BY TIGER BILL MELIGARI
The fifth lesson in our Speed Development series concentrates on a one-handed roll using sixteenth-notes. This is similar to Speed Lesson #3, except that we will now be playing groups of four sixteenth-notes instead of eighth-note triplets (three notes) for each beat of the metronome. As in Speed Lesson #3, finger technique will be required to produce each down stroke when attempting to play at the maximum recommended speed. (For more on one-handed rolls, see Speed Lesson #3.)
Regular and dedicated practice of these exercises will not only help you develop the ability to play a continuous ostinato vamp with either hand (aka: one-handed roll), but will also increase your level of coordination and control when you attempt to put both hands together to execute a single stroke roll.
TENSION-FREE FINGER TECHNIQUE
Keep the stick as close to the drumhead as possible when using finger technique, an inch or less is best. This will allow you to play with maximum speed. If you play right-handed traditional grip, the first finger of your left hand should be used to execute the down stroke. If you play left-handed traditional grip, use the first finger of your right hand. In either case, your opposite hand or both hands (if you play matched grip) should use a combination of middle, ring, and pinky fingers to produce the down strokes.
The basic technique is as follows: Throw the stick down with your finger or fingers and let the natural rebound of the stick carry it back up to your finger so you can throw it down again to produce the next stroke. This is similar to dribbling a basketball. When you first practice this technique at the minimum recommended tempo (quarter-note equals 60 as shown on the written exercise), it’s okay to use some wrist along with your fingers. But as you gradually increase the speed, you should stop the motion of the wrist and let your fingers alone move the stick.
EXERCISES TO DEVELOP THE ONE-HANDED ROLL
Before attempting to play the eight written two-bar exercises, watch my video demo. I’m playing the exercises at two tempos – slow and up to speed. Unlike my demo, you should repeat each two-bar exercise once before moving to the next. Once you work through all eight exercises using your left hand alone, repeat them from the beginning with the right hand. As always, start slowly and use a metronome. Once you are able to play each exercise precisely at a given tempo, increase the speed and write down your metronome marking to keep track of your progress. Although you should start by practicing these exercises at a metronome tempo of quarter-note equals 60 or slower, your goal should be to work up your one-handed roll to speeds in excess of quarter-note equals 150 or higher. Watch my video demo to check out the one-handed roll at a metronome speed of 150 bpm. For further practice you should also play these exercises as flat-flams. That is, play both hands together at exactly the same time. While you’ll find this extremely challenging at higher speeds, it will greatly contribute to your development of a clean single stroke roll.
Regular practice of these exercises will enable you to increase your speed, control, and endurance. Once you develop a clean sounding one-handed roll, your solo repertoire and ideas will expand as you become more comfortable with your newfound skill. For example, take the first three pages in the book Stick Control by George Stone and play the sixteenth-note one-handed roll with your left hand on the snare drum while playing the book’s written right hand part with your right hand on various toms. Add a foot pattern and you’ve got some great sounding fills and solo patterns that only drummers who can execute continuous one-handed rolls can cut. For more fun, reverse the sticking and play the written left hand part with your left hand on the snare drum while vamping with your right hand playing a continuous one-handed roll on a tom. As you continue to experiment, I’m sure you’ll find many more practical applications for the drum set.
For questions on Speed Lesson, contact me at Tiger Bill. Practice regularly, stay loose, and stay tuned.