Whenever the subject is an “irregular” way to produce sounds using the drums, the first thing that comes to my mind is how I believed during my first drum lesson that using drums you can produce just about any musical sound.
I did not know anything about drumming techniques, rhythms or grooves; all I knew that the solo my drum teacher played to me at the beginning of the class seemed so complex and astonishing that I immediately become a believer of “limitless drumming”.
Cross sticking is not something that pushes your skill limits too far: it is basically an interesting way to produce sounds using your drums that is rather easy to learn.
In order to execute a proper cross stick hit, put the tip of the drum stick on the middle of the area between the center of the drum head and your left hand. Grab the shoulder of the stick with your left hand (in some cases you might use the right side, too), and hit the facing side of the rim with the butt of the drum stick.
Pay attention to the direction of the drum stick: too many drummers execute cross sticking with the butt touching the drum head. Proper stick direction results in a brighter, cleaner sound – and even if it might feel harder to deliver in the beginning, after a little practice it will surely feel natural.
Cross sticking is mainly present in afro-cuban rhythms. Most reggae rhythms feature cross sticking, and so do a large portion of Latin rhythms. However, cross sticking is really just a different sound that can be added to almost any drum rhythm. For example, a slow rock rhythm quite often gains a deeper character when played with cross sticking.
As I said previously, I became a believer of what I call “limitless drumming” as soon as my first drumming class. Some people try to categorize different techniques and tricks and assign different genres or playing scenarios to them.
I preach something else – why would you limit yourself to use cross sticking only in reggae rhythms when your metal beat might become more interesting if you add a cross stick stroke at the third eighth note. There are two particular use cases of cross stick hits that I would like to mention.
Firstly, you should forget about the common belief that cross sticking only works on the snare drum. Proving the contrary is quite easy. Just play some cross stick hits on your floor tom or your toms. Please note that playing on your toms might be a little harder to execute since you have to lean in towards them. Once you try this kind of cross sticking, you will realize that you have just discovered yet another interesting sound that your drum can produce.
Secondly, there are endless ways for combining cross sticking with different drumming patterns. Using cross sticking in linear rhythms results in subtle, tight rhythm. Linear rhythms are a special type of drum rhythms where you only play one part of the drum set at any given time.
That is, there are no overlaps, you do not play the hi-hat and the bass or the snare drum (or anything else) at the same time. Since linear rhythms often have a quite clean character, a subtle cross stick hit played instead of a louder regular snare hit often fits better with the pattern.
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