I have always found that this part of becoming a great drummer is somehow overlooked, yet it is the most essential part of your arsenal as a drummer and is the foundation for everything you will play. Practising this will bring clarity to the whole world of drumming and give you a greater understanding of Rhythm. It will sharpen your timing, add to your 4 way independence and help you gain control of everything you already play. Remember that as a drummer, your job is all about the timing, setting the tempo and keeping the band in check throughout the song. You are the conductor! If you can’t play this and keep time, then you are missing the fundamental task and are falling short of being a drummer!
So, lets get started………. You’ll need Sticks, practice pad and your left foot to simulate playing the Hi Hat or just sit on your kit and play the snare and the Hi Hat. The notes being used are Whole (semibreve), Half (minim), Quarter (crotchet), Eighth (quaver), Sixteenth (semi quaver) and Thirty Seconds (demi semi quaver). I prefer using the fractional names as it gives you a heads up as to how many notes of each are in a bar of 4/4. E.G. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32.
So, we are going to play this as a single stroke roll, that is RLRLRLRLRLRL………. The notes on the centre line of the stave represent the snare or your practice pad. The cross under the bottom line represents the Hi Hat played with your foot. You’ll notice the Hi Hat with your foot remains the same throughout playing the quarters 1, 2, 3, and 4 in every bar. The distance between these Hi Hats should never change; your hands should follow the Hi Hat.
Once you get the hang of this try using a metronome. Set it for 50bpm and get your Hi Hat (or left foot) to follow the click. Again, your hands will follow your Hi Hat (or foot). Ensure you go in strong at each tempo change and stay on each rhythm for at least half a minute before moving on to the next as this will expose any timing issues. You will experience dragging behind and pushing ahead of the click. When this happens, stay on the same rhythm until you are satisfied that it is not happening and that you begin to relax and not concentrate on it so much. Then move to the next rhythm and repeat.
When you are happy that you are in control of the timing and the rhythms are sounding relaxed and running like a well-tuned engine, it’s now time to focus on your technique. Watch out for my next article on sticking techniques and finding the balance point. Once you’ve reached this stage, I would drop the whole and half notes and start at the quarters where I have added the double bar line and the repeat marks. Every time you return to the Quarters focus on your technique and it should start to creep into your eighths and so on.
Please notice that I haven’t adjusted the Tempo of the metronome yet! It is important that you are totally relaxed and doing this automatically before you increase the speed.
Like I tell all my students, “Speed is a Free Gift that you get for being Accurate”