Eight-on-a-Hand

Eight-on-a-hand comes in various shapes and sizes but is universally the first exercise a drum line plays when warming up.

The goal is simple: Stretch the muscles in the hands and arms, so the body is prepared for more complex rudiments and music. But while known as a great exercise to start the day, it’s also known as a total boring snooze-fest. Drummers let their minds wander while repeating the monotonous eighth notes.

Use this checklist to make eight-on-a-hand more interesting and fun as well as make it work even harder for you in perfecting more than just loud eighth notes.

Dynamics

  • Play the exercise at a range of heights from three inches to vertical.
  • Crescendo the eighth notes from three inches to vertical, and then do the opposite and decrescendo.
  • Mix it up with several different crescendos and decrescendos in the same exercise. Remember to keep it even, keep it in time and play with good sound quality throughout.
  • Add some “bucks”—or alternating accent and inner beats—to change the exercise from just a warm-up stretch to working your ability to hold down low notes after accents. 

Sticking

  • There’s no rule that eight-on-a-hand has to actually be … eight-on-a-hand. Try it in all 7’s. Or alternate 7-8-8-7. Great for marking time too.
  • Start with the left hand to really work that left hand
    sound quality and timing.

Rhythms

  • Throw some triplets in the middle of a series of eighth notes to really freshen up the exercise.
  • Play one bar of eighth notes with the right hand, followed by a bar of alternating sixteenth notes, making sure the right hand stays consistent.

With a little work, you can end the curse of boring eight-on-a-hand and improve the efficiency of your warm-up at the same time.

About the Author

Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. During the past 10 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.

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