Functional Drumming Exercises

For the more than 15 years I've been teaching and coaching drum students, I've noticed that there are several technical hurdles we must overcome to play the beats and drum parts that we love. 

Time and again, I have transcribed and shown many of my students drum beats that they wanted to play, only to watch them become frustrated at how long it takes them to learn the coordination necessary to master the beat.  

At times, I too have felt the frustration of finding a beat that I can intellectually understand, but can't technically play.

Functional Drumming Exercises give us a solid foundation on which to build our drumming technique.  Done properly, these exercises will increase our ability and speed to learn more complex rhythms and beats!

The core idea and hope behind Functional Drumming is:  by learning and practicing a set of basic coordination patterns we can establish a solid foundation from which we can more easily play beats and rhythms that are difficult, or time consuming to learn. 

Put another way, functional drumming exercises provide the building blocks with which we can learn and create more complex patterns.  

Typically, most drum students will start with the rudiments, and progress to basic drum set beats, learning a song or two along the way.  I still think that's a great way to learn and to be introduced to the world of drumming.  

However, I believe we should also supplement our teaching of rudiments with functional drumming exercises that focus our attention on our hands and feet, not merely just the hands.

We often spend too much time developing our hands, and then when we begin learning drum set beats, we find it extremely difficult to synchronize our feet.  

Because we haven't spent the time to develop the coordination between our hands and feet, our playing suffers and we become frustrated with our playing.

I've created a simple exercise worksheet that I would love to give to you for free.  If you are interested, click below to sign up for my mailing list and receive your free Functional Drumming Worksheet!

Joe Morello

I really love this version of Take 5.  You can see how relaxed Joe Morello is, and how seemingly effortless and relaxed his playing is. Beautiful to watch!  

The drum solo starts around 1:45 - and it's downright amazing.  Check out his hi-hat control, and the way he uses his hands (without sticks), and how he hits the underside of his cymbal while playing his floor tom.  Inventive stuff here, and so tasty!  And that he does it with so much control and finesse is just (as I said before) downright amazing.  Wow.



Bill Stewart

One of my students passed this video along to me...I'd not seen this but am now absolutely enthralled at his time keeping and musical chops.  He appears to be super relaxed and even has the ability to be aware of his hi-hat stand slipping, and so you can see him pulling it back into place with his left leg, while he is still playing!  I especially like how he integrates his left foot into his comping patterns...(among other amazing things that he's able to play :-) )


More on Bill Stewart can be found here:

and here (with lots of audio examples) - be sure to check out the Drum Solo from Travel John - amazing stuff!:

Practice: How much time and where?

I get asked frequently how often and how much should one practice?  It's a great question, and I think hidden beneath it is the thought of, how much time will it take for me to get "good" on the drums?  In this age of instant gratification, it's tempting to think that there is some quick way to become "good" on an instrument, or really at anything.  But skill is something that is achieved through repetition and experience.  No matter how focused you are in your practice sessions and clear on the goals you are trying to achieve, it takes time and patience to get good AT ANYTHING.  So my short answer is - if this is something you want to do, then start doing it. 

More specifically, because drumming is a learned skill, you become better through repetition of exercises - which constitutes the need to practice. You'll find that your drumming skill gets better the more time you are able to spend working on it.  I usually recommend 15 -30 minutes of practice, every other day for the beginning drummer, to start with.  However, with that said - if you feel motivated to practice more, by all means go for it!  
Starting out - if we begin on snare drum only - you can practice at home on a practice pad (if you don't already own one, I can recommend several brands for you to try).  When you progress to playing drum set - there are several options:  you can get a drum set practice pad - which is relatively silent, or you can get an electronic drum kit, which allows you to play with headphones or through an amp, so that you can control your volume (I can also recommend several brands for you to check out).  With an acoustic set, you'll have the most noise to deal with, and so finding a dedicated space within your home or garage becomes more of an issue.  
If you do not have the space at home to practice, I encourage students to check locally for practice spaces - some places allow you to rent by the month and you can set up your drums in the space and play as loud as you need to, with out the fear of bothering your neighbors. There are also some drum and music stores that have dedicated practice spaces you can rent on an hourly basis that come furnished with a drum set, so that you can practice without having to bring any of your own equipment.
If you have further questions about setting up a custom practice routine that works with your schedule, or would like to set up a time to take drum lessons - by all means please feel free to get in touch and I'll be glad to talk with you more! 

