Friday, April 10, 2020

How to practice flam rudiments

Just about every high school drumline has an exercise that looks something like this.

But I think it's often unclear to students, and poorly explained by instructors, as to what the purpose of this exercise is.  So I thought it would be good to pull this apart a little bit as, when done properly, it can be a very beneficial exercise, and can apply to any flam rudiment.

The basic gist of the exercise above is that the first two bars are what your hands are playing individually when playing flam accents.  But what has always bugged me is that the right and left hands are notated the same.  A better representation would be to play what the right hand actually plays, then what the left hand actually plays before putting it together.  From there you could play the whole exercise off the left if you wished.  Here's what that would look like.

To separate the hands and see what each one is doing is all well and good, but we can get more out of this.  In a flam passage such as this it can be easy to get lazy with the notes in-between the accents and/or flams.  These notes are often referred to as the "inner-beats". Which leads us to another drumline buzz-phrase: "watch the inner beats".  I heard/hear this time and time again, but again, it is rarely explained.  To "watch the inner beats" is to NOT be lazy with the notes in-between the accents and/or flams.  And better yet, we can break them down and practice them in a focused manner.  Let's try it with Flam Paradiddles this time.

Below are flam paradiddles followed by the rhythm played by each hand.

This time around, rather than just playing those rhythms as written, let's "clean up the inner beats" by breaking down the mechanics of each hand before putting them together.  To do this we'll look at the Strokings™ ala Accents and Rebounds.

On the right hand we begin with a downstroke so that our hand remains low for the next three tap strokes, which are followed by an upstroke in preparation for the next downstroke.

The left hand plays the same thing, but as it is displaced by a beat we begin with a tap stroke, followed by an upstroke again in preparation for the accent, which will be a downstroke so we're ready to play the next three tap strokes.

This may all seem a bit pedantic, but if you find that your flam passages are a bit "mushy", this will certainly clean them up, and by breaking down the mechanics of our motion we can build speed and efficiency.

Remember that this can be applied to any flam rudiment.  Note what each hand plays alone, figure out the strokings, and play them slowly before putting them back together.

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