Being a good gigging drummer is about more than just being able to knock out the beats to perfection, though of course that matters. But you also need to be a good performer who brings energy to the stage and visual interest to the audience. This is why what both you and your kit look like are important.
One thing that can add a lot of visual flare to a drumming performance are tricks like stick spins and twirls. They can be great to get a cheer when you want to lift the audience up, add interest if you’re spotlighted at any time, and just make your part of the performance more visually stimulating.
Stick skills are also something that you can train and practice when you’re eager to be working on your technique but you aren’t able to actually drum at the moment. It’s never too soon to start practicing as these skills also help develop your finger dexterity and strength.
On this page, we’ll take you through the five main techniques for twirling drumsticks, some simple and others challenging and complex. They all have a place in drumming performance as having several tricks up your sleeve adds variety, and different movements in the music will suit different techniques.
5 Techniques For Twirling Your Drumsticks
While there are many drummers out there who have their own individual approaches to twirling, spinning, and throwing their drumsticks, there are five main methods to master before moving on to invent your own. We will take you through how to perform each of these below.
While these methods are pretty simple, don’t expect to get them right away. Developing the finger dexterity and muscle memory requires practice, as does getting the timing just right. Once you have mastered the individual moves, it’s then another process to figure out when you can fit them in during different drum beats.
You will have an easier time mastering these moves if you are holding your drumsticks correctly in the first place. If you aren’t sure about proper drumstick grip, visit this page.
This is the easiest method for twirling your drumstick, and it’s called the fake twirl because the stick doesn’t actually spin—it stays between your index and middle finger and looks like it’s twirling.
To get started, place the drumstick between your index and middle finger, dividing the weight of the stick between the front and the back of your hand. You then just want to twiddle the stick between your two fingers so that each end dips down and up.
Once you have that figured out, you want to add some rotation in the fingers, so that the two points don’t just go down and up but create circles at the front and at the back. Try to use your wrist as little as possible and just focus on the fingers.
You need to avoid using the wrist, because from the side, anyone watching you closely will be able to see this is a fake twirl. But if you hold the back of your hand to the front, it looks like a very authentic twirl indeed. Keeping your wrists in place will help maintain the illusion.
See this move in this YouTube video.
When you’re ready to graduate to a full twirl, this loop is the easiest to master as you are just twirling the stick around one finger repeatedly, and you’re using your thumb, index and middle fingers, which tend to be the strongest and most coordinated.
Hold the drumstick between your thumb and index finger and open the rest of your fingers. Reach toward the stick with your middle finger and use it to push the drumstick around your index finger 180 degrees, then catch the twirling stick with your palm.
If you can master doing this several times in quick succession, the twirl looks really good, but it is definitely a slower method for twirling than the other options on this list.
If you want to do a full 360-degree twirl, you will want to use the same method but spin the stick around your thumb rather than your index finger. This means letting the stick “stay in the air” for a little bit longer and then catching it with your middle and index finger.
One of the coolest twirls is the palm twirl, with the stick spinning flat on the palm of your hand a little bit like the pointer of a compass gone wild in a magnetic storm.
While it takes a while to master, this is actually a simple trick. Turn your palm upward, and then use your last three fingers to give the stick a spinning push while also providing some moment by giving your wrist a light flick in the right direction.
As you do this, open your palm and really push your fingers so they extend below your palm and don’t create any obstacles.
You will know it is time to catch your stick as it spins into the groove between your index finger and thumb and you can just close your grip over it. With practice, you can get four or five spins off a single push. Watch this complete tutorial video.
Yep, the flip is that trick where you toss your stick and then catch it in perfect synchronization like a rhythmic gymnast. You can throw the stick just a little to get a mini twirl, or you can let it fly!
You need to be holding the stick near the base and then, while it looks like you are throwing your stick into the air, you will actually be spinning it downward. You want to lift your wrist up at the back in a flicking motion so that the point spins downward and around. But you need to give enough lift with your hand so that the stick flies upward a little rather than tumbling toward the ground.
Figuring out the exact timing to catch your stick based on the power of your flick takes some trial and error, but this is still a pretty easy trick to master. Watch how it is done here.
