Strictly Technique

Hemiola shifter With Three Stickings

Exploring the Half-Note Triplet

by Bill Bachman

This month we’re going to play half-note-triplet hemiolas in four positions, with three different stickings. Each sticking will require a totally different technical approach and will have its own unique sound. For good measure, we’ll also add some flams, which oddly enough can make the exercises easier to play.

The half-note triplet can be brought to light if you accent every fourth beat of a constant stream of 8th-note triplets. The accents will then shift to start at four different points within the bar. It’s important to practice these exercises with a metronome and to be able to count quarter notes out loud while playing them, to take out any guesswork as to where they fit within a steady pulse.

What we’re working toward here is the ability to play these exercises with three stickings: alternating, inverted, and what I call “floppy flow.” Alternating is simply right to left, while an inverted sticking is where the same hand plays the taps that precede the accents (the name is borrowed from the inverted flam tap rudiment). Floppy flow is a sticking where an accent is followed immediately by taps on the same hand. The accent flops and naturally decrescendos into lighter taps. Floppy flow is used when there isn’t enough time to play a strict downstroke with the stick stopping immediately at a low tap height.

The first exercise uses an alternating sticking. The four basic strokes (full, down, tap, and up) should be employed, and you should define your stick heights for maximum dynamic contrast. There’s a check pattern of triplets with accents on the downbeats between each hemiola accent pattern to help you relate back to the quarter-note pulse. After the four patterns, the exercise repeats with the left
hand leading.

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Now we’ll add flams to the accents. The tricky part is playing the low triple beats under the flam accent that’s formed by the tap/grace note/tap combination. Finger control for the low triple beat should be used.

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Now we’ll use the inverted sticking where the taps precede the accent on the same hand. Since there’s always a tap immediately before an accent, the wrist has very little time to perform an upstroke, especially as the tempo gets faster. In order to relieve the wrists, we’ll replace the wrist motion with an arm motion. While playing the last tap before the accent, the forearm will quickly pick up, leaving the relaxed hand and the stick drooping down, and then quickly throw down to whip the hand and stick toward the drum. That’s the essence of the Moeller whip stroke, and that’s how in this application we’re creating stick height without employing the wrists. It all happens in the blink of an eye, and it will sometimes feel like an aggressive “herky jerk” motion requiring some work in the upper arms and shoulders to keep the hands relaxed.

In this version of the exercise, each pattern will be played off the right and left hand before you move on to the next pattern. Make sure that the downstrokes stop as low to the head as possible and that the low taps are light and relaxed using finger control.

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Now let’s add flams to that. This exercise may be easier to execute, as the flams will now help connect the hands when transitioning back and forth.

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Now we’ll play the exercise using the floppy-flow sticking and the “no-chop flop-and-drop” technique. Since the taps need to flow out of the accent, it’s important not to restrict the stick’s rebound any more than necessary. Use your fingers to steer the rhythms and maintain taps in longer phrases, but do not use them to add velocity or strength to the taps. You want to emulate the loud-to-soft accent/tap transition while letting go of strict downstroke control and stick-height differential. You can maximize the velocity of the accent stroke by starting with the stick in a vertical position or even beyond.

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Finally, let’s add flams. The challenge is to get consistent flam quality as you transition between the hands.

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Bill Bachman is an international drum clinician, the author of Stick Technique (Modern Drummer Publications), and the founder of
drumworkout.com. For more information, including how to sign up for online lessons, visit billbachman.net.