Whenever I watch other drummers get ready for a performance or read articles about ‘preparing for the show’, most of the preparation process seems to leave out a few things that are essential. While warm-up exercises and rudiment routines are important and beneficial, there are a number of OTHER important preparations. I will be exploring these crucial preparations in several articles, but this one will focus on stretching.
I swam competitively from a very young age, and up into high school. Before AND after each practice, we spent at least 15 minutes doing a variety of stretches to loosen all of our muscles. It was equally important to stretch AFTER practice to help our muscles get rid of the built-up lactic acid. And it was absolutely vital that we stretched before to loosen up and prepare our muscles for a workout.
Swimming is a great exercise because it utilizes almost ALL of your muscles, and drumming isn’t that much different. While stretching can be beneficial for any band member, I’d venture to say it’s most critical for drummers since drumming is more physical than other instruments. Have you ever started out playing a show totally full of energy and power, but by the end of the first song you’re out of breath and your limbs feel heavy or tight? Maybe you even get a stomach or hand cramp? When your muscles are ‘cold’ or tight, it takes extra energy to get them going to perform at their usual levels. As a result, you end up wasting a ton of extra energy trying to “force” them to perform. And if you get all amped up for live performances the way I do, you can end up really blowing yourself out as you hit harder, play faster and push your muscles that much further.
Taking 10-15 minutes to stretch before you play a show or practice can really make a difference in your playing and performances. When you stretch, you improve the blood circulation to your muscles, preparing them for performance and exertion. Good blood circulation means that more oxygen is getting to your muscles, which is crucial during heavily aerobic exercise such as drumming.
Below are a few basic stretches that I do each time I play:
One thing I’d like to point out is that you should never stretch yourself to extreme levels. Always go slowly and stop immediately if you experience any pain or unusual discomfort.
I know some of you are probably thinking “I’m gonna look like a total dork if everyone sees me stretching at the club before the show.” I’ve played a considerable number of shows in the death metal scene over the years, so I can understand not feeling like busting into lunges in front of your sometimes ‘too metal’ audience or friends. However, you can usually find somewhere away from the action to get a few quick stretches in: next to your car, outside the club, etc.
For me, I always focus on being in control of my own performance, not spending the whole show agonizing over a stomach cramp or worrying about keeping up with the next song. Stretching is by far one of the most important preparations in helping me play my best, and I think it could help you as well. (And it’s FREE!)
Happy stretching! Feel free to drop me a line if you give it a try.