Ergonomics for Drummers!

posture on a drum set
Decent ergonomics for a tall drummer.

Ergonomics for drummers is an important area of discussion whether we are discussing working in an office or playing an instrument. But it’s the most overlooked area of playing drums because most people don’t think about their posture as they play until they are in pain, whether from back pain or tendinitis.

Trust me when I say that it’s crucial that you take care of your body if you want to play drums for your entire life. I had to take many years off due to major tendinitis.

Drumming is a very physical art. Some say it’s athletic. And good athletes take care of their bodies before and after their sport or working out and training.

This article explains ergonomics for drummers or drumming posture, and provides tips to minimize stresses associated with playing drums.

Forming a Habit.

During my early years as a drummer I assumed a sitting position that was low and it enabled me to lean toward the drum set. Before long, this became a habit that appeared natural. Does that ring a bell? I was not willing to seek a better sitting position because I felt I’ve already found the best position. But then I started getting lower back pain, really bad.

Eventually, I decided to slightly raise my stool and discovered I was more comfortable and relaxed, and my playing came became more fluid. Also, with this new adjustment, I noticed I was less tired. In fact, I experienced a new phase to my drumming. And then, I started thinking, could there be a better sitting position for drummers?

Body Mechanics.

Body mechanics differ for each and every individual. As a result, it is very difficult to endorse specific rules that govern the manner we drum. However, some general rules exist, yet each person has ones freedom to come up with a unique style that is ideal for their own body mechanics.

However, regardless of the unique style you adopt for yourself, there are two principles that every drummer should be familiar with:

Principle #1: Resistance to Movement.

practicing drums
Good posture but needs to straighten out neck.

Some of the materials that inspired these principles include watching  drum videos, particularly videos that feature world renowned drummers. I also explored comparisons between body types and drum sets, including other helpful materials.

One of the significant sources of resistance to movement principle is the discovery made by Peter Benke, a brilliant young physical therapist who found out in the course of his research that “muscle tension kick-started in the upper trunk area results in resistance to movement in the extremities (legs and arms)”. This sure can be linked to drumming and ergonomics.

Sitting Posture:

Therefore, it doesn’t matter what style and kit set-up you adopt, there’s a general rule emanating from the principle of resistance to movement; the natural tendency to lean towards the drum set in order to strike a closer relationship with the instrument is always there. And it’s also true that some drummers do the opposite. They lean back, which is also not good.

Going by this ergonomic viewpoint, you should resist this natural tendency to lean forward (or backward). You should maintain not less than 90 degrees when it comes to the angle of your back in relation to your thighs (legs). Failure to abide by this rule will result in resistance to movement in your legs and arms, which is something awful when it comes to drumming.

Side Bar: I found that I tended to slouch which encouraged more back pain, and to this day I still have to remind myself to straighten up. It makes a big difference.

Leg Position:

You should also apply the 90 degrees principle to your leg positioning as well. You will be more efficient with a 90-degree angle or thereabout at your knee area, between your shin and thigh.

However, this is subject to adjustment based upon how it feels when we play. I find that my legs need to less than 90 degrees when I play. So I sit a little bit higher.

Principle #2: Path of Least Resistance.

The summary of this principle is that four-limb motion is unnatural, from a sitting posture. Therefore, stick to the Path of Least Resistance & Economy of Motion.

All the drum set components that you strike the most should be placed easily within your reach. Let’s take the snare drum for instance; place your hi-hat and ride cymbal in a manner that would enable you maintain closeness between your elbows and your side. And make sure your arms are always in the most relaxed position and not angled. Then, minimize upper body movement by the way you position the toms. Well, it all depends on the kit’s size.

The most important thing is to pay more attention on the most frequently used components and make sure you can reach them without effort or contorting your body. This is very important!

Surface Angles:

The surface angles of cymbals and drums are important and should get more attention. It all depends on the technique you adopt, traditional or matched stick grip and so on. Generally, the norm is to place cymbals and drums at almost the same angle. This reduces swift adjustments in the fingers, wrists, and arms. In fact, you should keep ‘Economy of Motion’ in mind.

Finally, you should not just concentrate on acquiring the best looking arrangement of your drum kit. You should also devote time to positioning your kit correctly for increased comfort and ergonomics.

You can even feel the difference in your drumming when you set up your kit comfortably; you will hit and play all your drums and cymbals and percussion instruments with ease as they will all be smoother and easier to access, and you’ll reduce fatigue.

Also, you need to exercise and stretch regularly to help minimize strain and stress from playing the drums.