The Troupe
This drummer's journey with other drummers.

Taking Care of Your Hands: Part II

Our hands are a marvel.   Flexible, strong, dexterous, all of that stuff.

But, they are not exactly indestructible.

(I was going to write a huge bit about the human hand, and all of the bones, tendons, and muscles that make it work, but it is so complex that honestly, I got a bit dizzy.

Here is a great link to the Wikipedia page on the human hand:

I found it fascinating, but I warn you now, the pages about orthopedic procedures are not for the squeamish… Trust me.   Here is a short bit for those of you who would rather not risk surgical photos.)

Bones of the Hand

The human hand has twenty-seven bones.   All of these are small, fairly delicate, and not terribly strong.   (This is of course why we hit things with our hands instead of our nearly indestructible elbows. Humans…)

The hand has a fairly simple muscle system as well, which essentially breaks down to abductor (closing) muscles, flexor (opening) muscles, and opponens (side to side) muscles for each finger as well as the thumb.   The abductors and flexors connect on each level of the finger bone structure (carpal to metacarpal, metacarpal to proximal phalanx, proximal to middle phalanx, and middle to distal phalanx) while the opponens only connect from the carpals to the metacarpals.   What this means is that you can move your fingers side to side (spreading or tightening your hand) only at the level of your palm, but not past the metacarpal.   This is why if you bend your finger sideways it breaks or sprains.   It only has abductor and flexor muscles and connections.    A finger literally only opens (straightens) or closes (curls).

The palm is what does all of the fancy work for hand positions.   The thenar (thumb) and hypothenar (little finger) muscles to cup or flex the palm itself, while the lumbrical and interosseous muscles move the fingers towards or away from the middle finger.

Hand drummers tend to strike a drum using either their palms (the carpal and metacarpal bones) or their fingers (the phalanx bones).   Playing the doumbek, and the riqq, we use the second and third finger on our dominant hand (Tek) and the third finger on our non dominant hand (Ka).   We strike the center of the drum with our palm (Mute) or our cupped fingers (Doum) or our spread fingers (Rizz and Slap).    Each strike has enough force to create the desired volume.   Typically drummers strike with about 15 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch).

By the way, that is more than enough force to break the finger bones if you happen to hit the drum head incorrectly, or hit with an exposed part of the finger bones instead of the parts covered in muscle and protected.

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