Blisters are a nuisance to drummers – they cause pain and affect your drumming.
Here, I cover the possible reasons you’re getting blisters when drumming and what you can do to prevent them.
Can you get blisters from drumming?
Blisters tend to form when there is exposure to intense and increase pressure, they tend to be painful, liquid filled pockets that can become a mess.
Can drummers get calluses?
Yes. It is rather common actually, although we don’t make as much fuss over our calluses as the guys on the guitars.
Calluses are pieces of dead skin that build up due to repeated exposure to pressure over time.
Common areas where drummers develop calluses
Depending on your grip and drumming style, you may find calluses at these areas:
Although nothing as dramatic as the bleeding scene in Whiplash, but blisters are a rather common occurrence for drummers.
Here’re some solutions to preventing or stopping blisters from drumming:
8 ways to prevent blisters when drumming
The first 5 solutions are more immediate solutions that will help to prevent or reduce the occurrence of blisters while the next 3 focus more on your techniques and may take a longer time to implement.
Before we just right in, remember to remove all accessories (eg. rings) from your hands if you’re experiencing blisters.
1 – Drum Gloves
The most direct solution is to put on some drum gloves.
These will remove direct contact between your hands and your drumsticks. The gloves will also provide some extra grip and cushion which could alleviate the formation of blisters.
When looking for suitable drum gloves to avoid blisters, you’ll want to take note of three main considerations:
- Get full hand gloves – avoid fingerless gloves especially if your blisters occur near the tip of the fingers.
- Look for gloves that provide some grip – you don’t want to end up struggling to drum confidently because you’re worried that you may lose your drumsticks.
- Get something that fits well – or avoid gloves that are too big because they will end up causing abrasion and lead to more blisters.
Some good drum gloves include:
- Vic Firth Drum Gloves (these are no frills gloves, comes with extra grip at essential areas like the region between the index finger and thumb.)
- Ahead Drum Gloves (comes with wrist support, you may need some time to get used to it on the kit)
Golf gloves are also a great option because they are relatively affordable and provide good grip. You can find them at your local sports shop or just pick up a pair from Amazon here.
If you’re healing from some blisters and can’t wait to get on the kit again, gloves are also a great option to consider. They can save you some pain and reduce the formation of more blisters while you heal.
The downside to gloves is that many drummers may find it difficult to drum with them on. Some just don’t like the image of having to wear gloves while drumming, especially in a live gig.
So, here are some other options:
2 – Use Drumstick Tapes or Grip Tapes
Drumstick tape or grip tapes help to increase your grip, which could help you to relax your grip as your drum.
They are also useful in preventing your drumsticks from flying off.
I find STICK HANDLER‘s drum grip tape rather useful:
They perform as required, don’t tend to leave sticky residue on the drumsticks after use and are a breeze to change whenever I need.
Alternatively, you can look for drumsticks that come with a finish that increases grip. An example is Promark’s Active Grip series.
3 – Use Band aid or Finger Tapes
If you’re using some pretty neat drum sticks or don’t want to risk ruining them with tape, another alternative is to tape your fingers instead.
Ideally, you’ll want to use tape that provide some additional grip as well. And, you’ll want to tape the areas on your hands where blisters tend to form.
Waterproof tape like those from Nexcare are affordable options to consider.
They are close to skin color, are flexible, wrap well around the fingers and can last well through at least 2 to 3 hours of drumming even if you have ultra sweaty palms.
Also, the sticky film does not melt or become gooey at higher body temperatures, so you don’t have to worry about staining your drum sticks or drums.
Alternatively, you can use sports tape. These tend to provide better grip. However, they may be slight more expensive and some tend to stick too well to the skin and can be difficult to remove.
Sports tape may also provide less motion flexibility (on the fingers) due to the lowered stretch-ability of the tape, which is expected as most athlete use them to restrict movement on injured joints.
4 – Grip Spray
Don’t like to deal with tapes and the pain of having to remove them after drumming?
Look for other options like groove juice’s Stick Grip:
The Stick Grip is a spray that applies a thin, colorless of rubberised microfilm onto your drumsticks. It doesn’t damage or change your sticks nor would it stain your fingers or drums while you’re playing.
Just spray it on, let it dry and you’re good to go.
5 – Liquid Bandage
If all the above don’t fit your tastes, here’s one last option from me – try some liquid bandage.
