Drumming should not cause you pain. If it does, something is amiss. Generally stated, beginner drummers (1 day to 3 years) especially, tend to play too hard, too stiff and often have bad posture. For beginners, I do not recommend playing hard and I DO believe in good posture. This is the beginning for good technique. Sit at the front edge of your chair for starters.
The concept at work here is that beginners hear the teacher (or other source), playing beautiful musical sound and try to duplicate that sound. But, there's one thing missing, technique. Correct hand and arm technique and even proper breathing can take years to get 'right'.
So a smarter move for beginners who may be prone to overdoing it due to excitement inherent in drumming, is please be careful. You WILL hurt yourself if you play too hard when you don't know how to play. It is our job, the teachers, to help show you the way to good sounds, speed and musicianship. It is your job to realize that this takes time. My master teacher Famoudou Konaté says it takes a lifetime to learn the djembe. So do many others. So do I. Actually, I say maybe two lifetimes.
Take your time and relax and remember to play from a place of love, peace and total relaxation. It is not easy to learn all of that. Take your time. If you feel pain, you are probably doing something wrong. Stop!
Ask us for advice right away and we can help you decide if you need to stop, modify a position or tensioning, use a device to aid in playing for a while, many possibilities. We know. And just to mention, if you do need to go to a doctor of PT, OT or physiatrist, and you tell them you are drumming, they don't know what that is. You MUST, no matter how weird this seems, use the top-side of their desk and show them the motion and about how hard you are doing that motion and tell them for how long you do that. Then they can start to understand what 'drumming' is for you. And if you play the dunun, with a stick and a bell stick, show them that too. If you are timid to demonstrate this, at least show a YouTube video of someone hand drumming correctly or not correctly on a djembe or dunun.
Below is just the beginning of how to deal with some common drumming hurts. This is a work in progress and I welcome your feedback. Email me.
•By Luga Podesta, M.D.
•Originally published in the April 2007 issue of DRUM! Magazine
Arm pain is a common complaint among drummers. Pain in the upper arm can originate from a number of locations in the upper extremity, including the neck, shoulder, and elbow. However, one of the more common sources of arm pain in drummers is from the biceps tendon (i.e., biceps tendonitis).
A tendon is a band of connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. The biceps muscle is located in the front of the upper arm and attaches to two locations in the shoulder and at the elbow. The biceps muscle functions to rotate and bend the elbow and assists in elevating the shoulder.
Biceps tendonitis is a quasi inflammatory process in the tendon that causes pain in the front part of the shoulder and upper arm. Actually tears, or micro-tears of the tendon is more correct than inflammation. Biceps tendonitis occurs from overuse of the arm and shoulder or from a direct injury to the biceps tendon. Repetitively riding cymbals that are set high and reaching for drums or cymbals behind and to the sides can predispose drummers to bicep tendon injuries.
Pain develops in the upper arm with movement of the shoulder, particularly when the arm is moved forward and over shoulder height. Pain is also present when you apply direct pressure over the front of the shoulder. These types of injuries are diagnosed by clinical examination by a physician and more advanced imaging studies such as an MRI of the shoulder.
Biceps tendonitis can be a very annoying injury and an extremely difficult problem to treat. The initial treatment will include the use of ice packs over the front of the shoulder for 15 minutes every two to three hours. The use of oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications initially for two to three weeks can also be useful. Occasionally a corticosteroid injection around the tendon can reduce severe inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy has also been beneficial in reducing symptoms and improving function.
Resting the shoulder by limiting the activities that caused the problem is also helpful. If not cared for properly, surgery may become necessary to relieve pain and repair the damaged tendon.
Performing proper warm-up exercises and stretches prior to activity and properly cooling down afterward can prevent biceps tendonitis from occurring.
Tennis elbow is a form of tendonitis that causes pain over the bony prominence called the lateral epicondyle on the outside of the elbow. It is often referred to as lateral epicondylitis. They are responsible for extending or bending back the wrist and fingers. The tendons are fibrous bands that connect the muscles to the bone, in this case the lateral epicondyle.
