Stick Yoga is a simple two-minute stretch routine performed with sticks. Following an 8–8–16 legato sticking pattern, it works by changing the way you hold the stick and perform the strokes so that you stretch the fibers for each finger. I typically use this as a warm-down, especially after a chop-out session. It can work for all types of players, including marching, concert, and drum set. It requires one pair of sticks and a practice pad or drum.
First Time (Index Finger): Start in matched grip. Rotate your wrists outward to put the thumb on top and hold the stick with just the thumb and index finger. Start the exercise by flexing the index finger to move the stick. Use the thumb as a pivot point, and do your best to only use the index finger to move the stick. While the motion is focused on the index finger, avoid locking the wrist.
Second Time (Middle Finger): After the first time through, move the sticks to the space between your index and middle finger, similar to the outer mallet in Burton grip. The wrist will be more parallel to the ground and the thumb will no longer hold the stick. Wrap the middle finger around the stick and repeat the exercise using the middle finger to control the stick.
Third Time (Ring Finger): Move the stick to the space between the middle and ring finger, similar to the outer mallet of Stevens grip. Wrap the ring finger around the stick and repeat the exercise with the ring finger controlling the stick.
Fourth Time (Pinky Finger): Move the stick to the space between the ring and pinky finger. Repeat the exercise with the pinky finger controlling the stick. This variation is more difficult; try to avoid using only the wrist to move the stick.
Fifth Time (Thumb): Next is a pseudo-traditional grip. Rotate your hand so that it is vertical with the thumb on top, and move the stick to the crook of your thumb so that the butt of the stick faces outward. Play the exercise using your thumb to control the stick. Avoid rotating the wrist to play as you would when playing with traditional grip.
Sixth Time (Normal): For the final rep, play completely normal with matched or traditional grip.
If performed correctly, your wrist and arms should feel more relaxed. The entire sequence can be repeated if desired. This exercise works well in individual and group settings. Focus on proper motions; technical execution and timing is NOT the goal of this stretch routine.
Stick Yoga from Percussive Arts Society on Vimeo.
James Vilseck is a freelance percussionist in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is ABD at the University of Kentucky and recently taught at Morehead State University. An avid fan of marching percussion, James regularly arranges and designs for high school band programs.