If you play music professionally there are times where you are expected to play on your instrument for hours. Whether you are playing at a wedding gig, a casual, on a cruise ship, a full day rehearsal, they all take a toll on your body. The physical demands of the drums makes these gigs even more challenging for drummers.
One of the tools I like to use to combat that wear and tear is the Alexander Technique (AT). The Alexander Technique is a movement technique that teaches people how to efficiently use their bodies by inhibiting unnecessary muscular tension.
I started AT lessons in my late twenties mainly due to upper back and shoulder pain. My first teacher pointed out that I was holding tension in my face and especially my jaw. She went on to give me some techniques to inhibit the tension in those areas as well as to calm my entire nervous system. One of those techniques is called “active Rest” or “constructive rest” which you can find out more at http://alexandertechnique.com/constructiverest.
Active rest is also beneficial before and/or after a strenuous activity like a gig and you only need around ten minutes or so to get the benefits. It’s a low maintenance tool for sure but doing it everyday will increase it’s benefit.
Delving deeper into the art of the Alexander Technique requires working with a certified teacher individually or within a group. Although many people notice diminished pain immediately after their first lesson, it usually takes around ten lessons for your average person to become aware of all their body movement habits and to start inhibiting some of them. If you are serious about getting started I recommend finding a certified teacher. I used this directory http://www.alexandertechnique.com/teacher to find my teacher in Orange County – Doug Shenefield
Speaking of Doug, he came to my rehearsal space in Santa Ana, CA for a lesson and here is a clip of some of the results:
One of the drum set playing challenges Doug noticed is that since drummers are operating the foot pedals, we can’t properly ground our feet. To compensate for this, we need to focus on not collapsing through our core.
Another challenge is being able to move to and from different parts of the drum set without stiffening up or delivering stress to certain muscle groups. Doug noticed that I wasn’t pivoting enough when I moved my right arm from the ride cymbal across my body to the hi-hat. To help keep the body loose, pivoting towards the particular drum or cymbal you are playing is important. Doug also noticed when I was in traditional grip I was leaning my upper body toward the left arm and putting more weight on my left sitz (sitting) bone.
Doug was really digging the Moeller technique movements! What I find interesting is that although Doug is not drummer and has no background in drum technique, he was able to keen in on some of those movements. He described them as “sinuous” which I think is a great adjective to describe how the Moeller Technique should look when performing it well.
If you’re suffering from body pain, or just run down from the wear and tear of playing music professionally, then the Alexander technique should be a good investment for you.