If too much stress is placed on these muscles and tendons, micro tears can occur at the site where the tendons attach to the lateral epicondyle(see drawing). These micro tears cause pain that is usually localized at the lateral epicondyle but the pain can occasionally radiate down the forearm. Aging appears to make these tendons more prone to breakdown. Therefore, lateral epicondylitis is more common once we get in our fourth decade of life and beyond.
For more excellent info on Elbow Pain, please click here.
And for even more excellent info on Elbow Pain, please click here.
Personal Notes on Pain of the Shoulder Capsule and Arm
I will repeat myself here: Drumming should not hurt you. If you push yourself you run the risk of pain. Do not ignore the pain.
I would like to share some thoughts and things that have helped me and other more notable drummers who often, due to privacy, don't talk about this stuff. Yes, even the famous dudes and ladies out there.
The more you learn about drumming and the better you get, that's when you are the most prone to getting some inflammation of an arm or joint area - be it the fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder or neck. If your drum is not tall enough you may experience low back pain. There are drum risers available or you can get a taller drum. We like the drum supported by the ground and not held between the legs, unless you are standing with your drum in a good padded drum strap or your drum is in a djembe stand.
(yes I have been a crash-test dummy for all of the below)
• Ice - I use a product called ActiveWrap Shoulder Heat/Ice Wrap. It is the best one out there; black, easy to get on and off when in pain and made extremely well. Chose the correct size for your body. At about $68.- I keep one at work and one at home. Extra ice pacs are a good idea. Do NOT apply ice directly to the skin unless you are moving it constantly, like in a dixie cup of solid ice would be okay. Wipe off any wetness on the ice pacs's sleeve (it needs to be in a sleeve) before putting it on your skin or you may ice burn yourself.
Also, I have found that playing with the ice ON while drumming worked for me quite often. I understand that some people might not approve, but I found that this technique DID help me when I HAD to play in pain.
• Rest - This doesn't mean to stop all use of an arm necessarily. Complete rest is usually not a good idea as it can cause frozen shoulder. Rest, to me, means, to play smarter, keeping elbows down and using the weight of your arm as opposed to striking the drum. It takes a lot of practice but you can do this! It also means to try to use your other arm to do some of the work. I can work with you to help you avoid this problem or help you get better.
Caution - As I stated above, use your other arm BUT be careful of overcompensating where the other arm may get inflamed or fatigued and prone to injury.
• Heat - I have found that sometimes heat is a good compliment to the ice. While heat doesn't stop inflammation, it can help you feel better. It can also guide any medicine you may take to that area where it is most needed as it increases blood flow.
• Medication - There is a lot of information about anti-inflammatories out there, as you may know. I like taking 800mg of Ibuprofen (Advil) 2x a day and then switch to Naproxen (Aleve) 500mg 2x a day for a few days. Treatment is for as long as you are experiencing pain. Common medical advice from top doctors of the shoulder say to take Naporsyn 500mg 2x a day for 30 days. Include the above steps and reevaluate in 30 days. If pain has not improved, seek more medical advice. But keep in mind, you want the tendons to heal and, in fact, tendonitis is not really an inflammatory disease. However, it may make you feel better.
• No Medication - My understanding is the healing of tendons especially, is a natural occurrence as long as the tendon is in touch with the bone and enough blood enters the area and considerable healing time is allowed. (There's not much blood in a tendon) I have heard that medications that stop inflammation may also cause the area to take longer to heal. Some people choose to not use much if any anti-inflammatories for this reason. You may heal faster if you stay away from anti-imflamatories.
• Iontophoresis - a therapeutic modality often used by physical therapists. It is a type of electrical stimulation that is used to administer medication into your body through your skin. I have found this very helpful especially for the elbow where the nerves are very close to the skin.
• Nitroglycerin Patch - The questions surrounding whether nitroglycerin is truly beneficial and how to properly deliver it are still unanswered. It is currently in use in the US and endorsed as a good adjunctive treatment for tendonitis in addition to a standard physical therapy rehab program. (They always throw that in.) You only use 1/4 patch directly on the skin over the exact point of pain. 12 hours on 12 hours off. You must be evaluated and prescribed this patch and guided for this use. Personally I get a mild headache with it many times which goes away when I remove the patch. So sometimes I do 8 hours on and 16 hours off and get great relief. Tendons don't heal fast as they don't get enough blood. This takes blood from other parts of your body and brings it right to the tendon. Recommended!
