In this final segment we’re going to focus on the three different parts of 8th-note triplets (“one-trip-let”). Playing on the downbeats is pretty simple, and the third partial isn’t too strange, since we hear it all the time in swing and shuffle patterns. But isolating the middle beat of the triplet might start out feeling a bit awkward.
There’s a lot of space between the three partials. The common tendencies are to rush/crush the space between the notes or to stiffen up and drag during more syncopated rhythms. It’s very important to be able to feel each individual triplet partial comfortably, especially when you start playing quarter-note triplets and associated rhythms.
The exercises focus first on the partials played as accents among taps, and then the spaces in between are left open. Playing the correct sticking is crucial. The stickings will usually flow into and out of the check patterns, which makes it much easier to play with accuracy. Be sure to also practice the exercises with the left hand leading (opposite stickings), in order to help maintain balanced hands and develop confidence leading with either hand. Always use a metronome, and tap your foot. Count all of the played notes out loud, and then count just quarter notes out loud. Get in as many repetitions as it takes for these rhythms to feel natural. If you need to think about them, you have not yet fully programmed them into your musical vocabulary.
The first exercise has an accented check pattern leading into the three triplet partials played as accents among taps. The taps will guide the accented rhythms to their correct place. For maximum dynamic contrast and relaxed flow, be aware of which of the four basic stroke types (full, down, tap, and up) is being used. To help, we’ve labeled each stroke type over the notes (F = full, D = down, T = tap, and U = up). The exercise is in the 4-2-1 format, where you play four of each variation, then two, then one, and repeat it.
Now it’s time to play the exercise at one dynamic level and stick height, with the rhythms isolated. Sometimes the check patterns will flow into and out of the broken-up rhythm, and sometimes not. Wherever applicable, let the sticks flow over the barline so that they glide into the next rhythm. The hard part will be keeping the rhythms accurate in the middle of the bar, where you have to negotiate the space while your hands stop and start. I recommend playing this exercise with the free strokes flowing up to the greatest stick height that is comfortable and sustainable. There’s rhythmic safety in a continual, flowing motion, so use that to your advantage initially. Later, play the exercises at a lower dynamic level, where more finesse is required.
To conclude this series, here are two bonus accent/tap exercises that incorporate most of the rhythmic variations from all of the articles. In addition to the rhythmic element, these make for a fantastic study in applying the four basic strokes. (We didn’t indicate the stroke types in these, but feel free to write them in if necessary.) The first exercise is duple-based, and the second is triplet-based. Enjoy!
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.