One of the more commonly asked questions in my drum lessons is: “How do I strengthen my weak hand?”, or “What are some exercises to strengthen my weak hand?”. As most drummers are right-handed, they are usually referring to improving their left-hand, but the question directly addresses how to work on to the weaker hand, regardless of which hand it is.
Spending some time each session working specifically on the weaker hand will give you the boost you’ll need to catch up with the stronger hand.
Aside from just using it more often in everyday life, here are the things I have done over the years to improve my left-hand coordination. Consider using heavier sticks when practicing these exercises, it will help to strengthen your hands.
Please note: This article contains cuts of the actual exercise for "12 Minutes to Stronger Hands". The exercise is three pages and can be found at the bottom of the Blog Homepage. The three pages are also pasted at the bottom of this blog post and you can simple save the images to download and print them.
Read this article first to properly understand how to play through the exercise, and then download the pages and go for it!
1. Slow Practice
Practice your weak hand at slow speeds to perfect its movement. Look closely at those movements to make sure they are smooth and unbroken.
Only begin to play at higher tempos when your weak hand can continue in a fluid and efficient manner. Be patient and honest with your abilities and you are sure to succeed.
Slow practice can be very meditative and is good for improving concentration as well as overall mental health.
Smooth Movements = Smooth Sounds
2. Hands In Unison (Double Stops)
Play both hands at the same time to work on getting your weak hand to the same level as the strong hand. This will force your weaker hand to find a way to keep up with your stronger one. Focus on making them sound exactly the same. The goal is to train your weaker hand to have better technique when you use it alone. Doing this in front of a mirror, or videotaping yourself, can be very helpful.
Practice the following exercise as a preparation for the “12 minutes to even hands”.
If you want to take it to the next level then play rudimental solos with both hands. Take for example Solo #1 from Charley Wilcoxon’s “The All American Drummer”.
3. The “3x More” Principle
The “3x more” principle is the concept of practicing the weaker hand 3 times more than the stronger hand. This is very helpful for weak hand development because it allows some catch-up time, and you can use this time to focus on your hand mechanics.
Here is an exercise I use when my left hand needs a boost:
***Notice how for every right hand stroke there are three times more left hand strokes.
4. Stone Killer
The Stone Killer is an exercise that was created by master teacher George Lawrence Stone, and was published in Joe Morello’s pivotal hand technique book “Master Studies”. Although there are a ton of variations, the basic premise of the exercise is that you alternate your hands while playing multiple strokes.
I have done this exercise hundreds of times and can say that it is a killer! Start slow, executing 16th notes at 60bpm and do the exercise but with only repetitions per exercise. Once you have developed some control then do 10 per hand, 25 per hand, and then finally, 50 per hand once you feel you will be able to do it without hurting anything.
5. Single Strokes leading with the Weak Hand
The following example is also from Joe Morello’s book “Master Studies” and is one of my favorite exercises for working on my weak hand. The exercise consists of playing continuous 8th notes with the weak hand while adding in filler 16th notes with the strong.
6. Moeller Technique
The Moeller Technique is an excellent method for developing fluidity in the hands, and spending extra time working on the Moeller Method with you weaker hand will greatly improve its coordination.
There is a ton of great literature and videos out there demonstrating the Moeller Technique, so I will not get into it here.
In every city there is an expert on the Moeller Technique, so look them up in your city and take a lesson.
This lesson is all about efficiency of movement and will help you to increase your speed & fluidity around the drums.
Check out this video by hand technique guru, the great Jim Chapin
7. Stone Killer w/ Accents
Same principal the original Stone Killer, but with adding specific accents. Practice much more slowly than the original at first as the added force to the arms can lead to bad technique, and maybe even injury, if you’re practicing a lot.
Added Accents = Added Control
But the “3x More Principle” is not limited to only practicing multiple stroke exercises and can be applied to practicing our rudiments. Practice starting rudiments with the weak hand 3x more.
Let’s consider two of the more commonly used rudiments, the Paradiddlediddle and the 6-stroke roll.
Try this exercise with the Paradiddlediddle:
When practicing the 6-Stroke Roll, and its three most commonly used variations, play it once strong hand lead and then three times leading with the weak hand.
STRONG HAND LEAD
WEAK HAND LEAD
9. Weak Hand Ostinato Patterns
Practice various weak hand groupings, specifically three-note groupings, while maintaining a repeating pattern in the strong hand.
In this lesson we will use the example of playing quarter notes with the strong hand.
As shown in the above examples, there are a ton of ways to improve strength & coordination in our weaker hand, but in the end the best way to do it is to USE IT. Open doors, brush your teeth, prepare food (careful with the knife!), anything you can think of to improve coordination of the left hand.
by: Brandon Goodwin
Montreal, QC, Canada
As I often mention, there is no substitute for a good teacher. If you have questions, or perhaps need clarification then I strongly encourage you to find a teacher and work through these ideas with them. You will develop much more quickly and will eradicate any bad habits that could develop if practicing without guidance. You can always contact me about lessons at my studio in Montreal, or on Skype. But this isn’t about me, it’s about the art of drumming, so find the best teacher you can and stick with it.
Brandon Goodwin Bio
Brandon has worked with renowned jazz musicians such as Braxton Cook, Grammy-award winning artists Delfeayo Marsalis, and Kebbi Williams, as well as some of Canada’s top talent, including Fraser Hollins, Al McLean, and Samuel Blais.
Brandon has studied with some of Canada’s top drummers, including, Nasyr Abdul Al-Kabyr (Dizzy Gillespie), Dave Laing, and Dave Robbins, and has also studied privately with internationally acclaimed drummers Ari Hoenig and Dan Weiss.
He has taught masterclasses at high schools and universities in Canada and the U.S. and is the owner/principal operator of Studio Drum MTL. Based out of Verdun QC, Brandon services Greater Montreal, Lasalle, Lachine, NDG, Westmount, and Cote St Luc with his high quality drum lessons.
Brandon’s group B’s Bees has performed concerts in North America and in Asia, at major jazz festivals and in some of the best jazz clubs in the world. The group has also performed masterclasses at high schools and in universities in Canada, the U.S. and in Asia.
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