Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Open Handed Drumming | The Short List of Open Handed Drummers

Open Handed Drumming with Ride On Left
I’m an “open handed” drummer.  What does that mean?  I play a drum set that is set up for right handed people, but I play it left handed.  My arms don’t cross over when I play a standard beat.   I never knew any other way to play the drums.  I guess that you could say that I taught myself to play drums the “wrong” way.  Does it really matter how you play the drums? It probably does not.  All I know is that it took a long time for me to find a few professional open handed drummers.  Growing up in the pre-YouTube era, one could only guess as to who played open handed, unless you saw them play live.  So with that, I’m going to give you my list of worthy drummers who impress their fans by playing open handed. 

One of the first drummers that I noticed playing open handed was Kenny Aronoff, but it’s been said that he only does it from time to time.  I noticed that he played open handed when John Mellencamp played live on Second City TV.  Since that time, I have only seen him play cross over style. Dom Famularo plays open handed, but with a twist.  He switches up his rack toms.  Traditional tom set ups are from smallest to largest.  He will put a 13” tom first, followed by a 12”. He may not do that all the time, but he pointed out the strange setup to the audience at one of the Cascio drum clinics that I attended. He’s more of a mixed handed drummer.  He will play both ways.

John Blackwell is one of the few who plays open grip.  He makes it look easy.  At times you can see that he will be playing a ride cymbal with his right hand and keeping time on the hi hat with his left, hitting the snare with his left, when the song calls for it. Certainly one of the more famous drummers to play this way is Carter Beauford. Mr. Beauford is one of the best when it comes to utilizing the open drumming technique. If you follow him closely, you find that he will make the most efficient moves behind the drums.  Open handed drumming can certainly do that for you.  There is no need to “uncross” your arms before making a move.  You can reach out in either direction at any time. 
I must say that over the years, it has been a bit of a pain to play this style if you are going to be playing a “house” drum kit that is set up for right handed drummers.  Most times, you will find that the ride cymbal is on the right hand side of the standard kit.  For best results, it’s best to move the ride cymbals to the left, just over the top of the hi hat.  That way, you don’t have to cross your arms for any reason.  If you are truly ambidextrous drummer, it really doesn’t matter where you put the cymbals, but I have yet to meet someone with that kind of talent.  Everyone has a strong or dominant hand.    

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