THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME TIPS FOR ACHIEVING PROPER TECHNIQUE IN FLOURISHING. THESE ARE NOT INTENDED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR FACE-TO-FACE INSTRUCTION, BUT MERELY AS A LEARNING AIDE. PLEASE ALSO NOTE THAT THERE ARE VERY FEW RULES IN FLOURISHING. I AM NOT ASSERTING THAT MY WAY IS THE ONLY CORRECT METHOD. I AM SIMPLY SHARING WHAT I HAVE FOUND TO WORK BEST IN MY EXPERIENCE.
There are four basic flourish swings which are the basis for most flourishes commonly used in the Eastern United States. They are: reverse spin, reverse figure-8, forward spin, and forward figure-8.
REVERSE SPIN: The index finger should be bent at a 90 degree angle to keep the string from slipping off. The rest of the fingers and the thumb should be relaxed, not completely straight but not curled into a fist. The flourish should be sustained primarily with wrist motion, not a pumping of the arm or an opening and closing of the fingers. The wrist motion should be similar to quickly jiggling a door knob or shaking a cup of dice.
Click here for a video demonstration of reverse spin.
REVERSE FIGURE-8: The hand position should be the same as extending a hand for a handshake. All the fingers can remain straight, since the string will not slip out during this motion. The thumb should point upward and should not tuck into the palm. (If the thumb is tucked, it will be in the way when performing more complex flourishes based on this swing.) The palm should remain vertical and never tip over toward the floor. The stick should travel up from the drum toward the face, then revolve once on the inside of the arm; then the stick should switch to the outside of the arm and revolve once, then back to the inside, etc. The key to good technique with the reverse figure-8 is pushing with the index finger. When the stick is finishing its outside revolution, the index finger should push it to the inside. This pushing of the index finger is all that is needed to sustain this flourish.
FORWARD SPIN: The forward spin is half of a cartwheel. It is typically easier to learn two-handed. There are two commonly accepted hand positions for the cartwheel: palms down or palms out. In a palms-down cartwheel, the palms face the floor. In a palms-out cartwheel, the palms face away from the face. Focus on the beads of the sticks and imagine that they are on opposite sides of a circle about an inch in diameter. The index fingers should be bent at a 90 degree angle to keep the strings from slipping out. All the other fingers and the thumb should be relaxed, not straight and not curled into fists. Be sure to keep the sticks on the same plane, so that they create one complete circle, not two circles side by side. The wrists should remain straight. The motion should be sustained by tightly bicycling the index finger knuckles over each other in a very small circle.
Click here for a video demonstration of forward spin.
FORWARD FIGURE-8: This flourish travels down toward the drum, so the easiest starting point for learning purposes is the shoulder. From the shoulder, the stick should travel inside the arm for one revolution, then switch to the outside of the arm and revolve once, then back to the inside, etc. The index finger should be bent at a 90 degree angle so that the string does not slip. The thumb should point up toward the ceiling. All the other fingers should open straight when the stick is on the outside of the arm, then curve toward the palm when the stick is on the inside of the arm. This should create a motion similar to a fish’s tail as it swims.
For more help with basic flourishes, consider Tenor Tutor
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