Strictly Technique

Top 10 Rudiments

The Drag

by Bill Bachman

The drag is the tenth and final rudiment in our series. If you’ve been practicing these rudiments and exercises correctly, at a wide variety of tempos, then your hands are now trained with all of the necessary motions required to play every other rudiment, and you can make an endless amount of smooth, flowing music around the drumset without confronting physical roadblocks caused by a lack of technique.

For a quick review, the top ten rudiments are: single-stroke roll, doublestroke roll, triple-stroke roll, paradiddle, six-stroke roll, flam, flam accent, flam tap, inverted flam tap, and drag. (The all-important buzz roll was not included in this series because it requires unique techniques for various dynamic levels, tempos, and playing surfaces.)

Drags are grace notes with no true metric value of their own; they must be tied to their primary notes. They’re often interpreted as closed buzz strokes, but for our purposes we should play them exactly as written, as open doublestroke diddles. (Once you’ve mastered open drags, it’s a good idea to go back and practice them as buzzes for variation.) Drags are also open to interpretation. They can be played wide, with a lot of space between the notes, or tight, where the notes are very close together and played as close to the primary note as possible without overlapping. (The style of music you’re playing, as well as the tension of your drumhead, will be determining factors in how you phrase drags.) At faster tempos, it’s practical and very common for drags to be played as precise rhythms, since there isn’t enough time to play them tighter.

It’s very simple to play drags slowly; just play a low diddle before a downstroke accent. The downstroke is stopped with the bead of the stick low to the drumhead, which ensures that you’re ready to initiate the next low diddle with the same hand. At this slow tempo, the drag is simply played as a low diddle using the wrist/finger “alleyoop” technique (sometimes referred to as “push/pull”).

At fast tempos, the technique for playing drags changes drastically, and we need to implement a new hand motion. This is where the true value of the rudiment shows up. In this situation, there’s no time to stop the stick with a downstroke preceding the drag, since doing so would result in slowing down the tempo and tightening up the hands. (You’re asking too much of your hands to execute all of these motions in such a short amount of time.) To avoid this tension, full-stroke dribbles (often played with just the fingers) precede the drag so that some energy from the previous stroke or strokes flows into the drag. The fingers must squeeze out a low diddle with no prep time, and that’s the key hand motion—it’s all about finger control. It’s important to note that at this fast, flowing speed, stick heights will not be as defined as they were at a slower tempo, where there was time to stop the stick low to the drum.

It’s extremely helpful to grip the stick between the thumb and first finger (the “first-finger fulcrum”) for rudiments like this that require finger finesse. Having the fulcrum in the front of the hand gives the end of the first finger and middle finger good access to the stick for small, quick motions. At tempos requiring this level of finger finesse, the fingers farther back have more distance to travel to track with the stick, and therefore have more work to do. It’s wise to practice using multiple fulcrum points, because the more techniques that are available to you, the more options you have when executing your musical ideas. Switching on the fly from one technique to another will happen automatically once your hands are trained to know which one has the path of least resistance for various drumming tasks.

In each of these ten articles I’ve recommended playing the rudiment from slow to fast to slow evenly over the course of one minute. Practicing this breakdown is important, since it helps train your hands on the different techniques required for different tempos and gives you the ability to gradually morph from one technique to the next in correlation with speed changes. By mastering these ten rudiments and the fundamental hand motions contained within them, you will have the ability to execute many more ideas with less effort than before. Rudiments create chops, chops create vocabulary, and vocabulary creates music. Have fun filling up your rudimental toolbox!
The Drag 1The Drag 2
In Examples 3–6, notice that the drags at the end of each hand’s phrase are written as 16th-note diddles. When played fast, drags will default to this rhythm, rather than being played as grace notes inserted just before the primary note. Work up the tempo on these exercises until they sound like drags and not simple 16th-note rhythms.

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Bill Bachman is an international drum clinician and a freelance drumset player in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of the Row-Loff books Rudimental Logic, Quad Logic, and Bass Logic, the producer of the instructional drum DVDs Reefed Beats and Rudimental Beats: A Technical Guide For Everyone With Sticks In Their Hands, and the designer of Vic Firth’s Heavy Hitter practice pads. For more information, visit billbachman.net.