Larry Bunker - Jazz Time Keeping Study

After my post yesterday, I've been listening to some Bill Evans records.  The brush playing on many of those tracks is so amazing.  However, today I've been checking out the 1963 album Bill Evans at Shelley's Manne-Hole and came across this track of Larry Bunker playing with sticks (earlier in the album he's playing some great brush stuff as well):  

By clicking on the link you should be taken to the part of the recording where he starts keeping time on the cymbal and adds some brilliant comping patterns with his snare and kick.  By slowing down the video to half-speed (click on the Settings tab in the You Tube menu bar directly below the video, and under Speed, change it from Normal to .5), it's easier to hear exactly what he is doing rhythmically.  

My goal at some point is to transcribe some of what he is playing, because I just love how it sounds. His feel and choices - specifically how he interacts with the rest of the musicians is pretty cool.  

Jazz Album Recommendations

I recently had a new student ask me for my jazz album recommendations, and so without thinking too much about it, I listed the first albums that came to mind.  My student had been learning rock songs, and so I wanted to create a list that was enjoyable to listen to, full of melodies that were memorable, and featuring some of the classic players and albums that I was exposed to in college.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but a list that provides inspiration to hopefully learn more about jazz, and to enjoy listening to the "sound" of jazz (from a drummers perspective) - where the drums sit in the mix and specifically how the ride cymbal and hi-hats (left foot) take on a larger time keeping role compared to how the kick and snare do the bulk of the time keeping in rock music.  (I know these are over-generalizations of the role of the kick/ snare/ hat and ride, but hopefully you get the idea.)  Many of these albums feature some great brush playing as well.  

Firehouse 5 + 2 "South" 

Ella and Louis (Full Album)

Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane (Full Album)

Getz and Gilberto (Full Album)

Frank Sinatra and Jobim (Full Album)

Art Blakey Moanin' (Full Album)

And I felt that this song relates to the song "Moanin" (specifically how the drum groove feels) so I included it in the list as well:

Booker T and the MG's Green Onions

Miles Davis Kind of Blue (Full Album)

John Coltrane Giant Steps (Full Album)

Bill Evans Waltz for Debby (Full Album)

However, if you find that you are not quite ready to start listening to jazz or playing it, may I suggest Pyramid Song by Radiohead?  It has a simple jazz drum groove that starts about half-way through the song.  It's one of my favorite songs for teaching beginner students how to play jazz drums.  

Beat Displacement w/ Paradiddles and a 5 stroke roll

I love Gary Chaffee's drum books and use them from time to time to challenge myself and introduce new concepts and ideas.  Not long ago, I came across a page in one of his books where he was talking about moving a rhythm "ahead" in a measure.  There was an entire page of paradiddles written out, along with the corresponding 5 note pattern that moved the paradiddles "forward."  As the exercise was written out to primarily illustrate the concept of moving a pattern forward, I found it easier to not focus on the actual exercise and instead think about the underlying concept and pattern involved. That pattern is this:  

R L R R     L R L L    R L R R     L R R L L

This is a 17 beat (!) phrase comprised of 3 paradiddles, followed by an inverted 5 stroke roll.  

First, practice this pattern without a metronome and be sure to accent the first note of each group.  As you get comfortable with the pattern, turn on your metronome to play a measure of 4/4 and be sure that there is an audible bell sound on beat 1 of each measure.  If you don't have a metronome to do this with, you can easily create a drum loop to play with using Garageband or some other program.   As you play this, the pattern will shift forward through the measure so that the beginning of each group will begin on the following beats:

1st time through - accents will fall on the down beats:  beats 1 2 3 4

2nd time through - accents will fall on the "e" beats:  beats 1e 2e 3e 4e

3rd time through - accents will fall on the "+" beats:   beats 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+

4th time through - accents will fall on the "uh" beats :  beats 1uh 2 uh 3uh 4uh

Now, in order to make the pattern resolve in 4 bars, you'll need to "jump" back to one at some point, and where I usually will do this is in the 4th time through, on the 2nd beat of the last group (LRRLL).  It's on that 2nd beat where the "real" one (the bell on the metronome) is.  So knowing that, you can prepare yourself on the 4th time through to resolve the pattern on that beat.

This is a fun exercise to challenge your sense of time keeping with, and to also try on the drumset (place your R on the cymbal and your L on the snare drum - additionally with each R be sure to play a kick drum).

