Develop Hand Speed!

There must be something in a drummer’s DNA that makes them such fiends for improving their hand speed.

Every drummer seems to want to be the fastest, despite the fact that, in your day-to-day drumming life, you very rarely need to be the fastest. Who am I to stand in the way of your quest, though?

Developing hand speed isn’t about sitting down and just playing as fast you possibly can as, much to the chagrin of many drummers, that accomplishes very little. The time and effort needs to be put into stick and tempo control, which these exercises will help you with.

Get Your Metronome.

  • For every exercise in this article, you should set a metronome to a painfully slow BPM, like 50 or 60. The aim isn’t to bore you to death, but to help you develop your ability to divide rhythms neatly and efficiently.
  • Every few minutes, increase the speed by 5 or 10 BPM and play through the exercises again. After you’ve reached your peak BPM, work your way back down in increments of 5 or 10BPM.
  • Once you’ve got to grips with the exercises and found your upper speed boundary (for now), try setting the metronome to half (for example, if you’re playing at 180BPM, set it at 90). This will help you train your internal metronome, as well your beat divisions.

Also, be sure to play through the exercises as written, and then leading with your left hand.

One more guideline, before we got on with it: try to play these through once at piano, once at mezzo forte and once at forte, making a conscious effort to maintain volume and not add accents. All of these things will help you develop your control and after a week or so, you should see a definite increase in your upper speed boundary.

Exercises For Developing Hand Speed.

Single strokes

Paradiddles.

Now repeat these exercises using double strokes – in the paradiddle exercise, use a rebound in every instance of a double stroke. It’s important to emphasise the use of rebound in your double strokes, even while playing the exercise slowly. The reason being that you’re trying to maintain control over your rebound strokes, regardless of the tempo. In fact, this exercise is more difficult at a lower BPM.

This one seems odd, but occasionally, you’ll find yourself making a sticking error, perhaps while filling around the kit and getting a bit big for your boots, or even if your mind is wandering while playing. It’s helpful to be able to drum your way out of such a sticky situation without getting tangled up or missing the important down beat of the next bar. Building speed with this exercise will be help you avoid a potential disaster every once in a while.

You might find yourself in a similar situation as the last example, but the tempo of the track is just too fast for you to maintain that speed with one hand. Triplets can be your friend in such a scenario, though a lot of people struggle with being able to place triplets amidst semi-quavers, or vice versa. Also, triplets can add a nice dimensional change to your fills if you find them getting a little stale.

Move all these exercises around the kit and make a conscious effort to maintain consistent volume with each stroke, regardless of which drum you hit. I’m not going to supply a suggested pattern for this, as I don’t want you to paint yourself into a corner, creatively. Feel free to create your own pattern, utilising all drums at your disposal, but don’t rely on it. Change things around every once in a while, otherwise you’ll find yourself hitting the same fills over and over, slowly driving yourself insane.

An article about improving hand speed would be incomplete without some discussion of the Moeller method, which is something my friends and I spoke about in hushed tones before drum lessons in high school, because it was a thing of legend, as well as legendary difficulty and completely not part of our percussion syllabus.

I’ve researched the Moeller method a few times, every time confident that this time I’d nail it. There’s a bit of discrepancy on whether the method relies on rebound or not and when Jim Chapin (a student of the method’s namesake, Sanford Moeller) starts talking about imagining holding a bird in your hand to perfect the grip, I tend to lose interest, because holding a bird is a weird example to provide, considering that it’s not an experience many people have under their belt.

Essentially, the method is about getting 3 hits for the price of one, allowing the player to build speed like no man’s business. As I’ve said, I’m far from an authority on the subject, so here’s the aforementioned video of Jim Chapin trying to explain how to hold a bird, which somehow will make you a faster drummer.