• Massage - Very helpful to focus on the shoulder capsule and the supporting muscles (actually part of the rotator cuff). For tendon health, massage is essential. Some you can do yourself by possibly using balls or hard foam tubes to massage alone. Not as good as going to a massage therapist but cheaper. There is a tool called The Stick Travel Stick, 17-Inch for about $25 at Amazon. It can be used to break up tissues in your inner forearm where drummers muscles get really tight. If we don't get those relaxed, the tightness can 'travel' up the arm to the shoulder.
• Chiropractic - My shoulder has been under the care of a chiropractor who helps me stay in the game. I like full manipulation. She stretches the shoulder capsule and it gives me great relief and helps me heal.
• Ultrasound - This therapy can be very helpful to assist the healing process. I am a fan! Recommended!
• EMS - Electro Muscle Stim - A simple unit can be purchased for under $50.- these days. Be careful to use a gentle setting for the shoulder or arm. Stim is NOT to be used on the upper neck area, careful. You may wish to use EMS on the surrounding tissue to the injured tissue OR directly on it or both. Don't overdue it!
• Acupuncture - For years I have heard this was a 'cure' for tendonitis. Many friends have said it is THE way to heal your tendonosis as do many in the medical profession. Recently, I decided to give it a try and it has been really helpful. The long term results await but I have received a lot of relief with acupuncture. If you have little money, try Acupuncture Together on Mass Ave in Cambridge, MA for treatment. Recommended!
• Steroidal Injections - These can be very helpful in making you feel better and can actually stop one from developing frozen shoulder as you will use your arm more since it will not hurt. In Boston, there is a doctor at NEB Hospital who basically only shoots shoulders and he promised me and delivered on getting rid of my frozen shoulder in 3 days! It was an injection with a viewing screen called an arthrogram. Highly recommended depending on the condition and doctors expertise.
• Topical Anti-Inflammatory - Voltaren Gel - (prescription) Basically Naproxin in a gel form that is applied to the specific area. It works very well for me. DO not combine the topical gel and ingesting systemic Naproxin.
• Physical Therapy - Sometimes PT is necessary. I found the ice and heat and EMS part to be especially helpful. I really can't say that I found the exercises, strengthening and stretching to help me. Of course while at PT you meet a lot of people just out of shoulder surgery and we all talk. You can learn a lot! Very few (out of maybe 35 people I spoke with at PT) felt they were getting anywhere with PT, yet, it is the first thing that many doctors recommend.
I DO think that a few sessions can help you feel better and give you ideas on how you can best help yourself. And the massage techniques they may do should certainly help. If in the Boston area, I highly recommend ProSports Physical Therapy, Cambridge or Waltham, MA where the Boston Celtics train.
Always take care of yourself when you play. Use musicians earplugs, sit up very straight, shoulders back, head back. Sit at the very front edge of your chair so your back will be straight with the side benefit that you will have improved sounds coming out of your drum! Nice!
If you feel fatigued, stop immediately! One common drumming situation I want to mention is.... When the rhythm gets faster, many, many people play harder and louder. DON’T DO THAT. Please, do the opposite. Because, for one thing, playing louder and faster will slow you down as you will get fatigued almost immediately. And you can get hurt that way. It is a natural thing to do but - YOU need to take care of you! If the teacher or facilitator is not telling you to back off, you may hurt yourself. Again, this usually happens early on in drumming when you don't necessarily have the ability to be aware of what you are doing all of the time.
For now, faster should mean even more relaxed, a tad quieter and a softer approach. Use earplugs. DrumConnection is endorsed by and carries products by the Hearing Institute and by Etymotic Research. $20/pr in a case. In our shop we have been trained to fit you to personal earplugs for musicians for $39.95 a pair. We also always have foam earplugs on hand. When you play with them for a while you can actually get them to give you a decent experience but only for emergencies.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.aaos.org
DrumConnection 177 Massachusetts Ave. Arlington, MA 02474 ph: (001) 781-316-8068
I will update this soon.
