Open Handed Drumming VS Cross Handed Drumming – Everything You Need To Know

Playing an instrument can be an incredibly rewarding experience. There’s nothing quite like acing a performance or nailing one of your favorite songs.

In addition, looking back at where you started as a beginner, and seeing how well you play now is very confidence boosting, and gives you a sense of purpose and motivation. 

Open Handed Drumming

Drumming is a very popular instrument to learn how to play. Are you a drumming enthusiast? Or perhaps a budding musician looking for new techniques to master.

If so then you’re looking in the right place. We’ve got everything you need to know about ‘open handed drumming’. 

In this article, we’ll dive into exactly what open handed drumming is, why you should be doing it, how to do it, and the pros and cons of this drumming style. So, let’s take a look. 

What Is Open Handed Drumming? 

Open handed drumming is just a variation of a drumming style and technique. It is often referred to as the alternative approach to cross handed drumming.

In the shortest of terms, with open handed drumming, your arms do not cross over each other whilst you are drumming.

When you drum open handed, your arms should not cross. What this means is that your left hand is on the hi-hat and the right hand is on the snare drum.

Open handed drumming can also be referred to as playing left handed on a right handed drum. 

Open handed drumming is basically just the opposite of the traditional drumming style, which is referred to as ‘cross handed’, ‘over hand’ or ‘right handed’ drumming.

This is because most drummers use the left hand or weaker hand on the snare, and keep the stronger hand, which is typically the right hand, on the hi-hats.

So most of the time, the drumming style people use depends on their particular preferences, or on which hands are more dominant and stronger.

It can also come down to how you hold your drumsticks and play. 

Most drummers who prefer the traditional drumming method, cross handed, also prefer a traditional grip on the drumsticks.

This is when you hold them with one hand with the palm face down and the other facing up. Contrary, when it comes to open handed drummers, they often prefer a matched grip.

It all comes down to personal preference, and what feels comfortable to you. 

Drummers Who Play Open Handed

Now, you may be thinking that this idea sounds very foreign to you, and why would you want to try drumming in the complete opposite way that you’re used to?

Well, actually, a lot of famous drummers play in this way. Take a look at these examples:

  • Ringo Star
  • Scott Travis
  • Dennis Wilson
  • Lenny White
  • Mike Mangini
  • Rod Morgenstein
  • Neil Sanderson 
  • Todd Friend
  • Daniel Platzman
  • Billy Cobham
  • Micky Dolenz
  • Jim Chapin
  • And so many more!

Why Play Drums Open Handed?

Now some of the best of the best cross hands when drumming, so why fix something that isn’t broken?

Well, learning different drumming techniques can broaden your horizons and open up the opportunity to try something new, and add to your skillset.

You can also try different drumming techniques in order to open the door to creativity. You may find that you perform or play better with certain drumming techniques.

So, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of open handed drumming to see if it’s right for you. 

Pros & Cons Of Open Handed Drumming

Open Handed Drumming

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this drumming style. 



When it comes to pros, the main one that a lot of drummers enjoy is the freedom that it brings.

When you play open handed, you have the opportunity to play and create a sound that uses every inch of your drumset.

You’re never restricted and you can do this without even crossing over your hands. 

Allows Creativity

Sometimes, we have to work outside of the normal limits in order to create something great. If we didn’t try new things, we’d never have new inventions, songs or experiences.

By trying out open handed drumming, you can work outside of the box and your comfort zone, and play in a whole new way.

This can give you new ideas and solutions, and can broaden your musical abilities and sound. 

More Comfortable

For many players, this drumming style can be more comfortable and ergonomic, particularly if you’re left handed and the traditional method doesn’t work for you.

It can also help you become more ambidextrous with your drumming skills. This means that you are equally as skilled with the left hand and the right hand.

You can build up your weak hand to become a stronger player. 

More Power

In addition, you will also get way more power when you’re hitting the snare.

With this style of drumming, you can blast the snare, as there is no roof over your arm stopping you from creating those exceptional rimshots. 


Takes Time To Master

Playing open handed is a learning curve, and one that takes a lot of time and practice to get super good at it.

If you’ve been drumming in a certain way for long periods of time, then it can be difficult to break this habit and try out a new way.

More Difficult

It is also considered more difficult to play open handed, as your weaker hand is now playing the hi-hat, which can be a little more intricate to master. 

Can Feel Redundant

You may feel that learning a whole new technique may be a little redundant, as you’ll have to put a lot of time in in order to play as well as you do in your normal way.

Have To Change Drum Orientation

In order to play in this way, you’ll often have to switch up the orientation of your drums which can be time consuming.

How Do You Play Open Handed Drums?

Open Handed Drumming

You may find the transition to open handed playing a little difficult. But, don’t worry. We’re here to make it easier for you.

To get started, the first thing you’ll need to do is set up your drum kit so that it is accommodating for open handed drumming, or you’ll find yourself crossing over again.

Now, when we’re describing how to play open handed, we’re going to assume that you play traditionally, with right-handed drumming as the most dominant.

So, if you’re left handed, just swap these instructions around.

So, to play open handed, you’ll need to change the orientation of your drums to suit the style. You may also need to lower your hi-hat height so that you can reach it comfortably. 

The next step is to start practicing some simple, basic beats.

To do this, you’ll want to start with a straightforward beat involving quarter notes on the hi-hat and a nice, steady backbeat on the snare. This will be the 2 & 4 formation. 

Keep doing this until you can get good timing and a steady beat. It may take a little while as it can seem foreign to you to swap over which hands you normally use.

When hitting the drums, you’ll need to be always using the left hand on the hi-hat and your right hand on the snare. 

You’ll also want to focus on the timing and your pace in order to really get this technique down. With a few hours of practice, you can start becoming more ambidextrous with your drumming skills. 

How To Play Open Handed – Video Tutorial

If you’re more of a visual learner, then that’s okay. We’ve got you covered too.

Check out this super handy video tutorial from Simon Philips for Rhythm Magazine. It’s a short tutorial that has got lots of hints and tips to help you nail open handed drumming.

Need something a bit more in depth? Check out all of the basics of playing open handed from Drum-Ed here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some burning questions about open handed drumming? We’ve got you covered.

Should A Beginner Try Open Handed Drumming?

There’s no real reason why a beginner cannot try open handed drumming.

Whilst most teachers will start with traditional styles such as cross handed drumming, there’s no harm in trying a few different styles.

However, this can make things more confusing and difficult for those trying to learn the basics of drumming. 

When Should I Try Open Handed Drumming?

Most educators will agree that you should only try open handed drumming when you are comfortable with playing the drums in your normal style.

Then, you will have the skills that can adapt to new styles and techniques. 

Is Open Handed Drumming Harder?

Many drummers argue that this style of drumming is slightly harder, particularly if you’ve always dreamed in a certain way.

It’s more difficult to try and learn something new when you’ve already got established techniques and habits. However, everything can be learned with time, patience and practice.


To summarize, open handed drumming is when your left hand is working on the hi-hat, and the right hand is on the snare.

This is so your arms do not cross over while you drum, like they would with a traditional drumming style.

If you’re looking to try out this drumming style for yourself, then we hope this guide can help you, and you can broaden your drumming skills and boost your creativity!