Open handed playing

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Hi guys,
I've decided to have a go at open handed playing. I was wondering if I should lower my hihat down because my left arm (I play a right handed kit) is sort of bent at a sharp angle playing the hats. I don't have my hats exceptionally high - maybe a few inches below nipple height, and I don't particularly like that idea of changing my hihat height every time I practice it, but if it's gonna feel awkward forever maybe I should.

Anyway that's the only thing that's bothering me so far but shoot me any wisdom you feel like sharing. I am just playing rock beats between 70bpm-130bpm and trying to play the basic ghost note and hihat choke patterns, luckily it's coming quite naturally so far.
 

iCe

Senior Member
I've tried open handed playing a couple of times, but in the end i didn't want to put that much effort into learning my body a new trick.
But i did notice it was a lot easier to play the hats when i lowered them to the height of the snare. Maybe a tad higher so it was more easier to use the shaft of the stick if i wanted a more fuller sound.

You might want to get another hi-hat rod that's lower. I couldn't get the ride in a nice spot because the rod was in the way. Or maybe saw the tip off that you don't need. For the rest... just try out what works :)
 
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s1212z

Well-known member
I do some left lead on right hand kit though not full time and always keep a left-side ride. Try as I may to have it identical to right-lead, I could never match the stamina of my right hand or the touch of the left . But rock grooves feel and sound better open-handed for me; I can dig in more with more relaxed posture and my rim shot sound better/more consistent. And there is the open side to hh playing with the rest of the kit, so groove like that help. Therefore, I keep my HH as low as possible (yamaha 700) and I cut the pole on the hi hat for more position possibilities for the ride to sit comfortably. I used to try to force it as much as possible just for technical development but now it is a musical choice to whatever feels best for the groove so still do alot of right hand lead. If something requires a lot stamina, it's nice to have another hand and more ride tone choices....different ideas come out too.
 

A J

Well-known member
I've always played open handed. My hands hardly ever cross. Self taught.

I'm not sure I'm doing it right, but my hi hat is positioned very low, far forward, just an inch above the snare hoop and overlaps the snare a couple inches.

One thing that makes this natural for me are the length of my arms. I'm 6' 1" tall but my arms are super long. Yep. I basically have the arms of a spider monkey! 😜
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Well, in some video, Simon Phillips says he began adopting open hand playing after he saw Billy Cobham play open handed and the fact that his high tom would look bad if placed high above the high hat (if he continued with cross-over playing).

This video has a good visual on his setup.

 

Trigger

Senior Member
Yeah lower them a bit otherwise you'll get an aggressive chick sound and you'll have to bend your arm a weird way to play the top of the hats.
 

BGDurham

Well-known member
I play open handed on a traditional right-handed kit (I am right handed, my snare is to my left, I play my hi-hat with my left hand and snare with my right). Traditionally, "cross handed" players have their hi-hats high so there is space for the left hand to play the snare under the hi-hat hitting right hand. As an open handed player that will not be an issue for you so, yes, go ahead and lower the hi-hat. Mine is low, but not very low because I still occasionally use my right hand to play the hi-hat or to do faster 16th note grooves.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Put it at the height that works for you.

I practice a lot open handed, but since I play both ways I don't change it. I'm not after playing one way or the other and still play crossed most of the time, it's more an exercise for balance and comfort to me.
 

Arjun Diwaker

Well-known member
im a left handed guy playing on a normal drum kit , so i guess you can call me openhanded haha. I keep my highate just a bit above my snare but , my snare is completely maxed out so i have no clue how it would be for a normal height haha.
 

boomstick

Silver Member
Super low hats didn't work for me. Everything was fine until I tried to play fast sixteenth notes on them with both hands. Then I didn't have enough clearance for my right hand. The snare would interfere. So I have my hats raised a bit, and it feels very comfortable to me. I prefer them up a bit actually, just like I prefer my ride raised up a bit from the floor tom.

hats.jpg
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Traditionally, "cross handed" players have their hi-hats high so there is space for the left hand to play the snare under the hi-hat hitting right hand.
Is this an example of why traditional grip is advantageous? If I want to play open handed (I play trad), I just rotate my humerous to bring my forearm to the left of my hihat, then lift my forearm up a few degrees to the height of the hihat cymbals, and continue using the left grip. I probably lean left a little to ease the transition. I may even bring my elbow out from its home position close to my side.

