Are blisters normal for drummers? Definitely. However, you shouldn’t be getting too many blisters if you’re relaxed behind the kit and your drumming technique is on point.
Drum blisters can be very frustrating as they stop you from being able to play comfortably at times. In this guide, I’m going to give you seven actionable tips to prevent painful blisters from drumming.
I’ll also give a few ideas on how to continue playing drums while you have blisters. Let’s get right into it.
Allow Calluses to Develop
If you’re new to playing the drums, you’ll be a lot more prone to getting drumming blisters than someone who’s been playing for years. Your hands still aren’t accustomed to how the sticks feel, so they won’t be fully comfortable.
Before trying to prevent blisters, you must understand that your hands will develop calluses over time. These are spots that harden on your palms and fingers, and once they develop, you won’t get as many blisters in those areas.
If you try to prevent blisters right from the beginning, these calluses won’t develop, and that will give you more blisters in the long run.
So, let your body do its thing. Calluses are the natural way for your hands to protect themselves. It’s the same as when bodybuilders first start in the gym, and they get rough hands from lifting heavy bars.
After a while, their grip improves dramatically due to those calluses. While calluses won’t improve your grip with drumming, they will stop blisters from coming.
Improve Your Technique
You need to make sure that you are holding your sticks correctly when playing. There are a few accepted ways of holding the sticks, and these ways have become popular because they work the best with your hands.
By utilizing a proper stick grip, you’ll be less prone to getting blisters when you play the drums.
Here are the commonly used grips:
- French Grip
- German Grip
- American Grip
- Traditional Grip
- Middle Finger Fulcrum
While I don’t advise mastering each grip type, it can help if you have a bit of proficiency with each of them. If you feel a blister coming, you can switch grips to relieve the stress from a certain part of your fingers.
The biggest difference would be when switching between matched grip and traditional grip. Matched grip is the overall name for French, German, and American grip, while traditional grip refers to when you hold your one stick in your palm.
By switching to matched grip, you’ll take the pressure off your index finger, and that’s the most common finger for a drummer blister to develop.
Even if you don’t switch between grips, having good control over a single one will go a long way in preventing blisters from coming.
Loosen Your Grip
Gripping the sticks too tightly is the biggest cause of getting blisters while drumming. If you’re using the proper technique, you may just be holding the sticks a bit tight.
It’s a natural thing for every drummer to play with a tight grip from time to time, especially when you get nervous or attempt to play quick patterns that you aren’t quite comfortable with.
The best thing you can do as a drummer is to relax. Relax your fingers and play with a looser grip to give a bit of room between your hands and the sticks every now and then.
When you loosen your grip, there’ll be less force on your fingers whenever you hit the drums, and that’s what will reduce blisters.
Loosening your grip will also prevent getting drummer injuries, so it’s one of the most important things to consider when playing the drums.
It can’t be understated that if you play with a relaxed, loose grip, you’ll have more control over your notes, you won’t get as many blisters, and you’ll prevent any other potential injuries.
Find Appropriate Drumsticks
Another cause of drumming blisters may be that the sticks you’re using aren’t right for you. Everyone has different drumstick preferences, and while certain sticks may feel uncomfortable, they may be a big reason why you’re getting blisters as well.
A good move would be to find drumsticks that are a bit lighter. Thicker sticks often cause drummers to tighten their grip, and that’s when the blisters come.
Try to find whatever the lighter version of the stick you’re using is. If you’re using 5B drumsticks, give 5A sticks a go. If you’re using 5As, try out some 7As.
If you like how the thickness of your sticks feels in your hands, you could then test out some maple drumsticks. These are lighter than drumsticks made from hickory, but they’ll feel the same in your hands.
Drumstick tape isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it can work quite well in preventing blisters. You can buy some tape from different stick brands that are intended to be wrapped around sticks to provide a good grip.
You can also buy drumsticks that already come with taped grips. These sticks are intended for drummers who don’t want to drop their sticks when sweating, but the tape works very well in preventing blisters.
That’s because the tape stops the skin on wood contact, and there’s less friction between your hand and the tape than there is between your hand and wood.
If you want to try adding your own tape that isn’t from a major drum brand, just make sure to wrap one that isn’t slippery or heavy. If it’s slippery, you’ll drop the sticks easily. If it’s heavy, the sticks will feel unbalanced.
Another very common method to prevent blisters is to use drumming gloves. Drum gloves will take away all the skin on wood contact, essentially preventing blisters from developing completely.
You’ll find that drum gloves are mostly used by metal drummers, as they play really fast and aggressively on the drum set. They’re more likely to get blisters, and the gloves are a good deterrent.
The problem with drum gloves is that they don’t feel very comfortable for many drummers. The skin on wood contact is what feels natural, and most drummers prefer that.
So, might be worth wearing drum gloves if you have to deal with blisters. Just make sure to find a pair that fits the sizes of your hands perfectly. If you don’t like how they feel, you’ll just need to utilize the other methods of blister prevention.
Let Time Do Its Thing
The last tip for preventing blisters would just be to let time do its thing. The more you play the drums, the fewer blisters you’ll develop over time. This is because your technique will improve, you’ll become more relaxed, and your calluses will develop.
Getting blisters is a natural part of drumming at the beginning. You can’t prevent them completely, so just see them as a sign that you’re practicing hard and improving.
If you constantly get them, then you know something is wrong, but most drummers who have been playing for ten years or more hardly ever get them anymore.
One of the best preventative measures for blisters is just to improve at the instrument. The better you are at drumming, the less likely you’ll be to get blisters, and that comes with time.
What to Do When You Have Drum Blisters
What do you do when you already have a blister? It can be very frustrating to play drums like that, so here are two tips.
You can wrap a bandage around the blister so that you don’t feel the pain of it getting direct contact with the stick.
The blister may pop inside the bandage while you’re playing. If that happens, you should remove the bandage, clean your finger, and then apply another bandage.
If you don’t clean it up after it pops, you risk the chance of getting an infection, and that’s not ideal.
The blister will still hurt you a bit with a bandage wrapped around it, but it won’t be anywhere near the pain that leaving it open will give.
Another method would be to cover your hands in chalk. This is what the bodybuilders do to improve their grip, and it works just as well with drumsticks.
The chalk will cover the pain of the blister on wood contact, so you’ll be able to play without as much discomfort.
This isn’t as ideal as using a bandage, though. Chalk gets everywhere, and it won’t keep your fingers protected while they heal. Using hand chalk is typically just a quick fix for drummers playing gigs with blisters.
So, how do you prevent blisters when playing drums? Understand that calluses will develop when you first start playing. After that, make sure to hold your sticks properly, instead of tightly gripping them. Those are the biggest preventative measures for drumming blisters.
If you want to take it a step further, you can use stick tape and wrap it around the areas where your fingers touch the sticks. You can also use drumming gloves, but those only feel okay to a very small group of drummers.
Finally, you should accept that blisters are a normal part of drumming, especially when you play drums for long sessions. Every drummer gets them from time to time, but all drummers should stop getting them as much after playing for a few years.