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The Ultimate Drummers Workout

Wag-the-Brush: The first 90 Seconds

"Fly like a butterfly...sting like a bee."

For close to a hundred years wire brushes have been the drummer's choice for expressing the quiet, sophisticated rhythms of jazz drumming. While performing with acoustic jazz artists I was always aware of how easily sticks would bounce off the kit, as well as the ease of accenting, after switching from brushes. A drumstick is a solid mass and doesn't flex causing the rebound of the stick to be much faster than the hand can react to. After switching from brushes to sticks the drumsticks become light in the hand allowing the wrist to react much faster to the rebound of the stick. Now, I warm up with brushes before I use drumsticks and it only takes 90 seconds!

There are approximately 100 wires that fan out from the base of the wire brush shaft. When lying flat on the drumhead they fan out 3 to 4 inches. Wagging-the-brush, or whisking the brush in the air, creates wind resistance. The more you wag the brush the more the wires flex developing the forearms that empower the wrist. At the same time the grip that controls the balance point or fulcrum of the drumsticks are developed. After a 90 second workout the hands hold the sticks lightly, while allowing the balance point to operate properly. The other fingers learn to relax while staying curved around the shaft.

The desired grip is achieved by holding the shaft of the brush firmly with the thumbs and index finger. The under side of the thumb's knuckle is on the shaft, while the space between the first and second knuckle of the index finger is opposite the thumb (see illustration). The remaining fingers are relaxed, curved around, but not strangling the shaft. The wire hook at the end of the shaft is flat against the heel of the hand every time the brush is wagged. It's the pinky's job to guard the hook in that position. Don't allow the rest of the fingers to open up. This will cause the fulcrum to lose control of the balance point.

The 90 second workout

If you have ever been involved with organized sports, you know about the after-burn. Follow these 3 exercises carefully and stretch a lot, because when you wag-the-brush, your forearms will experience after-burn! That's why you need to stretch, to relieve the after-burn.

Exercise I, 30 seconds

With short wrist turns, wag the brush in mid air with the right hand for no more than 30 seconds. Do not strike the wires on the drumhead. You will hear the wires whisking and feel the hook thumping on the heel of your hand. Stay relaxed at all times.

Exercise II, 30 seconds

Repeat the same with the weaker hand.

Exercise III, 30 seconds

Repeat exercise 1 and 2 at the same time, moving the brushes in opposite directions for 30 seconds. Put down the brushes and stretch.

  • Stay relaxed at all times
  • Use small wrist turns in order to set the wires in motion: don't use the arms
  • Limit the exercises to only 2-3 minutes a day until the muscles have had a chance to begin developing
  • If there is any discomfort, stop, stretch and try again the next day
  • Allow development for at least one month before bringing the brushes to the drumhead


Line up the fingertips and assume the prayer position. With fingers and palms together, slowly, draw down the hands and stretch the forearms. Repeat three or four times.

Pick up the drumsticks and feel the ease of bouncing IMMEDIATELY!

The 90-second workout is a very aggressive workout program. This method must be gradually introduced into the drummer's practice schedule to be effective. Don't over do it. Be sure to workout with the brushes before anything else.

Use the 90 second workout for the first month: to begin the day's practice session, before practice pad work, before drumming with sticks, before any other brush workout or playing, before rehearsals and performances and remember to stretch!

The Ultimate Drummer's Workout is the primer for Buddy Rich's Modern Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments and Buddy Rich's Rudiments Around the Kit. Ed Shaughnessy and Jason Bittner endorse the Ultimate Drummer's Workout.

Ted Mackenzie's books and DVDs are available through

Ted Mackenzie is a full time drum instructor, performer and clinician. He is the revisionist of "Buddy Rich's Modern Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments & double DVD", author of "The Ultimate Drummer's Workout DVD (a.k.a. "Wag-the-Brush")" and author of "Buddy Rich's Rudiments Around the Kit & DVD". Both Ed Shaughnessy and Jason Bittner endorse Ted's books and DVDs.

Note: The 90 second workout is for drum set drummers, snare drummers, percussionists and marching drummers


"He's my teacher and he's great!! I would highly recommend him" --Jason Bittner

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