On the other hand, matched grip player has to bring their elbow out significantly - unless they lower their hihat height, which as others have said, limits returning to crossed handed playiing.
 

Lefty Phillips

Well-known member
Is this an example of why traditional grip is advantageous?
Wait, what? First of all, given that both my snare and hi-hat are low and very close to each other in height, there's no ergonomic issue. If you generally prefer traditional grip, that's fine, but your snare has to be substantially higher to avoid interference with the stick on the snare. Matched grip, no need for that.

I'm not out there on the battlefield with a snare slung on my hip dodging musketfire, so I have no interest in traditional grip, which inherently raises questions about ergonomics. I may be pretty new to drumming, but if I had a dollar for every time one of the many drummers I've worked with over the years had to deal with back pain, I'd be playing a vintage Slingerland or Vistalite.
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Wait, what? First of all, given that both my snare and hi-hat are low and very close to each other in height, there's no ergonomic issue. If you generally prefer traditional grip, that's fine, but your snare has to be substantially higher to avoid interference with the stick on the snare. Matched grip, no need for that.

I'm not out there on the battlefield with a snare slung on my hip dodging musketfire, so I have no interest in traditional grip, which inherently raises questions about ergonomics. I may be pretty new to drumming, but if I had a dollar for every time one of the many drummers I've worked with over the years had to deal with back pain, I'd be playing a vintage Slingerland or Vistalite.
But my advantage in my post addresses crossed handed playing, which you conveniently glossed over.
 

someguy01

Well-known member
My hats are fairly low, I play crosshanded. When I need to play open handed I don't have to move my entire arm or raise my elbow or anything, I just rotate my arm out to the left. Maybe being 6'2" and having arms like a deformed orangutan which gives me the reach of man who's 6'7" is part of the ease. 🤷‍♂️
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
Super low hats didn't work for me. Everything was fine until I tried to play fast sixteenth notes on them with both hands. Then I didn't have enough clearance for my right hand. The snare would interfere. So I have my hats raised a bit, and it feels very comfortable to me. I prefer them up a bit actually, just like I prefer my ride raised up a bit from the floor tom.

View attachment 109541
I concur; ultimately, do what works for you, @Duck Tape , but I wouldn't lower them any more than is convenient for your right hand, because it's not like you're never gonna touch it with your right drumstick again. Don't you still play alternating 16ths? I lead with either hand depending on circumstances. My setup is right around @boomstick 's pic and my right & left arms aren't terribly different in position (left just doesn't have to reach as far).
 

Lefty Phillips

Well-known member
But my advantage in my post addresses crossed handed playing, which you conveniently glossed over.
I didn't gloss over it, no. I described how my kit is set up: "my snare and hi-hat are low and very close to each other in height, there's no ergonomic issue. If you generally prefer traditional grip, that's fine, but your snare has to be substantially higher to avoid interference with the stick on the snare. Matched grip, no need for that."

It sounds like your kit is set up for you to play with a traditional grip. If you were NEVER to use traditional grip, you would set it up differently, eliminating the ergonomic issues you described. My hat is about 30" from the floor, the front of my snare (which is angled towards me, not away like Krupa) is about 25" from the floor. No need to raise my arms or lean for either the snare or the hat. I do rotate my forearms for French and German grip. The only time my arms ever cross over is when I hit the splash (to the left of the hat) while playing the hat.

The only time I really have to extend my arms is to play the bells and shoulders of my ride and crash. Everything else is just right there. I spent a lot of time getting my kit set up to be this way, so as to avoid the injuries that so many drummers I know have experienced.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with traditional grip. But I would set up my kit differently if that were my usual, or even occasional, approach.
 
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