Independence and co-ordination pt.1

I can’t stress how important I think it is to develop independence and co-ordination between all the limbs. Not only does this give you more freedom in terms of drum fills and solos, but it also makes it much easier to focus on the groove.

Something I say to all of my students is to not focus on locking limbs to one another for consistency, but rather focusing on locking each limb to the beat. As drummers, we are slaves (in a good way) to the metronome. By having independence we can ensure that each limb is individually, consistently on the beat. By having co-ordination we make sure that our limbs don’t get in each other’s way whilst doing this.

Needless to say, this stuff should all take place in the rehearsal space rather than on a gig, but that shouldn’t stop you from being conscious of it at all times.

Some independence comes easier than others. I find that most people can split the hands fairly easily. Right hand and foot can take a while, but the real toughy tends to be splitting the 2 feet successfully.

This is a fun warm-up I’ve been doing that’s good for hi hat independence.

Set the hi hat going on each beat with your left foot. This should remain constant.

Now play the a triplet between the other 3 limbs e.g.

1       2      3

RH   LH   RF


(It’s interesting at this point to find out which variation you find the most natural – some people automatically lead with the foot, others with one of the hands)

Play this 8, 16 or however many times you need until it’s really comfortable.

To swap to the next variation without stopping, keep the hi hat going and play a double with the limb on beat one e..g

1       2       3       1

RH   RH   LH   RF

LF                    LF

Now the right foot is on beat 1. Again, play this until it feels comfortable, then do a double on the right foot so that the left hand is leading.

This creates a circle of 3 variations. Play the circle round and round, focusing on keeping the hi hat constant and the rhythm regular and even. I would do this at 60bpm until you are comfortable then speed it up!

Once you’re used to this one, swap the leading limb around. In other words, if you started by going RH, LH, RF, start again going LH RH RF.

Once you’ve got all 6, play them one after the other. Begin with 8 of each, then 4, then 2. this gives you less time to think and really strengthens the left foot independence.

I’ve listed the full 6 options below as a check list.







As with lots of these independence exercises, there is no need to be on the kit to do it. Try doing it on tube journeys, when you’re watching TV, important board meeting… just about anywhere really!

Good Luck!


About michaelcairns

drummer, teacher, programmer, composer, arranger. View all posts by michaelcairns

2 responses to “Independence and co-ordination pt.1

  • Andy Britnell

    That’s a tough call for a non drummer but something to aspire to. Will probably help with playing bass and singing at the same time which is getting easier. Another cool pattern is playing a 2/4 beat with a triplet over that – a rhythm described by the phrase “cold cup of tea”.

    Would be interested in how you approach drum fills Mike – something I need to get a grip of for my compositions. Seems to me that the simpler they are the more effective they sound. What’s your thinking on this?

    Best wishes


  • michaelcairns

    Hi Andy
    Thanks for your comments. I had fun tying Elizabeth in knots with the exercise, so it’s not just you!
    I thought I’d leave a quick reply about drum fills then ended up writing another post! I hope it’s useful and if you have any more comments or questions please ask!

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