I will be posting a video soon showing how to apply this to the snare drum and drumset.  But for now, try out the pattern, get used to playing it with a steady tempo and let me know how it goes!



Featured Blog!

Typepad Shoutout!

I was so excited to open my Typepad Newsletter (see image above) today and see that Durham Drum Lessons was a featured blog!  They mentioned my site and 2 others as examples of Typepad sites that use their new responsive Nimble Theme.  If you are a Typepad user, I can't recommend that theme enough.  I was able to update the look of my site in about an hour using their new theme - that's the quickest redesign I've ever experienced of a Typepad site!  I'm super pleased with the results I achieved and to get a mention in the Typepad Newsletter is the icing on the cake!  

Of course, my site wouldn't LOOK as good if it wasn't for the amazing design work of Mason Phillips.  Mason and I worked together last year to craft a visual vibe for my site that was a little funky and retro and captured a little bit of the look of the town where I reside.  I had a rough idea of a color scheme and logo and over the course of a few weeks, he took my rough ideas (along with a bunch of his own!) and ended up giving me the stellar look, vibe and logo that I desired!

And if you're curious what my site looks like on various devices, check out this site!

Here come the Ug-Guh-Duhs! (aka The Gadd Triplets)

One of my favorite patterns to play on the drumset is the group of 3 notes I choose to call "The  Ug-Guh-Duhs!  I've also referred to them as "The Gadd Triplets," as they seem to be a pattern that he uses in many of his solos. But he's not the only one you'll hear play these - these can be traced all the way back to Elvin Jones and probably earlier than that.  

I prefer to call them Ug-Guh-Duhs, because that's how they sound to me once you've applied them to the toms.  You can count them as triplets, but because they also work great in a 16th note context I came up with another way to "count" them.  Also, saying "Ug-Guh-Duh" out loud as you play, can really help you get the articulation down.  

Some of my favorite uses are at the end of a song when you have a "trash can" ending - when the drummer is supposed to make a ton of noise.  And I've also used them when I solo, inspired in part of my memories back in college of hearing Gary Novak use them when he soloed with the Maynard Ferguson band (I'm dating myself here).  But a part from that, these make great coordination exercises and can really help build your foot and hand technique.

There are several variations and combinations of these, but today I'll introduce you to three of the ones I use.  I prefer to put the kick drum at the end of the pattern, but you can also put it at the beginning or in the middle.  The first pattern to become comfortable with is:

1.  R L K  R L K (repeat)  Play your hands first on the snare at a slow tempo to get the combination down.  Once you feel comfortable with the pattern, move your hands to the toms and cymbals and see what sound variations you can come up with.

The next step is to do the pattern starting with your Left Hand so that you end up with this combination:

2.  L R K   L R K (repeat)  With this variation, practice it the same as you did the first one, starting slow on the snare and then moving your hands from the snare to the toms and cymbals.  

Finally, this combination starts to really get fun when you combine the two sticking patterns above into this:

3.  R L K  L R K (repeat)  This is a really difficult pattern to get used to, but sounds pretty amazing once you get it up to speed.  One of the variations on this that I like to use is to put the kick drum in the middle of the 3 note group so that you end up with:  R K R  L K L   R K R  L K L  

Typically you can think of these in a triplet pattern, but try these in a 16th note pattern and see how it goes. Just remember to keep each note steady and equal in relation (timing) with the other ones.




Drummers ARE smarter!

There is an article floating around on the internet that is making some pretty bold claims about drummers and intelligence.  Apparently the research has been backed up by Oxford and Harvard - check out some of these quotes:

"Researchers at Stockholm's Karolinska Institutet found that drummers who kept a tighter rhythm also scored better on a 60-question intelligence test. This is a reflection of better problem solving skills, which creates a positive impact on those around them."

"A University of Washington study showed better results from participants who undertook rhythmic light and sound therapy. Additionally research from the University of Texas tested the same process on children with ADD, finding that it not only had the same effect as Ritalin, but their IQ's actually went up."

And the article ends with this great quote:  

"So there you go, drummers are not only smarter than everybody ever, but they are also at one with the earth and happier than you are. Time to take up some lessons."


Inspiration from James Altucher

Here are some quotes I found inspiring from James Altucher via an email that was forwarded to me by my dad:  

"The "dues" are when you find your authentic voice. The singing voice that stands out in the world chorus. "Paying the dues" is when you open up that voice to its full range."

