BY TIGER BILL MELIGARI
Speed drumming is one of those skills that is developed through practice. You have to develop coordination and get used to hitting the drums at a fast speed by practicing finger control, single strokes, paradiddles, and Moeller Method. It’s not something that comes naturally, so you need to work at it, which can be challenging. That’s why these tips have been made to help you get there quicker.
Tip 1: Practice finger control
If you want fast fingers, you must first develop fast reflexes. I’ve found the four exercises below to be ideal for developing fast finger reflexes. These exercises are based on drum rudiments. Ex. 1 is a flam, Ex. 2 is a three-stroke ruff, Ex. 3 is a four-stroke ruff, and Ex. 4 is a five-stroke ruff. What makes the exercises different from standard rudiments is the particular sticking and the specific technique we’ll use to play them. Let’s take a look at Ex. 1, which is the flam.
The standard flam is played with alternating sticking. For finger development, we will play the flam with one hand. Start the flam by dropping your stick toward the drum using a wrist stroke to play the first note (the first little note that makes up the flam is called a grace note). Then, play the quarter-note with a finger stroke and allow your wrist to come back up to the starting position. Repeat this process again for the next flam. To be sure you understand how to execute this technique, let’s apply it to Ex. 4 (five-stroke ruff).
Start the ruff by dropping the stick down toward the drum using the wrist to play the first stroke (the first of four grace notes) and play the remaining three grace notes and the quarter-note with the fingers only. After playing the quarter-note, allow the wrist to come back up to the starting position and you’ll be ready for the next five-stroke ruff. Apply this technique to each of the four exercises shown below. If my written explanation sounds confusing, don’t worry. Once you see my video demonstration, it will all become clear.
Note that although I’m repeating each exercise only once on the demo, in practice you should repeat each exercise at least 20 times. Use a metronome set to a slow tempo when starting your fast finger workout. Practice at this slow tempo daily for a couple of weeks to allow your muscles and reflexes to get comfortable with the movement and to build endurance. Then, move the tempo up a notch and repeat each of the four exercises for another week or two. Eventually, you should be able to increase your speed to that shown on the video clip.
Repeat each exercise a minimum of 20 times using only the right hand. Then repeat another 20 times using only the left land.
See the accompanying video clip for a detailed description of the finger and stick-drop technique to be used in the above exercises.
It Takes Time To Play Fast!
Developing speed, power, endurance, and control can’t be accomplished overnight. It takes time to develop the required muscles and reflexes. Exactly how much time varies with each person and also depends on the amount of practice time you put in. By adding the above four exercises to your daily routine and practising them regularly, you will eventually be able to develop fast fingers!
Tip 2: Practice single-stroke rolls
Rolls are essential for any drummer to master. They really help you develop your coordination and endurance and give you the chance to practice a large variety of sounds and dynamics.
The best way to learn single-stroke rolls is by practicing them in a variety of ways. You can do this by playing your single strokes at different tempos, with different accents and dynamics.
Practice 16th note single stroke rolls with a metronome. Once you have those down, try building up the speed gradually until you reach the top speed you can comfortably play at without losing control.
Tip 3: Practice paradiddles
The paradiddle is a very popular rudiment, especially useful for speed drumming because they are played with both hands at the same time.
Paradiddle patterns are typically written using a letter abbreviation that stands for each stroke that you should play on each hand (R=Right Hand and L=Left Hand).
The most often paradiddle pattern is: R-L-R-R followed by L-R-L-L. “Pa-ra” refers to the first R-L strokes, and “diddle” is the double stroke at the end of the pattern.
There are various paradiddle patterns such as:
- The Single Paradiddle (R-L-R-R then L-R-L-L)
- The Double Paradiddle (R-L-R-L-R-R then L-R-L-R-L-L)
- The Triple Paradiddle (R-L-R-L-R-L-R-R then L-R-L-R-L-R-L-L)
- The Paradiddle-Diddle (R-L-R-L-R-R-L-L then L-R-L-R-L-L-R-R)
When practicing paradiddles, it’s important not to rush them too much at first. Slow down so that you can play each note cleanly and accurately before increasing your speed again.
Once you feel confident with playing them slowly, try speeding up gradually until you reach your maximum speed without losing control over the beat or missing any notes!
Tip 4: Use the Moeller Method
The Moeller Method was developed by drummer Sanford A. Moeller, who described it in his book “The Art of Snare Drumming.” It’s a stroke method that aims to improve the power, control, and speed of the drumming while keeping the flexibility to add accented notes.
The basic element of the Moeller Method is a whipping motion, a combination of gravity and a dual-fulcrum motion used for the drumming work. The whipping motion is used with the four basic strokes of drumming:
- Full Stroke
- Up Stroke
- Down Stroke
- Tap Stroke
Step 1: Hold the drumstick above your drum by thumb and medium finger, with a tight and relaxed grip.
Step 2: Lift the stick up with your whole arm.
Step 3: In a whipping motion, loosen your wrist on the way up and use gravity to bring it back down to strike the drum.
Step 1: Raise the back of the stick with a bowed wrist. The elbow comes forward, hand and forearm form for a moment a 90 degrees corner.
Step 2: The elbow comes forward while the hand and forearm form for a moment a 90 degrees corner.
Step 3: The drumstick ends in an up position and can be followed by a Full or a Down Stroke.
Step 1: Drumstick starts in the up position and stops in the down position.
Step 2: The wrist directs the movement while fingers grip the stick with the hand slightly open and stop the bounce over the drumhead after the stroke.
Step 3: The drumstick stops in the down position, and you can continue with a Tap or Up Stroke.
Step 1: The drumstick starts and ends in the down position, with a light movement of the wrist.
Step 2: Hands and fingers follow the natural bounce of the stick and reach for the starting position.
Step 3: The drum stick comes to a halt in the down position, ready for another Tap Stroke or an Up Stroke.
The traditional right-hand grips discussed in the Moeller book are the little finger or vintage grip and the modern thumb fulcrum grip. The left hand should be in an open and loose grip.
Grip the drumstick with the little finger while lightly curling the other fingers around the drumstick. The fulcrum is at the back of the hand, so less vibration is transmitted to the hand during a loud stroke.
Tip 5: Play with a Metronome
A metronome is an essential tool for developing speed in any musical instrument. Playing to a steady beat is a great way to work on your speed, drumming, and endurance.
You can use this as a warm-up, a cool-down, or just play along whenever you feel like it. The important thing is that you play as fast as possible while still maintaining good timing and accuracy. This will help you develop muscle memory for faster playing, which will translate into faster speed drumming when you are playing songs.
Play simple beats first. It’s best to start out with simple beats that are easy to play at a fast tempo and slowly increase the speed over time. With a metronome, you will easily follow the progress and set the goal for each practice.
If you want to improve your drumming speed, you should start with practicing finger control.
You can play single strokes and paradiddles along with a metronome or use the Moeller Method to learn how to play extremely quickly with minimal effort.
The biggest thing to remember is to focus on developing fluid, consistent and relaxed techniques. Practice playing at a slow tempo, but focus on not tensing up as much as you can. This will be very difficult at first, and your fingers will start cramping very quickly! Once you’re able to play without any tension or cramping, you’ll notice that your speed has dramatically improved.
The art of speed drumming is attainable but requires a specific set of skills and, of course, practice. We hope that this guide has pointed you in the right direction for accomplishing your goals.