I firmly believe that, with any action we do, when it's as close to the feeling of rest as possible is when the best outcome happens. This is not easy and I find, especially in percussion, that many don't get as close to this point as is actually possible. This is caused by a growing "cultural" need to control the stick to get what you need. While accuracy and consistency are possible with this mindset, the things that suffer are sound variability and physical malleability. If we over control the stick, it cannot rebound freely, hindering its motion and the instrument's response to it. Usually, the trend that tries to counter this is using bigger muscles while having loose hands and this does work. However, this accomplishes one sound and unless something changes, the sound will have the same character, just different volumes.
My instructors were.....crazy. Not only could they navigate the natural rebound of the stick without hindering it, but could control the types of rebounds to get different characters, lifting for bright sounds with the wrist while using arm weight for dynamics and so many other combinations. While some may not even notice these differences, you can definitely tell the difference between one who does do this and one who doesn't. Again, this is not an easy thing to accomplish because you have to be as close to an almost meditative state as possible, or else it doesn't work. Any ounce of tension will be heard, felt and distort the flow of energy in the playing. So controlling your ability to get and stay in this "zone" is crucial to making it habitual.
This, ultimately, is my goal with anything I do and it hasn't failed me yet, but I can't stress enough that it's not easy to do or to accept. Everything is easy; that's the philosophy behind it for me. If everything feels like I'm just walking down the street, that's the feel. Why do yoga? All the crazy poses and they just tell you to do them like it's the most peaceful, no stress, easiest thing ever. The ones who accomplish that are the masters of not only their body but their mind. The perception of the "hard" position is that it's both possible and easy to do. Why not the same for our playing? Why kill yourself playing soft? Just let the soft happen. Let that moment dictate your motions. This is freedom of motion at its best. This is freedom of expression at its greatest! Just rest in it.
I received my first email request and it was about the age old challenge for percussionists: making the hands even. What a topic! Method books have been written to tackle it, instructors have come up with "styles of playing" to deal with it and almost everyone has practiced hours trying to fix it, me included. While I cannot speak for ambidextrous drummers, for us right handed or left handed ones, this task can be very infuriating. Is this "even" possible and how do we achieve it?
The school of thought that I came up in initially was the idea of visually being even, as many others have. With this, unfortunately, comes the tendency to force the body into a position of evenness, which causes its own problems. Fortunately, my instructors at the time, Doug Waddell and Patsy Dash, always stressed the importance of relaxation at all times and were very perceptive in lessons. However, not every instructor has that particular skill to hear, see and feel when the student is tense and this can prove detrimental to the student in the long run. For me, this way of thinking about evenness visually helped me develop the great technical foundation, structure and a sort of "obsessive compulsive order" whenever something was out of place. In college my instructor, Marc Damoulakis, took this concept farther. Not only is the evenness reached visually but physically; this means that each hand should be feeling the same, not just looking the same. With his help, I was able to feel what was going on in the hands as far as tension, weight distribution and a bunch of other things. This combination, for me was and is the key to achieving this goal.
To do this there are two things we must first accept: the hands will never feel the same and the hands will never be the same. Ones on the right side and ones on the left, therefore everything is backwards. One side we write with and one we don't, which means one hand has more strength in its connection to the brain. Taking these things into consideration can give you a little more breathing room because you know, now, perfect evenness is unattainable in the sense that we think it is. Rather than being symmetrical in structure, they should rather be symmetrical in ability.
Strive for the hands being able to rest the same, do the same and sound the same. When they are inactive they must be relaxed. If the right hand is fully resting and the left hand is still in a position of readiness then both aren't resting. This goes for performance as well. If the left hand is too tense trying to do a roll, it will tire out before the right hand has even broken a sweat. Next, the hands must be able to what the other hand does, as far as what we need them both to be able to do. If your left is great at flams and the right sucks, then they will never be even in that regard. If they both can do flams but one hand struggles more, they won't be even. Finding the reasons why they are different and playing with those options can solve those problems with time and patience. Lastly, they have to sound the same. Tension or lack thereof will result in the different sounds. Taking that into consideration will help you balance out the hands, and that's exactly what you should be striving for.
They may never be the same, but they will be extremely similar and that's all we really need anyway. Even the great Jojo Mayer said his hands aren't perfectly even, and he has more technique than probably every drummer alive. So don't go insane trying to make them even, but rather make sure that they can give you the results and sounds that you need and want to express.