Finger and Pen Drumming
"Finger Drumming becomes natural, second nature. I find myself doing it
Finger drumming is a great pasttime. It's great for when you are working on on
the computer for a long stretch of time during a long coding or web-surfing
session. It is nice for a small break or tension reliever. I usually have
music playing and it's quite easy to start finger-drumming to the beat.
However, as my roommate can attest to, I'm often found finger-drumming when
there is no other music to be found. It's truly quite addictive once you get
in the habit.
Finger Drumming really does become second nature. It becomes an addictive
habit. You'll begin to find yourself finger-drumming along to almost anything,
and not even realizing it!
Finger Drumming Environment
A proper environment must be set up to have a truly productive and enjoyable
finger or pen-drumming experience. I reccommend having the keyboard pushed back
slightly to expose the surface of the desk about four to six inches (see Figure
Pen Drumming Vs. Finger Drumming
There are three main styles: Pen Drumming, Finger Drumming, and the Finger/Pen
Combination. Each have their merits, advantages, and disadvantages. Which is
better? Well, that really depends. I use all techniques depending on mood,
music, and situation.
Finger drumming is a general-purpose technique that is useful anytime. Like a
fine white wine, it goes with any occasion. Finger drumming can be used for a
finesse-style drum, utilizing other objects as separate drums (or cymbals) to
produce different sounds, and is the only technique that allows for hardcore
Power Drumming. This is my method of choice if I want to really drum
hard, listening to some music that I really need to rock out on (the famous
Phil Collins In The Air of the Night drum-fill, for instance). I have been
wont to drum my fingers so hard that the bottoms of my fingers become
completely red, and stay that way for some timee. Be careful: you don't want
to BREAK your fingers; I've almost been there quite a few times...
Pen drumming is basically finger drumming, but using two pens as drum sticks.
Pen drumming gives the drummer a little bit of a more finer control over
the drumming. The drumming can be a little more precise and has a more
The pen drummer must take caution however: You don't want to use pens
with easily breakable heads - stay away from all BIC pens!! (especially the
round stic.) My drum-pen of choice is the Papermate FlexGrip Ultra MED
(non-retractable). Most other pens can be used but be careful and watch for
signs of the pen beginning to break.
I have moved away from pure pen-drumming. I prefer the sheer power of
finger drumming, or the versatility of the finger/pen combination drum-style.
My drumming technique of choice is the finger/pen combo (see Figure 2). This
is a method that I devised myself: a cross of both the finger and pen drumming
styles. A pen is held in the strong hand (in my case, the right hand), and
the left hand is held flat raised up to an angle of about twenty degrees, to
allow for easy striking of the desk surface.
This method provides the utmost versatility. I like having two distinct drum
tones at my disposal. The hard sound of the open hand acts as a bass drum, and
the quick, sharp sound of the pen takes on the role of snare. The fingers
(bass) generally lay down the basic background track, keeping the beat, while
the pen is free to roam and freelance. I usually lay down two to four beats
with the pen per every single beat with my fingers.
I find that the combination style offers me the most flexibility and the most
Once one becomes adept at finger and pen drumming, there is much room for
exploration of new techniques or modifications of existing techniques. New
drum sounds can be created. The new sounds can then be used sparingly or often
to offset the main drumming to create exciting new drumming patterns.
A mousepad or wristwrest can be used to employ a "softer" tone. Any flat
surface can be used to get varying timbres. Experiment!
I bring special attention to the Keyboard Hi-Hat technique. This is making use
of the bottom edge (closest to the drummer) of the keyboard as a variant sound.
The crisp, tight sound of the finger hitting the keyboard provides an
appropriate hi-hat cymbal sound. This can be mixed in with great effect into
any finger-drumming session.
Some examples of the various drumming techniques are provided as MP3s.
