I find the single-stroke roll to be one of the most elusive rudiments to master. Its simplicity is challenging, and I’ve struggled with playing it as fast as I’d like. In search of a more engaging and efficient practice routine, I developed the following exercises.
This routine employs accented single-hand groupings (a.k.a. “check patterns”) followed by an accented single-stroke roll. Each subsequent check pattern increases in duration by adding one stroke.
Pulse the roll according to the length of each hand’s accented check pattern. These groupings create interesting counter rhythms against the quarter-note pulse, which helps strengthen your internal time and feel for the rudiment.
This routine should be practiced systematically by repeating each phrase twenty to forty times. Start slowly and increase speed incrementally. I prefer to improvise the order of each grouping and the amount of repetitions. I also change the tempo randomly to test my reaction time.
To further hone your chops, play the exercise using different techniques, such as with just the fingers or wrists. You should also practice these patterns on different surfaces—pad, snare, floor tom, cymbals, etc. There are no shortcuts, but putting in the effort will result in a great-sounding single-stroke roll.
Mike Alfieri is a Brooklyn, New York–based drummer and educator. He has a bachelor’s degree in music education from the Crane School of Music and a master’s degree in jazz studies from SUNY Purchase. For more information, visit mikealfieri.net.