The drum roll: one of the most basic principles of drumming, and yet one of the hardest techniques for beginners to become fluent with. It requires control, accuracy, and above all, tons and tons of practice.
Drum rolls are used in all types of music, from military bands to heavy metal bands, and even jazz and blues bands. If you want to play fast, or if you simply want to obtain better control over your drumming, a great place to start is with the single stroke rudiment.
In this lesson, we will go over the basics of the single stroke, helping you to optimize your each and every stroke, and then get into the specifics of how to apply that knowledge to the drum roll.
Your grip is one of the most important aspects in learning the drum roll. This is because a bad grip will translate into bad form, and bad form will make your rolls clunky and amateurish. You want to play and sound like a pro? You better get the basics of drumming right first.
Turn your palm towards the ceiling with your fingers stretched out to five points. Use your other hand and lay you drum stick diagonally across your palm, with the head pointing past your fingers and the end pointing towards your wrist. The stick should be laid so that it is three quarters of the way down in your palm. This means your grip should be closer to the butt end of the stick than to the head end.
Take your index finger (pointer finger) and your middle finger and wrap them around the stick. Don’t squeeze the stick; it isn’t going anywhere. Grip it lightly so that your finger can allow for mobility of the stick.
Next, turn your palm over so that it is facing towards the floor. Curl your ring finger and pinky finger around the stick. Unlike the index finger and middle finger, these two fingers should cradle the stick. They shouldn’t be gripping it at all.
The single stroke is done using your wrist and your cradling fingers (ring finger and pinky finger).
Use your wrist to guide the stroke towards your pad. Once your stroke lands, allow the stick to rebound back to the starting position. When it comes three quarters of the way, use your pinky and ring fingers to bounce the butt of the stick against the flesh of your palm. This will redirect your stroke back towards the pad, allowing your notes to become fluid.
Use the same technique with your off hand and alternate (one hand strokes while the other is rebounding) between hands. Your strokes should create a fluid line.
To perfect your technique, take a metronome and set it to a manageable tempo. Start of slowly at first (60-80bmp) and perform eighth notes. Allow your cradling fingers and your wrist flicks to develop a full rhythm so that you are not halting in the slightest between notes.
The final step to learning the single stroke drum roll is to simply practice. Take a block of time each day and dedicate it to practice your roll. Have fun, and good luck. Once you are done with this lesson, check out the drum instructions on double stroke open rolls here…
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