By Eric Kamm Published June 2008
If you find yourself at a drum industry trade show, you’re bound to spot a grinning man towering above a group of drummers, showing them an array of different weighted sticks designed to help them control their stroke. His name is Terry A. Loose, and he exudes the air of a seasoned coach waiting to impart an illuminating anecdote pulled from his years of experience. If you catch him on the right day, he may even have just gotten out of one of his warehouse jam sessions with none other than Louie Bellson. Above all, Loose is clearly eager to let you know how his metal drum sticks can help your playing.
Next to Loose, you’ll find Dennis Wozniak. Wozniak is like the Alfred to Loose’s Batman – well kept and soft spoken, with years of rhythmic wisdom etched into the lines on his face. At PASIC last year, Wozniak insisted on taking the time to show me a paradiddle brush pattern at the Power Wrist Builders booth as he explained how he’s been playing more brushes than sticks at most of his recent gigs.
You can’t help but notice that the art of drumming oozes out of these two gentlemen. Which explains how they’ve successfully put the bell around the cat’s neck in most drummers’ search for an exercise or practice tool that will help them hit harder and control their stroke better. By now, most people are familiar with Buddy Rich’s rebound remedy of drumming into a pillow (forcing the drummer to relinquish his reliance on the rebound and gaining better control over the stick). You may also have heard the story of how Jeff “Tain” Watts used to walk around Berklee with weighted pipes taped to his hands. While the argument remains whether weighted sticks can help your speed, there is no debate that Rich’s and Tains’ drumming is characterized by a ridiculous amount of stick control.
As you’ve probably already gathered from its Zen-like ads, Power Wrist Builders come in an array of different colors pertaining to their weight and thickness, though all models are 15.5" inches in length. Thomas Lang prefers the red ones, a 5/8"-diameter model that’s similar in size to a 2B stick, but probably between two and three times the normal weight. Ed Shaughnessy likes the brass ones, which, at 3/8" wide, are roughly equivalent to a 7A, but probably around four times the weight. Loose has mentioned that his most popular model is the black – 1/2" thick (around a 5B) and roughly double the weight of your average pair of sticks. There are way thinner and thicker models available, and the Taloose Group (Loose’s nom de guerre) even made a hexagon-shaped model. The wide range of sizes and weights is incredibly useful, as any drummer of any style can find a pair that suits his or her needs.
Every baseball fan is familiar with the sight of a batter on deck warming up with a weighted bat. You can use these weighted sticks in the same way. Terry introduced me to the Power Wrist Builders by placing the moderately weighted black ones in my hands, followed by three more pairs of sticks, their weight increasing with each model. After I had drummed with the metal sticks for about a minute, he handed me your average pair of wooden 5Bs. It was as if he placed two pencils in my hands – they felt so light I could barely feel them. For anyone trying to warm up in a pinch before a performance, here’s your solution.
DRUM! assigned me the task of working on rudimentary exercises with the Power Wrist Builders for at least 15 minutes a day over the course of three weeks in order to find out how much the sticks could help my playing. I typically use match grip for heavy hitting, so I decided this would be a great opportunity to strengthen my traditional grip, which I generally reserve for subtler musical situations. As I broke out my metronome and a copy of Joe Morello’s Master Studies, the manic drummer side of my personality took over. Fifteen minutes of practicing stretched into two to three hours at times. Each night I would work my way through the Power Wrist Builders’ pantheon: first the brass (3/8"), then the black (1/2"), then the red (5/8"), and finally the purple (3/4"), running through the Stone Killer exercise all the while.For those of you unacquainted with the Stone Killer exercise, allow me to explain. You start by playing four notes with each hand (RRRR LLLL), repeating 50 times. Then you play eight notes (RRRR RRRR LLLL LLLL), then 12, and then 16. When you complete the pattern, repeat the exercise twice, first accenting the first note in each group of four, and then accenting the last. After a while, this exercise becomes taxing even with a regular pair of sticks. That’s why I figured it would be a great way to yield quick results with Power Wrist Builders’ weighted sticks.
Unfortunately, the holidays rudely interrupted my practice schedule, and that three-week, focused plan morphed into a slightly more inconsistent, five-week plan. Still, after only two days into the workout routine, I started to feel the results.
While in the past I’ve noticed immediate improvement doing stick control exercises with regular wooden sticks, I definitely felt like the Power Wrist Builders supplemented the process significantly. While playing with my progressive punk band, I would often flip over the stick in my left hand between songs and lay into the drums as hard as I could. I felt a considerable increase in the strength of my stroke each day I practiced. As I worked through some Alan Dawson jazz exercises behind my kit, my fluidity around the set was much more precise, both in terms of stick height and stroke intensity. In addition, I was able to increase the speed of my rudimentary practices by about 10–12 bpms over the course of those five weeks.
This is by far the most useful practice tool I’ve used in years. In a little over a month, I experienced dramatic improvement in both stick control and intensity. Even if you’re just trying to find a quick way to warm up before a show, you can’t go wrong with Power Wrist Builders. My advice is to go pick up a medium- and heavy-weight pair of these sticks and get to work.DETAILS