A Twist on the Buzz

6 Exercises for Smoother Rolls

by Greg Sundel

A drummer once approached me after a show and said, “Your rolls sound as smooth as running water.” This statement gave me a new sonic goal, and that’s now what I think about when playing a closed roll. This lesson focuses on exercises I developed to help with buzz-stroke sensitivity and will help you achieve that flowing sound.

When playing a closed roll, you should execute the buzz stroke with as little tension as possible. After the initial rebound, let the stick bounce multiple times without stopping it. The looser your grip, the slower the stick initially bounces. This is the opposite of a tight grip, which could be used to press the stick into the drum for a shorter buzz. If you’re unfamiliar with the buzz-stroke technique, err on the side having the hand too loose rather than too tight. In these exercises, you’ll play the buzz strokes with individual hands on quarter notes.

Your wrists might tighten up when executing the buzz strokes. If this happens, use the notes in between the buzzes to recover and relax. The sticking alternates in the exercises for smooth and easy transitions. By playing these exercises consecutively, your strength, agility, and sensitivity will improve. Try to make
the buzz strokes as legato as possible, extending them all the way into the next note. Long, sustained buzz strokes are what produce smooth rolls. Play these exercises slowly (starting at 40 bpm), stay as loose as possible, and don’t rush. You can take these exercises in many different directions by adding flams, diddles, or accents to the strokes that aren’t buzzed.

Strictly Technique 1

Strictly Technique 2

Greg Sundel has worked for Billy Corgan, Lauryn Hill, Joshua Redman, and Fox News. His instructional books are available through,, and