Finally we come to the true twirl, which is the one where you twirl the stick around your fingers. It is the most challenging of the twirls to learn but one of the easiest to control once you have mastered it, so you can fit it into complicated drum beats.
Place the drumstick between your middle and index finger with a light grip. Use your middle finger to start the torque motion, letting the stick fall back around your index finger. You then want to catch the stick with your ring finger so that you can spin it around your little finger.
As it wraps around your pinkie, you will want to spin the stick with your middle finger again to push the stick back up your hand along the palm. This should pass it back over your index finger to start the process again. You will catch the stick and return it to your standard grasp after an index finger twirl.
This sounds simple enough, but getting this one right requires a lot of practice. But, hey, at least it’s something you can do when you are desperate to practice but you can’t actually drum because of the hour or other social factors. Get a better feel for the method with this video from Gordo Drummer.
Learning to twirl your drumsticks is all about practice and more practice, but we do have a few tips to help you along the way.
Train With Both Hands
It’s often the temptation to train with your dominant hand first, master it there, and then try to figure it out with your weaker hand. This can be troublesome as your weaker hand will be much more difficult, and if you have already mastered it with your dominant hand, you might just give up. This not only means that you won’t be able to perform double twirls with both sticks moving at the same time, but you are also doing your drumming technique a disservice.
These skills help build your hand dexterity, and you need to work harder at this with your weak side than your dominant one. So, if anything, you should be practicing with your weaker side more often.
Practice With Pencils
Stuck in class or at work without your drumsticks, but have a pen or pencil in hand? Practice with pencils instead. Their smaller size means that these moves are harder, so you will find the twirls with real sticks easier when you do have the opportunity to practice with them.
Do Some Research
We all learn in different ways and will respond to different things as “aha” moments. This means that while one person might not be able to explain to you how to do something, someone else could explain how to do the exact same thing, just in a different way.
So, if you’re struggling, spend some time on platforms such as YouTube and watch various tutorials and example videos. With time, you might come across something that clicks and helps you unlock the move.
Twirl A Drumstick FAQs
How do you spin drumsticks like a pro?
To spin drumsticks like a professional drummer, it’s not just about learning the individual moves—you also need to spend time figuring out where you have the openings in your beats to do spins and tricks. You can choreograph individual songs, or you might have moves that you have mastered with beats you use often.
Also, remember that you want to feel comfortable with a move and look like you’re having fun. Audiences want to see a smiling and confident drummer, not you staring at your drumstick with excessive concentration. Train hard until it feels easy.
How do you spin drumsticks like Tommy Lee?
Like with most things in life, deliberate practice! How much practice? Experienced professional drummer Machine Gun Kelly has revealed that it took him four months of training to perfect Tommy Lee’s signature drum twirls for the movie The Dirt.
How often should you replace drumsticks?
How often you need to replace drumsticks depends on how often and heavy you play. As a general rule, you probably need to replace them every three to five months. You should always have a reserve set ready and waiting, since you never know when a stick might just break and you don’t want to be left with no sticks.
Why do I keep breaking drumsticks?
If you can’t hold onto a pair of drumsticks for three months, it could be that you’re gripping them too tightly, which inhibits bounce back and can cause them to break more easily. They can also become damaged if you’re striking with the tapered end of the stick rather than the drum head. Good technique will help your sticks last for longer.
Learning to twirl your drumsticks is more than just a frivolous pursuit for serious drummers. The practice can help you develop your finger strength and dexterity, plus your wrist control, all of which can contribute to major improvements in your drumming skills.
Plus, if you want to be a gigging drummer, as well as being able to hit the beat perfectly every time, you need to be a performer. To be successful, bands need to deliver a certain energy, which also includes visual flare. A few well-timed drumstick twirls can go a long way to getting the audience on your side.
Plus, learning these tricks can be a lifeline when you’re desperate to practice your drummin, but can’t because of the time of day or other reasons. Training on these moves gives you an opportunity to commune with your sticks and just feel more comfortable with them in your hands.
You can also check out our other recommendations for practicing drumming without having to touch a drum kit.