique as an example, it’s important to understand that the initial stroke of the two doesn’t come directly from the heel, but from the sole of the foot. This happens as we drop, not push, our foot onto the pedal which suggests the motion is a relaxed one. This also applies to our toes, which should remain on the pedal board the whole time, providing a constant connection and conduit to feel.


Where do we start with all this?

Yoga can be based around the basic surya namaskar (sun salutation) vinyasa (sequence). Different positions can then be added to this vinyasa once mastered – like building blocks. We should apply the same principle to technique, adding the points addressed above into our development process and awareness through practice.

Let’s revisit basics such as our grip, single strokes, etc. Yet, this time, focusing specifically on the muscles and muscle groups involved, and how our choice of tool interacts with our anatomy and application of it.


So! Everything we’ve talked about has several threads in common, yet repetition is the one I’d like to finish with. As boring as it may sometimes seem, when we learn drums, repetition is key. However it needn’t be a drag if we can also achieve freedom and spiritual peace as we practice by focusing on our movements and truly feeling our instrument.

Learning should be a joyful experience – gaining and improving our skills can only benefit us, which should make us happy! Give yourself to your practice; be at one with the process to achieve better results. This will, in turn, bring you inner peace, which you can then be applied not only to your playing, but to every day life as well.

Update 29/01/21: There are some fantastic yoga apps out there including Down Dog, DDPY, and others. Check them out! I have experience with both, currently using the Down Dog; they’re both very different, but great!

Thanks for reading, and if you liked this and are interested in my drum lessons, check them out here and get in touch!

Originally published by Modern Drummer, October 2015.

How to Play Drums Like Yourself

How to Play Drums Like Yourself

On the road to developing as a drummer, I think it’s important to nurture a our own drumming style as part of our musical self-expression. For me it’s ultimately our influences that shape our style. As Ralph Peterson puts it, one must imitate and assimilate what we absorb in order to innovate and arrive at our own style.

That said, I also believe it’s not just other drummers and musical preferences that influence our playing. Our wider environment, personality and other factors play as big a role. In this article, we look at how to play drums like yourself by breaking down some elements that constitute style. By the way, if you’d like to explore this topic in more detail, check out my drum lessons and get in touch!

how to play drums definition

What is style…

The Oxford Dictionary (OUP, 2013) defines style as a “particular procedure by which something is done”. The Merriam Webster Dictionary (2013), similarly, defines it as “a distinctive manner of expression”.

These definitions suggest a series of steps we must take in order to achieve something. Consequently, these steps I believe are influenced by our anatomy, minds and emotions. These will affect our groove perception, fills, feel, and technical approach.

So in the context of how to play drums, your drumming style can be personal. This is because it’s mixture of specific elements of our playing that separate it from somebody else’s (yet not necessarily everybody else’s).

… And how do I find and develop it?

In my opinion, possibly the easiest way to find your style is by simply jamming (to a song or solo) instinctively. Be mindful of what and how you play, trying not to play any too specific. Filming / recording yourself might be a good thing to try to review your performance!

Understanding how your playing differs from someone else’s begins with self-awareness. When reviewing your performance, ask yourself things like:

  • How busy is my playing?

  • How is my time in relation to the beat?

  • Am I replicating what I’m hearing in my head?

  • What are my dynamics like?

These questions can act as a good platform to dive deeper. The devil is in the detail, and that’s exactly where we start unravelling the essence of individuality; in the inconsistencies. Below are a few considerations:


Our dynamics make up a huge part of our style as they affect the sound and tones we’re creating. Similarly, this has a big impact on our general feel, which to me has also to do with our accent choices. An interesting thing to think about is perhaps how smooth and even are our crescendos are! To me these have a big impact in creating musical tension, so how smooth are yours?


Where on the beat we play is a great tell for whether we like to push, or lay back. This really affects how we feel music, and can be very specific to the individual. Similarly, that push and pull (differences in tempo) between sections to mark different feels can be very personal.

how to play drums time


How is your technique helping you achieve what you want to play? Whilst there’s ultimately no right or wrong as long as you get the desired results, there are universal principles that will benefit your playing. Inspect how you play from a technical point of view! What are things that are holding you back?

Technique is also a big piece of the puzzle in getting the right sounds (i.e. the sounds you want) from your drums! From your grip, posture, breathing, foot technique, etc, all these things make up how to play drums like yourself.

Tunings & equipment

We should most certainly not overlook our gear and how we tune our drums! The way our gear sounds is influenced by the shell material, cymbal quality, drum heads, sticks… Everything little piece of the puzzle adds up to create your sound.

So, what influences style?

I believe our how we play drums is largely influenced by our personality traits and how we feel. These traits and emotions are amplified and manifested through our playing. So, why not ask ourselves what each of our personality traits say about our style? Are you obsessive, non-conformist, passionate, introverted? This might be a great exercise to help you discover yourself, and therefore develop your drumming!

how to play drums idea

Wrapping it up!

So, whilst our influences do determine what and how we play, our personalities help us express these influences. Self-awareness can help us analyse, and therefore deconstruct and, subsequently should we want to, reconstruct our playing to reinforce, improve, or change our playing. The way I see it, in order to effectively do this, we need to think of the big principles of drumming (i.e. Time, Technique, Coordination, Musicality, Reading). Keep an open mind when analysing your playing!

Thanks for reading, and if you’re interested in my drum lessons, check them out here, and get in touch! While you’re at it, check out my book Concepts which was written with drumming self-expression in mind!

Originally published in May 13th, 2013 by Drummer Cafe. Read the original here.