5.0 star rating
5.0 star rating 2/9/2017
I was thrilled to find that this store doesn't just have hand drums, but is also well-stocked with hardware and parts for rock drum kits. And if they don't stock something you need, they'll order it for you or point you in the right direction.
Alan, the owner, is extremely knowledgeable and helpful if I have questions or need advice. When I came in last year wanting to restore my vintage kit, I had no idea where to start, and Alan helped me through the entire process, from cleaning, de-rusting, to finding missing parts. Whenever I have a problem with my kit or something breaks, I always go to Alan first (it's a good idea to call the store to see when he's working!) Often he'll find a way to fix it without having to purchase new parts.
Definitely recommend this gem over bigger places like Guitar Center.
5.0 star rating
Jan 22, 2017
"Hi Alan, Eddie & I LOVED Nancy's classes. We stopped going because it was dark & cold & late & it was the only time we could both make it ( I work nites ) but we plan to resume classes probably in the spring. I miss it. Rochelle"
5.0 star rating
Purchased beautiful instruments...
I recommend the workshops to all my college student studying world music in the classroom. We've also purchased beautiful instruments I use in my teaching. People marvel at their sound and touch.
5.0 star rating
So much fun...
Participating in a beginners drumming series was so much fun, and I was surprised at what they were able to teach us! We plan to go back as soon as our schedule allow a steady attendance.
5.0 star rating
Just bought my 3rd instrument from this store. Always a pleasure to do business with DrumConnection, and home to a great community of drummers.
5.0 star rating
Honest, original voice...
Way back in 2011, I wrote and published a feature story about Alan Tauber and DrumConnection. Read it at YourArlington
Nothing that has occurred since would cause me to change my mind about Alan and his business: He's an honest, original voice in a fast-changing town, offering a rhythm that is hard to beat.
5.0 star rating
Always a great experience...
Alan is always a pleasure to do business with. He is knowledgeable and very kind. The classes they have are fun and very informative. Always a great experience.
Redington Beach, FL
Alan's knowledge is vast...
I needed to replace the head on a djembe. I live on the south shore of MA, and was having a hard time finding a place to do the job. I discovered the DrumConnection through a list serve and found the best resource I could hope for. Alan's knowledge is vast, and the service was done professionally, on time, and at a reasonable price. I do not need to look any further for my hand drumming needs.
It is a privilege to know you...
You play such an important part in drumming education in this country. It is a privilege to know you...
Name withheld upon request.
(but a famous dude in percussion).
Great Local Place, Great Stuff, Nice People
Bought a present for a friend and they had just what I wanted. They helped me pick the right one. Weren't pushy. Really nice vibe. Will definitely go back when I need a drum or a present for someone.
5/16/2016 5.0 stars! Yelp!
DrumConnection is great! Excellent teachers, extremely high quality guest drummers from Africa, and female teachers and leaders.
5/15/2016 5.0 stars!
Thank you Alan, Thierno, Audrey, Issa and Moussa!
At DrumConnection, I began my beginners' class feeling lost and insecure. However, while the drum is quite challenging, I have felt more and more connected to the group thanks to the wonderful teachers, and the kindness and acceptance of other drummers.
In other words I am deeply indebted and grateful for the opportunity to expand my skills, horizons, and sense of belonging thanks to the drum. The ongoing learning experience is challenging, exhilarating and humbling. Thank you Alan, Thierno, Audrey, Issa and Moussa, and thank you to all my fellow students!
5/13/2016 5.0 stars!
Thanks so much. Tuned up my kids drum, very knowledgeable and friendly!
4/28/2016 5.0 stars!
Love DrumConnection in Arlington!
Great teachers including the Masters from West Africa; great drums (all kinds) and accessories. Director and owner, Alan, is an excellent drummer himself, friends to all and always willing to share his knowledge. Classes & Workshops at all levels challenging and tons of fun. Serious drumming going on here!
4/27/2016 5.0 stars!
Knowledgeable, and very helpful.
I watched Alan help a gentleman trying to rent an accordion. Yes, this sounds like a Seinfeld script, but it was touching seeing Alan help someone out. Additionally, the store is well supplied, and the prices are quote reasonable for being able to get your hands on what you need right now. Truly, an asset to the community!
