Playing the drums is hard work. You may not think of music as a sport, but any drummer who has performed a long set knows how physically demanding the instrument can be. It’s not uncommon for drummers to experience back, neck and shoulder pain during or after a set. If you have drumming back pain or other musculoskeletal issues, it’s likely that a few changes to your posture and daily habits could fix the problem.
The following tips will help drummers play better, longer and without pain.
1. Warm up.
Would you go for a run without warming up? Though you sit down when you drum, you tax your muscles and cardiovascular system. Doing a pre-session stretch will help increase blood flow to muscles, preparing them to work. Thirty seconds of jumping jacks or a similar cardio workout can jump-start your heart and lungs, preparing them to pump out fresh nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. This will help avoid premature muscle fatigue and cramping.
2. Improve your posture.
Proper drumming posture is key to preventing pain. Your spine should be straight, meaning you should be sitting upright. As you play, keep your shoulders low and loose and the muscles in your neck and face relaxed.
If possible, adjust cymbals so that they’re at or below shoulder level; this prevents reaching and shoulder strain. The drum set should be set up so that you can keep your elbows by your sides – not tucked in, but in a natural position. This means you should be able to hit all drum heads and cymbals without significantly extending your elbows.
You drum stool should be adjusted to allow your knees to be bent at around a 90-degree angle, or slightly greater, with your feet on the foot pedals. Evenly distribute your weight between your feet for balance.
Professional drummers who would like to invest some time into perfecting body mechanics and posture should consult Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett. Designed with musicians in mind, it will help you learn how to move with optimum efficiency and minimum strain.
3. Maintain overall fitness.
If you practice drumming a couple times a week and get no other physical activity in between, you’re not likely to have much endurance. A sluggish cardiovascular system will wear out quickly, failing to deliver fresh nutrients and oxygen to your laboring muscles. Your muscles will tire quickly, causing you to play sloppily; muscle fatigue also forces other muscles to compensate for the tired ones, which can lead to strain.
As you get increasingly tired, maintaining proper posture isn’t possible. Your shoulders slump down, your head juts forward and your lower back rounds out. Back, neck and shoulder pain are the main indicators of poor drumming posture, which is often caused by fatigue. Having a workout routine balanced between strength training and cardio will help increase your endurance.
If drumming causes you shoulder, neck and back pain, consider warming up, adjusting your posture and improving overall fitness. Not only will your body thank you, but your playing will improve as well.