No athlete would think about starting a run, playing soccer, or climbing into a kayak without first warming up. Warming up muscles and joints, which means literally making them warm, increasing blood flow to them, and stretching them out, is crucial to avoid or heal an injury. Musicians must do the same. Drummers especially need to take care of the muscles and joints of the hands, wrists, and shoulders, which inevitably get an intense workout, whether you are playing Sousa marches or making your jazz band swing.
In his book 101 Drum Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use, Scott Schroedl suggests three approaches to warming up before you get behind the traps. Schroedl’s first tip is to make sure your hands and arms are toasty before playing, especially if you’ve spent the last half-hour unloading your drum kit in frigid temperatures or if the air conditioning is turned way up. Schroedl’s suggestion is, before you do anything, run your hands under some warm water to get the blood flowing again.
Next you should stretch the relevant muscles used in drumming. A good stretch for the hands and wrists is to hold up one arm with the palm facing out as if gesturing “stop!” Then take the other hand and gently pull back the fingers until you feel the muscles tighten. For the shoulders, put an arm behind your head as if you were trying to scratch. Then with the other hand gently push down on the elbow until you feel the shoulder muscles stretching. Hold the poses for about 10 seconds at a time, and perform the stretches at least three times for each arm.
Finally, Schroedl writes that he always finishes his warm-up routine with 15 to 20 minutes of playing basic drum rudiments. Playing rudiments not only gets you into the swing of playing, they also act as intricate exercises for the wrists and fingers. If you don’t want to disturb others by practicing on an open snare, be sure to carry a practice pad with you.
5 Warm-Up Rudiments
These are five basic drum rudiments taken from the Percussive Arts Society’s (PAS) list of 40 International Drum Rudiments. The PAS suggests practicing rudiments on a snare drum, beginning slowly, increasing the tempo, then warming down to a slow tempo. For a complete list of drum rudiments—including the exotically named pataflafla and triple ratamacue—log on to www.pas.org. All rudiments below are at four beats to a bar. R stands for the right hand, L for the left, and a lowercase letter stands for a half-beat note used in the flam and drag rudiments.
SINGLE DRAG TAP