This excerpt is taken from the complete review that appears in the June 2015 issue, which can be purchased here.

Strictly Technique

Dynamics Mechanics

Loud, Soft, and Everything in Between

by Bill Bachman

I believe that a drummer should be able to pick up sticks and make music on any sound source. The two biggest keys to doing this are having an extended rhythmic vocabulary and employing excellent dynamic control. The more expressively you can play on one drum or cymbal, the more you’ll be able to say when you add drums and cymbals. This month we’re going to explore dynamic changes and the mechanics necessary to modulate from one dynamic level to the next using crescendos and decrescendos. A crescendo is where we gradually increase in volume, and a decrescendo is the opposite. The exercises are pretty simple, but maximizing your dynamic expression within them will be a challenge and will require finesse and chops. The quieter you can keep your lower dynamics, the louder the loud dynamics will seem (and vice versa), so be sure to exaggerate the extremes.

The first exercise is an eight-on-a-hand variation called 8-8-16. Start low, at pianissimo (very soft), with the beads of the sticks lifting just an inch off the drum. Then crescendo over one bar to forte (loud), until the sticks are turning as high as is comfortable relative to the tempo being played. (Don’t overdo the heights at the higher dynamics.) The next bar will decrescendo in opposite fashion. The crescendo is the easier part, since you gradually interact with the stick less and let your fingers open up more in correlation with the increased wrist turn. The decrescendo is more difficult, since it requires more interaction with the sticks as the fingers close down in correlation with the reducing wrist turn. Be sure to watch your stick heights as they incrementally go up or down in correlation with the dynamics, and make sure that every stroke is a loose and rebounding free stroke. (Never tighten down on the sticks, regardless of the dynamic level.)

Check out a video demo of the exercises contained in the article below.

June 2015 issue of Modern Drummer featuring Benny Greb