The Drumming Enigma: Why Do Drummers Cross Their Arms?

December 19, 2023

In this article, I’m going to explain a classic drumming technique: why do drummers cross their arms?

In a nutshell, it’s traditionally done to allow their dominant hand to strike the hi-hat more effectively.

But that’s not the whole story. 

I’ll also discuss newer techniques that offer alternative ways for drummers to play without crossing their arms, showcasing the evolution of drumming styles.

Why do drummers cross their arms?

The cross-armed drumming technique, a result of traditional hi-hat placement in drumming, evolved for practical reasons, especially for right-handed players.

This setup wasn’t dictated by any one individual but evolved over time for practical reasons.

As the majority of drummers were right-handed, the hi-hat was placed on the left side of the drum set. 

This placement allowed the right hand, which is typically the dominant and more dexterous hand for right-handed individuals, to play the hi-hat, while the left hand played the snare drum in the center.

Alternatives to Cross-Arm Playing Style

In drumming, alternatives to the traditional cross-arm style, like the open-handed drumming method and remote hi-hat stand usage, cater to a broader range of drummers.

  1. Open-Handed Technique: Ideal for left-handed and ambidextrous players, this method involves repositioning the ride cymbal to the left.
  2. Remote Hi-Hat Stand: This setup offers flexibility, allowing drummers to place the hi-hat in a more convenient location, suitable for any dominant hand.
Why Do Drummers Cross Their Arms

1. The Open-Handed Method

Simon Philips, a pioneer in this approach, explains, “I lowered the hi-hat and the tom… and learned to play left-handed.” 

This method enables a more natural movement, especially for left-handed drummers, enhancing comfort and fluidity in playing.

Why the Open-Handed Technique Works?

It removes the awkward cross-arm motion and aligns with the drummer’s dominant hand, leading to more ergonomic playing.

remote hi hat alternative to cross arm playing

2. The Remote Hi-Hat Stand

The remote hi-hat stand offers high flexibility in drum kit setup, allowing drummers to place the hi-hat in the most ergonomic position.

Benefits of the Remote Hi-Hat Stand?

It provides unparalleled adaptability and ease, catering to the unique preferences and styles of each drummer.

Both the open-handed technique and the remote hi-hat stand represent significant strides toward inclusivity and customization in drumming. 

They address the needs of diverse drummers, offering practical and comfortable alternatives to the conventional cross-arm playing style.

The Pros and Cons of Three Drumming Techniques

1. Traditional Cross-Arm Style


    • Familiarity: Most drum kits are set up for right-handed play, making this style the standard in the drumming world.
    • Ease of Learning: Beginners often find it easier to start with this method due to its prevalence in teaching and learning resources.
    • Consistency: Allows for consistent playing on standard drum kits found in most studios and performance venues.


    • Limiting for Left-Handed Drummers: Can be uncomfortable and less intuitive for left-handed players.
    • Reduced Ergonomics: May lead to strain or discomfort over time due to the cross-arm motion.

2. Open-Handed Technique


    • Ergonomic for Left-Handed Players: Aligns with the natural dominant hand movements of left-handed drummers.
    • Enhanced Fluidity: Eliminates the awkward cross-arm motion, allowing for smoother transitions and fills.
    • Promotes Ambidexterity: Encourages the development of skills in both hands.


      • Adaptation Time: Requires time to adjust, especially for drummers used to the traditional style.
      • Kit Customization: May necessitate rearranging standard drum kits, which can be inconvenient in some settings.

3. Remote Hi-Hat Stand


    • High Flexibility: Allows drummers to place the hi-hat in the most comfortable and accessible position.
    • Suitable for All Playing Styles: Can be used by right-handed, left-handed, and ambidextrous players.
    • Creative Freedom: Enables unique drum kit configurations for innovative playing styles.


    • Additional Equipment: Requires purchasing and setting up an extra piece of equipment.
    • Space and Setup Time: Takes up more space and may require additional setup time, especially in shared or limited spaces.


In summary, drummers traditionally cross their arms to play the hi-hat effectively, a technique suited for right-handed players. 

Alternatives like the open-handed method and remote hi-hat stands offer more ergonomic options, catering to all drummers. 

These evolving techniques highlight the drumming world’s shift towards inclusivity and adaptability. 

The choice of style, whether traditional or alternative, depends on each drummer’s comfort and playing requirements.

Denis Loncaric
Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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