Rat a Tat
by Frank Jacobson

Rat–A–Tat #3

Quite an impressive title, isn’t it? Three articles in three months! I’m fortunate that I don’t have a ‘real‘ deadline to meet for this on-line magazine. If I did, the editors may have to cut my wages in half for my failing to meet it. Actually, writing an article every month is not as easy as people think. You have to look at the responses you get from the previous month’s column, chat about them, if there are no responses, start droning about a new topic. Well, luckily for you, I did get several responses to my column on cadences used when exiting the field after competition. I would like to thank Kevin Burdett of the Imperials of St. Patrick, Rich Stuemke of the Springfield Falcons, Capital Chargers, Bellevelle Black Knights, The Milano Family of the Cavaliers and Bill Reid of the St. Patrick’s Cadets of New Jersey for informing me that several corps they heard this year are, in fact, using cadences to exit the field, one ever reporting that corps that didn’t use cadences last year are using them now. Glad to hear it! I knew there was something missing from the thrill of a good drum corps show.

Last month, I mentioned my saxophone-honking-bassoon-gurgling-flute-tooting-clarinet-tweeking mellophone player a couple of times in my article. Well, because of a school activity, she is now just a mellophone player. My saxophone-honking-bassoon-gurgling-flute-tooting-clarinet-tweeking mellophone player is also a serious high school soccer goalie. This past week, while practicing blocking penalty shots, a ball came off the crossbar and smacked her left hand breaking her pinkie. Or, in the words of the orthopedic surgeon, she experienced a "spiral fracture of the proximal phalanx of the fifth metacarpal of the left hand." In other words, she broke the bone from end to end in a twisting motion.

Being a former paramedic and orthopedic technician, I can say that simple finger fractures are usually splinted for 4-6 weeks and left alone EXCEPT this type. End to end spiral fractures are VERY unstable fractures. Needless to say, there resides in my saxophone-honking-bassoon-gurgling-flute-tooting-clarinet-tweeking mellophone player’s finger, two pins that must remain there for 6-8 weeks. Needless to say, this will seriously impede her playing her woodwind instrumentation thus making her a one-handed mellophone player.

Luckily, we have found from her previous injuries a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician who specializes in the treatment of professional musicians. We are already planning on my daughter’s physical therapy with him. You gotta love Seattle…we have everything here!

This does remind me of an injury I experienced when I switched from baritone to percussion. When I was 13 (first year on drums), I fell on my outstretched arms and broke my left wrist. Of course, being a traditional grip player at that time and having a cast on and off for over six months, my range of motion and physical strength seriously decreased. Once the cast was off, everyone had this suggestion and that suggestion for improving left wrist range of motion and strength. It was easy to tell that my right hand was obviously stronger than my left. The entire left arm measured and looked smaller than the right. Doing a double stroke roll, the sound of the right was definitely louder and cleaner than the left. The true giveaway was the great tan line on the left that started where my T-shirt ended where the cast began. Kind of a 6-inch dark racing stripe on my pale arm.

Back when I was with Nisei Ambassador’s ‘B’ corps (The Nisei Envoys), we had a very small drumline (me, Gerald Nakamura and Ray Noble Jr.). We also had a very experienced drum instructor, Tina Akiyama. Tina was the first person who suggested to me that I should work the left hand on a pillow. A pillow? Yes…grab those Ludwig 3S Lamo sticks and start your double stroke rolls on a pillow. Doing the exercises Tina gave me brought strength back to the wrists and also allowed me to develop volume control between the two hands, making them sound equal. I also learned not to become dependent on the bounce from the drumhead, allowing me to develop a good double stroke speed for a nice open roll. Tina’s theory was followed up by the Mitch Markovitch theory who suggested that I use those hand grip exercisers to develop the muscles in my fingers. This would provide me with additional flexibility and strength so I wouldn’t need to become too dependent on my wrist (which still hurts to this day) and could continue to play with the best of them.

Oftentimes, you may still hear someone who has had an injury, or just plays louder with the dominant hand. You may want to suggest the pillow method to them. I do hear lots of percussionists I meet say that pillows were their saving grace in developing their wrists. Let’s discuss how you made your wrists stronger after an injury or to get them sounding equal.

See you next month!



Other Rat a Tat columns:

| Rat a Tat #1 (07/03/00) | Rat a Tat #2 (08/06/00) | Rat a Tat #3 (09/12/00) | Rat a Tat #4 (03/01/01) |
| Rat a Tat #5 (07/25/01) | Rat a Tat #6 (10/25/01) | Rat a Tat #7 (02/05/02) |

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