If you need to improve your stick control, the ToneAlly might be a worthy addition to your practice routine. Named “best teaching tool” at the 2018 Winter NAMM Show, the ToneAlly was designed by English musician/composer Tony McNally to be a straightforward approach to developing a foundation of good sticking habits.
What Is It?
There are two ToneAlly Percussion Teaching Tools. Design 1 features a solid, one-piece playing surface, and Design 5 has a removable playing surface. Both feature 80 mm by 40 mm neoprene playing surfaces, a unique vertical structure consisting of four separate channels for drumsticks (referred to as “allys”), and a top bar that’s set at a specific distance to help monitor stick heights. We received Design 5 for review. It arrived in an attractive wooden box that also included literature about the device, instructions on how to use it, and various sticking exercises.
What Does It Do?
The information card that came with the ToneAlly read: “You are now in possession of the world’s first percussion teaching tool that focuses on the vertical movement of the drumstick.” I’d often drawn quarter-sized circles in the middle of my practice pads to help improve my accuracy, but I had never really taken the time to analyze my sticking in terms of the controlled, disciplined, vertical movements required for high-level drumming.
This device brought much of that lack of understanding to the forefront as I fumbled through the first few exercises. This thing really worked me over! But with patience and continued practice, I gradually improved the accuracy of my stroke heights and angles. The ToneAlly showed me certain sticking issues that I didn’t know existed and helped me address them efficiently.
When you remove the neoprene surface of the Design 5 version, you can use the ToneAlly on your own snare or practice pad. I tried the device while seated at the snare on my drumkit and then while standing with the ToneAlly on my favorite practice pad. For me, these were the most valuable and enjoyable ways to use the Design 5.
After spending a bit of time practicing with the ToneAlly, I was able to get some of my sticking issues under control, and I could see that my technique, accuracy, and efficiency were moving in a positive direction. Anything that helps build a solid foundation and keeps me honest is going to remain part of my practice routine for a very long time.
Design 1 sells for about $80, and Design 5 is about $100. Visit toneally.co.uk for ordering information.