In this lesson, we’re going to combine flowing free-stroke 8th-note and paradiddle combinations using three different note rates. Along with developing the skills necessary to shift note rates accurately from one subdivision to the next, these exercises will also help you develop the ability to add or reduce energy to the strokes in order to play perfectly in time. There’s often a natural tendency for drummers to drag the tempo on harder or faster parts that require more energy while rushing less busy parts that require little energy. Through practice and experience, we learn to add or subtract energy from different rhythms in order to play them accurately.

In the following exercises, the 8th notes should be played as free strokes that rebound up as high as possible relative to the tempo. The attack of the paradiddles should employ the exact same stroke as the 8ths that precede them. But immediately after hitting the drum, the stroke should be modified into downstrokes that point down toward the drumhead. Don’t add any extra velocity or stiffness to accent. All of the low diddles should be played lightly with the fingers. Be sure to use a metronome in order to develop habits of accurate time and flow.

The first variation combines 8th notes and 16th-note paradiddles before finishing out the figures with diddles. The louder 8th notes require more energy than the low diddles, assuming that you’re dribbling the rolls smoothly with the fingers instead of a stiff stroke from the wrist. Be sure you don’t rush the less demanding low notes.

In this variation, we’ll phrase the paradiddles as sextuplets. The energy required for the 8th notes and sextuplets is similar, so now it’s a matter of knowing exactly how the rhythm sits against the pulse as you transition into and out of it. Try to feel a straight 8th-note subdivision when playing the sextuplet diddles. At this faster rate, the downstrokes will need to be played less strictly so that some of the energy from the accent flows into the first diddle.

This variation places the paradiddle into 32nd notes. Paradiddles and subsequent diddles at this subdivision require a good bit more energy than the 8th notes in order to keep the tempo from dragging. The downstrokes will need to be much less strict so that some of their energy can flow into the first diddle. Diddles at this speed will require a forearm-pumping motion so that there’s no strain on the wrists. Be sure to play the rolls cleanly and low to the drum.

Finally, we’ll play two exercises in which the paradiddle’s note rate changes each time. Do your best to keep the motion of the accented notes big and high, and keep all of the taps and diddles low and light.

Bill Bachman is an international drum clinician, the author of Stick Technique and Rhythm & Chops Builders (Modern Drummer Publications, and the founder of For more information, including how to sign up for online lessons, visit