BY WALLY SCHNALLE
The next time you walk into a library (assuming you do), take a moment to stop dead in your tracks. Stand there right in the middle of the place. Look around and think about all the books — the fiction novels, the non-fiction, history, science, and reference materials. Then think about this: Almost 100 percent of those thousands of books, containing untold numbers of words expressing countless facts, opinions, and stories, are all created using just the 26 letters of the alphabet. It’s really rather amazing.
Now think about all the great drummers you’ve heard playing everything from rock to jazz to hip-hop to metal. Ponder all the differences between them. All that drumming is created using only five basic elements — kind of like the alphabet for drums. These basic elements are single strokes, double strokes, accents, flams, and buzz strokes. And to take this analogy even further, just as there are some letters, like vowels, that get used more than, say, x, y, and z, it is true that the bulk of what we play on the drums is created using only three of these basic drumming elements. These are the single strokes, double strokes, and accents.
Enter the paradiddle, one of the 40 internationally recognized drum rudiments. I know, right now you may be saying, “Rudiments?! nooooooo!” But think about it, these beauties contain a neat little combination of the three most common and basic elements of drumming. They contain a single stroke, a double stroke, and an accent on each hand — the three most essential building blocks of drumming. And they treat both hands equally in that they constantly alternate from right to left lead. This is great vocabulary for your drumming arsenal. Another thing: Practicing rudiments is way better than eating your vegetables. When your mom told you to eat your mushy steamed broccoli because it was good for you, and you being an obedient child, did exactly that, you didn’t feel immediately better, did you? But with these sticking patterns and a little practice you can quickly experience the joy of throwing them all over the drum kit to create hours of enjoyment for you and your neighbors. In this article you’ll find some real-world examples of how drummers have literally applied the paradiddle over the years. Then I’ll show some exercises so you can develop the skills to come up with your own groundbreaking ways of using them.
Ex. 1 shows the basic paradiddle family: the single, double, and triple. Learn these first and you’ll immediately reap the benefits of an increased hand vocabulary. Start slow and go for rhythmic consistency and dynamic contrast between the accent and the rest of the strokes.
Fusion Drummer Billy Cobham’s classic 1973 albumSpectrum contains a lot of paradiddle vocabulary. A particularly nice usage comes in the tune “Red Baron.” Ex. 16 shows how he is playing the four-note single paradiddle sticking between the hi-hat/bass combination and the snare drum. But the challenging part is that he is playing these four-note patterns as sixteenth-note triplets. These don’t line up with the beat in an easy and comfortable way. That is until you practice them, of course. Ex. 17 is a pad exercise that works the paradiddles from eighth-notes right up to sixteenth-notes to help you get comfortable in these different rhythmic environments. Be sure and practice this with a metronome so your tempo stays steady when changing the note values.
And finally a word about these paradiddle exercises. Your goal should be to develop the skills to play these exercises effortlessly and accurately but not simply for the sake of the patterns you find here. The idea is not so much to cram these or any paradiddle stickings into the music you play whenever possible. The idea is to have as much drumming vocabulary as you can so whether you are improvising or composing your part you have all the tools available to play the right thing at the right time. And most times that won’t be some sort of literal paradiddle sticking. But it will be some combination of those basic drumming elements and paradiddles that give us a world of sticking possibilities with which to express our ideas. These exercise are only the tip of the iceberg. Continue to explore, and keep filling that library.