Let’s get one thing straight before we even begin. Carter Beauford is the man! When I started playing drums in 2001, I learned to play right-handed on a right-handed kit. For those of you that don’t play drums, that’s the normal way to play. It wasn’t until my final semester of college that I discovered the drum stylings of Carter Beauford, the drummer for Dave Matthews Band. When I finally learned that he’s ambidextrous and plays open, everything changed (insert some animation of my head exploding with a little drool hanging from my bottom lip).
Fast forward to 2013, post-graduation, I started a college internship program at Walt Disney World working in Bell Services/Magical Express at the Yacht & Beach Club Resort. For those six months, still fascinated by Carter’s seemingly magical ambidextrous tendencies, I practiced writing my ABC’s and 123’s left-handed 5 times a shift, 5 days a week. I did this to learn how to hold a pencil and build some muscle in my weaker hand in attempts to make it easier to learn how to play with my left hand on the hi-hat. Let’s crunch some numbers really quick (don’t worry, I’ll do all the math so stop your sweating). That’s 25 times a week for 6 months, coming out to around 600 times over the course of my internship. All the while, I started training myself to think left-hand lead and play along to songs I already knew with that mentality. I was essentially learning to play drums all over again!
Once I returned home to Tennessee and had access to my drum set again, I put my new found skills to the test…and it was like watching a baby giraffe trying to walk! There were some awkward stumbles here and there, a tumble or two, but ever so resilient! In all honesty, because I had put in the legwork over the past 6 months learning how to write and think left-hand lead, it didn’t take very long to start actually playing some songs and have them sound like the record. Once I was comfortable playing this alternate way on some easier songs, I decided to tackle the song that led me down this path to begin with, “Kit Kat Jam” by Dave Matthews Band. It was an incredible feeling playing (for the most part) note for note with Carter! Knowing how much work I put in to witness it happening in front of me was inspiring. Since that moment, I’ve been drumming exclusively (unless the part demands a different style) that way and haven’t looked back.
Relearning how to play drums as a southpaw finally gave me the opportunity to view the drum set as a multiple percussion setup. I was already quite familiar with this thought process from studying percussion in college, but the drum set was a bit different. Now, I find myself playing more melodically because I can involve the toms more, and execute whatever comes to mind. I’m no longer limited by crossing my arms. It’s made drumming more enjoyable and truly reinforced the old saying “you’re never too old to learn something new.” If you want it, go for it. You my friend, are more powerful than you think!