06 Jan, 2016

8 On A Hand: Building Foundations


You've unpacked your wonderful shiny new drum set, you have your sticks at the ready, and your armed with YouTube tutorials galore, but where do you actually begin? With so much information out there it's hard to know the best place to start. The chances are you want to have fun playing some grooves, perhaps join a band, so you're not sure if all the fancy rudiment stuff is for you. But all those grooves are so complicated... Having the coordination to move your right hand with one timing and your left with another—not to mention using your feet—doesn’t happen over night for most of us. So in this lesson I will show you a very simple warm-up called "8 On A Hand" which is a great place to begin as it's the foundation block to build everything else upon.

"8 On A Hand" is an essential exercise to gain a good understanding of basic timings and deal with some early coordination issues. It's exactly as you would expect, simply eight strokes on each hand. It's essential to be able play eight consecutive strokes on each hand, with even weight and timing, before starting to work on pretty much anything else.

First of all simply play 8 strokes on a practice pad with your right hand, followed by 8 strokes with your left hand (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Now look at a clock with a second hand and try to play each stroke exactly at the same time as the seconds tick. Don't stop once you get to the end of the exercise, keep on repeating this for a whole minute. Then set a metronome to 60 beats per minute (bpm) and play each stroke exactly with the click. (A metronome is a devise that marks time giving a regular click, I recommend using the app Tempo because it has a great visual display). You'll notice you are playing at the same speed because there are obviously 60 seconds in a minute.

Remember to play this exercise on a practice pad so you can hear the click. Gradually increase the metronome by 5-10 bpm at a time, being sure to always play in time with the click. It might help to count the numbers out loud so you always know where you are.

Once you can play this exercises comfortably at about 120bpm (this can take a few goes!) it's time to add the bass drum. You will be adding the bass drum to the first of every two strokes. By this time you should be able to replace the number system with the word "ta". Saying "ta" is a way to indicate you are playing once on each beat, or click. Try to get a feeling for changing each hand after every fourth bass drum hit (Figure 1-2).

Figure 2

Once again start at around 60bpm and gradually increase the speed to about 120bpm.

The next step is really important. Up to this point you have been striking the pad once on every beat. Now you will be thinking of playing TWICE on every beat. Set the click to around 60bpm. Now play once ON each beat, and another time BETWEEN each beat. This extra stroke happens precisely in the middle of each beat—no earlier or later—otherwise it would have a different note value, and more importantly a different musical effect. Say "ta" when you are playing on the beat, and "di" when you are playing between the beats. The bass drum will play on the "ta" only, the hands will play on both "ta" and "di".

Figure 3

Note you are playing the bass drum four times before you change hands. This is because you are playing 4 beats in a bar, and these are called quarter notes. The hands are playing 8 times in each bar, so these are called 8th notes. The most common way to count 8th notes is by using the word "&" for between beats. Figure 4 shows what the exercise looks like counting this way.

Figure 4

Take your time over this exercise. It's really important to master this before moving on to any rudiments. Remember, playing simple exercises slowly and correctly is the only way of making true progress. Let me know how you get by leaving a comment below, or get in touch on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy getting started!