"When you find your voice, slow down. There's no rush. Out of six billion people, you're the only one with your voice, your experiences, your ideas, your wisdom. There's no competition to be you."

I'd love to help you find your "voice" on the drums! Get in touch and we can talk about your goals and formulate a plan to help you achieve's never too late to pursue your dreams!

Threes and Fours #functionaldrumming

Today we’ll apply this same idea to groups of 3 and 4 notes.

Again the goal for these exercises is for them to help you develop your singles and doubles in a variety of combinations.  My hope is that you’ll find these helpful as you continue to develop your technique on the snare drum and drum set.


  1. Starting off we begin with RRR followed by LLL.  Be sure to accent the first note of the group and to let the following notes bounce, so that all three notes happen with one wrist motion.

  1. Next add your left hand between each R to stopping on the last right, to create a single stroke 5.  By stopping on the last R, we are able to then begin with our L and doing the same  - we add our right hand in between each L stopping on the last left, to create a single stroke 5 starting with our left hand.  

  1. And finally, we’ll now double each individual note (except for the last one) to create a 9 stroke roll starting with our R and then with our L.

It’s much easier to show you this via video and print (or in person!) so hopefully the accompanying image and videos below will help to make this idea more clear.



3 and 4s Functional Drumming


  1. Starting off we begin with RRRR followed by LLLL.  Be sure to accent the first note of the group and to let the following notes bounce, so that all four notes happen with one wrist motion.

  1. Next add your left hand between each R to stopping on the last right, to create a single stroke 7.  By stopping on the last R, we are able to then begin with our L and doing the same  - we add our right hand inbetween each L stopping on the last left, to create a single stroke 7 starting with our left hand.  

  1. And finally, we’ll now double each individual note (except for the last one) to create a 13 stroke roll starting with our R and then with our L.


And though it might be useful to know that we are “creating” rudiments with these exercises, I prefer not to get hung up on what rudiment I’m doing and rather focus on the group of notes that I’m playing.  So as you play, think about the groups - is it a combination of 3 notes, or 4 note?  I find that by thinking in groups of 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s, I find that these exercises find their way into my playing more often than when I’m thinking of them only as specific rudiments.

A note about my term: “Functional Drumming” My approach to this series is to strip drumming technique down to the bare essentials, and build up from there. And so without having to know rudiments, or studying from a prescribed book (that will come later!), one can naturally discover simple combinations and patterns that will help develop basic technique with a natural logical flow. 

Singles and Doubles #functionaldrumming

Singles and doubles

With this next installment, I’m beginning a multi step warm-up exercise that will hopefully follow a logical progression with the intent to develop better articulation and speed when playing single and double strokes. As you play these, remember to use proper technique and stay relaxed w/ minimal tension (ideally none at all!) in your hands and arms.

Step 1: Ones (or “Singles”)

  1. First we begin with alternating our hands in a single stroke pattern - RLRLRLRLRL etc...
  2. Next we do a double stroke on just the right hand - so that the pattern becomes two 16ths (right hand) followed by an 8th single stroke (left hand).
  3. The final step is to begin with an 8th single stroke (right hand) followed by two 16ths in the left hand.

Step 2: Twos (or “Doubles”)

  1. First begin by playing two notes in each hand: RRLLRRLL etc…
  2. Next, add a single stroke between the doubles so that you end up with two 16th notes followed by an 8th. The sticking will be RLR and then LRL.
  3. Now let’s double each of the single strokes, so that you end up with four 32nd notes followed by an 8th. The sticking will be RRLLR and then LLRRL.
  4. Finally, we can use the same rhythm and substitute a different sticking pattern, let’s try: RLRRL and then LRLLR. Variations on this could be made by moving each sticking over by one note w/ the follow possibilities:
  • LRRLR and then RLLRL
  • RRLRL and then LLRLR
  • RLRLR and then LRLRL
  • LRLRR and then RLRLL

Of course further variations could be made by substituting a kick drum or hi-hat foot for one of the notes. But for the purposes of this exercise, let’s not worry about the variations for now, and just focus on the initial 3 steps outlined above. Below are some videos explaining the exercises above:



Simple Coordination #FunctionalDrumming

Functional Drumming Series:  Simple Coordination



This is a series of warmup exercises in 4 steps that increase with difficulty.  The goal is to use full strokes as you play and to practice at a tempo that you can manage while staying relaxed.

