In this lesson we’re going to build upon the Eights and Sixes exercise that I introduced in Part 1 of this series by adding double strokes and rimshots into the routine.
Focusing on the 8th-note offbeats within double-stroke sextuplets can do wonders for your timing awareness, because you’re emphasizing a checkpoint in the middle of the six-note grouping. Having multiple rhythmic perspectives within sextuplets is beneficial for timing and feel, as you may no longer have to shift your focus from a duple, straight-8th feel to a triplet feel and back. The offbeat awareness will also help with your diddle quality because the emphasis falls on the second beat of the double stroke within each sextuplet.
We’ll begin with a foundational exercise that’s played at one consistent dynamic level. Start slowly, strive to play all the notes as loose, rebounding freestrokes, and don’t let the butt ends of the sticks bottom out on your palms. Use an “alley-oop” technique, in which the first stroke is a lighter, higher stroke played mainly from the wrist and the second stroke is a lower, faster stroke played mostly by the fingers. In slower tempo ranges of up to about 80 bpm, play both notes of the diddle as freestrokes that are primarily driven by the wrist. At tempos above 80 bpm, transition to a freestroke and downstroke combination, as the fingers only have time to grab the back of the stick into the palm of the hand on the second note of the diddle. Use a metronome set to an 8th-note subdivision, tap your foot, and count 8th notes out loud.
When most people play this exercise, they’re generally thinking about the primary 8th-note-triplet strokes underneath the roll, as notated in Exercise 2.
While this is certainly a great way of approaching these figures, our goal in this series is to get a deeper understanding of where the straight 8th note lies within the sextuplet. Let’s play the first exercise again and really focus on counting the offbeats out loud. (In the following example, each offbeat is highlighted with a staccato marking.) The 8th-note offbeats occur on the second stroke of each diddle, so make sure they’re played with intent and velocity with the help of the fingers—don’t just use weak bounces or stiff wrist strokes.
Next we’ll invert the rolls so that the fist partial of each six-note grouping occurs on the second double stroke while the 8th-note offbeats occur on the first note of each diddle.
In order to quicken and strengthen the fingers’ ability to add velocity and control to the second beats of the double strokes, we’ll revisit the original exercise and add rimshots on the offbeat 8th notes of each sextuplet. The fingers will now have to aggressively snap the stick into the palm on the second beat of the diddle on each sextuplet offbeat as the arm drops down for the rimshot. This motion will add power to the second diddle strokes. It also helps to practice this on a rimless drum pad where you can slap the shank of the stick against the rubber. All the diddles should be played with full power while utilizing the freestroke/downstroke combination and alley-oop motions.
Start each diddle—whether played with a rimshot or an accent—with a high and light freestroke followed by an aggressive downstroke that freezes pointing down, with the bead of the stick about .5” off the drum or pad. The rimshot will create an accent, but don’t treat this variation as a lower tap that precedes a higher stroke. As the tempo picks up, the higher-velocity accented rimshot on the second beat of the diddle will actually be played from a lower height than the freestroke on the first beat of the diddle. The 8th notes setting up the rolls should be played as high and loose freestroke accents, and all the double strokes are accented while the rimshots get a little more power, as notated with marcato markings. In the following examples, rimshots are notated with an “X” notehead.
Now let’s once again invert the diddles and play the rimshots on the quarter-note pulses.
Bill Bachman is an international drum clinician, the author of Stick Technique and Rhythm & Chops Builders (Modern Drummer publications), and the founder of drumworkout.com. For more information, including how to sign up for online lessons, visit billbachman.net.