Aside from lobsters being one of my favorite things to eat, they have become one of my favorite descriptions for certain members of the drumming community. Many drummers tend to favor their dominant hand at the expense of their weaker one. Over a period of time, some develop stronger muscles, faster speed, better control on their dominant side, but its counterpart is left undeveloped and weak. Since many lobsters have one claw that is bigger than the other, these drummers are referred to as “lobsters”. Don’t be one! I know a few right handed drummers who set their kits up as lefties just to become more balanced. I don’t know if that is entirely necessary but paying attention to the dreaded weak hand certainly is. There are plenty of ways to do this, but the first thing to keep in mind is that IT TAKES PATIENCE. Musical progress can be a very long process. Set short term and long term goals and use a metronome to track it.
1) Isolate your hands. We do a lot of work with mixed sticking, but independence is also key. Play a steady eighth note pattern with your weak hand in time to a metronome setting almost as if you were playing it like a hi-hat in a basic rock groove. This helps the weak hand get used to the type of motion and repetition that strong hand is used to dealing with. Play different rhythms with your weak hand this way and maybe even do a call and response kind of technique with your left and right. The Stone Killer is a helpful exercise using this approach. This will help you see and feel the difference between the two and understand where your strengths/weaknesses lie in each.
2) Reverse the roles of your hands. Apply the same idea we talked about above with your weak hand staying steady on eighth notes on the snare drum. Eventually you want to try playing the floor tom on the 2 and 4 with your strong hand. Play around with the tom placements, but you’re basically reversing the normal role of each hand so each is able to experience what the other is used to doing. Find grooves you usually play and apply them this way. The goal is to improve ambidexterity and work those muscles in your weak hand/arm. This will not only allow for more speed and better control, but also a better balance between your right and left strokes.
3) The Tap/Rebound approach is a method of getting two hits out of a drum with one downward wrist motion. You hit the drum on the downstroke and turn it down on the upstroke to tap the drum again as you are returning to the start position. This technique is applied and expanded on in the Moeller Technique, which aims at three hits per downstroke. It’s a great method of conserving energy in your body while building speed.
4) Build strength in your weak arm. Do this through mixed sticking exercises but also simply by lifting weights. Drummers have to be careful with how we approach weight lifting. A soar muscle could be the difference between a great and awful performance. Don’t become a powerhouse, just stay toned. The more muscle you have, the more you have to drag around, which could make drumming difficult.
Hopefully this information will be helpful for drummers looking to increase speed and improve the function of their weak hands. Dave Weckl, Jojo Mayer, and Joe Morello are my three favorite drummers to refer to for speed/weak hand lessons. Check them out and good luck.