Drumming Techniques: Dynamics
By Ben BlakesleyGeorges Music
Drumming is fun.Drumming is loud!...but not always...At least it shouldn't be always.Drum with dynamics. Learn to control them and learn to use them.This is an important skill to master to make yourself a proficient and sought after drummer.
So What ARE Dynamics...
Well, put simply, musical dynamics are how soft or loud a note is. To use dynamics in your playing, you need to incorporate both loud AND quiet hits.This can be a difficult thing for beginners when playing any instrument, but drummers are especially susceptible to the "louder is better" mentality because it's so easy to play drums at high volume. It's much harder to play with what we'll call 'a soft touch.'
Ok...but WHY are Dynamics Important?
Simple: It's all about impact.For example, we all know at least one person who has a filthy potty mouth, using curse words in place of every adjective (well, we're musicians, we probably know a LOT of people like this!). This person spews swear words like water and generally, those around him/her will get used to it and won't even think twice when hearing such words.And we likely all know someone who rarely lets an expletive escape his/her lips. When Mr. Clean lets fly with a dirty word we take notice and instantly recognize the impact of that word!The same thing goes for drumming (and all music, really). If you're constantly hitting as hard as you can, the listener becomes accustomed to it and when you really want to make an impact, you've got nowhere to go. That's why it's so important to mix loud, quiet, and middle volume hits and passages into your playing.
So How Do You Do It?
There are three things you can do that will make you more cognizant of your dynamics and improve the dynamic range of your playing:1. Disassociate playing softly with playing slowly and vice versa.
It's the natural tendency (especially for beginners) to play slower when meaning to play quieter and play faster as they get louder. Reject this notion entirely!! It will take practice, but you've got to learn that quiet/slow and fast/loud aren't inseparable. Try playing a steady beat to a metronome while adjusting the strength with which you are hitting the drums. 8 measures quiet, 8 measures loud, but all at the same tempo. This will get you on the right track.2. Exaggerate accents while practicing.
Drastically over compensate during practice sessions making the loud accented notes cartoonishly loud! This will help to teach your muscles how to go from playing quietly or at a normal volume to playing loudly and back to quiet again very quickly.3. It's not all arms.
One of the most important skills you can master as a drummer is that of the different types of strokes: arm, hand, finger. Try removing the full arm stroke from your repertoire entirely as you rehearse and see how it affects your playing. Focus on using hand strokes for the louder passages and finger strokes for quieter parts. Once you get that under your belt, increase your dynamic range by adding the arm strokes back in and you'll have some killer dynamic impact!
Now that you know how important dynamics are, and how to improve the dynamics in your playing, go out and impress your friends! Just use those dirty words sparingly.
Ben Blakesley is in charge of Marketing and Technology at George's Music and only plays drums solo...SO LOW you can't hear him!