These provide a good flexible barrier between your hands and the drumsticks which could reduce the exposure of abrasion and blister formation too. However, application may take some time.
Look for the spray bottle version, these are easier to apply. You may need several layers of coating and you may need to reapply them between breaks if you’re in a long gig.
These are best used after you’ve gotten blisters because they’ll protect your blisters and helps speed up the healing process.
6 – Relax your grip
The most common reason for blisters formation is when a drummer grips their drumsticks to tightly.
Work on your grip. Here’re some tips on how to grip your drumsticks.
That said…really, it’s easier said than done. Ha.
Here’s my personal experience:
I find that I tend to start gripping my drumsticks too hard when I’m learning a new piece, trying to speed up or when I’m focused on another drumming technique. After about 15 minutes in, I tend to feel soreness in my wrist along with having the red pressure marks on my palms and fingers.
You may want to take note of how hard you’re gripping your drumsticks and make a mental note to relax it whenever you spot yourself doing that.
Here’re more tips:
7 – Change your drumsticks
Using drumsticks that are too big or heavy tend to cause blisters when drumming.
I’m not sure if this is psychological but it seems we tend to grip bigger sticks tighter. Perhaps we worry that we may accidentally lose the stick while we’re drumming 🤔
Here’s my guide to choosing suitable drumsticks.
That said, new drumsticks could also be a cause of blisters. Give yourself some time to acclimatize to your new sticks, if you’re only getting blisters after changing to new sticks.
8 – Build those calluses
Blisters tend to form when there is exposure to intense and increase pressure, they tend to be painful, liquid filled pockets that can become a mess. Calluses are pieces of dead skin that build up due to repeated exposure to pressure over time.
Guitarists are proud of their calluses, it signals that they have put in their hours of practice. There’s no reason drummers shouldn’t be proud of our calluses.
If you’re a new drummer, let your calluses build up!
But only after you’ve checked your drumming techniques. Here’re 3 ways your technique could be causing blisters:
3 common reasons you get blisters when drumming
If you’re new to drumming, blisters are a common occurrences so don’t be alarmed. Your hands are merely getting used to a new activity.
Overtime, calluses would form at the key spots and you’ll no longer face the pain of blisters.
That said, if you’re getting blisters in new areas or find that you’re suddenly getting blisters after you’ve been drumming for a while, it could be a signal to look into your drumming technique.
Here’re three common reasons drummers get blisters when drumming:
i. Gripping your drum sticks too tightly
Gripping your drumsticks too tightly increases the pressure on your palms and increases the amount energy from the rebounce that your palm has to absorb. These increases the occurrence of blisters when drumming.
Having a tight grip will also lead to soreness in your forearms and less wrist flexibility (which could cause injuries to your wrist in the long term too).
So, work on your grip!
If your knuckles are turning white while you’re drumming, it’s definitely a sign…
Although most drummers don’t consciously think about their grip, modifying and improving your grip control is an ongoing process.
Whenever you change something in your drumming, you may need to make some changes to your grip. Most do this unconsciously. But if you find that you’re getting blisters, it’s time to check on your grip!
ii. Hitting too hard
Drummers in the rock or metal genre tend to get blisters because of this.
Although it is necessary if you’re drumming in those genres, if your drumming experience is closer to this, you may want to relook at your drumming strength.
As mentioned above, calluses are pretty common for drummers. However, if you suspect that your blisters are due to your hard hitting habits, try to find ways around it. A few things to consider are:
- Look at how you’re responding to the rebounce of your sticks (reducing your grip strength may help here)
- Try reducing your strength to see if it reduces blister formation
- Consider wearing drum gloves or use some band-aid or tapes
iii. Extended drumming sessions
It’s naturally to develop sore muscles after a marathon, if you run a mile during practice. Likewise, if you tend to practice for an hour but decide to go all in and drum your heart out at a 3 hours gig, expect blisters…accompanied with a sore forearm and shoulders to boot.
If you plan to drum for extended period, either build up to it slowly with your regular drumming sessions. If it’s an impromptu session, consider using a drum glove or tape your fingers and save yourself from the pain!
I’ve shared 8 ways to reduce blisters when drumming and three common reasons that drummers get blisters from drumming. I hope these will give you some headway to improving your drumming experience and reduce those painful blisters!