If you have ever seen a professional drummer play, you might have noticed them crossing their arms over to play on different drum heads and cymbals with their right and left hands.
Lots of people rightfully wonder, why do drummers cross their arms when they play? Do all drummers do this? And should I?
If you have ever wondered any of these questions, then keep reading for everything you need to know!
It all really comes down to your technique, which is your dominant hand and even the set up of your drumkit. You should notice that not all drummers play using this ‘cross-handed’ technique, but the majority of them do, and there is a very good reason for all of this!
Why Do Drummers Cross Their Arms?
Many drummers cross their arms to allow their dominant hand to strike the hi-hat which is which is most frequently used. The hi-hat is usually placed to the left of the drummer and if right-handed, their dominant hand will need to cross over. Open-handed drumming can also be used.
So, why do some drummers still choose an open or crossed-handed drumming technique regardless of which their dominant hand is? And what are the benefits to choosing each of these? Keep reading for everything you need to know about these techniques and your drum setup?
Cross Handed Drumming
One of the main things to consider when thinking about cross or open-handed drumming is the set-up of the kit itself. If the aim of the drummer is to use their dominant hand to strike the hi-hat, then their drumming style depends on where this hi-hat is in relation to them.
Let’s take a look at a typical drum kit set-up:
Commonly as you can see, the hi-hat is placed nearest to the left hand of the drummer. This means that if a drummer is right-handed and they are most comfortable playing the hi-hat with their right hand, they will generally use a cross-handed drumming technique.
However, it is important to remember that not every drum set-up will be the same. Scroll down for our section on alternative drum set-ups, why people use them and how this might affect your drumming technique!
Open Handed Drumming
Open- handed drumming simply refers to the style of drumming where the left-hand is used to strike the hi-hat if this is in the classic position to the left-hand side of the drummer. This means that the arms do not cross over to play the hi-hat, unless crossing over is being used for other reasons, as explained below.
Is open-handed or cross-handed drumming better?
The debate between open or cross-handed drumming being ‘better’ is a difficult one, mainly because most people agree that there isn’t just one right or wrong answer. A lot of this depends on your personal preference and what is important to you as a drummer.
As we have already seen above, lots of people choose the technique that allows them to play the hi-hat with their dominant hand when it is on their left-hand side. For lots of drummers, this is the most comfortable option which allows them to play the very frequent strikes that characterise many drum beats with confidence.
This means that, providing the hi-hat is to your left, you could play open or cross-handed depending on your dominant hand.
So, why would anyone choose to play the hi-hat with their non-dominant hand if it makes it easier to do so?
Well, some drummers may want to improve their non-dominant hand by training themselves to play the hi-hat with this hand as reliably and confidently as their dominant hand.
Should You Switch Your Drumming Style?
Many drummers will automatically either play using the cross-hand technique, or open-handed technique. They might then hear about the potential pros and cons of each and wonder, should I switch my drumming style?
Ultimately this is completely up to you, but a good way to come to a conclusion is to think about exactly you want to get out of playing with a particular style. If you only care about comfort and being confident in your technique, stick to the one you know.
If you think your weaker hand could use some work, or you simply want a challenge, you could switch so that your non-dominant hand is doing more of the work with the hi-hat.
No matter what, it is always recommended to ask a professional drum teacher for advice on your specific technique.
Other Drum Setups
Above, we shower what could be described as a ‘classic’ drum set up, where the hi-hat is positioned to the left-hand side of the other drum heads.
Let’s take a look at some alternative set ups which might affect whether you would play with an open or cross-handed drumming technique.
The first alternative set up is one that has either a single hi-hat positioned to the right-hand side instead of the left, or two hi-hats, one to the right and one to the left. Either of these set-ups could mean that you could play with an open-handed drumming technique with your dominant hand if you were right-handed.
When you see some drummers crossing their arms over, in particular professional drummers, it isn’t always simply to play the hi-hat with their dominant hand. You might even see some drummers crossing their arms over to play other cymbals, the snare drum or toms. So, why is this?
This is because of a more complex drumming technique called crossovers.
This is entirely separate from the cross-arm drumming we discussed earlier in this post. Instead, this is usually a technique used by advanced drummers to play certain rudiments or drum fills at a certain time, usually very quickly.
This is used for particularly challenging, fast or very unique sounding beats you may come across as you develop as a drummer, so they are good to bare in mind! But ultimately, don’t worry too much if you are a beginner.
You are unlikely to come across or need to practice crossovers, it is just good to know what this term means and how to not get it mixed up with cross-handed drumming!
To conclude, cross and open-handed drumming techniques are often used depending on if the drummer is right or left-handed. This is often to ensure that the dominant hand is doing most of the work striking the hi-hat.
However, different drum setups, such as having multiple hi-hats or positioning the hi-hat in other locations around the kit can lead to drummers using a different technique.
There are also pros to using both techniques, even for people with the same dominant hand. This could involve developing control using their non-dominant hand by adapting it to doing more of the work!
If you found this post useful and want to find out more, check out our other blog posts for all things drumming, as well as our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions you might want to know!
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