Maintaining the correct posture while playing pads is crucial in minimising strain and injury. A good start is setting the height and position of your seat relative to your controller.
Seat distance – Position your seat back from your controller and sit forward near the edge of the seat. This will help you to be less rigid and promote a naturally straight back.
Seat height – Set your seat height so that your forearms are parallel to your controller. If your seat is too low, your shoulders and back will have to work overtime. If you’re too high it will cause unnecessary stress in your forearms and wrists.
Don’t be too rigid. Maintaining a fixed posture can lead to injury, so feel the groove and move with the music. However you do that is up to you – by tapping your foot, bobbing your head, or rocking your body – as long as you are consciously trying to embody the music, you’ll feel more comfortable and your timing and feel will strengthen.
Sit forward on your seat, upright, and shoulders back. Stay nice and relaxed.
Pads are an incredibly versatile instrument. They can be used to play anything from complex rhythmic patterns, to melodies and chord progressions. Your hand position and technique will change depending on the context, but it’s important to get the fundamentals right first.
Keep your wrists up, don’t rest them on your table or controller. You will find this is far less strenuous on your wrists over longer periods, and you will be able to play with more precision and speed.
Keep your hands in a relaxed, natural position. Your fingers should be curved so that you’re hitting the pads with the very tips of your fingers, rather than the centre of your fingers. You’ll need to keep your nails trimmed!
Use a combination of finger and downwards wrist motion when hitting the pads, stay loose, and maintain good posture.
For rhythmic finger drumming, focus on bouncing your fingers off the pads instead of pressing them like buttons. This will help develop your speed and allow you to easily move between pads with more precision and less fatigue.
If you’re playing a linear pattern, i.e, just using two fingers, there are a few different techniques, each with their pros and cons.
Good for accuracy, but you’ll need to rotate your wrists slightly inwards to play which can become strenuous over time.
Your middle finger has the most stability and power. Your wrists will rest in a more comfortable, natural position.
Double it up
A combination of the two above methods, use both your middle and forefinger together. This reinforces your forefinger, allowing you to play with more speed and accuracy with less fatigue.
While playing linear patterns like this, you may be tempted to ball the rest of your fingers up into a fist. Practice with all your fingers extended naturally – this will come in handy when the time comes to utilise all your digits.
Chords and melodies
Playing melodic sequences and chords on pads is a little different. Unlike piano, there are no standard techniques as different controllers will have different layouts.
The most important thing is to plan ahead. Your positioning may change depending on the pad arrangement so work out which pads you need throughout a song, and position yourself comfortably so that each pad is easily within reach.
More complex patterns and chords will call for more fingers. You may find your ring and pinky fingers weaker and less dexterous for a start, but don’t tense up! Keep working on it and you’ll build up strength and independence in no time!
Here are some helpful exercises to work on…
Play and repeat this pattern with your left and right hands, or alternating fingers on one hand: R L R R L R L L. Practice this with a combination of different fingers. Focusing on your weaker fingers will improve their strength and dexterity.
Ascending and descending pentascales:
With your hand in a naturally curved position, tap one finger at a time in ascending and descending order.
Practice a similar motion with your palm flat on a table, lifting one finger at a time. This will help increase strength and finger independence.
Take a break
Playing pads is fun, but repetitive strain injuries aren’t. Five minute breaks every 15 minutes will help rest your muscles, allowing you to play more and develop your skills faster.
As well as maintaining good posture and technique while playing, the things you do while resting are important too. While you're relaxing, watching TV, or waiting for the kettle to boil, take the time to stretch out your fingers and forearms. This will help strengthen your muscles and joints, and prevent injury.
Keep up the correct techniques, posture, and stretches, and nothing will hold you back! When you’re ready, click this link to start one of our great beginner courses in Melodics! Good luck.