Binky's Basic TrainingArticle by Jayson Brinkworth // May 02 2009
This month I want to remind us all of our early lessons, and how they should never be forgotten. Think back to that very first lesson, or the first time you sat at the drum set; what did you play? I would bet you that it revolved heavily around a single stroke roll. As our skills improve, we want to explore more complex rhythms, syncopation and polyrhythms: layering time over all four limbs, playing Latin patterns over our left foot playing clave, and just pushing the envelope on speed, technique and complexity.
With all of this rhythmic illusion going on, the basics of a single stroke roll, double stroke roll, flams and simple grooves are the foundation of all we do. If we don’t have these basics nailed, anything else we add won’t feel quite right. We would be moving further away from playing in a musically supportive way. I want to outline what I feel to be some basic drum skills that get overlooked far too often by many players. I am not condoning having a lot of technique, but I am condoning trying to run before we can walk.
THE SINGLE STROKE ROLL
As I stated before, this is the very first rudiment we learn. This alternating hand pattern can start with our right or left and should remain even and consistent. It can be played in quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes and all of their triplet equivalents. I love playing this pattern in eighth notes at a tempo of 100 bpm. I will move it around the kit, all the while keeping as relaxed and consistent as I can. When I warm up on the practice pad, I love starting with singles and feeling the stick move in my hand, while my fingers stay relaxed and in contact with the stick. This is again at a comfortable tempo, so I can focus on every single movement I make with my hands.
Try going back and playing singles in a succession of quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes. This is probably an exercise you have played years ago, but it will keep you focusing on doubling and halving the frequency of notes we play while keeping our hands alternating evenly.
THE DOUBLE STROKE ROLL
The second rudiment we learned was the double stroke roll. This pattern is played with one hand playing two multiple strokes and then the other doing the same. We can also lead with either the right or left hand for this as well, and are to remain consistent and even. They can be played in any multiple of notes: quarter, eighth, sixteenth and thirty-second. Doubles can also be played in a triplet figure, but this is a bit more complicated, as we are playing groups of three with our sticking in groups of two. Another area of the double stroke roll that is important to focus on will be the dynamic and control of our second note with each hand.
As we work on doubles, we will learn about an open and a closed roll. The easiest way to explain this is that an open roll is with no bounce and a closed roll is with a bounce. By bounce, I mean the first stroke is a wrist motion, and the second is a rebound stroke controlled by our back fingers. One common problem with this is that the second note can be quite a bit quieter than the first—sounding a bit messy and uneven. One way to work on this is to play doubles at a slow tempo, and focus on the second note being louder than the first. We almost have to have our wrist motion be the second stroke for this to be correct. What this will lead to is a more even double stroke roll and more control and clarity in our playing. Try practicing your doubles on your floor tom. You will quickly realize that you have to work for every note you are playing.
This was probably the third rudiment we learned and is a combination of our first two. The single/double combination (RLRR LRLL) should also be played in quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes. This is a unique pattern, as we can create a very complex sounding groove by playing on two different sound sources. Again our singles and doubles need to be very even and consistent. As we play this pattern faster, we need to make sure that the last double isn’t sloppy. Training our body to play all of these rudiments at a slower tempo is the key. The paradiddle has lots of variations, as you will find in the drummers bible, Stick Control. Once we work with the paradiddle for a while, we will discover how useful this sticking pattern is for moving around the drum set.
The flam is a rudiment that requires accuracy and precision. This stroke is played with both hands, and one lands just before the other. We don’t want to hear two separate strokes, and we also don’t want our sticks to hit at the exact same time. When I describe the sound to students, I say we want to flam to “thicken” the sound of the drum. We need to get this stroke nice and clean on its own before we try and combine it with other sticking patterns. The flam is all about feeling the distance between the notes we are playing—as should be our goal for playing anything on the drums. Have a listen to Phil Collins or the great Tony Williams to get an idea of flams being used on the drumset.
SIMPLE GROOVES AND BEATS
Let me start this section by saying that the word simple can be very misleading and misused. By simple, I mean the first beats and grooves we learned. But as we hear more mature musicians play these patterns, we will understand the notes they are playing but their feel will take it to another level. The beats we probably learned at first were using three limbs (hi-hat, kick and snare) and would revolve around quarter and eighth notes. Patterns such as hi-hat on eighth notes, snare on 2 and 4 and the bass drum variations of 1 and 3, 1+ and 3+, 1 and 3+, 1 and +3 have been burned into our brains.
From this we might have moved one hand to the ride cymbal over the same patterns and possibly added the hi-hat foot on 2 and 4, or on quarter notes. This is using all four limbs and really works on our center of balance and co-ordination. The next beats we may have learned were sixteenth note patterns with one or two hands on the hi-hat. From there we might have looked at eighth note triplet patterns and derived the shuffle and swing feel. Again accuracy, consistency and playing evenly should be our focus with these patterns. Now that we are using more limbs, the level of independence is stepped up and practicing slowly is a must.
TIME TO REVIEW
All of these firsts we had on the kit should never be tossed aside, as they will always be our foundation. Any patterns we will ever play will be derived from something mentioned above or combinations there of. The benefits of slow and accurate practice far outweigh blazing around the kit and sounding like we are falling down a flight of stairs.
With this review, we should keep sharp on our theory as well. Do you understand the math in multiples of notes and rests? What does the dot do? Are you confused with sixteenth note combinations? What do the numbers in a time signature mean? We can even go as far as understanding what a key signature is and what the clefs mean at the beginning of a piece of music. If we are solid on our basics, we will approach the more challenging material with confidence and a sense of purpose. We will also sound better on the instrument as our notes will be clear and accurate. Now go back to lesson one and collect the benefits.
About the Author
Jayson Brinkworth is an accomplished drummer, percussionist, vocalist, educator and writer based out of Canada. He is co-owner of the Saskatchewan music school Music In The House, as well as the founder of both the Regina Drum Festival and The Stickman Drum Experience.
Jayson proudly endorses Yamaha drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Evans heads, Impact cases, Kickport, Flix, Future Sonics and Mountain Rhythm. Visit Jayson online at www.jaysonbrinkworth.com.
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