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Many non-drummers wonder if drummers are ambidextrous because they can’t imagine how someone can use all four limbs to play an instrument.
I can tell you from experience; you don’t need to be ambidextrous. I am very right-handed, but I’ve become a solid drummer over the years.
Some drummers are, of course, ambidextrous, which may help. Other instrumentalists could also benefit from being ambidextrous.s
Master Drummers Have Weak Hands
Even master drummers have to work on their weak hands.
I remember my favorite teacher in the Boston area even complaining once during a lesson that he still felt uncomfortable doing certain things with his left hand.
Non-musicians or non-drummers often assume people are just born drummers.
That is not true. You have to work at strengthening a weak hand, just like you work on other aspects of drumming. You work on it because you love it, and drumming has become part of you.
Exercises to Improve Left or Weak Hand
One technique I use to strengthsen my left hand and improve coordination is to play a song with my left hand on the hi-hat and my right hand on the snare.
It’s the opposite of regular playing, but you will be amazed how this little exercise improves your left hand.
You could also practice single and double strokes at a high tempo on the metronome with only the left hand on the snare. This way, you single out your weak hand for a specific exercise with no help from the right or strong hand.
Left Handed Drummers
Left-handed drummers could have an advantage if they leave the hi-hat on the left side. It’s because they don’t have to cross arms to hit the hi-hat and snare.
It’s just a matter of efficiency and physics. You don’t have to move your arm as much to strike the drum set.
Crossing Hands as a Drummer
Similarly to the overall world population, most drummers are right-handed.
It is most common to see drummers cross their hands by hitting the hi-hat with their right hand and the snare with their left hand.
If you didn’t have the hi-hat on your left side, you would probably have to play the bass drum with your left leg. This would be very difficult for most people because the bass drum is kicked forcefully, and most people are right-legged.
In addition, if the hi-hat were on the right side, you would be playing the majority of the toms on the left side, which would be difficult while using your weak hand.
Therefore, most of the drum set is on the right side for most people who are right-handed. This would include the bass drum, ride cymbal, toms, and other cymbals.
In conclusion, remember most drummers are not ambidextrous. Using a weak-sided hand efficiently as a drummer can take years of practice and work.
At first, it can seem impossible to do certain things with your weak hand that you’re witnessing in other great drummers. It is possible. You have to practice with good technique. Good technique strengthens your hand in addition to improving coordination.
Tyler Marks is a drummer, writer, and coder in the Boston area. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s College of California. He has studied under several accomplished jazz drummers in Boston and the San Franciso Bay Area when he lived on the West Coast. He continues to be a rock and jazz enthusiast while mostly focusing on becoming a better jazz player.