You gotta swing both ways

As regular readers will know, I'm left-handed but prefer to play musical instruments right-handed. When I started playing the guitar I wanted to play lead like Hendrix, so it made perfect sense to me to use my articulate, agile left hand to scramble across the fretboard. All my right hand had to do was thump the strings. And a brief foray with a viola in primary school where you were expected to play right-handed anyway probably set the tone.

When I first started playing drums, the right-handed position seemed natural too. I kick a football with my right foot (Scottish Protestant, c'mon), so bass drum with the right foot and snare with the left hand makes for a comfortable conversation. The right hand just has to keep a steady pulse on the hi-hat.

Lead on MacDuff

All very straightforward until I got to page 18 of Say and Play Drumsteps - Book 1. I had to play 16ths (semi-quavers to the educated) on the hi-hat. That means both sticks on the hi-hat, starting with the right and alternating. And that means that the right hand has to play the snare on beats 2 and 4.

"And?", cries the reader.

Well, technically, starting any kind of two stick rhythm - single stroke roll, double stroke roll, paradiddles and the rest - with your right hand is called 'leading' with your right. Any drummer worth their salt will be able to lead with either hand, but me? Pah!

Within a few bars, my brain has made some sort of instinctual leap and my left hand now commands the beat while my right duffs away obligingly in the gaps. And the snare? What snare? ('there on the stair' and etc)

Knuckle down

Time to knuckle down and put in some serious mental and physical practice. It strikes me that teaching my body to lead with the right as well as the left could have distinct benefits. My fiddle playing would certainly benefit from a stronger and more expressive right arm. When I play the guitar I look constantly at my left hand - never think of or look at my right. No wonder my arpeggios are clumsy.

And there are other implications. Left or right handedness has been associated with right or left brain dominance and the two hemispheres of the brain are often linked to different aspects of the personality. Left Brain, Right Brain, Whole Brain?.

So I've been practising. 10 minutes twice a day.

LEADing with the right two three four
LEADing with the right two three four
LEADing with the right two three four
LEFTing with the lead two three four
LEADing with the left two… BUGGER!

Ch… Ch… Ch… Changes

It's not just a matter of making my right hand play 1 2 3 4 while my left plays the 'and' in between 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and… I have to think myself 'right'. My right arm must dominate. My right side must be the pulse that pumps life into the left.

And slowly, I can feel the change. Sure, my right arm glows and aches as atrophied muscles are suddenly being forced to take the lead, but at times I also notice a certain erm… flamboyance. My left hand still thumps and punches away, but my right - well it kind of dances and skips round the kit. And when I'm leading with my right, my body takes up a slightly different position too. My head turns slightly to the left and the chin lifts up and the eyelids drop just a little.

Y'know, Caedmon is hoping to play a few gigs in the spring next year. I'm just wondering whether it wouldn't be cool to wear eyeliner on stage.