A revolution in my thought process for playing drums took place when I was in high school at a regional Jazz festival. Pianist Lawrence Hobgood had a trio there to play for one of the clinics, and playing drums for Hobgood that day was a drummer named Paul Wertico. I’ve never spent too much time listening to Wertico, so I can’t say that his playing has influenced me much, but I learned something extremely important from observing him that day.

The trio’s set was great. Wertico played very well, and took a couple smoking solos. After they were done, I made my way up to the stage to take a closer look at the drums he was using. I noticed something that I have never forgotten: his snare and toms had quarter-sized dark circles (from stick markings) in the dead center of the heads, and the rest of the heads were totally clean and white. I couldn’t believe it. The accuracy and consistency required to make all your strokes land within a 1-inch diameter in the exact center of the drum was something that I had never even considered. I thought about my drums at home… they had markings ALL OVER the heads, and the darkened circles from heavy use were at least 6 inches in diameter. From that point on, I worked as hard as I could to hit the drums in the center every time I played anything.

Hitting the drums in the center produces the best tone. That is a fact. It’s true that you can get some cool sounds from hitting the edges of the head, but that should by no means be your standard target. Up until that day at the Jazzfest, I had merely been aiming for the drum when I wanted to hit it, and not the center of the drum. Now, when I think about hitting the rack tom, I remember to try for the dead center of the head. That’s the “revolution in my thought process” that occurred. It’s a simple adjustment to the mental aspect of playing drums, but it will make a huge difference in your sound.

SUMMARY: Treat the drum like a dart board and aim for a bull’s eye every time.