Making music is a passion of many including myself and my family. I am a keen guitarist. My eldest son is a highly skilled drummer. My daughter plays guitar and piano really, really well. As a general maintenance of my physical well being I have several strategies that I employ to fend off ‘musicians’ injuries’.
These injuries are very often caused by a gradual increase in passive muscular tension over the years of playing. They are generally specific to particular musical techniques or playing styles and are clearly dependant upon the instrument played.
My musical children are, thankfully, as yet below the age where they are either bothered by or concerned about any chronic build up of muscular tension. It has started me thinking, though. The nature of muscular tension is that it is very quiet and acquiescent for years before popping up it’s head and screaming at full volume. The sooner a budding musician can integrate management and maintenance into their practice and playing schedule, therefore, the sooner they will be in a position to stave off the onset of ‘musical old age’! My eldest son, Joe, practices a LOT. He will very soon be in need of some remedial work if he fails to maintain his muscular tension and prevent the increase caused by hours of drumming.
As the drummer you are at the heart of the band. You are the driving beat behind the groove which all of your band mates fall into. You are responsible for maintaining the timing and keeping a solid, regular rhythm. This becomes the fundamental platform underpinning everything the band plays. You are also blessed with the title of band member with the most kit to shift! In order to meet both of these essential aspects of band membership sufficiently and repeatedly over your career as a drummer, you need to maintain your physical ability.
Your ongoing physical fitness and ability to move well underpin both your drumming technique and your efficiency in equipment management. Maintenance of your ability must be maintained in response to the demands you place upon your body. Every time you play during personal practice time, band rehearsal or within a gig you are using the muscles around your body repeatedly. If you are playing continuously for over an hour then your muscles will be significantly tighter afterwards than they were at the beginning. A microscopic amount of this tightness will remain within your muscles as passive tension. This increase in the accumulated passive tension within your muscles needs addressing. Failure to address, and reduce, this build up of passive tension within your muscles will gradually make your playing, including movement of your equipment, harder.
Over days, weeks, months, years and decades your muscles will gradually, almost unnoticeably, become tighter and weaker. If you wish to play for longer durations and minimise aches and pains following sessions, you need to pay attention.
At The Moballise Physiotherapy Clinic patients are taught that much of the increase in passive muscular tension caused by playing for hours can be managed by using a tennis ball or other massage device. The effects of this self treatment are only temporary. They can be made more permanent by increasing the frequency of self treatment. In the exact same way that you maintain your chops by regular practice, so you will maintain your movement ability by regular soft tissue maintenance work.
Remember – gains are temporary. Temporary is made permanent by frequent repetition. True for treatment as well as talent!!