Off Road Drumming

Ok… last one… MD published a few my health tips for working drummers… it still applies…:)

Thanks for reading!



by Jennie Hoeft

Imagine spending 4 hours a night on a busy airport runway, without earplugs….

Imagine yourself as the baggage clerk, loading, hauling, and heaving heavy luggage.

Imagine yourself as a bartender, pleasing customers, breathing everyone’s smoke, and yelling “drink, drink, drink!!!!”

Now, picture yourself as the conductor of a fine symphony. Ears open, in tune with every player on the stage, master of your craft, and the center of musicality for the next two hours. We, as drummers, are all of these, simultaneously. We expose our bodies to unbelievable physical trauma. Our lungs, ears, spines, hands, feet, and tailbone, all absorb the pounding and abuse of our career choice. And after playing drums for 25 years,

I believe that I am addicted.

It is pure adrenaline addiction. It’s a different buzz than caffiene or sugar…a more gradual “total body” drug that takes effect as soon as you begin hauling the gear. I know I am addicted because the more I played, the more I began craving the adrenaline during the day. This led to a “day gig” of teaching aerobics and fitness…once again beating up my body to conduct and please the people! Loud music excites me. The energy of a crowd challenges me. And well, the drinking and smoking…props in a production. So…love it, or not, we must acknowledge the risks and then take every measure possible to protect our bodies. A personal trainer friend of mine explained his reason for maintaining his body: “ I never want my mind, to be limited by my body.”

So, beyond the addiction of the adrenaline, here are a few ways that we can protect our bodies against the “elements”.

Lungs. This is a toughy.(I don’t smoke, but I have breathed enough second hand smoke to be an addict here too.) Whether you smoke or not, the less smoke you breathe in the better, so take breaks outside, (not in the smoking area). Place a small fan behind you to blow smoke away from your face. And, if you’re miserable, buy a personal “air supply” device. It is a small air cleanser, worn around the neck. It looks goofy, but works great!

Ears. A popular injury that cannot be underdiscussed. I have friends that vow to never wear earplugs because it makes the music “feel funny”. I agree. BUT, I would rather adapt and learn how to make it feel good, than sustain permanent hearing loss. The “musicians earplugs” are the closest thing to real that I have felt. They are molded to your ear and come with filters of varying degrees (from 5-35dbs). They cost about $65 per ear.

Spine. Our upper back stores the tension of extended arms and heavy shoulders. Our mid and lower back absorb the weight and tension of heavy lifting. Combined, our spine takes quite a “beating” so to speak. Erect and relaxed posture is the number one solution to these ailments. Utilizing your body in the most efficient way allows the spine to support you instead of “protect” you. Tension and pain are ways the body signals that something inappropriate or dangerous is happening. Video tape yourself playing (or hauling gear), and study ways to improve your posture and “effort factor”. The best athletes and dancers make their feats seem effortless. This is goal, and it will save your BACK!

Hands and Feet. Wear gloves when carting the gear. Give yourself regular hand (and foot) massages. Wear cushioned, comfortable shoes. Warm up your body before you play. Your extremities will be more relaxed and nimble with fair warning (ten minutes).

I rotate chinese badding balls (without letting them touch) in my hands, to reduce stress.

I use the same iron balls to roll my feet over and stretch my weary arches. It feels great!

Tailbone. The fragile, weight-bearing anchor that is often ignored. BUY A QUALITY THRONE!!!! If you were a professional runner, would you skimp on shoes? Another remedy for reducing stress in this area was offered to me by a yogi master in Tucson.

He suggested sitting on a carpet with hands clasped in front of your knees. Keeping your chin to your chest, gently roll your body backwards, and then forwards, keeping the spine curved against the floor. Do 5 rolls in the morning, 5 before bed, and 5 before a gig. This energizes and rejuvenates each vertebrae, and dissolves excess tailbone tension.

Keeping your body healthy is like taking care of your car. You don’t have to do it, but it will run so much longer (and stronger), if you do.

Good luck and good health!!!!!