First we start off with a full unison between all limbs.  Right hand, Left hand, Right Foot, and Left Foot all play together on the 8th note.   Next, we keep the hands together and the feet together, but alternate them.  I call this “split unison” and we start first with the hands (right and left hand play together), and then follow with the feet (right foot and left foot play together).  

The third step is what I refer to as “alternating unison” and it involves alternating the hands and then adding the feet, which are still playing together.  Right hand plays, then left hand and finally both feet together. The final step I call “full alternating” and has each limb alternating with the others.  In this example I start with the right hand, follow with the left, then the right foot, and then left foot.  

There are many variations you could create with this idea, so use your creativity, take this idea and make up your own sequences. I encourage you to use this to develop your technique in a way that will be useful to you and your playing.


How to play Blank Space by Taylor Swift


This song begins with the snare drum playing 2 and 4 and as it continues, the kick drum enters and begins a two bar phrase. Because of it’s repetitive nature, you can quickly learn this beat and play along with the song, developing your ability to keep a constant groove for several minutes at a time.  You can also add your hi-hat on 8th notes (or quarters) if you want to turn this groove into a more “traditional” drum set beat. Have fun with this and use this beat to help develop your confidence, concentration and consistency!

Below is the transcription of the beat, and if you would like a PDF of this, get in touch and I'll send one your way!

How to play drums to Blank Space by Taylor Swift

How to play Lips are Movin by Meghan Trainor


The beat for Lips are Movin is a fun beat to play and the groove is a simple 50’s era inspired two bar pattern. I’ve taken a photo of my transcription (below) so that you can see how the beat is notated.  (If you would like a PDF of the transcription, let me know and I'll send it to you.)  You can see that the snare drum pattern is the same in both measures but the bass drum pattern changes slightly from bar 1 to bar 2.  The tempo for the song is roughly around 139 bpm.

This simple two bar drum pattern repeats throughout the entire song, giving you plenty of opportunity to lock in with the song and groove it on out!  Have fun!

Lips Are Movin Megan Trainor Drum Transcription

I got a monkey in the mail!

Thanks to the fine folks at Mail Chimp, I received an official "Classic Freddie" today in my mailbox.  It's almost too good to be true!  I decided to customize him a bit, so I added a Durham Drum Lessons t-shirt (really just a a sticker) and some Vic Firth drum sticks (a cut off pair of my current favorites - AJ6).

Thanks Mail Chimp!  

Mail Chimp Monkey


New Logo!

I've recently been working on updating the design and look of Durham Drum Lessons and am pleased to show you my new logo:  

Learn how to play drums!I'm really pleased with the look and "feel" of the logo, and in the weeks and months to come I hope to be updating this website, as well as my Google + page, Facebook, and Twitter accounts with the new look.   I'm also working on some exciting new projects for my students and hope to have those completed in the coming months as well.  Stay tuned and in the meantime, feel free to get in touch!

Down to the Night Club - Full Transcription

It's taken me longer than I'd originally hoped, but I finally finished the transcription to Down to the Night Club.  I had the song transcribed for a while, but inputting the data into Finale (to make it look nice) took a bit more time.  

Below is an excerpt of the final page of the transcription, but if you are interested in checking out the full transcript - drop me a line and I'll send you the full PDF.  

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and here's wishing you a Happy New Year!

Down to the Nightclub Excerpt

Beginning Cymbal Ostinatos

Recently I was working with one of my students who has a fairly good mastery of playing drumset beats with an 8th note ride or hi-hat pattern.  Looking for a creative way to use the basic drum beats found in books such as Rod Morgenstein's "The Drumset Musician" or Joel Rothman's "Basic Drumming" and wanting to introduce my student to more advanced cymbal patterns that use accents and syncopation, I developed the following worksheet to help us move in that direction.  

The worksheet consists of 4 cymbal ostinatos (A, B, C, D) that are intended to be played with the kick and snare drum rhythms on the lower half of the sheet (numbered 1 thru 12) for a total of 48 exercises.  There is additional space at the bottom of the page to write out the combinations (should you need to) or to write in your own combinations.  