Brian C. J.
April 9, 2016, 1:47 p.m.
Friends cannot believe how light it is and how good it sounds. Easy for me to carry. It is also very nice looking, not ornate, just beautiful wooden swirls. Thanks for all your help on this..... kdl
4/10/16 ; 5 Stars
I have spent several wonderful weekends at DrumConnection studying drumming rhythms with various master drummers (djembefolas) and I just want to thank Alan and the wonderful community of people I met at there for a wonderful, fun, inspiring and informative time. If I didn't live on Long Island, NY I would be there every week. 5 star rating from me!
Long Island, NY
2/24/2016 : 5 Stars!
DrumConnection is a wonderful place. Alan is so helpful, thoughtful and kind. The store has a great selection of drums that will help you connect to music from all over the world. Highly recommended!
Jan. 16, 2016 : 5 Stars!
Great experience, no pressure to buy or spend more than I wanted to, just the perfect assistance to help me find the right drum for me - a clear joy for drumming and very welcoming - made me feel right at home.
12/22/2015 : 5 Stars!
A great little store
I was looking for some nifty percussion accessories for my son-in-law and I really didn't want to go the the Guitar Center. What a great place! I got great advice & was able to find exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for! A perfect shopping trip & well worth the weekly trip down from Cape Ann!
Cape Ann, MA
5.0 star rating 12/6/2015 Yelp!
I took a beginner drum class here this fall. I was impressed by the business's connection to West African drumming. Thierno, a drummer from Guinea, was our teacher. If you want to learn drumming, have a weekly class with lots of laughing and meet people from around the world this place is for you.
5.0 Star Rating 12/4/15 Google+
Alan the owner is always friendly and helpful. When I was looking for a drum, he chose 4 drums he thought I might like, each unique. He helped me sort out the differences to find the combination of pluses that added up to the perfect drum for me.
Alan the teacher is a non-judgmental, supportive, and clear instructor whose decades of experience and amazing skill as a drummer combine to provide a safe and inspiring learning environment. I've studied with four other DrumConnection instructors and each is excellent in his or her own ways, and all certified by examination.
A great store and a wonderful school. I recommend it without reservations.
11/15/2015 5.0 Yelp!
The beginner drum class was extra special. Taught by Thierno Keita-what a wonderful escape each week from the work-a-day world into a world of rhythm and movement. Great for the brain and the soul. Alan Tauber, who runs the Drum Connection could not be kinder or more devoted to his art. This has been a postive turn for me and I will continue on this road with pleasure.
5.0 star rating 11/11/2015
DrumConnection is an nook of musical magic on Mass Ave in Arlington. The drumming teachers are from Africa, they sponsor workshops and trips to Africa to learn drumming. Alan the owner is very flexible and understanding with scheduling lessons. The drum selection is fantastic!! I recommend it to everyone I know. What a gem!
5.0 star rating 11/9/2015 Yelp!
Broad selection of percussion instruments from all over the world. Alan, the owner, really knows a lot about the instruments and the music they make.
5.0 star rating 11/7/2015 Yelp!
We have purchased many instruments from Alan. He knows so much about percussion instruments that we trust him with ordering sight unseen and have been pleased with our purchases. Prices are very reasonable. We drive 2 hours each way to shop at the Drum Connection and it is worth it.
5.0 star rating 11/6/2015 Yelp!
You will not find a more beautiful person than Alan to assit you with your journey of learning the drums. I have traveled with Alan to Guinea, purchased various drums, and attended numerous classes. Have not been able to find the joy I felt when I was involved with the Drum Connection. Please open a southern location!
5.0 star rating 10/5/2015 Yelp!
The drum I purchased from Alan several years ago is both beautiful and is a joy to use. The classes are fantastic -- designed for all skills levels and taught by master teachers that are knowledgeable and exciting.
They are patient and know how to break rhythms down to bite size. I have enrolled my 4 year old in the children's drum class and it is dynamic -- teaching movement and African songs. She loves it and loves her teachers."
5.0 star rating 10/19/2015 Yelp!
The Best! Thanks!
Purchased my djembe here a few years ago, just bought new skin, Alan and staff always knowledgeable and helpful.
