When we are talking about balance in music, we are talking about a very multi-layered aspect of this branch of arts. From the perspective of the beginning drummer, in order for his playing to gain equilibrium, there are two major issues that need to be taken care of. Since the central theme of our whole discussion is balance, we will give both of these different aspects equal space here.
Physical and technical balance
Do not worry, this is not going to only be about balancing drum sticks on your forefingers. To talk seriously: drumming is obviously the most demanding of musical arts when it comes to your body. It can almost be treated as a sport – and as with any sport, in order for your body to perform as required, you have to find your body’s balance and your drum kit’s balance, too.
It is quintessential that you maintain a healthy posture while playing. That is, you have to sit up straight. Otherwise your back would tire very easily and you would lose some of your ability to precisely command your limbs.
Also, you should adjust the height of your drum throne so that the angle between your knees and your shoulders would be mildly obtuse, resulting in a slight drop from your hip towards your knees (you should keep in mind the position of your pedals too, while you are doing this).
Leaving optimal spaces between your different drums and setting optimal heights and angles for your cymbals is simply vital, too. Too many drummers believe that in whatever way they might set their kits up and they will be able to play on it perfectly.
That is very far from the truth: you should spend at least as much finding the places for the different members of your drum kit as you spent choosing and tuning your drums.
Useful Resources: Free Beginner Drum Lessons at DrumsPlayerWorld.com
Musical and interpersonal balance
Once you and your equipment is all set up the next thing you should concentrate on is the sound that you are producing – whether you are playing solo or playing with others. First of all, let us take a look at what balance in drumming means when you are playing on your own.
Let me illustrate the problem with a simple example exercise: everybody knows the basic rock beat, where you play the bass drum on every first quarter note and play the snare on every third, along with an accompaniment of hi-hat strokes on every eighth note. You would be surprised if you knew how many possibilities such a simple beat has.
You can try out a few of these by adding an accent pattern to the hi-hat accompaniment or playing with the dynamics of the snare drum or the bass drum. In order to understand a bit later what balance is, you have to do some experiments now with this – that way you will know what we are actually talking about. Through this exercise you will gain an insight into what we call “dynamic balance”.
Once you have explored the different aspects of approaching balance when playing alone, it is time you also started paying attention to your fellow musicians. In order for you to be able to do that appropriately, we will have to take a look at balance from a rather theoretical point of view.
But modern music is not about balance!
You bet it is. Balance does not mean that every drum is accented equally, or that every cymbal has an inclination of the same angle. Balance does not mean that the drummer should be playing at the same volume as the bassist is.
Yes, there are endless examples of chaos and cacophony in modern music. From electronic jazz through thrash metal to the opera: the representation of imbalance is ubiquitous. Such a professional interpretation of reality is often harder to play than a plain, harmonious piece. And in order to be able to play such a piece one has to know how a harmonious piece can and should be played.
Being balanced in music is not about being soft or shy. It is about being purposeful: if your beat requires a dominant hi-hat and a shallow bass – play it so. Even if it is unusual.
If the piece you are playing with your band requires a very subtle drum beat – be subtle and be silent, if needed. As I said, balance is not about balancing the drum stick on your forefinger. Balance lies in your attitude.