Having mastered this page, it will be much easier to begin using these ostinatos with the kick and snare patterns found in many beginning and intermediate drumset books (like the ones I mentioned above).  Additionally, for more of a challenge, use the "melodies" found in the Chester books, or use a basic reading text for your kick drum patterns, adding your snare drum on beats 2 and 4, or on beat 3 for a half-time feel.

Click here for the Beginning Cymbal Ostinatos worksheet!

And as always, feel free to get in touch should you have any questions or need help!

Drum Warmup Exercises

Lately with myself and my students, I've been using Tommy Igoe's Great Hands for a Lifetime warmup routine.  It's challenging and fun, and it's nice to know I'm reinforcing my rudimental playing while doing the warmup.  When using the audio tracks, it takes a while to make it through the entire warmup, but when I'm playing gigs I often don't have time to do the entire warmup.  For those instances I tend to do my own sort of hybrid warmup mixing up various sections of "Stick Control" and assorted paradiddle combinations.

The other day I came across this guys's website and and found a video of him warming up before a show, and thought this could be super useful for when I don't have time to do the full Lifetime routine. 

This video inspired me to try the paradiddle part of the warmup with some of my students.  However I soon realized that not all of my students are ready for the difficulty of playing paradiddles with accents.  So, I decided to take the concept and apply it to singles and doubles and then eventually paradiddles.  Here is what I came up with:

16th Shifting Accents

There are also some great warmup exercises at PDX Drummer.  

I hope you find these resources useful!  Happy practicing!

Drum Transcription: Yellow by Coldplay

Earlier this week I had to chart out this song for a few gigs I'm playing with Chris Hendricks.

Because this song is fairly repetitive and has no drum fills, it makes a perfect song for beginning drumset players.  For more advanced players, there are some subtle accents that occur on the hi-hat part during the early parts of the song and later on in the refrain towards the end of the song.  

And plus, it's just a fun song to play!  Let me know how it goes for you and happy drumming!

Yellow by Coldplay

Beginning Drum Fill Worksheet

Here is a worksheet you can use to develop steady 8th and 16th notes around the drums.  I've structured the page so that you begin by warming each hand individually playing 8th notes (aka "8 on a Hand") and then you add your opposite hand for single stroke 16ths (ala "Chicken and a Roll").  

Once you are able to play this rhythm with a steady beat on the snare drum, it's time to move the pattern around the set.  First we do this with our "skeleton" 8th note rhythm, and then later add the 16ths like we did before on the snare.

Finally we put the exercises in the context of a drum beat that we play for 3 measures and on the 4th measure we play our "fill" - either the 8th note skeleton or the 16th note pattern.  For your main drum beat, I suggest using drum beats from a book like Rod Morganstein's The Drumset Musician or Joel Rothman's Basic Rock Beats.

Suggested tempo is 60 - 80 bpm and focus on getting a nice and relaxed rebound stroke as you play these exercises.  

Drum Fill Warmups




Paradiddle "Train" Beat

Later tonight (Friday Sept 6th), I'm playing a show with Brett Harris at the Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh. In our rehearsals prepping for the show, I came up with this idea for a fun exercise.

The song "Unbroken" features a basic "train" beat throughout most of the song, and I thought it would be fun to try using different stickings to play this beat.  What if we took a paradiddle and started it on the "and" of the beat (where the accent of the train beat is played normally)?  Here is what it would look like:

Paradiddle %22Train%22 BeatFor a PDF of this exercise click here:  Paradiddle Train Beat PDF
For more info about Hopscotch:

Down to the Night Club

I've been working on transcribing "Down to the Night Club" by Tower of Power.  I'm almost there, but before I post the entire transcription, I thought I'd show you my notes from earlier in the process, when I was transcribing the drum part by hand.  

After transcribing the song by hand, I'll then enter my transcription into Finale, so that it has a more professional (and readable) style.

On this page, you can see that I was working on the intro part  and the second section of the song:


Building Better Double Strokes (part 3 of 3)

This final exercise is one that began when I heard a student of mine play what she thought was a double stroke roll. She really enjoys playing this pattern, and even though it's not a double stroke roll, it is still useful in helping us with our double strokes.

This exercise works by isolating each hand but does so in a way that is different than the first exercise in this series.  And because it works only just one "side" of the doubles, this exercise could've been the second one in the series, but I chose to put it at the end due to it's use of 16th note triplets. This rhythm can be tricky for beginning students to play and read too.  Be sure to take it slow, and when you get to the triplets, you can say "evenly" or "trip-o-let" as you play the rhythm to help you with the timing.  