5.0 star rating 8/29/2015 Yelp!
I am new to drumming and am having a ball. I went to a Sunday night lecture and lesson on one type of drums and followed that with 2 Sunday night drumming circles with an excellent teacher-but not at the rank beginner level. Still, I loved it and just tried to follow and keep up.
Now I am in a beginner class and I am still enjoying every minute. Alan is a kind and welcoming person. He coordinates to bring in a variety of excellent teachers and classes take place most every day of the week. He gives great advice about what to purchase and has rentals available. Come join the fun!
5.0 star rating 8/24/2015 Yelp!
This is a great little shop. Alan was able to rent me some drums for my autism caregivers retreat and was very accommodating. The drums were gorgeous, beautiful sound. Our group had a great time thanks to Drum Connection coming through at the last minute for me. Thank you!
June 25, 2015
5.0 star rating Excellent Teaching!
This is the first time I took drum lessons. I have taken piano lessons off and on for years. I really enjoy playing the drums. I had two teachers. They both had their individual style of teaching. I found that Alan is an excellent teacher. I would recommend anyone with a desire to learn drumming to check out DrumConnection. I haven't gone to their drum circle yet, but that's the next step for me. I am finishing up my first six weeks of classes, two more classes to go.
August 4, 2015
5.0 star rating 8/4/2015 Yelp!
I'm new to the djembe and drum circles in general. The drum circle I attended last week was a blast. Very relaxed and friendly, the drumming was amazing. Alan and Fanta were both very warm and welcoming. As others have noted, great energy. I'm definitely going back.
July 6, 2015
5.0 star rating Incredible Drums!
I returned to the store today to purchase my first djembe. Alan was more than helpful. He gave a mini-lesson on the spot so I would know how to evaluate the variety of drums, their tonal differences, etc. He also played several of them for me to have a better impression of what it sounds like once technique is mastered. The drum I finally settled on is incredible, love it. My wife was looking for a bodhran, and he gave demonstrations of those as well!
July 8, 2015
Way better than 5 stars!
Alan clearly loves what he is doing and it shows in the friendly, professional and deeply knowledgeable service. Way better than 5 stars.
June 10, 2015
Alan was so helpful. He came highly recommended, and lived up to it. I got a wonderful drum for my nephew - have not yet given it to him, but he is going to love it.
April 8, 2015
Five stars all the way!
Honestly, I can't say enough good things about DrumConnection. Alan and John helped me pick out the perfect drum, and when I came in tonight, Alan talked with me for at least an hour about technique, the history of the djembe coming to America, and more. The place is warm and inviting, and the people who work there are the same. I am confident I chose the best place to start my drumming journey, and I will be back for their classes! Five stars all the way!
March 7, 2015
My son is now starting drum lessons. We stopped in to purchase a drum pad and drum sticks. This is an amazing store. There is much to learn about choosing an instrument that suits you...and we were encouraged not to rush in and spend a lot of money at this stage. The store is packed with drums (mostly hand drums) and each visitor is encouraged to try out items that spark their interest. While visiting, my son tried several thumb pianos as well.
March 6, 2015
Fanta lead our group of 21 drummers thru two hours of song, dance, and drumming. Everybody was smiling at the end of the evening. What a deal for 10 bucks!
February 24, 2015
Drum Connection is a fantastic place to take African drumming lessons, meet some wonderful people and really expand your horizons by attending workshops with master drummers from West Africa. It's been a life changing experience for me. I am so blessed to part of Alan and Fanta's community.
February 13, 20115
As always Alan was right there to make sure I got exactly what I was looking for. He even sent me a photo/text to confirm that he had the correct size, shape and sound of rattle I needed. This was that perfect combination of personal service and immediate results.
February 5, 2015
Hey just wanted to write you a note to tell you how much I absolutely love the drum! It was the perfect choice for me. The slaps are just incredible and yet it gives good bass response. I brought it to work to play with the children and it was just such the perfect instrument. It’s just the right one for me and I'm really thrilled with it. Thanks so much.
January 24, 2015
Thanks Alan for your undivided attention today as I purchased the replacement head for the djembe I had previously bought at DrumConnection. Could not be more satisfied!