[Playing tips to give your best by Waywood Music]

Playing Tips for Percussionists


Once you've sorted-out your kit set-up and posture, you may like to consider the following tips.

Choose from the following links to go straight to the heading of interest on this page. Alternatively, start at the top of the page and work down.




[Playing djembe at a percussion workshop]Work WITH your drums, DON'T fight against it.

If you're playing with sticks, allow them to BOUNCE by playing 'off' the drum head. Think of it like picking the beats off the drum using your wrists rather than playing into the skin with tight wrists and no bounce.

If you're using your hands make sure they're relaxed and don't play too hard; allow them to draw the sound out of the drum rather than beating it into submission. Hand drums sound better and produce a much broader range of tones when they're hit less hard.

Play from the wrists, NOT from the shoulder or waist. Your drums will sound much better and your skins will last longer.



Play 'off' the cymbal or with a slightly glancing blow using a relaxed wrist. NEVER play into a cymbal with a rigid stick; it will not sound good and the results could be terminal for the cymbal.

If YOU CRACK A CYMBAL, CAREFULLY drill a small hole at the end of the crack nearest the bell if the crack radiates from edge towards the middle. If the crack is PARALLEL TO THE EDGE, drill a hole at BOTH ends. Although this will extend the life of the cymbal, its days are numbered!


[Repairing a cracked cymbal image]

Repairing a Cracked Cymbal



IF you play the cymbals with your fingers or hands, DO NOT glance across the edge; this is like running a razor blade across your skin! Hit the cymbal with the back of your hand or fingers for a harder sound, and with the pads of your fingers for a softer sound. ALWAYS play with a relaxed wrist and allow your hand to 'bounce' out of the way immediately after hitting the cymbal.

There are many scars on my hands which demonstrate how sharp cymbals can be when hit across the edge.



There are so many toys to choose, but these fall into two basic categories of



[Pete Englehart custom cup chimes]For those instruments you hit with sticks, apply the principles outlined in the 'Drums' and 'Cymbals' sections above.

For those you hit with your hands, ALWAYS play using RELAXED wrists and fingers. Getting a good sound has more to do with HOW you hit it rather than HOW HARD you hit it. Remember that if you leave your hands/fingers in contact with whatever you have hit, you will 'kill' any ring or sustain. Remember that 'ringing' and 'muted' sounds are often used to build-up rhythms, especially on triangle or crotales.



[LP Cyclops mounted jingles]The main point here is CONTROL. You should practice playing with a relaxed wrist and fingers to give a smoother sound. If you 'tighten' the muscles in your fingers and wrists to produce a 'throwing' action you will produce an accent (louder beat). By mixing soft and accented beats you can build up exciting rhythms with shaker. If you are playing a tambourine, you can add accents by letting the tambourine hit your hand on the forward and/or backward stroke to produce the accents.

If the music has a syncopated ('jumpy') feel to it, then shaking up and down (vertically) rather than forwards and backwards (horizontally) will produce a syncopated rhythm.

Practice, first to create a good, constant sound and speed, and then experiment with different accents and shaking techniques.


REMEMBER that to improve your playing takes a lot of TIME and EFFORT. But take heart, the top professionals have often taken many years to perfect their best breaks.


The difference between an amateur and a professional is this:

Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can't get it wrong.


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