As in our second exercise, the first measure has you play the "skeleton" of what you'll be playing in the second measure.  Be sure to spend more time practicing your weak hand (for most of us that is our left hand), and though it will be frustrating, you'll find your technique WILL improve as you focus your attention there.

When playing the second measure, the two doubles followed by the one single note should sound like:  "digga-duh digga-duh digga-duh digga-duh".  Both doubles should sound clear and articulated.

Dbl Str Ex part three
For a PDF of this exercise, click here:  Building Better Double Strokes part three

Building Better Double Strokes (part 2 of 3)

Today's exercise begins by having you play the "skeleton" 8th notes of your double stroke roll in the first measure.  Be sure to pay attention to what your hands and wrists are doing in this measure.  Stay relaxed, use your wrists and try to keep the same hand and wrist motion going as you play the second measure.  

The double strokes in the second measure should be played evenly, with no accents and sound like "digga digga digga digga".  Remember to keep a steady beat as you are playing and pay attention so that you don't slow down as you begin your double strokes.

Dbl Str Ex part two
For a PDF of this exercise, click here:   Building Better Double Strokes (part 2 of 3)

Building Better Double Strokes (part 1 of 3)

With my beginning students we've been talking about how to strengthen and improve our double strokes, so that they are more articulated and "clean".  

Often times the second note of the double is weaker than the first, the left hand has a harder time keeping up with the right hand as tempos get faster, and our arms and wrists tend to tighten up as we play.

To aid our playing in that regard, I wrote down some simple Double Stoke exercises that we can use daily in our practicing.  I've split these exercises up over three days and so today, I present to you part one.  When playing the doubles, keep in mind:

  1. Double Strokes should sound like "digga" w/ both strokes equally strong
  2. For beginners:  at slower tempos be sure to use your wrists and try for a full range of motion
  3. Remember:  stay relaxed, loose and have fun!

As far as tempo goes - start slow so that you can be aware of what you are doing. Analyze your playing and work to eliminate any points of stress or tightness.  The goal is to stay relatively relaxed and loose.

Dbl Str Ex part one
Get the PDF here:   Building Better Double Strokes part one 

Ghost Note Variations

These exercises are intended to help you play beats that utilize ghost notes.  The first exercise doesn't include a back beat pattern (no snare on two and four).  The rest of the exercises have a back beat (on two and four) that should be accented (using a full stroke or rim shot).  All of the ghost notes should be played softly (with tap strokes).  There are other variations I could have included (half-time and double ghost notes), but I thought this would be a good place to begin.  Also note that there are no kick drum rhythms written out.  The reason for this is to provide you with the flexibility to use rhythms from books such as Ted Reed's Syncopation, Gary Chester's New Breed, (or your own rhythms) for the kick patterns. 

Ghost Note Variations

For the PDF, click here click here

Ghost Note Beats

Continuing with my Halloween theme, here are two of my favorite ghost note drum beats: The FUNkey Monkey Beat, and the Paradiddle Beat (w/ Ghost Notes).  It's important that you accent beat 2 and 4 on the snare (using full strokes, or rim shots), and that you play the ghost notes softly (using tap strokes).  I hope you enjoy learning these beats and let me know if you have any questions!

Paradiddle Drum Beat

For the PDF - click on this link.

Bugga Bugga Beat (aka Fake Double Bass Drum)

I know it's a little early, but I thought I'd post a Halloween themed drum beat.  I call it the "Bugga Bugga Beat" because of the "bugga bugga bugga bugga" sound of the alternating 16ths between the floor tom and kick drum. Also referred to as the Fake Double Bass Drum beat, this beat (and variations of it) gives the listener the impression that you are using a double pedal or double bass drums.

To play the beat, you begin by alternating your LH with your (single) kick drum to create the illusion of a double bass drum rhythm.  When the LH is not playing the snare drum, it crosses over to the floor tom - thus creating the sound of the second bass drum. When played quickly, the floor tom sounds less like a tom and more like a second kick drum.

I created a two bar pattern so that you can work on the transition between the fake double kick rhythm and a regular beat.  Note that on beat 4 of the second measure the "double kick" rhythm stops so that you are able to prepare your foot for the down beat of the regular beat.  Click the image for a larger view or drop me a line and I'll be glad to send you a PDF of the beat.

Fake Double Bass exercise