Part 4: Hand-to-Hand Groupings
by Bill Bachman
Start these exercises slowly, using the four basic strokes: full (or free), down, tap, and up. Make sure that the stick heights are clearly separated between the accents and taps. The accents should return to about a vertical stick height, and the grace notes and taps should be played around 4″ off the drum.
After mastering the exercises at slow tempos, take the tempo up and apply the modified Moeller techniques. The faster you go, the more challenging it is to differentiate between the height and volume of accents and taps. But the more contrast you employ, the more musical you’ll sound. Make sure to use a metronome, tap your foot, and get comfortable counting quarter notes out loud.
Exercise 1 consists of four bars of 8th-note triplets. The sticking alternates at first, with sets of two, three, and four flams per hand. In the fourth bar, a group of four flams flips the sticking, and the exercise repeats with left-hand lead.
At medium to fast tempos, the hand-to-hand flams in the first bar require what I call the Moeller whip-and-flop technique. Whip the accents using the arm, and then smoothly flop down to the tap without impeding the stick’s flow. Hold the sticks just tightly enough so as to not drop them, and use the arms to pump the quarter-note accents.
The next exercise isolates each hand and then combines them. Play it with a left-hand lead on the repeat. At medium to fast tempos, the sets of two, three, and four hand-to-hand flams in subsequent bars require what I call the Moeller whip-to-free-stroke technique. The arm whips the initial accent stroke, and the stick rebounds to a full stick height and comes back down with free strokes for equally powerful accents. Don’t play the first accent harder than you can sustain on consecutive strokes. After the last accent in each grouping, flop down to the taps without impeding the stick’s flow. The taps should be light and played as a smooth, even flow of triplets using finger control.
The last of the taps will be a Moeller upstroke. It may feel a bit herky-jerky, but the upper arm and shoulders must engage to quickly throw the forearm up and immediately back down. This little bit of work in the upper body allows the hand to stay completely relaxed as it gets whipped up for the next accent.
The following exercises isolate each hand and then combine them. As always, take the repeat and practice each exercise with left-hand lead.
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.