Eight On A Finger – Part I of Stick Yoga

December 17, 2009 4:52 pm in Marching by Murray Gusseck

Part I of my new series Stick Yoga will focus on a great way to warm up the fingers of each hand while simultaneously showing your hand where the best rebound is, one finger at a time! This has become a regular staple of my practice regimen—and maybe it will for you as well.

Often times as drummers we tend to concentrate on the wrists during the warm up period. Lately I have been enjoying the benefits of actually focusing instead on the fingers first. There’s something about getting blood circulating in the digits that seems to make my wrists a lot happier. An added benefit from this is that you very quickly develop a connection with the weight of the stick and the rebound of the surface you’re playing on.

The following exercise should feel beneficial no matter what type of drumming grip you normally use—German, French, American, or Traditional grip. All of these grips benefit from a relaxed wrist and good circulation through the fingers. That’s what it’s all about!

Eight On A Finger is almost exactly that, but not quite. It’s actually a repetition of the following numerical pattern, switching hands (and fingers) with each number:

8 -> 8 -> 16 -> 8 -> 8 -> 16 -> 8 -> 8 -> 16 -> etc.

Let’s number the fingers in the following way:

Finger Definitions

Now I’ll spell the exercise out, and then I’ll show you how to apply it!

  1. R1 x 8, L1 x 8, R1 x 16   –>  L1 x 8, R1 x 8, L1 x 16
  2. R2 x 8, L2 x 8, R2 x 16   –>  L2 x 8, R2 x 8, L2 x 16
  3. R3 x 8, L3 x 8, R3 x 16   –>  L3 x 8, R3 x 8, L3 x 16
  4. R4 x 8, L4 x 8, R4 x 16   –>  L4 x 8, R4 x 8, L4 x 16
  5. R5 x 8, L5 x 8, R5 x 16   –>  L5 x 8, R5 x 8, L5 x 16

Now in order to target each finger separately, we’re actually going to move the fulcrum through ALL the various spots in the hand. What does that mean? Check out the following pictures to see what this looks like in the right hand (most are shot from two different angles). The captions refer to the steps in the exercise outlined above.


Step 1. R1 (top view)


Step 1. R1 (bottom view)

As you practice, aim to just move the stick with each finger, rather than letting your wrist bleed itself into the motion. The tempo at which you go through the exercises is up to you, but emphasis should be given to keep a relaxed feel. My warmup tempo is usually somewhere around 90 bpm, using 16th notes for the exercise subdivision.

R2 (top)

Step 2. R2 (top view)

R2 (bottom)

Step 2. R2 (bottom view)

It’s helpful to repeat the sequence at least a couple of times. Each time you come back to a particular set of fingers, it’s possible to feel a refreshed sense of facility. As a result of going through all the fingers two or three times, you will have increased the blood flow to your hand, warmed up the tendons and muscles in your hands, wrists, and forearms, and helped greatly to acclimate to the sticks and playing surface you’re using.

Step 3. R3 (top)

Step 3. R3 (top view)

Step 3. R3 (bottom)

Step 3. R3 (bottom view)

Admittedly there is nothing original in promoting finger control exercises;  There are plenty of examples floating around out there in books, videos, and clinics. Many finger control exercises focus on targeting the fingers individually in each hand while maintaining the standard fulcrum between the thumb and forefinger.

Step 4. R4 (top)

Step 4. R4 (top view)

Step 4. R4 (bottom)

Step 4. R4 (bottom view)

The trouble for many drummers—particularly rudimental drummers, since that has been my discipline—is that we are so programmed to use our wrists that we can find it very difficult to stop the wrist from taking over every stroke.

Step 5. R5

Step 5. R5

The exercise I have outlined here should aid those of you would otherwise find it frustratingly difficult to truly isolate your fingers individually in this fashion. After you complete Eight on a Finger a few times, try repeating the exercise in the traditional way, i.e. maintaining the traditional fulcrum of thumb and forefinger, while cycling through fingers one through four (all except for the thumb for obvious reasons).

Give it a try and see for yourself! If anyone has similar exercises and/or thoughts on ways in which to isolate the fingers for development in speed and dexterity, please share!