What an Expert Blacksmith Can Teach Us About Drumming Technique

My wife and I were on a trip recently, and we had the pleasure of hanging out with and observing an expert blacksmith.

He was working on crafting these iron rods into a decorative “track” on which you could slide a barn door. He was spending most of his time working on hammering out the end of the rod to create an end piece that looked like a leaf. This required a lot of precise hammering, which meant he was constantly going back and forth between the fire and the anvil. In talking to him we learned all about melting point temperature and the methods of heating up the fire over the years. We learned about anvils and their importance in metal-craft, and we even talked about how an anvil is often used as a percussion instrument in orchestral music from time to time.

But I noticed something in particular that the blacksmith kept doing over and over that fascinated me.

Every time after he struck the iron rod he was crafting, he’d let his mallet bounce off onto the anvil. He’d bounce the mallet a couple times on the anvil before again striking the iron rod.

“That extra bounce you’re doing off the anvil with your mallet….” I asked, “Why do you do that?”

“Well it’s for a couple of reasons,” he replied. “One, it’s to keep a rhythm going. It’s sort of a motion thing. I don’t want to stop moving. I have to stay in the rhythm as I’m hammering.”


The blacksmith continued, “But really it’s just because the anvil creates a lot of rebound. When I strike the mallet on the anvil, it bounces right back up. That saves a lot of energy on my part since I don’t have to lift the heavy mallet back up by my own strength in order to hit the iron rod again.”

Mind blown.

Blacksmiths do exactly what drummers do. Or exactly what drummers ought to do. The laws of physics and the principles of rebound ring true not just for drummers, but for blacksmiths too!

A blacksmith uses rebound because they literally have to in order to save their arm. Without it, they’re burning way more calories and going to way more effort to manually lift the heavy metal mallet each time. But with rebound, the whole thing becomes an effortless motion that they can do over and over again…all day long.

We drummers have much lighter “mallets” that we use in our craft. But how many times are we not taking full advantage of the rebound offered to us by our drums? How much easier, smoother, and effortless could our playing feel if we go to a little more effort to really use that rebound?

Stephen, what are you talking about?

Well, in our case a lack of rebound results from a lack of proper grip. If we’re not holding our sticks right, we’re actually crippling ourselves. We’re denying the aid our drums are offering us and we’re trying to achieve speed and fluidity on our own. But when you "let go" and squeeze less tight, you let the sticks bounce smoothly and in a more open way. When they’re allowed to “do what they want to do,” you get that smooth “arc” of rebound. That’s when drumming becomes effortless. Your time gets better, your playing gets smoother (and feels better!), and you save tons of energy and feel more relaxed and less exhausted at the end of the gig.

Of course, I want to help you do exactly this. I don’t want anybody struggling with grip issues. Check out this video series exclusively dedicated to solving grip issues and improving overall playing drastically. If you haven’t worked through this with me already, do it now. You’re going to see results.

Drumming is all about motion, so think like a blacksmith.

Be lazy. We want rebound to help us, so think like a blacksmith.

Save energy and be able to play drums without getting tired, so think like a blacksmith.

Have fun practicing, and I’ll see you in the video series!

God Bless,



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