Part 2: Adjacent
In part two of this series, we’re going to take out the taps between the flams so that the flams are adjacent. When you do that, the challenge becomes playing the consecutive flams with consistent grace-note placement and sound quality. We’ll still use the flam accent to transition from right- to left-hand lead. These patterns will do wonders for your control, and they sound great voiced around the drumkit.
Here’s the exercise. The lead hand does not change on the repeat, so be sure to practice leading with each hand.
The hands play two distinctly different parts, and it’s important to be able to think about them separately. The low hand playing the constant stream of taps and grace notes has to stay perfectly even and consistent, while the accent hand needs to play each accent with consistent power and volume. Since the accents are strung together, some finger control will be necessary to aid the wrists when they’re playing the accents at faster tempos, so that the accents don’t decrescendo.
Equally important is the downstroke control on the last accent in each series. When there’s more than one accent, you must transition quickly from a free stroke to a downstroke. Try to stop the downstroke pointing down toward the drumhead so that the following stream of taps and grace notes can be initiated at a low stick height. The taps and grace notes must be played smoothly and evenly using finger control. These low, flowing notes dictate where the primary notes of the flams must be placed. The low hand is in charge! When the initial primary note of the flam is attacked accurately, the rest in the series generally follow suit. When the first flam is played flat or too wide, the rest of the flams will likely also be played with the same issue.
To develop this exercise with accurate flow, rhythm, and feel, it’s a good idea to separate the hands and isolate each section of the exercise. Try putting your pad on a cushion (or any quieter surface), and then play the accents to either side of the cushion, with the inner beats (taps and grace notes) on the pad. Doing this will allow you to isolate and analyze the stream of low notes. When you execute the exercise perfectly, you should hear low and even 16th notes on the pad.
The exercise contains some odd time signatures. It’s best to think about the quarter-note pulse running throughout, rather than focusing on each little series. Use your metronome, tap your foot, and learn to count quarter notes out loud through the entire exercise.
Once you master the skeleton exercise, you can add some rudimental variations to it, such as flam drags, cheeses (flammed diddles), and flam fives (flammed five-stroke rolls), to make it more challenging. Whenever there’s an accent on a diddle, make sure to accent both beats and play them open rhythmically—don’t crush them. Start slowly, and have fun with these!
Here’s the exercise with flam drags.
Here’s the exercise with cheeses.
Here’s the exercise with flam fives.
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.