It’s a no-brainer: drumming is a physical activity. There’s a reason we’re hesitant to give hugs after a live gig. Like most demanding sports, there’s always a risk of blood, sweat, and maybe even tears.
For those who experience potentially embarrassing aspects of playing the drums the way you do, you might have accepted it as ‘part of the job’ when it might actually be avoidable.
Most drummers have asked themselves at least one of the questions on this list. And if you haven’t, congratulations – you’re one of the lucky ones! This isn’t to say you should experience blood, sweat and tears during or after drumming. But if you have, here’s what you can do about it*:
Should I be worried? Ah, the dreaded ‘swamp seat’ (or ‘swass’, as some affectionately call it). Many drummers find their throne – and derriere – drenched after a set. No need to worry.
What’s causing it? You probably sweat a lot above the waist while you play, and it happens to collect right at your seat. If you use a vinyl or leather throne, it won’t absorb that sweat, and you might find yourself sitting in a puddle.
What can I do about it? Try switching to a velvet or cloth topped seat in the short term. Keep in mind that while it should help reduce the puddle of sweat underneath you, it could eventually harbor bacteria. Other options include using a fan to cool you down, and playing in moisture-wicking clothes. Some drummers even use baby powder or Gold Bond. You’ll find something that works for you.
Should I be worried? If something is itching uncontrollably and it’s been causing problems for a few days, you may want to get it checked out.
What’s causing it? We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: drummers tend to sweat a lot. Drummers also sometimes have ‘drumming shoes’ or ‘drumming shorts’ that are only used when playing. Do you wash these after every jam session, or do they stay in a corner, grimy and wet until next time? If that’s the case, you could be dealing with a fungal infection or a rash.
What can I do about it? Most over-the-counter antifungal creams should do the trick. Avoid re-wearing clothing you’ve already been sweating in, and you’ll keep nasty bacteria away. But most importantly, if the itch has no reasonable explanation or has lasted a few days or longer, go see a doctor.
Should I be worried? Probably not. But if you sweat uncontrollably outside of drumming, and antiperspirant doesn’t work for you, you should talk to a doctor or dermatologist in case it’s hyperhidrosis (an excessive sweating disorder). However, as a drummer, sweating comes with the territory so you probably have nothing to worry about.
What’s causing it? Sweat – but you knew that already.
What can I do about it? Some people find sweaty pits and T-shirt stains embarrassing. The color you wear can play a role. New sweat doesn’t show up too much on white or black shirts, but can stain white. Gray, red, and blue are more likely to show wetness. Try wearing a white or black shirt for live gigs, or athletic wear with moisture-wicking material. And don’t forget the antiperspirant.
Should I be worried? You probably pulled a muscle. It might hurt at the time, but it should go back to normal within a minute or two. If it happens while you’re playing live, you might need to shift your body or simplify the bass drum parts until the feeling passes. If you’re rehearsing, stop and stretch. If the cramp doesn’t go away after a while, talk to a doctor.
What’s causing it? It could be your bass drum technique (especially if you’re a ‘pedal stomper’) or the setup of your drums (legs too far apart, throne too high) that’s causing a problem. If you don’t stretch or warm up, you might also be asking too much of your muscles before they’re ready. Dehydration can also cause muscle cramping, so you might not be drinking enough water.
What can I do about it? Make sure your legs are positioned comfortably over the pedals. Try lowering your throne, or even consider playing a smaller snare drum. It may mean adjusting your bass drum technique so you don’t use your entire leg. Make sure you stretch before and after you play, and drink lots of water. If you’ve tried all of these things and you’re still regularly getting cramps or pulling muscles, ask a doctor or a physiotherapist.
Should I be worried? Aside from this being embarrassing for most people, you probably shouldn’t be worried. However, like the question about pit stains, if you constantly smell bad when you aren’t drumming – no matter how often you shower or use deodorant – it might be a medical issue.
What’s causing it? Body odor is caused by bacteria. Bacteria may also be responsible for bad smells coming from the clothes you’re wearing.
What can I do about it? Do you smell bad after or while you play? Aside from changing clothes and taking a shower, there isn’t much you can do about it. Use foot powder in your shoes, apply deodorant, wear fresh clothes while drumming and remember: most drummers deal with the same problem.
Should I be worried? Your hands shouldn’t bleed when you’re drumming. While it’s probably not a major medical concern, you should make some changes to avoid a splatter – especially if it’s on someone else’s kit.
What’s causing it? You’re probably smashing a knuckle on the rim of the snare. If that’s not the case, you might be gripping the sticks so tightly you create blisters, or using old, chewed up sticks and getting splinters.
What can I do about it? If you get bloody knuckles a lot, try adjusting the angle of your snare and make sure your throne isn’t too low. Make sure you have enough room for your elbows and don’t sit with your back against a wall. If your grip is too tight, find a more comfortable and loose technique. And it should go without saying, but if pieces of your sticks are breaking off in your hands, get new sticks!
Should I be worried? It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and can turn into a rash, but it’s not going to kill you. For drummers, chafing usually happens in the inner thighs, but it can happen in a few other places, too. If it’s so bad that the area gets raw and infected, definitely pay a visit to the clinic.
What’s causing it? Sweaty skin and/or clothing rubbing together creates friction and irritation. Not fun.
What can I do about it? Wear loose-fitting pants while drumming, or choose shorts that don’t ride up: this will prevent the skin on your thighs from rubbing together, while also avoiding rubbing on fabric. It’s already come up in this article, but moisture-wicking athletic clothing can help reduce sweat. You can also use Vaseline or an anti-chafing product (usually in the form of a stick or powder).
These questions might seem embarrassing, but it’s all (mostly) normal stuff drummers’ bodies go through. While we do ‘hit things’, our bodies are just as much part of the instrument as our drums. Don’t forget to take care of yourself!
*Drumeo can’t provide medical advice. Go see a doctor if you’re concerned about something!
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