Basic Finger Drumming
Basic Pen Drumming
Finger Drumming with Keyboard Hi-Hat
Pen/Finger Combination Drumming
Winner of the Finger Drum Solo of the Year Award
Finger Drumming Anecdotes
Here's a few amusing anecdotes detailing the kind of trouble one can look
forward to getting into as they become proficient in the ways of finger and pen
Turn the bass down! (or we'll have to arrest you)
While I was on co-op on one occasion, I was at home in my apartment room on the
third floor. I had my stereo on playing one of my glorious CD's while doing
some programming work on my computer. I hear some pounding on the floor from
somewhere below. "Hmm, odd," I think, and continue my work. After a few more
poundings, I decide to concede to this "asshole" and turn the stereo down a
tad. It's not even that loud. Whatever. So I continue my work, and about
five minutes later, there is a knock on the door. After letting out a sigh of
exasperation, I open the door. I large and tall gentleman stands before me.
"Yo, man," he says in a loud, deep voice. "Can you turn your stereo down? I
can hear the bass all the way down in my room below me. I'm trying to sleep,
and all I can hear is your damned radio."
I stare dumbfounded. Not merely the fact that it is not even nine o'clock and
this person is complaining about my stereo which is on currently at speaking
volume. "Ummm... sure," I stammer, meaning full well to get this man out of my
doorway without even the slightest intention of turning down my stereo. So
after assuring this guy that I would turn down my stereo, I do nothing and I go
back to my programming work. The stereo remains at the same reasonable
listening level. Still muttering over the gall of that guy, I get lost in my
work once again.
About twenty minutes later, there comes another knock on the door. I pound my
fists on the desk. Oh, I am livid!!! This is unbelievable! The music
is NOT loud AT ALL! Just freaking deal, dude! I mean, damn! So
I get up, ready to curse this guy out and call him a baby, etc, and whip open
the door at full speed. "What?!" I nearly shout. Before me stand two security
guards. "Uhh... What's the problem, fellas?" I ask, knowing immediately what
has taken place. "Well," says one guard, "we received a complaint from another
tenant that the music in this room was too loud."
"Was this from that guy downstairs?" I ask. "I already spoke with him. My
music is not loud! If I turn it down any more, I wouldn't be able to hear it!
My tv would be louder than that!" "Yeah," says the other guard. "We have been
standing outside your door listening for about three minutes. We didn't hear
anythining loud or out of the ordinary. We couldn't even hear the radio until
we put our ears to the door. But we still had to check it out and ask you to
turn it down." They both laugh coyly and seem genuinely embarrassed to be
"Right. Sure," I say. We all chuckle amiably as I shut the door. At
that point I'm quite pissed, so I bring the stereo over directly to my desk
with the speakers right next to my ears so I can turn the volume down and still
hear it. I am so aggravated and upset that I can't do any more work. I can't
believe that guy called the freaking toy cops on my ass, when my radio was
barely audible. And I don't know where he got this bass from. My stereo's not
even capable of producing bass, let alone enough to shake the room below me.
Hell, the speakers weren't even on my floor!
I just sit there with the music at a decibel, and just listen to
the music. But... do I just listen to the music? No! I caught myself.
Unconciously, once again, I had begun to finger drum on my desk. A deep, bassy
sound is produced with each strike of my finger. THAT'S IT! That is
the loud bass sound that is keeping my neighbor up downstairs! Unknowingly, I
had been furiously finger-drumming, and had to have the authorities brought in
to put an end to it! After the guy had told me to turn the radio down
initially, I had done so but unconsciously went about my finger drumming, whose
volume never changed. See kids. The moral of this story is: Be careful,
finger drumming can be dangerous and possibly land you in jail. The things
I do for the love of finger drumming!
Shhhh!! Quiet in the library, please!
I was on the third floor of the RIT library doing some studying for my finals.
The third floor is made up of many little cubbie-holes and hidden-away cubicles
to study at. I had my portable cd player with me of course, and was getting
carried away with my intense studying with my music in the background. Out of
the corner of my eye, I see some kid walk by, slowly looking around. I think
nothing of it and continue studying. The same guy again walks back in the same
slow, plodding fashion. Ok, so I never said smart people were in the
library. Whatever. A few minutes later, the guy walks by again, this
time as he passes my cubicle, a look of realization appears on his face, and he
walks back to my cubicle and stands there. I continue studying. Feeling this
stranger's eyes continue to bore on me, I take my headphones off and slowly
turn to face him.
"Yes?" I ask in a "Can I help you" dick-like manner. "Yeah," he says, "can you
stop tapping your pen? That's really annoying." I had NO idea that I
had been pen-drumming to the music. It's fun to piss people off.