Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The instrument and our physical relationship with it

Oh, it's all right. I'm sure that we can handle this situation maturely, just like the responsible adults that we are. Isn't that right, Mr... Poopy Pants?

RIP Leslie Nielsen.

Okay, on with our regularly scheduled blog.
When I first started playing, I was trying to get out what I heard any way I could, and didn't think much about how I was using (or usually fighting) my body to create the sounds at the drumset. As I got older, I became a lot more aware of how many aspects of my physical approach to the drums hindered the progress I was making, and could even lead to injury if I did not deal with these issues. I still see these issues all the time with younger players.

Let's look at few....

Posture: it's just like all our Mothers tell us DON'T SLOUCH! Seriously, not sitting straight up at the instrument can easily lead to lower back problems. Elvin mentioned that earlier in his career he tended to sit lower and crouch. if you check any post 60s Elvin however, you can see he's raised he seat height and is sitting straight up. Here's Elvin from earlier:

....And here he is after he adjusted his posture.

Notice how is neck is craned and his spine is curved in the first example. In the second video his whole torso is basically straight and his neck isn't nearly as far forward. Now, of course the playing is incredible in both videos. Sometimes to play at a high level our whole careers we have to reassess how we approach the physical act of playing. If someone at Elvin's level can do it, the rest of us have no excuses.

I think the main way to avoid playing related injuries is to be as relaxed as possible, both physically and mentally while playing the drums. Physical relaxation involves loose muscles and body movement (at least in the practice room) only used to create sound. In other words, don't move your left foot unless you really want to play the hi-hat. we all need to get out of the habit of moving unless we're getting a musical result.
Mental relaxation would include barring any negative self talk while we're performing. Believe me, I know from personal experience that beating oneself up while trying to create music just causes tension and worse performance. Always be kind and gentle with yourself when performing. That is non-negotiable!

I'd like to conclude one more video. This is of Vinnie Colaiuta. I find it interesting that he's always mentioned in terms of his monstrous technique but one of things I love about him is how at home he looks where he's playing. it looks like the drum throne is the comfiest place in the world. If we all practice diligently while staying relaxed we can also feel like we've come home when we're playing.

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