On a standard right-handed drum set the hi-hat is on the left and snare is in the centre. On a left-handed set the reverse is true. Drummers are typically taught to cross their arms so they hit the hi-hat with their strong hand and the snare with weak hand. Open-handed drumming is where the arms do not cross and you use your weak hand to play the hi-hat and your strong hand to play the snare. This is a less orthodox technique but it does have some distinct advantages.
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Unless you are already a professional, touring drummer, it's most likely that you'll share a kit with other drummers when playing shows. This is because using one kit makes turnaround times between bands quicker. If you are left-handed, you need to switch the drum kit around to play in the crossed-arm style. But if you are capable of playing open-handed, you can adapt to using a left-handed and right-handed kit set-up. Shawn Grover, who has toured and recorded with Megadeth, claims to have developed his open-handed drumming style to eliminate the need to reconfigure the kit whenever he played after a right-handed drummer.
Weaker Hand Improvement
You work your weaker hand more when playing open-handed. The crossed-arms playing style calls for your stronger hand to keep time on the hi-hats. Although you hit the hats more softly, you also hit them more often. The open-handed style forces you to keep time with your weaker hand, meaning you execute more strokes with your weaker hand per measure.
Greater Range of Movement
Since you are keeping time with your left hand, there is no need to uncross your arms to perform a roll. You can move your arm quickly from the snare to any of the toms on the kit while playing the hats with your left. Since you do not need to uncross your arms to reach other drums and cymbals on the kit, you can execute fills and accents with less movement. This results in a smoother transition when changing from groove to roll and back again. Carter Beauford, drummer in the Dave Matthews band, cites versatility and greater scope for expression as the primary reason he developed an open-handed technique.
More Hi-Hat Sounds
When playing open-handed, you can use two hi-hats. Set one up in the normal position and have a second hi-hat on the other side of the kit. When playing a two-handed hi-hat pattern, you can play one pattern over two hi-hats, something that would be difficult and impractical with crossed arms.
You hit the hi-hats to count time and use the kick and snare drum to build the beat. By using your stronger hand to hit the snare, you can apply a more powerful stick stroke with less movement.
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