Recently I was with a student, and during our lesson I was reminded of the importance of being aware of one's movements when drumming. For those of you who are not familiar with the term "economy of motion" it simply refers to the practice of not using unnecessary movements or expending unnecessary energy but instead eliminating wasted motion in order to work more effectively. This is one of those concepts that you can work on for a lifetime. I was reminded of how little thought I have given my flailing and spazzing on the drums these past few months.
There are many circumstances that play into how economical we are with our movements, in addition to the attention (or lack of attention) that we give to our physicality behind the kit. First and foremost, take a good look at your set up and really evaluate the position of things. Are there cymbals or drums that you are really stretching for or hunching over to reach effectively? Are your pedals arranged in a way that stresses your legs, pelvis, or core? Is your seat height causing you to hunch over or hyper-extend? (By the way, seat height is a huge can of worms that I want to write about on it's own eventually.) It seems that if we address the kit first, then we can really hone in on the motion we use to get around on it. If you decide to make adjustments, the thing to keep in mind is that you should be able to achieve the desired sounds just as well or better while wasting less energy.
Again, tweaking one's set-up is a lifelong endeavor that will evolve as you evolve as a musician. Once you feel your set up is close to where you want it, bust out a full length mirror. Spend a few woodshed sessions with the mirror to your left, paying close attention to your posture and what kind of movements you are making to reach the items on your left. Are you twisting funny to reach a crash? Are you hunching to get to your hi hats or is your leg stretched too far out to comfortably control your pedal? If your not sure, experiment a little with moving things around to see how it feels. When you are satisfied, Move the mirror in front of your kit, and eventually to the right and tweak as you go.
To me, this next part is huge. Are you playing things in a way that most economizes your motion, or is there a different sticking or approach that you can use to save energy. Even if a downbeat is most comfortable being played by your dominant hand, are you able to use your weak hand to execute it if it requires less motion? More simply, if the desired crash is on your left and you are coming off of a big fill to the right, can you crash on the downbeat with your left in order to not cross over? I know that sounds very elementary, but it can make a big difference in maintaining the desired groove or feel, if you can do this easily and not have to think about it. Economy of motion is best achieved when one works towards strengthening the weak hand (and leg) to do the same things that one's dominant hand can do, and in turn each "zone" of the kit can be reached effectively at any time. Easier said than done... I know. Again this is a lifelong endeavor that I am essentially typing to myself right now.
Anyhow, I think this is good food for thought. I know that it is something that was stressed to me early on by teachers, and I have had stints of paying close attention, and long stretches of not giving any of this a thought at all. At any level, it is a good idea to check in and make sure that we haven't strayed too far from being thoughtful, purposeful and sure with our movements when playing. Now, I have to go and find a full length mirror...