Hip Angle is a Thing
This question comes via email from Kristian in Sydney. He asks:
I guess my issue is my overall playing posture. I have my kit setup quite ergonomically as in my seat is at a good height for my legs and everything is close so I don’t need to reach for things, however when playing I find that I naturally slump over near my lower back/where my core is, which by the end of a gig gives me pain in the lower back, stomach and neck. Also I find whilst slumping I automatically keep my heels up on my kick and hi hat pedals, which basically keeps my calf muscles tensed up the entire time and my beater always on the kick head. I presume this is an offshoot to my poor posture.
You seemed to cover off some great tips similar to my concerns on the Drumeo clip, however any advice is greatly appreciated.
I can’t say for sure as I’ve really just got this text to go on, but I’d say that you presume correctly. I would in turn presume from what you describe that you’ve got standard drummer’s posture going on. Drummers often end up sitting with their hips tilted backwards – far more often than other instrumentalists. The reason lies in the way that drummers operate the pedals and how posture affects it.
First things first, as I’ve said before, I don’t like the word posture. It implies a static, rigid, unmoving position. I prefer the term balance in part because it implied the idea that the weight from your body is delivered down into your stool. When you slouch, your weight is off center, so your body makes all sorts of secondary adjustments to keep you from falling over. If you slouch at the drum set, your center of gravity is shifted forward over your legs, and one of those adjustments is that the legs are called on to maintain balance. In this position, if you picked both of your feet up off the pedals for more than a moment you’d fall forward. I suspect this is why your calf muscles are so tight: you’re using them to help keep your body up in addition to playing the drums. I also suspect this is
why you’re burying the beater.
The standard drummer’s posture that I talked about earlier includes an adjustment for this. By tilting the hips backwards, you can relieve some or all of the extra weight on the legs created from poor posture. Check out the image at the top right. In the image, the drummer has his hips tilted backwards in a slouch. The red line shows what angle the hips are tilted at. In good posture the red line should be straight up and down.
One explanation that I like is to compare a duck-butt to a tucked-butt. If you tilt your hips so as to imitate a duck walking(a.k.a. hip flexion), then you would be tilting your hips forward. If you tilted them backwards(a.k.a. hip extension), you’d end up “tucking” instead. The latter is what many drummers end up doing while sitting down.
Tilting the hips in this way tilts the torso backwards, bringing the center of gravity back over the drum throne. Additionally, it adds a little extra tension to the connective tissue across the front side of your hips. This extra tension helps to suspend the legs and keep them feeling lighter. Unfortunately, this position has unwanted side effects. It adds stress to the lower back, impinges on the arms ability to move freely, compresses the stomach. It isn’t a good solution. Some thrones, such as many of the motorcycle style seats in Tamas’s line lean forward slightly to counteract this tendency. They do help in alleviating the symptoms of poor posture, but make it difficult to actually learn to sit well – a much better solution in the long run.
As far as developing better posture goes, the first step is learning how things should work, how everything is supposed to line up. The next step is to figure out a way to start to get everything in place: The 6 points of balance in Anatomy of Drumming is a good tool here. The third step is discovering what being in balance feels like and then adjusting your posture by feel until your body adapts. This process can take quite a while. In my case it took several years before my posture finally felt “right.” The connective tissue in your body memorizes your posture and acts to bring yourself back into that position – whether it is perfect posture or a nasty slouch. It might be the pull of the connective tissue that you are referring to when you say that you naturally slump forward.
Honestly, it took me a couple of years to to really understand hip orientation. Granted, I didn’t prioritize it. I had a lot of other things to correct that took my attention, like head balance, slouching, shoulders, and a 15 degree twist in my standing posture that I accidentally developed from trying to turn towards the hi hat. There are a few chairs you can try to explore hip orientation better. The Hokki Stool isn’t designed for this, but when I sat on it for the first time, I found I could really feel my hip orientation. I was so impressed by it that I purchased one and use it in my teaching studio. I even sometimes use it as a drum throne.
I also have a Motion Pro throne. I used this one as my primary throne for a while, but ended up stopping regular use because it felt like it was stretching out the connective tissue around my hips in an uncomfortable way. However, I still use it occasionally. It is in my teaching studio as well because it is another tool that you can use to explore what the hips feel like. It feels a lot like a yoga ball, except that it is a proper seat. Of course, you could just use a yoga ball as well to explore hip orientation.
This information is for your information only. It is not intended to be medical advice and should not be taken as such. The idea here is that the more you know, the healthier and more effective you will be. If you suspect you have a problem that requires medical attention, please see a reputable doctor who is knowledgeable about your problem.