How to Develop Finger Technique for Snare Drum

Finger technique or finger control of the snare drum stick is an important skill for every percussionist to practice. It is a necessary technique to have for playing fast single strokes, playing quietly as well as general playing all around.

Practice playing the exercise 8 on a hand where you play 8 strokes with your left then 8 strokes with your right then you alternate for 16 strokes at twice the speed, but only use your fingers.

This is a little easier said than done I understand. In order to develop the control of the stick with your fingers experiment by playing upside down on an air drum.

Check out the video lesson on Finger Control to see what I’m talking about.

When you’re playing the drum in the upside right position keep your fulcrum firm between your thumb and your fore finger’s first knuckle and wrap your remaining fingers around in a relaxed manner ensuring that at least your second and third fingers are in constant contact with the stick. Just like a teeter totter you should be able to move the stick with just the fingers and let gravity pull the stick back down toward the drum.

If you have trouble and your wrist wants to also move while you practice this play with one hand at a time and use your free hand to hold your wrist in place so it won’t move.

Don’t try to play any fast than you can play being very relaxed. The only way to develop good finger technique is to be relaxed.

Eight On a Hand to Develop Finger Control in Your Drumming

It’s a good idea to always start an exercise like this with your weaker hand. I’m Right Handed so I want to start with my Left hand so that I spend enough time on developing my weak side. Obviously, if you’re Left Handed you should work more on your Right so that things will balance out for you technique wise.

eight on a hand drum exercise

  • Only use your fingers to move the stick. NO WRIST OR ARM!
  • Only play as fast as you can do so being loose and relaxed. If there is any tension in your fingers, wrists, arms, etc slow back down. It’s better to build up your speed slowly over time.

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  1. Hi just wondering trying to improve techniques I lost the tip of my dominant hand middle finger and for finger rolls it seems you use mostly that finger to flick back the stick is there anything else I can try or should I not bother.appreciate

    • Trent
      Everybody has a slightly different technique based upon their hand size, shape, dexterity, etc…I would encourage you to develop the dexterity in your other fingers to achieve this technique.

  2. I’ve mamaged to hit about 600bpm with the gladstone technique. Are there ways i can further improve this to the 1000bpm mark?

    • Thanks for your question. I’m not sure what the “Gladstone” technique is. Maybe it’s what I’m doing but my teachers never labeled it with a name.
      So, let me answer your question this way if I may. Speed comes from softness and looseness in your technique. You need to allow your fingers, wrists, arms and your whole body react to the rebound of the stick on the drum in order for you to apply your technique again to play the instrument. If there is any tension you will disrupt the natural rebound and impede your speed. To build speed I start slowly and gradually increase the speed; as soon as I feel any tension at all I back down the speed, relax and then gradually speed up again. After awhile your speed will improve.
      Just remember the “Speed comes from Softness”

  3. I’m learning finger technique and I’m finding it easier to use my 2nd and 3rd fingers and not my pinky. Should I use pinky or just 2 fingers.

    • Dan
      The pinky is not really involved with finger technique. My pinky goes along for the ride with my ring finger but doesn’t really do much on its own.
      Keep practicing

  4. I’m wondering how you play a drum roll with this technique. When practicing you do 8 on a finger (2nd) on the left then the right hand then you repeat with with the 3rd finger. When you do a drum roll would you then play R 2nd finger, L 2nd finger, R 3rd finger, L 3rd finger and repeate over and over? Or do you do 16 strokes on the 2nd fingers RL, RL…..and the repeat on the 3rd finger?

    • Thanks for your question. Finger technique is used for fast single strokes primarily. The exercise is simply to develop the feeling of how the fingers can add to your speed and control of the sticks. Isolating each finger could be a good exercise to help strengthen your technique but this is an exercise to develop technique like push-ups or sit ups strengthen your muscles for sports.

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