By Tiger Bill Meligari
Competition is great for inspiration and the late, great Buddy Rich continues to inspire countless drummers around the globe. In addition to his skill in powering anything from small combos to big bands, Buddy had incredible chops. He was capable of maintaining perfectly precise single strokes at speeds of up to around 950 beats per minute (bpm).
Welcome to the third segment of our series designed to develop both the speed and endurance of your single-stroke roll while comparing your speed to that of the legendary Buddy Rich.
If you missed either of the first two parts of this series, be sure to check them out before working on this one:
In Part 2, we put both hands together and measured the speed of our single-stroke roll using a formula that I provided. How did you do? Have you reached Buddy’s speed yet? If not, don’t worry. Keep practicing regularly and the speed will come!
In the last lesson I mentioned we’d be adding another of Buddy’s favorite techniques to the single-stroke roll. Any idea what that technique is? If you guessed accents, you are correct. Buddy was a master of accents and was capable of playing a clean single stroke roll while tossing in accents at will.
This time we’re back to working with only one hand at a time. Check out the written example and play only the circled notes with your right hand and then with your left hand separately. Keep a record of your metronome tempos and practice until you get both of your hands up to the same speed or as close as you can. You will improve with time and regular practice. Once you can play each hand separately at the same tempo with ease, you’ll have a much easier time playing clean, accented single strokes.
The Right Kind of Daily Practice is Key
Keep a daily log of your top speed and notate whether or not you can hold the exercise for a full 60 seconds. Once you perfect Exercise #5, move on to Exercise #6 using the same metronome tempo. If you have trouble playing the continuous triplets of Exercise #6, lower the metronome speed to one that allows you to play them (without feeling tension) for a full 60 seconds. In this drill, your goal is to be able to play continuous triplets at the same tempo with either hand.
As far as daily practice goes, it’s better to practice even a few minutes each day rather than practice for hours at irregular intervals. Even if you have only 10 minutes a day to devote to practicing, put in that time regularly and you’ll find your chops will improve at a much faster rate.
Another thing that will hamper your progress is drumming while your muscles are under tension. Playing while tense is just like driving a car with one foot on the gas and the other foot on the brake. The car will move much faster and more efficiently when you take your foot off the brake.
If you practice regularly but aren’t seeing any improvement in your chops, you are most likely playing under tension. If so, you’re not alone. Tension is very common among drummers. In over 40 years of teaching drums (wow, times really flies when you’re having fun!) I can honestly say I have never had a student who didn’t have unnecessary tension somewhere in his technique. And the vast majority never realized they were tense until I pointed it out. For more info on that topic, visit my website at www.TensionFreeDrumming.com.
For now, keep practicing regularly and stay tuned for Part 4, which concludes this series, where we’ll be putting both hands together and comparing the speed of our accented single stroke to that of the legendary Buddy Rich!
If you have any questions on this lesson, post them in the comments below.
Until next time: Have fun and stay loose!