Coordination Exercises for Drummers

You can easily create your own coordination patterns to help young drummers become more flexible and develop control. Lisa Werner, the Wisconsin MEA state chair for jazz education, suggests starting with your concert band method book and adapting some of the easier exercises in the first book:

  • In many methods, there’s a line for both snare and bass drum for the same song. Find the page that introduces quarter notes and have the student play the snare line on the drumset snare and the bass drum part on the bass.
  • Next, have the student perform the written snare line on the ride cymbal and the bass drum line on the hi-hat (with the pedal).
  • You can flip things around again and have the snare line performed on hi-hat and the bass drum part on the snare.
  • If that’s not enough fun, have the student read the bass part on the bass drum and the snare part on the hi-hat.
  • Dream up all of the combinations you can to help the student work on many levels of combination.

The next step is to get three limbs moving together:

  • Take the exercise you were working on for two-limb combinations discussed above, and add something to get the third limb involved.
  • After the student is proficient with that, add in another part, so the student is now using both arms and both feet at the same time. After the student is at this level, he/she will be ready to recreate any of the grooves you’re looking for.

MENC jazz mentor Sue Terry recommends that beginning drum students listen to and play along with recordings of jazz drummers like Philly Joe JonesArt BlakeyArt Taylor, and big band drummers like Sonny Payne andLouis Bellson. “Stick with analyzing the basics,” Terry says. “What is each piece doing at any given time? Hi hat, snare, bass drum, toms, ride cymbal. Sticks or brushes? How do they play a ballad? A swing tune? A 3/4 tune?”

Got a question about jazz or teaching jazz? Then march on over to the Jazz forum this month to post it, and take advantage of this exciting benefit made available exclusively to MENC members.

If you need different grooves, patterns, or exercises for your drummer, visit the Percussive Arts Society.

Got any great exercises for drummers you’d like to share with other music educators? Post them on My Music Class.

Getting Students Started on the Drumset

This article was adapted from the article, “The Drumset Tradition: Introducing Your Students to the Drumset,” by Lisa Werner. The original was published in the April 2008 issue of the Wisconsin School Musician. Used with permission.

Lisa Werner is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher who teaches band and orchestra at North Lake School in northwestern Waukesha County, Wisconsin.

–Anne Wagener, May 19, 2009, © National Association for Music Education