Everything I know about Finger Drumming, I learned from watching Neil Peart

To start, I’m a guitarist and have been one for over 35 years. However, I have always been a finger drummer. Put me on a real drum set and I’m useless. Give me a desktop, and I can tap out some decent beats. It helps me when I am writing songs. I have been using a Korg padKontrol for a while and I have been able to drum it out using my fingers, just like I have been doing it on my desk at work for decades. I found it has taken me a long way past programming the beats on a keyboard and I certainly won’t be using a drum unit. Of course, my drum rompler of choice is BFD2… I’ve been stunned at the realism of that package.

Where did I learn my finger drumming chops? From watching my favourite drummer of course… Neil Peart! I never miss a chance to pick up a Rush video and while I definitely get off on their music, I don’t pick ’em up solely for Alex or Geddy’s playing (they’re fantastic instrumentalists and I do try to model both my guitar and bass playing after those two… and I’m sorry guys, if by some freak chance you read this blog). I buy them because I love watching Neil Peart live on the drums. Why? So, I can try and figure out how to transfer everything he does with his arms and legs to my fingers. Yes… I try to emulate his drum beats with my fingers so that I can take it to my padKontrol and making beats. I know that in many ways I don’t sound like Neil Peart, but in many other ways, I am much better for it and it has tremendous effects on my songwriting, comparing my music today to a lot of my earlier efforts.

If anything, it has been a real treat these days to watch “A Work in Progress” and “Anatomy of a Drum Solo”, both by Neil Peart. I originally bought them for Joelle because she loves to play drums, but I find I’m getting more out of them than she is. I feel like I have all of Neil Peart’s attention and I have been able to just watch him drum while hearing the music (or just watching him drum). Even better is that he talks about them on the videos and is showing some insights into his technique. If anything, I have been able to take even closer looks with these videos to see how I can do this with my fingers to make it sound like his rhythms and fills. I’ve been trying to take his drum rudiments and apply it to my fingers.

I first got inspired with the double-stroke rolls. All of a sudden, my snare sounds started sound more Peart-like with the rolls. Then working with kick drum rolls and triplet fills really got me going. Right now, I’m working on single and double paradiddles with my fingers and my wrists and brain are both hurting from it. It will probably take me a few weeks to get, but once I get it, I’m sure you’ll start hearing it in my songs. I’m also benefitting from another video that I once bought for Joelle, from Steve Smith. Plenty more exercises to translate to my fingers and again, they are showing up in my finger drumming.

This has also opened my eyes as to how I need to arrange my pads on my padKontrol. I definitely don’t like Korg’s default setting for BFD or General MIDI. If anything, I have configured the pad arrangement to match my fingers for playing certain beats. And, if an arrangement doesn’t match, I make another arrangement that works for that finger pattern. And again, I got a lot of this type of inspiration from watching Neil Peart.

Until Finger Drumming instructional videos come out, I would suggest watching your favourite drummers and translating their movements to your fingers. Then practice a few rudiments with your fingers… and keep at it. Maybe, I should take a shot at making a finger drumming video.

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