How to Build Drum Speed, Part 3: Hand Speed

According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), a drum pad is only one surface with one feel. It’s a bouncy type feel that’s great for practicing. On the other hand, a drum set has many surfaces with many types of feels. Speed will allow to move your ideas around the drums with much more ease.

  1. Your drums and cymbals should be within easy reach so that you can get to where you need to get really fast. This will constantly change with time, but you want to make as easy as possible.
  2. Practice moving around the kit as fast as you can with a single stroke roll. Do this until your arms are tired. Try to go for five minutes and you will be sweating. Try to keep an eye on where you’re going so you’re not hitting rims. Ask yourself questions, such as  “where am i hitting?” and  “where i am i going?”
  3. At midnight, when everyone is sleeping, air drum AS LOUD AS YOU CAN. This strengthens you wrists. Remember that if you hit your drums you will wake people up. This is a good warm up, too.
  4. Try to play a single stroke roll on you floor tom only holding the middle of the drum stick. Not only does it feel awkward but you have no convincing balance point. Also, practice using the lock grip in the middle of the floor tom. If you have a high pitched floor tom, detune it low (before it loses its tone) so its soggy.
  5. Finally, practice playing double stroke rolls on your floor tom.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) goes into much more depth about how to improve your speed. This is one subject that most drummers from around the world are very interested in. As with everything in drumming and in life, patience and perseverance go a long way.

How to Build Drum Speed, Part 2: Hand Speed

Here are some more tips to get your hands flying around the drums:

  1. Practice on a pillow. Dennis Chambers recommends pillows over practice pads. Dennis has said on many occasions that Buddy Rich used to this to develop wrists, fingers, and forearms. A good pillow will have very little rebound. The purpose of this is that you have to do all the work. Practice single stroke rolls at different volumes, speeds, add aceents, play rudiments, etc. Practicing doubles on a pillow will improve your ability to play doubles on a floor tom. One great thing about pillow practice is that it won’t disturb anyone.
  2. Develop Finger control. This will improve your ability to play really fast grooves. Your wrists have a limit to how fast they can move. French grip gives you the most room for the drum sticks to move around and have the most leverage. The faster you play, the lower the height of your sticks will be. Strengthening each finger individually really helps. Your pinky acts as a stabilizer for the drum stick, but can cramp up. Keep in mind that finger control can be very frustrating to develop.
    Technique Patterns
    (affiliate link) by Gary Chaffee has some great exercises. Also, don’t do finger control exercises on a pillow until you have control on a pad.
  3. Practice the Lock Grip Technique. This technique is practiced by gripping the stick the 2nd joint of the index finger. Some people call this power grip. This really strengthens the wrist and forearms. Despite the name of this technique, it’s important to stay relaxed. This technique is a real hardcore workout for the hands. Try this on a loose floor tom that feels soggy. This will also develop power. There is no rebound in this technique.
  4. Practice new rudiments. Do a certain amount per day. The most important rudiments to work on are single strokes, double strokes, paradiddles, flams, drags, and buzzes. These are sometimes referred to as “The Big 6”, because most other rudiments are built off of these.