Limb Independence: Switching Between Open-handed and Closed

Limb independence: switching between open and close-handed. Snare drum.

Today I would like to talk more about building limb independence. Now I know you might be thinking wow, is there anything drummers do that doesn’t revolve around doing countless different exercises to try and build our limb independence?

The answer to that is certainly. We could be working on understanding and playing odd time signatures, working on our internal clock, or even reciting the alphabet backward while playing blast beats on the snare drum and double bass pedal.

But I digress.

This post is going to focus on some advantages of opening up your hands as opposed to the typical closed style of playing. If you haven’t tried playing open-handed, then I hope by the end of the post you’ll find some good reasons to start incorporating it into your playing.

First off, when I use the term open-handed, I mean the left hand (if you are a right-handed player) plays the hi-hat or crash for example, while the right hand plays the snare or any other drums found around the kit. This can open up a lot of opportunities for us.

Think about this.

Open-handed playing provides superior access to all the drums around the kit. You can hit any drum at any time, all without the need to do any awkward crossing of your limbs.

Want to do some cool grooves on your toms while keeping another cool groove going between your hi-hat and snare? This is no problem whatsoever while playing open-handed.

You could even substitute the floor tom for the hi-hat by playing it with your right hand and then play the snare drum with your left hand. See how this is still an open position?

Limb independence: switching between open and close-handed. Snare drum.

Now this is the point in the post where I’m going to go off on a bit of a rant. So here goes.

Why is it that playing in a closed position has been the default way of doing things for almost all beginning drummers?

Is it that the instructor (if you have gotten lessons) shows the student that that’s just the way the drums should be played?

If you hadn’t had lessons (still assuming you’re a right-handed player) and were sitting down at a drum set for the first time, would you naturally choose to use your right hand for the hi-hat or your left?

It seems to me, that the open-handed position is just a more logical playing decision and I would like to think if I were a beginner drummer again, that I would choose that.

But who knows, it’s just an odd thing to me.

Alright, rant over.

So anyway, here’s where the challenge might present itself to some. Switching to open-handed means that if you haven’t given it a shot before, your brain is going to get thrown for a loop, at least in the beginning.

Here’s an example; if you’ve been practicing some sort of cool groove but are using the closed-hand technique, and it contains an extra snare hit that falls somewhere between two hits of your hi-hat, you might find yourself feeling for a lack of better words, not as coordinated as you thought you were if you were to play it open-handed.

This is true for ghost notes as well. It just takes a little time to get the feel of the groove down using opposite hands. You’ll get there, but it might take a little time.

Limb independence: switching between open and close-handed. Snare and drum cymbal.

With all that being said, I need to bring up one more thing that you might notice if you’re starting to experiment with using an open-handed technique.

That is, your grooves probably won’t feel as ‘tight’ at first. And most likely they won’t be.

You might find yourself hitting the hi-hat or crash cymbal slightly out of sync with what you’re doing on the snare and bass pedal, and it very well could feel like a bit of a jumbled mess.

What I mean, is that your left hand on the cymbal might not be as locked in or as tight as it was when using your right hand. At least not in the beginning. This is natural and you will no doubt find yourself getting locked into the groove just fine over time.

And last but not least, if you really want to expand your horizons on the drums, try switching out your right foot for your left foot on the bass.

That’s right, you’ll be playing the hi-hat with your left hand, the snare with your right, and the bass beats with your left foot.

It’s the ultimate brain teaser!

Seriously, let me know how you did with this exercise. Let me know if you struggled with it or if you’ve been doing this for years and you can practically do it in your sleep.

And that’s it for now. Until next time, keep being awesome!

What to do next?

If you are brand new to music, music production, or are interested in learning to play the drums, you can check out my article: What is a DAW? – What Does DAW stand for?

You might also want to check out this article: Acoustic Vs. Electronic Drums – Which One is Right for You?

If you are looking at buying your first drum set or any other musical instrument for that matter, take a look at Zzounds. They have a variety of acoustic drum sets and electronic drum sets for purchase.

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Andrew has been a life long lover of music. Although starting his musical journey on the guitar, (we won't talk about his skills on that particular instrument) he found his true passion was for drumming and making music to share with others. He also enjoys writing blog posts about off the wall subjects that are very much real—such as Bigfoot, UFOs, and what's up with European mayonnaise. Why is it sweet???
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