Listening With All Four Limbs, Part 4

If this is the first time you’re reading about Inner Drumming, the diagrams in this article may seem unusual. But rest assured that if you spend a few minutes with them, you’ll begin to see how easy they are to read and how you can benefit by using them as tools for becoming a stronger, more fluid drummer.

Inner Drumming is about scanning internally and awakening the awareness of energy flow. In parts one, two, and three (April, June, and September 2012), we worked our way up to scanning through all four limbs. In the diagrams, scanning is represented by lines that go from limb to limb: RF = right foot, RH = right hand, LH = left hand, and LF = left foot. The blue-circled dot is the starting point, and the dashed lines show the scan that returns to the starting point.

Two scans can take place between any pair of limbs. For example, the journey from RF to RH has a return scan of RH to RF. There are six different pairings, or groups, of two limbs (see below). There are twelve scans when using all four limbs (6 x 2 = 12). The study of these groups alone can help balance and ground your drumming a great deal.

Inner Drumming 1
New Invention

From the beginning of my study of internal energy flow, this thought came to me: What would it be like to scan continuously from limb to limb through all twelve possible directions without repeating any of the scans? After a little experimenting I discovered that this twelve-scan unit, which I later named the Inner Drumming rudiment, created a feeling of balance and completion. One of the features of the Inner Drumming rudiment is that each limb plays three times. In order to facilitate learning the entire twelve-stroke rudiment, you can subdivide it into three smaller groups—or flows— that start with the same limb.

Below are the three flows that make up the first Inner Drumming rudiment. Each starts on the right foot, and the complete rudiment consists of four-, five-, and three-scan groupings. The larger multicolor diagram below is a composite of the three flows. Learn the individual flows first. When you work on them separately, it’ll become easy to play them in succession. Playing the flows from memory is also easy if you take your time scanning through them with a relaxed, unhurried focus.

Inner Drumming 2

Many Different Ways
Below is the first Inner Drumming rudiment, written two different ways in standard notation. After learning the rudiments as an exercise to develop internal flow, it’s interesting to see what they look like when notated.

Inner Drumming 3

I like to plug different rhythms into the rudiments to hear what they sound like. The simple three-note pattern below can be plugged into the first Inner Drumming rudiment. Try it first without reading the notation. Feel it as a rhythm that flows through the paths from limb to limb.

Inner Drumming 4

Now look at the standard notation below, and read it with awareness of how the energy is flowing. The accents show the beginnings of the groups of four, five, and three.

Inner Drumming 5

The diagrams can easily be revolved, allowing for different readings of the same rudiment. Below are examples of the first Inner Drumming rudiment, with each diagram revolved one space in a counterclockwise direction. Now the group centers on the right hand as the starting point.

Inner Drumming 6

Revolve the group again, and the left hand becomes the starting point.

Inner Drumming 7

One final rotation puts the starting point on the left foot.

Inner Drumming 8

Still More Possibilities
The Inner Drumming rudiment can also be mirrored. The four diagrams below show the mirrored rudiment starting on the left foot and then rotating to start on the left hand, the right hand, and finally the right foot.

Inner Drumming 9

There are sixteen basic Inner Drumming rudiments. Each one can be revolved or mirrored. They can also be played in retrograde (backward) and as retrograde mirrors. Each of these has twelve different starting points. This adds up to 768 different possibilities!

Even though some of these diagrams and explanations may make Inner Drumming seem complex, the concept is very simple at its core. Start slowly, and return to parts one, two, and three of this series for more basic scanning exercises.

The diagrams used throughout these articles are based on original drawings by Cynthia Lenssen Broshi.

George Marsh is a San Francisco–based jazz drummer/composer currently playing with the David Grisman Sextet. Marsh has taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz and at Sonoma State University since 1982, and he maintains a private studio in Santa Rosa, California. For more info, visit