The Problem With The Mirror Layout For Finger Drumming

Apr 09, 2024

If you're a finger drummer, you've probably spent some time trying to figure out the best pad layout for finger drumming. How do you set up your pads and where do you place your drum sounds for the best playing experience possible?

You've probably heard of the popular mirror layout before, and you may even be using it now. This layout is where the 4x4 grid of pads is split down the middle, with a mirror image on each side. This means that you basically get 8 drum sounds to work with, because the layout must be duplicated across both sides of your pad grid.

The reason for this layout is so that finger drummers can use alternating hands to play drum grooves. For example, if there's a fast hi-hat pattern with some kick and snare hits in between, your hands would alternate with each other as you strike the pads to easily play all of the notes.

However, there's a huge problem with this popular pad layout for realistic finger drumming.

I've been playing acoustic drums for many years, and finger drums for over 10 years now. When playing an acoustic drum kit, the key is hand isolation, not using alternating hands to play all your drum patterns.

For acoustic drumming, you train your hands to do different things simultaneously; so for example, one hand would play the hi-hat pattern while the other hand would cover all the accents and ghost notes on the snare drum.

This method of isolating your hands and allowing them to work separately but together gives you a ton of versatility. Because you don't have to use both your hands alternating for all of your drum parts, you can easily play highly complex rhythms and grooves by assigning each of your hands to different parts of the rhythm.

As you can see, this type of advanced drumming simply isn't possible using alternating hands for finger drumming. You just won't have enough versatility, and your options for realistic drumming on the pads will be severely limited.

The mirror layout works just fine for basic beginner drum beats, but unfortunately, it completely falls apart when it comes to playing more advanced finger drumming. If you want to develop any real skill on the pads, the mirror layout will become an obstacle rather than a help.

So what's the solution?

The best pad layout for finger drumming is to set up your pads just like an acoustic drum kit, with the drum sounds placed to support hand isolation.

This means that some of your drum sounds will be on your dominant hand side, and others will be on your non-dominant hand side.

With this setup, it makes it very easy to isolate your hands and play all kinds of drum patterns, from simple to very complex.

If you want to play realistic finger drums on the pads, this type of layout is the best choice for you long-term. If you try to learn the mirror layout at first and then switch later, you'll have to reprogram your entire muscle memory, which will definitely be frustrating and slow your progress.

Think of it like the standard tuning on guitar; there's a reason why it's the standard! If you're new to playing guitar, you want to learn the standard tuning first, and practice all your chords and scales that way so you can build your muscle memory. Then, later on, you can learn alternate tunings if desired.

It's the same with your finger drumming pad layout. Start with a solid, standardized layout that has maximum versatility (hand isolation layout), and then later on you can experiment with alternate layouts like the mirror layout if desired.

If you want a full breakdown and walkthrough of my entire hand isolation pad layout, plus free drum software and lessons on how to groove and play realistic drums on the pads, make sure to get my free Finger Drumming Starter Course below:

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