Variations on the Essential Rudiment

When you break down what many drummers play into its simplest and smallest form, you might realize that we mostly employ combinations of singles and diddles. In this lesson, we’ll focus on double-stroke rolls and invert them to create interesting fills and grooves.

In a 16th-note subdivision, double-stroke rolls are often played as a downstroke starting on each quarter note (pulse) or each upbeat (the “&” of each beat). This can cause your rolls to sound uneven or make fills and drum grooves predictable. See for yourself by playing the following exercise while keeping a quarter-note pulse with your hi-hat foot.

By starting with a single 16th-note stroke, your doubles will now invert—shifting to begin on the “e” or “a” of each beat. This can help make your rolls sound more even and give your doubles more of an unpredictable sound. Try Exercise 2 to hear the difference while maintaining a quarter-note hi-hat pulse.

Next, try alternating between a measure of double strokes and a measure of inverted doubles.

Now put inverted doubles into context. Play a basic rock beat for three measures followed by a bar of 16th-note inverted doubles.

Now try playing the groove for two measures followed by two bars of inverted doubles.

Finally, play the previous two exercises again while moving the inverted doubles around the drumset. Here are a few patterns that are a great starting point.

16th-Note Inverted Doubles as a Linear Groove

Now that you have an understanding of inverted doubles, let’s use them to create a groove. Start off with your dominant hand on the hi-hat and the other on the snare. Play the same 16th-note inverted double pattern.

Next substitute some of the hi-hat notes with the bass drum, and play beat 3 on the snare to create a backbeat. You now have a linear groove based around inverted doubles. Here are a few variations to practice.

Now for some fun, mix and match the previous examples to create multi-measure loops. Here are a few to get you started.

Finally, it’s time to experiment. Come up with your own grooves that incorporate the inverted double, or alternate between traditional rock grooves and one of the inverted double-stroke grooves.

Nick Costa is a senior lecturer at the University of the Arts and a percussion teacher for the School District of Philadelphia. He is an educational artist for Ludwig drums, Vic Firth sticks, and Remo drumheads. For more information, visit